Will the Human-Lizard’s date be able to save him from Rabb the Malevolent?
Canada has produced few successful superheroes. Comic fans like to recall Nelvana, but she’s better known for the animation studio that bears her name. Captain Canuck resurfaces regularly, but his series rarely last and he remains largely unknown. The most famous super-Canadian is Wolverine, the creation of Marvel Comics and more associated with American and international adventures.
Jason Loo tries to rectify the situation by giving North America’s fourth most populous city a handful of new super-doers. They all appear in the comic, but the focus is the determined, apologetic Pitiful Human-Lizard.
Title: The Pitiful Human-Lizard Volume 1: Far from Legendary
Writer and Artist: Jason Loo
Editor: Allison O’Toole
First Published: 2016 (mainly reprinting material from 2015)
A young cubicle lackey tries to establish himself as a superhero in a Toronto that already boasts the city’s champion, Mother Wonder and our hero’s friend, the Majestic Rat. The first collection also features a cameo by Captain Canuck, who apparently exists in this reality, and the development of Lady Accident, who really wishes she had chosen a better superhero name.
He faces more than enough villains and monsters, but he gets a boost from an experimental drug that gives him regenerative powers.
The casual ridiculousness of superheroes gets highlighted nicely here, and the inherent silliness of the subject matter and its treatment does not prevent the reader from getting behind Lucas Barrett and his struggles to establish himself socially and superheroically. And Loo serves us actual Canada (or, at least, Toronto), rather than tired jokes about saying “eh” and eating poutine.
The earlier “Made in Chinatown” stories appear at the end of the compilation. They make interesting bonuses and show off Loo’s artwork, but the short gag stories aren’t particularly funny.
Originality: 3/6 We’ve seen many struggling heroes given the tongue-in-cheek treatment, from The Mystery Men to The Freshmen to Kick-ass and all the way back to the original Red Tornado. The original Spider-man embodies the most serious attempt at the struggling super-doer, and Loo does not conceal Spidey’s role as inspiration. Nevertheless, this comic provides a few fresh takes on the concept. I particularly liked his use of setting.
Artwork: 5/6 Loo manages to outdo Scott Pilgrim for Toronto settings. Casual readers will recognize, say, the CN Tower and Honest Ed’s. People who know T-dot will recognize the Queen Street surplus store where our hero buys his goggles** and the tunnels of the TTC where he tracks villains. The setting looks and feels like Toronto, albeit a goofy, comic-book version.
Bonus: Mother Wonder resembles neither Supergirl nor Big Bertha; she has the credible figure of a healthy mother of three.
Story: 5/6 We have multiple stories and an overall arc, and they fit nicely within contemporary comics. Loo does not feel the need to break the story in every case with origins. We get them where they matter. The rest can wait; Batman took seven issues of Detective before anyone thought to give him an origin.
Characterization: 5/6 The characters are distinct and recognizable, though not intended to be novel-deep. I like the fact that the Lizard’s (very much living) parents, co-workers, and friends form an integral part of the story. And while the comic establishes the hero’s Anglo/Chinese ancestry, it never makes this an issue. Lucas is just this guy from Toronto.
Emotional response: 4/6 The Pitiful Human-Lizard is a fun read. Your response will depend on your interest in superheroes and the appeal of comic-book silliness.
It’s also moderately amusing that he asterisks “ROM” every single time it is mentioned and explains what it means in a footnote.*
Overall: 5/6 Will we still know the Human-Lizard in another decade? I don’t know, but Loo mixes Millennial lifestyle, Toronto backgrounds, and superhero tropes in an entertaining blend.
In total, The Pitiful Human-Lizard receives 32/42
*Royal Ontario Museum.
**Unfortunately, the store in question closed after the comic came out, and after four decades of service.