And we’re back to my favorite year in comics, 1986, the year of Alan Moore’s Watchmen and Frank Miller’s Dark Knight. In the aftermath of the amazingly successful debut two years previously of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles–an independent black-and-white parody of X-Men and Frank Miller comics–the market was flooded with independent black-and-white comics, including an inordinate number of parodies of TMNT, like Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters and Naive Interdimensional Commando Koalas. Among the parodies that did not mimic TMNT‘s four-fold title pattern was The Mighty Mites from Eternity Comics.
Notice that the cover art is in a cutesy, bigfoot style, the closest American equivalent to what used to be called “super deformed” and is now called “chibi.” You might be tempted to dismiss the comic based on the art alone, since it’s not anyone’s definition of dark or serious.
If so, you’d miss out of the wickedest parody of X-Men I think I’ve ever seen. Witness the opening splash page.
The second page shows each character conducting an inner monologue via thought balloon that is worded almost identically to the splash page captions. And as the characters go through their training in the “Lookout Room,” they continue to each reflect on their own personal issues.
And yes, it’s really repetitive and gets pretty tiresome by the sixth page (where the second set of panels comes from), but if you’d been reading Claremont’s X-Men for the past eight years or so, it would also be riotously funny. To wit:
The panels above are from The Uncanny X-Men #145 from 1981 and The Uncanny X-Men Annual #6 from 1982, and illustrate both the “His/Her name is…” caption and Claremont’s patented tortured inner monologue (which to be fair is not a great departure from Stan Lee’s tortured inner monologues from the days when the Marvel Age first dawned).
The Mighty Mites first six pages are a brutally funny, almost surgical dismantling of the Claremont ouvre, obviously written by fans who had been following the book for years. Unfortunately, by page 7, the book then decides to introduce the title characters, the Mighty Mites, a more generic adventure squad: part Challengers of the Unknown, part A-Team.
The Mighty Mites are contacted by the President to battle the interplanetary menace of X-Laxtus, but they’re busy watching TV, and so subcontract the job to the X-Mites, who screw up the job while still indulging in tortured inner monologues. Finally, the Mighty Mites step in to save the day, but while attempting to save the X-Mites in the bowels of the Great Big Comic Company of New York, they stumble into a secret room.
And suddenly the parody turns ever so slightly preachy. If you’re not familiar with the situation, the most basic version: Marvel in the 80’s decided to start returning artwork to artists, but something went wrong in Jack Kirby’s case. Not only was he asked to sign a more complex release than the other artists, but Marvel said that they could only return 88 pages out of thousands that they ostensibly had. It became a scandal within the industry.
So in the end, I liked The Mighty Mites, but mostly on the strength of the first six pages. The rest of the book–the bland lead characters, X-Laxtus and the lame ending where they beat him with a Twinkie (inspired by those ubiquitous Hostess ads from the 70’s)–was not as compelling.
Two more issues were published, but I never picked them up . To be honest, I can’t remember seeing them on the racks. I’m not sure just how good Eternity’s distribution was.