By Danny R. Phillips
Graphic novels are a guilty pleasure to which I have only recently returned. I have always been an avid reader as well as a lover of art, but when I turned 35, I started to think my comic book years were behind me. Then I re-read Watchmen and V for Vendetta and remembered the comic greatness that I had let gather dust in the back of my memories.
Thanks to my returning jones for the graphic novel, I discovered Afrodisiac, a book based around a Shaft-meets-Superman character straight out of the blaxplotation genre of the 1970s. I mean, this cat would make Dolemite and Superfly look like Wayne Brady. With his stable of white “bitches” working the streets for him, his magic pimp cane, his Cadillac, and his tingling Spider Sense-like street smarts, he is both the protector of his city and its sweet, sweet daddy.
The writing is superb, the art is fantastic, and the story set up is non-linear. This can make things both great and confusing as hell, but in Afrodisiac‘s case, it’s the former.
The layout and writing for this book are both hilarious and smart. Each chapter is a different issue in the series, and each issue has a different explanation of Afrodisiac’s origins and powers. He’s everything from a man that finds a magic “pimp cane” (much like the way Donald Blake finds an old walking stick in a cave, hits it against a boulder, and becomes Thor. Wait, my geek is showing again.) to a janitor at a lab bitten by a radiation-infused cigarette pimp.
Put plainly, this book features some crazy stuff. Case in point: Richard Nixon appears in two different issues, once as Afrodisiac’s sidekick and another time as his rival competing for the right to sex up a princess from the planet Venus. Afrodisiac may be all over the place but it somehow works (thanks again, Watchmen).
Depending on which issue you read, Afrodisiac battles everyone from Dracula to a computer named Megapute to the top dog of all bad guys, Satan. Of course in every situation, Afrodisiac manages to whip some ass AND get laid. Now that’s one bad mother!
It’s clear that Afrodisiac creators Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca know their craft as well as comic book history and 1970s exploitational pimp pop culture. They are able to make the character into a pimp who is not like the Morgan Freeman villain from the film Street Smart or the cop helping, good guy hustler Huggy Bear from Starsky and Hutch, but instead, someone who fulfills the role of superhero: someone who protects his neighborhood and women instead of exploiting them.
However, this book is not for the overtly PC, Birkenstock wearin’, tree huggin’ crowd. Yes, some of society’s more faint of heart and their values-watchdog buddies will find anything and everything wrong with Afrodisiac. That’s the way it always goes; there’s always someone out there ready to bitch and complain about what offends them.
Take my advice, put all the stupid ass PC crap aside, and read Afrodisiac. It is well written, expertly drawn, and fun as hell. And let’s be honest, everybody could use a laugh right now.
Afrodisiac is available through AdHouse Books.