Steamroller Man #1 & #2
Written, illustrated and lettered by – Matt Schofield
This comic is family friendly!
During the commentary for Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Mike Myers mentions that the best parodies are made by creatives with a passion for the work they’re parodying.
Naturally, I lost my DVD copy of Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me years ago, and so I’m paraphrasing and frankly not even 100% it was The Spy Who Shagged Me rather than International Man of Mystery. But I’m pretty sure, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. Also this was Mike Myers of Saturday Night Live fame, and not the other one.
Which is why it’s odd that even as superheroes continue to soar in popularity, a trend which many contemporary superhero stories follow is that they almost seem to be embarrassed of what they are. Even the much beloved MCU does it..
If those stories have left you feeling flat, today’s comic has rolled up to put the steam back in superheroes. It’s… Steamroller Man! Excuse the puns, but if you’re going to read this book, you’re going to need to get used to them.
Written Matt Schofield (who interestingly enough, works as the Supervising Storyboard Director on The Simpsons), the comic begins delivering laughs right from the cover. When I first saw it I chuckled, and assumed it was really just a gimmick to enable a few pinups. But the more snippets of Steamroller Man I saw, the more I laughed, and so I couldn’t help but take a look. What I found was not only a very funny sendup, but also a fun and gripping superhero story in its own right.
I strongly believe that the key to Steamroller Man’s success is that even though the situations that the characters find themselves in are decidedly silly, the characters embroiled in them take these situations absolutely seriously. Just look at how dramatic this first scene looks, and now consider that villain we see here in question is creating a giant killer gingerbread man:
If Steamroller Man didn’t love the source material it’s ribbing, it might feel the urge to have someone make a snarky comment about how ridiculous this all is. But it doesn’t. It totally buys into the premise that our main villain and his henchmen, Sugar Daddy and The Gingerbread Golem, are credible threats. The result is a genuinely exciting beginning to the book, whose humour is largely derived from the contrast between theatrical art style and dialogue versus the ostensively goofy plot.
The characters themselves don’t just exist for cheap gags either. It would be very easy to derive comedy from a bunch of totally incompetent and corrupt one dimensional clowns. But these characters, flawed though they are, aren’t all one note.
Take Steamroller Man as a prime example. Basically his solution to every problem is to crash through it. He’s a steamroller: makes sense. So he’s a little careless, but not uncaring. When you dig beneath the surface and learn why Steamroller Man has such an unsubtle approach to life, it’s actually kind of zen.
It strikes me that casting the titular character as being a walking piece of heavy machinery whose sole purpose is to flatten things could very well be a comment on superheroes’ tendency to create a lot of collateral damage. But rather than write superheroes off as obviously terrible for this reason, Steamroller Man manages to flip the script and explains how his powers have given him this surprisingly affirming perspective on life:
Speaking of commentary on the genre, I’d like to shoehorn in somewhere how funny I find it that Steamroller Man’s insignia is just his own silhouette, which he wears on the torso of his outfit.
Also, I can’t help but think that the ridiculously huge glasses he wears over his steamroller-head when in his civilian alter ego Steve Rollerman (yes, really), are poking fun at Superman for wearing glasses, telling everyone he’s named Clark, and calling it a day.
There’s even very direct parodies of specific moments in silver age superhero comics…
But all this might leave you wondering: what does Steamroller Man have to offer that’s new, fresh, and original? Well, to be perfectly honest: not much. It’s style, narrative, and characters will all feel quite familiar. Especially for fans of the superhero genre. But nonetheless, I’d recommend it to superhero fans all the same.
You won’t find that Steamroller Man attempts to reinvent the wheel. You won’t find that it tries to subvert your grandpappy’s superhero tropes or that it feels embarrassed to be seen as cliché. In fact, Steamroller Man embraces the cliché. But before you think I’ve turned heel on this comic, my hot take is that’s a good thing. Cliché gets a bad rap: but sometimes things are clichés for a reason.
We’ve all seen the headstrong super with a mild mannered secret identity before. We’ve all seen the cackling mad scientist with a burly brute of a lacky before. We’ve all seen a hero bound in to prevent a mugger in a dark alley before. We’ve all seen superhero stories before.
But you know, what? All that stuff is good fun. I’ve eaten pizza before, but if you ask me if I want to try a new pizza place, am I going to say no? Of course not! It’s pizza. You don’t need to reinvent it for it to be good.
What Steamroller Man serves up is a classic cheese, deep dish. Unconcerned with throwing in unnecessarily odd ingredients, it simply focuses on making what it’s got a solid, funny, enjoyable, and refreshingly earnest superhero adventure. And it is a genuine adventure, on top of being a comedy, as well.
Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s a predicable story, even if it’s a familiar one, either. Two issues in, and it’s still unclear what Steamroller Man’s origins are, or what his arch nemesis Sugar Daddy’s evil plans for the top-secret bioweapon Can D could be.
I for one, say roll on issue three, and full steam ahead! Let the good times roll! Steamed… hams… or something…
Steamroller Man is available for digital download on GlobalComix.