While comic fans who want to be “taken seriously” will stress that the medium and the content are two entirely different things, one of the great things about comics is that you can see some of the most ridiculous things ever dreamed up in a comic book. Sure, technically you can in a book, or a movie, or whatever medium you choose, but there is something about the comic book form that frequently attracts delightful zaniness. Characters who gain a new set of powers after their resurrection, talking aardvarks with a misogynistic streak, universe=hopping spies with good/evil twins, depending on the universe? Sign me up. Now another oddball joins the fray: a master of magnetism and electricity who… rides a talking, flying polar bear.
This is Ungrounded, a comic written by Patrick Gerard and illustrated by Eryck Webb.
By the description we are given, Gerard’s superhero and Ungrounded star, Mister Solenoid, sounds like an experiment in Seaguy-levels of strangeness. His basic power set is simple enough — though Gerard seems interested in taking it in unique directions: falling somewhere between Magneto and Freakazoid, mild mannered Joseph Danner gained the ability to manipulate electricity when an experiment went horribly awry and pulled him through multiple dimensions before dropping him back home. Alright, par for the course, so far. Unfortunately, while he got the patented super-strength that nearly every superhero gets for granted — even those “without” superpowers — his sudden transformation did not gift him with the second most common superpower. That’s right, Mister Solenoid can’t fly. Do you think that could stop someone with powers over electricity, though? Of course not — he just became friends with a flying polar bear instead. That’s what anyone else would do, isn’t it?
Gerard and Webb seem to have tapped that core of what makes comics great, superhero ones in particular. While many other genres, sci fi and crime in particular, are flourishing under third-party publishers, DC and Marvel’s superhero comics keep offering more and more of the same old stuff, and only a few of the creator-owned supers we see are interested in breaking that mold. So many hero concepts these days are predictable and dull in their overarching themes; sometimes we just need something so outrageous and seeminly unconnected as a lightning conductor and a flying polar bear (yes, every paragraph needs those three words) to remind us that this genre has the potential to house almost any kind of story or character. While we don’t have any lettered pages, the descriptioin of the idea on the Kickstarter page and video, including powers such as tasting television channels, show that Gerard has the imagination to make this something clever rather than a hodgepodge of silliness. What you can bet on, though, is Webb’s terrific looking art. The Saturday-morning-cartoon look (I admit, the only one I watched was Batman: The Animated Series) is perfect for this imaginative concept, and his art flows seamlessly. This is a visual medium, after all, so even if you aren’t sure of whether Gerard will be able to pull off his out-there concept, it’s hard to say no to great art like that.
One problem with the project’s Kickstarter page is that it doesn’t list the projected page length of the base comic. As such — at least, until Gerard updates the page — one would be forgiven for only wanting to pitch in the basic $4 for the digital copy (a price that suggests that this is probably going to be a relatively standard length for a comic issue, at least to begin). Still, those a little more trusting in this comic’s unique nature and fabulous illustration might be more willing to pledge a rounder ten dollars to the cause for the printed copy, or for a thank you in the book and concept documents. Perhaps both of those dollars sound nice to you? Then go ahead and smack down fifteen dollars for the whole shebang. There are also quite a few neat higher-level tiers: $150, $450, and $650 earn you a cameos of varying degrees, and more than a few result in multiple copies for you retailers out there.
The biggest incentive, though, is that the more you donate, the bigger the book becomes. The stretch goals for this comic are extra stories, each of varying page lengths, the first seven of which are present. It’s a brilliant marketing strategy that projects such as To Be Or Not To Be have used succesfully; if you’ve donated to this project already, wouldn’t you want to share it with friends so their contribution can give you more bang for your buck? All I know is I need to know Ulysses the Polar Bear’s history, so you better help this series at least get to its third goal… so get to it.