Local Hero Comics: Captain Mavrik Takes A Holiday by Anthony Lathrop
A focus on small press comic creators
Most well-versed comics fans would associate humorous and satirical superhero comics becoming popular with Harvey Kurtzman and other creators behind the early (and now late) Mad magazine. However, you can argue that it was the Boston and New England comics scene from the nineties who helped bring it back to the modern mainstream. I attribute this to Tom Devlin and the then-fledgling Highwater Books publishing Coober Skeber #2. Subtitled the “Marvel Benefit Issue,” this was an unauthorized anthology of black and white comics featuring Marvel Comics characters during a time when the Marvel was facing an uncertain future while going through bankruptcy court. Some work satirical, some slapstick humorous, some even touching and serious, this was an amazing collection destined to never be printed again, except for a James Kochalka Hulk story which, thanks to people like Kurt Busiek, was later reprinted by Marvel. This no doubt helped lead to projects like Peter Bagge’s The Megalomaniacal Spider-Man and the Strange Tales series. Not to mention DC’s Bizarro anthologies and AdHouse Book’s Project: Superior Series. It culminates with today’s comic of discussion, Anthony Lathrop’s Captain Mavrik takes A Holiday.
Okay, that last sentence was more than a little hyperbolic. Still, for being the latest in a series of small press creators doing superhero tropes, Captain Mavrik could be a sweet book, if it’s ever finished.
Looking at projects like the In a Single Bound series from the Boston Comics Roundtable, you might even say that small press superhero comics is still a local tradition, with Lathrop’s 2018 comic being the latest to join the party. What little I can see of his resume suggests he might be new to creating comics. His website only notes him being an Emmy award winning graphic designer, which I confirmed. He also seems to have done work for ”Frontline.” All this is to say (again) that Captain Mavrik may be his first comics work, and it’s impressive.
Showing nods to Hergé rather than any modern comics creator (mainstream or otherwise), Lathrop puts his designer background to work with everything from the title character’s equipment to the world of heroes he inhabits. Even the fact that Lathrop named his publishing imprint after the Captain’s fictional hometown of Puddlestomp shows that he knows how to worldbuild. That’s a useful skill to have when working in the superhero genre.
The comic is a single chapter as we follow Captain Mavrik, a D-lister hero with aspirations and a pleasant disposition who finally gets called by an A-List team to stop the villain Doctor Kramp. The doctor is actually an old friend of Mavrik’s who’s only just turned mad scientist. Kramp’s motivation for turning evil is uncomplicated, hilarious and perfect for a book that can be easily geared for younger readers.
In fact Kramp’s villain turn over an unpaid parking ticket ties for best villain motivation of all time alongside Plant Man not being permitted to golf in Jacob Chabot’s Strange Tales story “Lookin’ Good Mr. Grimm.”
The comic ends with Captain Mavrik failing to catch the villain or the MacGuffin he was using to destroy Toledo. He is suspended from heroing and forced to take a vacation. The comic ends before he has even left, and the new issue still hasn’t come out yet as 2019 comes closer to a close.
If I would change anything in the comic, it would be things that could help the artist put more books out more quickly. First, lose the color. Black and white superhero comics sell just as well as any colored superhero comic not owned by Disney or Warner Brothers. If you’re lucky, you can get a publisher to color the final product for you. I also think it would be great to have the drawing be as tight as that first page. The way the detail slips ever so slightly from then on is a little jarring, but that’s just me nitpicking as I still enjoy the artwork.
Above all, get the second chapter out now, while making the comic more available for people to purchase. Lathrop’s site doesn’t let you buy the comic online, so you’re left to stores in the Boston area like New England Comics. I hope there’s an update soon. Superhero tropes aside, Captain Mavrik Takes A Holiday is basically an underdog story about a good-hearted guy getting bullied and knocked down in life while still trying a way to do the right thing. Who wouldn’t want to read a completed story like that?