As entertaining (and easy) it may be to mercilessly mock some ill-conceived backbenched dredged up from the dregs of funnybook history, that was never intended to be the purpose of Nobody’s Favorites. There’s no denying that facile snark brings in the readers, but this feature was supposed to be a response to the “SO LAME LOL” approach which dominated humor-slanted comics commentary at the time of its launch back in 2009.
This is why I’ve endeavored to add at least some degree of historical or cultural spin to my critical kidney punches, even (or especially) when the target’s “virtues” justifed little more than a disgusted roll of the eyes and an implied “jack-off” hand gesture.
A lot of Nobody’s Favorites selections have been awful, but awlfulness is not a prerequiste for being Nobody’s Favorite. There is a vast pool of worthy candidates who qualify strictly on the basis of having rolled under the sofa of funnybook history without anyone noticing they’d gone missing…or even shown up to begin with.
I’m talking about works like One Mile Up…
…an 1991 attempt at “American manga” which came and went without registering as much as a blip on fandom’s radar.
This forgotten collaboration between Fred Schiller and Shepherd Hendrix tried to put a home-grown, semi-Westernized spin on the elaborate anime space-operas of the 1970s and 1980s, and incorporates all the familar tropes which set fans of formula (my younger self included) all a’twitter.
You’ve got neophyte mecha-jockeys waging brutal war versus cartoony Bad Guys against a backdrop of intergalactic political conspiracies and the requisite lashings of personal melodrama and an adequate facimile of the boilerplate manga art style.
One Mile Up gives the impression of being a labor of love crafted by a pair of dedicate fans, and therein lies its fatal flaw. While it’s clear that the creators really, really cared about paying homage to the source material, they tragically forgot to give the audience its own reason to give a shit.
The exposition, awkward action scenes, backstory, and barrage of subplot seeds give One Mile Up’s first issue a density approaching that of a neutron star. Crucial details like character names or the relationships between factions are lost amidst an impenetrable infodump that made perfect sense in the creators’ heads but ended up being nigh incipherable to the end user.
It’s the type of thing which could’ve untangled itself over the long haul — i.e. “the made for the trade” narrative technique — but readers never got the chance to find out, as only one issue of the promised five issue miniseries ever made it to the stands.
As it stands, the single issue of One Mile Up is an odd little artifact of a bygone era when “Japanamation” was considered a legitimate term and a niche fandom of ‘zine borne strivers harbored their own hopelessly insular dreams of giant robo-romance epics.
Having been one of those strivers, I can’t bring myself to be too hard on One Mile Up, though I have no qualms about dumping it in the scrapyard of broken dreams otherwise known as Nobody’s Favorite’s.
(A big thanks to Mike Sterling for setting me up with a replacement for my long-lost original copy of the comic.)