Is the Material Girl comic book material? – Madonna #1
There are few celebrities of the past thirty years whose flame has burned as brightly as Madonna’s. Née Madonna Louise Ciccone in Michigan, she grow up to one day lop off both her middle and last names, become a factory of musical standards, and thereby take up residence in the pop consciousness, a locale she’s never left. Though at times her act could become insufferable (Remember when she moved to England and suddenly had a posh accent? YOU’RE FROM DETROIT, HONEY.) and her film career was mostly forgettable, she churned out as solid a collection of radio hits as anyone. And there was ever the manufactured controversy to keep her in the public eye. Always the manufactured controversy.
And a comic book or two.
Back in the early 1990s Personality Comics carved out a unique little niche in the good old sequential art industry. They published unauthorized biographical comics of celebrities past and present — a lot of them. Their catalog of profiled luminaries stretched to ridiculous proportions, like some spinner rack version of a Who’s Who in American Entertainment compendium. While you could get tales of stars as big as Madonna, there was an element of barrel scraping at times. For an example: they published a number of comics for Star Trek cast members, capitalizing on that segment of convention-going fandom that can never resist buying anything and everything having to do with their chosen obsession. Whether the world needed a Denise Crosby comic book is a question perhaps best left to learned philosophes, but Personality Comics was there to fill whatever void there was.
And you could even question what kind of desire there was for a Madonna comic book. Perhaps looking to hone in on another aspect of collecting fervor — latching onto anything with “limited edition” emblazoned upon it — the company often published versions of their comics in a polybagged, numbered format. The Madonna book I have before me now is just such a tome. Artist Jimmy Palmiotti (the book was written by Steven Spire III) graced the Certificate of Whatever glued to the inside front cover with his signature:
Ooh, it’s not just a Limited Edition. It’s a Diamond Limited Edition. Here, take all my money!
A few observations: One, 2000 seems like a high total, even more so considering there were any number of plebeian unnumbered versions floating around as well. Lop about three zeroes off and you might have had a sufficient run to quench the limited edition Madonna comic book thirst. Two, the certificate is attached to the inside front cover, creasing the cover image with its outline, which is sloppy and annoying. And third — and this applies to any of these dopey number thingies — who’s to say that there weren’t fifty 520s printed, and that the same went for every other number? Were there U.N. inspectors at the press, documenting it all for posterity?
As for the contents, an interesting if odd tack is taken with the narrative. Biocomics all too often fall prey to the “this happened, and then this happened” framework, which is as soporific as any prescription sleep aid. We’ve seen that before in books we’ve examined. What does this comic do instead? It makes the story about a serial killer, one who’s obsessed with Madonna:
This feels like it might be an odd choice when you’re presenting a life story of someone you’re ostensibly supposed to be venerating — to have details about her told through the ramblings of a Jame Gumb-like lunatic. (All this guy is lacking is a sewing machine with which to make a suit of female skin.) But this is the black and white hand we’ve been dealt. Our killer has embarked on a rampage, stalking and murdering women who remind him of Madonna’s guises at the various stages of her career. (With some From Hell caliber blood spatter to boot.) Here he is in his fetid room, plotting and muttering details for the benefit of the reading audience:
(Wikipedia says she was born in 1958, by the way. So the book is wrong. Or maybe the killer is wrong, and this was an intentional mistake, to convey his derangement. My head hurts.)
Eventually the cops catch on, and realize that the target of their manhunt has a Madonna obsession. The lead detective raids the local record store for all of her albums and brushes up on all the info he can get on her, which leads to more rhapsodizing. The adulation hyperventilates to such a degree you almost expect the words “And Madonna’s vagina cures cancer” to appear:
And it goes on like that.
There would be another Madonna comic to follow, which continued the search for the killer and presented more biographical detail in this offbeat way. I don’t know whether to condone or condemn the storytelling format — probably neither, though you have to admire anything that dares to be different. Somewhat like Madonna herself, come to think of it, so maybe it’s fitting. Though we all have to roll our eyes at a such a need for the spotlight as hers — her book Sex was more LOOK AT ME than it was titillating (though it did give us a great Phil Hartman SNL bit) — it’s hard not to marvel at her wattage. And she’s still going, with those Gollum arms and all. So if you’re someone who, like me, sings along with “Cherish” whenever it comes on the radio or mp3 player of choice, maybe ramping your voice up into a falsetto register to approximate Madonna’s sassy twang, this old cash grab might be worth a perusal.