Monday, March 05, 2007

Unexaggerated tale of woe and redemption

Edgar K. Harman considered his life’s work complete the day after his 43rd birthday. It was the day his favourite tattooist, Marty ‘Shank Man’ Longhi, inked the final panel of Harman’s enormous tattoo which stretched from his face down to his shins. The tattoo, which he had begun 22 years earlier, now featured -- Every. Single. Page -- of the very first issue of the world’s greatest comic: Unexaggerated Tales of the Purple Wasp, first published by Jack Sikorsky and Myron Staples in New Jersey in 1952.

Issue #1 featured the very first encounter with the Grey Honey-Eater, the Purple Wasp’s nemesis and the object of his secret doomed affection. It had the first look at his cliff-top hide-away, the Royal Hive in the Sky, and showed his bookish alter-ego, Jerry Lancaster, nervously going for an interview as a file clerk with the Police Department – a position he would later use to great effect from Issue #6 onwards to glean intelligence on numerous hard-nosed crims.

Various hard-core members of purplewaspreturns.com – the world’s preeminent Purple Wasp fansite and webportal – would swear that Harman, if not actually a god, had become more than merely human, as they liked to say. He was the coolest person ever with the exception of the deeply troubled Purple Wasp himself.

But tragedy struck, as it so often does, quickly and quietly in the night. A short post to unexaggerated.blogspot.com – an otherwise no-account fan blog published out of Sheffield in the UK – suggested that there was an even earlier issue, soon dubbed Issue #1a by the fanoscenti.

Only 12 issues of #1a were ever printed and 3 of these were immediately destroyed due to ink problems. 4 others were given to unappreciative family members and promptly lost. 2 were later destroyed in a house fire in 1965. Only 3 remained, treasured forever by Sikorsky’s widow, Jean, in her attic, and only discovered at her death.

Within 3 weeks they were on ebay and within 12, scanned copies were on the web itself. 1a was a revelation, the biggest thing to hit the Purple Wasp world, the biggest thing that could hit the Purple Wasp world. Issue #1a explained how the Purple Wasp got his mysterious powers (and that scar on his back). It introduced the Red Arachnid who, teaming up with the Honey-Eater, finally managed to kill him in Issue #146. It also explained his slightly icky psycho-sexual relationship with his side-kick and younger half-brother, Michael (the Green Firefly).

Overnight, Harman became a freak and an outcast, a laughing-stock and a cautionary tale whose infamy spread quickly across the Internet. But after a brief bout of depression, he bounced back, starting TheRealNumberOne.com and attracting a small but loyal following. He made it his life’s work to attack what came to be known as the One-A Fallacy. By the time his 45th birthday had rolled around, Harman had again found that inner peace that only comes from a life well-lived.


Jo said...

I'm happy.
Then I'm sad.
Then I'm happy again, in a sort of redemptive kind of way.

Thanks for the inverted bell-curve.

DonkeyBlog said...

That was really awesome ... my virgin whale sushi, but the beginning of much, much more. Thanks

Pussycat said...

"...Unexaggerated Tales of the Purple Wasp, first published by Jack Sikorsky and Myron Staples in New Jersey in 1952."

I want to read this comic (and perhaps see an ish with the Grey Honey-Eater on the cover).

redcap said...

Which just goes to show, one should always be a comiststrip loner and never, ever have a partner in art. (I mean, really, look at the Red Dwarf team. Crashed and burned like a Garuda jet. Sorry - was that too soon?) But in this case, I think Sikorsky's step-children faked the whole one-a thing out of hatred for him and his sitting-naked-on-the-couch-on-a-Sunday-afternoon ways. Damn their eyes.