Saturday, January 16, 2016

Short Lived Comic Series #2 - Portia Prinz of the Glamazons

Eclipse Comics put out a large number of titles back in the 1980s, many of which were exceptional reading (and far surpass most of the comics that are published today).  Titles such as DNAgents, Ms. Tree, Crossfire, The Liberty Project, New Wave, Airboy, Scout, and countless others.  It was truly a shame the company was unable to sustain itself, and eventually closed its doors.  Some of the titles went on to other publishers, but many of them ended up in limbo, pretty much never to be seen again.

Enter: E-Bay!

Through the joys of E-Bay, as well as local comic conventions (and those wonderful boxes of 50-cent comics), I've been able to find some of those old series that I missed out on back in the day (and some that I did read back then, but later sold for various reasons) and purchase them to read.  One of those happens to be Portia Prinz of the Glamazons.

My brother gave me the entire 6-issue run as a Christmas gift this year, so I was thrilled to be able to sit down and read it.  The series was written, drawn, and lettered by Richard Howell, who I best remember from his issues of All-Star Squadron and the Shadow War of Hawkman at DC Comics. What I did not realize was that this series was actually a reprinting (with some additional story and art), as Howell originally wrote and drew the series in the mid to late 1970s.  But that's okay, because Howell did an amazing job telling a very intellectual story in a humorous, campy way.

Portia is the daughter of the queen of the Glamazons, a race of women who resemble the early days of the Amazons from the Wonder Woman comic.  The major difference is, the Glamazons have no problem allowing men that they personally select to come live on the island as their loves and mates, allowing them to partake of the fountain of immortality if they are worthy.  In this tale, the Glamazons are faced with the decision of whether or not to allow technology to come into their society.  An ambassador of the technocratic outside world has come to the Glamazons' home to bear witness to the benefits of technology, yet all the while, she is scheming to actually take over the society and destroy it from within.

Howell provides some very thought-provoking observations on technology and how it can affect, and ultimately rule, the lives of people - which, considering this was written in the '70s, and later added to in the '80s, is amazing, because reading it in today's technological age, is amazing, as he really hits the nail on the head when talking about how people have become so addicted to technology that they lose social skills and basically allow the technology to rule their world.

The characters, most certainly Portia herself, are all over-the-top, with stereotypes of every kind. Wendy and Richard Pini, who provided an introduction in the first issue, said it best:

"As the foremost pseudo-intellectual snob in her own island-based culture, Portia plays with ideas endlessly for her own amusement and, occasionally, for the benefit of those within her circle and without. Her motivations arise out of selfish whim, megalomania, genuine love, or any combination of the above. And she makes no apologies for her arrogance.  Why should she?  After all, who could be a better judge of Portia's many strengths and virtues (Weaknesses?  Hardly!) than Portia herself?
"Did we mention that, despite her obvious superiority to practically everyone and everything, Portia is not above enjoying a spot of levity at her own expense?  She is truly a well-adjusted person, a self-confident person--but not necessarily an unusual person, at least not if you examine the other denizens of the immortal Glamazon culture."

The series is told in a very soap opera manner, with loves and betrayals, with secret agendas, blackmail, kidnappings, and hidden pasts.  It is funny, it is thoughtful, it is outrageous, and it is chock full of story!  That's right, in the time it takes me to read just one issue of this comic, I could easily read three, maybe even four, comics published today.  That's because Howell is not afraid to use more than three panels on a page.  He is not afraid to use word and thought balloons as his characters talk, think, and interact.  Howell is not afraid to give readers plenty of story for their money.

And all of the above is exactly why I so much enjoy reading those independent titles of yester-year.  It's not just about the pretty art or the splash pages or the "big name" creators. It's about a writer and artist who have a story to tell, and all of their blood, tears, and sweat clearly come across in their finished product.

Oh, I have to wonder - just what would Portia Prinz be up to today, and what would she have to say about our world and its society now?

RATING:  9 dramatic monologues out of 10 for keeping my interest in comic books alive!

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