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Neal Adams’ Ms. Mystic, with her big honkin’ Voltron-esque psi-sword, says don’t pollute – Ms. Mystic #1

April 30, 2012

So if Ms. Mystic is a defender of the Earth, and she’s also created, written and drawn by Neal Adams, does that mean that she’s a defender of the Expanding Earth? Just wondering.

Ms. Mystic (who had her debut as a backup in an issue of Captain Victory and the Galactic Rangers), is one of the many Adams properties that had brief lives during the 1980s, whether at Pacific Comics or Adams’ own Continuity Comics. This makes her distant kin to the singularly awful Skateman, which is no recommendation whatsoever. But, you can’t choose your relatives (just ask any U.S. President, including Barack Obama), so it behooves everyone to go in with as clean a mindset as possible. DO NOT HOLD OUR HEROINE’S TEMPORAL PROXIMITY TO SKATEMAN AGAINST HER.

Without further ado, a few words about her, her comic and the work of the guy who wrote and drew it.

Ms. Mystic is an eco-comic of sorts, with environmental themes that would make every tree-hugger among us happy — Rachel Carson and Woodsy would both be proud. This book, the first entry in Ms. Mystic’s ongoing series, has a crack team of government-sponsored nature do-gooders trying to track down the unknown source of devastating wilderness pollution. How bad is the pollution? Bird-falling-like-a-stone and puking Bambi bad:

What, no puppy with huge doleful eyes (and open sores) was available?

It’s not long before Ms. Mystic, with her floor-length white hair, fairy antennae and bodysuit, arrives to help out and arouse the male populace. I’ve made no secret of my lack of enthusiasm when it comes to Adams’ art. Just one of those cases of different strokes for different folks. But I do recognize his profound gift with a pen and pencil and the wonders he can work with simple lines. You know, like with Ms. Mystic (who has an Aquaman-like connection to Mother Nature to go along with her mental powers and requisite flying ability) squaring off against a giant unicycle of doom:

Nice. I’m not blind to that. But you also have trademark Adams angles like this, which give you a nice look up an old dude’s nostrils:

While I was reading this comic it finally clicked for me why I just can’t get into Adams’ work: He’s the William Shatner of artists. You know the Kevin Pollack impersonation of Shatner? The overacting? The pauses? The jerking of the head? The flailing of the body? Shatner was a handsome guy and all, but his gesticulations — and all the rest — could sometimes be a bit much. Something similar goes on with Adams. He can do great stuff, but then he breaks out needless, overkill perspective like the scan above and you just want to yell EASY BIG FELLA. It’s his version of “Spock…There’s… some sort of…life here!” I get that he broke with the rather staid page layouts of 1960s. But a lot of what he does strikes me as an overreaction.

Again, different strokes.

Since this is a first issue, we have to get a recounting of Ms. Mystic’s senses-shattering origin. It involves sepia tones, witchiness and a Salem, Massachusetts stake-burning :

And then she was released from her nude hibernation when the Environmental Avengers or whatever deployed some psionic weapon. Mazel. (By the way, I don’t want the government to have psionic weapons. Nor do I want do-gooder hippies to have them. Here government-employed hippies have them. Head for the hills.)

Ms. Mystic saves the day, and the ultimate battle with the polluter (of course) involves a muscley guy with no shirt and superpowers. And at this point, if you’re like me, you too want to remove your ESSENTIAL body from your MINERAL body and inject yourself into another Ms. Mystic-free dimension.

What to make of it. The environmental advocacy in the script, while heartfelt, is leaden and, dare I say, overbearing. While it’s certainly more entertaining than Adams’ Expanding Earth manifestos, which make the Unabomber’s tirades seem lean, compact and to the point by comparison, it’s not so great. There’s nothing in this first issue that would make me want to read a second, and all that’s lacking is some soporific Al Gore droning and you’d be in an eco-coma. It’s heavy-handed, like those earnest young Greenpeace people who accost you with clipboards and DON’T YOU WANT TO SAVE THE EARTH guilt trips while you’re just trying to schlep your way to the subway. (“I’m about to ride the subway WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT FROM ME?”)

But I can recognize that Adams-philes will love the art, and even I, an Adams apostate, can recognize some of the quality within.

And this leagues better than Skateman. So there’s that.

Ms. Mystic had issues published sporadically over the years, but not many of them. You wouldn’t run out of fingers and toes tallying the total. There was also some litigation between Adams and a person who claimed co-creator status for the character (the suit didn’t make it very far). I’m not sure I would have made such a claim, and that’s the final verdict.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. phil permalink
    May 2, 2012 2:47 pm

    Isn’t it odd when you find out one of your favorite artists is a loon.

    • May 6, 2012 4:40 am

      You have to have a grudging respect for a guy who sees conspiracies in plate tectonics.

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