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What They Did to Princess Paragon, Robert Rodi, Dutton, 1994, ISBN 0-525-93772-2, $19.95, 281pp.

An entertaining novel that satirizes the comic book industry through a recasting of the early 1990s in which a well-regarded comic book writer/artist decides to make his mark in the new, mature field by taking a character from the golden age and remaking her as a lesbian. Like all good satire, there’s an edge here–although John Bryne did do a retelling of Wonder Woman, I don’t think he has remade her sexual orientation, but one quick look at the field and the various changes that have been made and it does not seem that it would be too much of a stretch. Batman is a ruthless vigilante, Superman’s been dead, Spiderman has an alien costume…it’s enough to make any fan think that the field has no sacred cows.

Rodi picks up this idea and uses it effectively, if a little heavy handed and without a measure of sympathy in some cases. Everything works out in the end (this is a comedy, after all, and it wouldn’t do to have anyone really hurt), along the way there’s enough pain to make you think that Rodi’s been watching too much Seinfeld and not reading enough P.G. Wodehouse. Actually, I probably should compare Rodi to Joe Keenan, because he shares Keenan’s sexual preference and is also writing humorous novels. Keenan’s fare is meringue pie– light and fluffy and leaving you wanting for more; Rodi’s dessert has a bitterness to it, as if it may have stayed in the oven a little too long.

Picking on the unwashed masses of comicdom may be a little like shooting fish in a barrel, and Rodi’s talent at poking things with a sharp stick should probably be utilized where something is bloated out of proportion with its importance. Too much of this novel is the same stereotypes that we know have a basis in reality, but are not quite what they seem. The one redeeming factor to Rodi’s cruelty to his comic fanboy is that he doesn’t restrain himself from a jab or two at his gay protagonist (although mainly through the Broadway schtik of his lover).

[Finished May 1999]


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