The Geek: Corruption of the Innocent
Medium: comic
Year: 1993
Writer: Rachel Pollack
Artist: Michael Allred
Format: 56 pages
Website category: Comics
Review date: 2 July 2021
FIRST READING
It's memorable and distinctive, but that's not the same as "good".
I like the title character, Brother Power. His innocence and strange superpowers make him charming and likeable, no matter what terrible things he might blindly do. (He's going out into the world, a bit like that AI that taught itself how to be a racist dickhead by reading internet chatrooms. The Geek meets corporate raiding yuppies and white supremacist neo-Nazis. He tries to copy them, although fortunately he's a thoroughly nice doll in his empty-headed way and turns out to be bad at being a shithead.)
There's also a girl called Cindy who sometimes works as a prostitute and once picked up a dreadful john.
I think this story would probably work better if you'd read the original Joe Simon issues in 1968. (It only lasted two issues, partly because DC editor Mort Weisinger hated the character and the title and tried to get it cancelled. He thought it was too sympathetic towards hippy counter-culture.) It sounds as if a lot of what we see here comes from Simon's original stories, while the underwhelming ending probably works better as the culmination of them.
Personally, though, I thought the story had issues with dramatic structure. The Geek is empty-headed and drifting through the world. Cindy's usually a passive victim. The only dynamic character with motivation is the baddie. There's lots of feminism and a strong female viewpoint, which is good, but ultimately this is a Stuff Just Happens narrative. X happens to the Geek. Y happens to Cindy. Z happens to the Geek. Yes, and? It's surreal, sometimes sinister and drawn by Michael Allred, but it's failed to crack the problem of how to tell a Geek story.
SECOND READING
Oh, bloody hell. I'd forgotten that Gaiman resurrected Brother Power first for his Swamp Thing annual. I own that, so I'll have to reread Pollack's take after I've reminded myself of Gaiman's.
Unsurprisingly, I agree with myself. This narrative is still dead. Brother Power has the forward planning abilities of a toddler, while Cindy basically exists to be a prostitute. (Why? I don't get it. My best guess is that it's a cocktail of "The 1980s Are Shitty" and Pollack tackling women's issues, but it feels as if it's doing the character of Cindy a disservice. She's Brother Power's friend from 1968, after all. He was looking for her even in Gaiman's take. Their relationship is the main synergy I got from rereading both stories back-to-back. The character matters, albeit only within the tiny field of Brother Power comics.)
The transition between the stories is jarring. Gaiman's Brother Power was a happy hippie god, about to go off and see America. Pollack's is a loser who's living in captivity, getting bullied by nobodies and having to bite the heads off chickens to entertain the crowds. There's a flashback to the Chester-Geek conversation, but even that feels wrong. The tone's changed. Well, I suppose Brother Power's memories and perceptions aren't the clearest.
It helped that I'd become better acquainted with the mythology. That random nobody on p22 is Lord Sliderule, for instance, one of Brother Power's former enemies. I like the reunion ending. I still don't think much of the story.