It’s an interesting story as to how I came across reading this independent graphic novel ‘Hero 9 to 5’. I have met the books writer, Ian Sharman, at a number of comic conventions over the last few years and spoken to him about his work, yet I never had the opportunity to actually pick up his books and read them.
One of my close friends, who is also a friend of Ian’s quite often tells me of Ian political views and the fact that he is a feminist. Then he shows me this image that Ian posted on his Facebook page:
I have to admit my initial reaction to this image was ‘what the f**k?!’ I thought, here is a man who is trying to improve the comics industry for women and he produces a piece of work that depicts women like that? I was so astounded at this that I added Ian on Facebook and outlined how I felt about this image. This led to a long discussion between Ian and myself, with him defending the content of his work and me trying to indicate how that image could be seen as offensive. After going back and forth for a while Ian sent me a copy of Hero 9 to 5 so that I could read it and see the internal content for myself.
So I read the book, and here are my thoughts on the book.
Hero 9 to 5 follows the super hero Flame-O, who works for Heroes 4 Zeroes, a company that provides hero protection for people that cannot afford cover from more expensive and more competent heroes. The four issues contained within the graphic novel follows Flame-O and his friends at Heroes 4 Zeroes as they go from men and women working a job to actual heroes who stand up for what they believe in because they choose to rather than because they’re being paid.
Whilst I like this initial setup, of a world where heroes are just another emergency service, and that if you don’t have insurance you get the crappy guys, the fact that it is written as a parody takes a lot away from the enjoyment for me. I believe that if this concept was written as a straight book then it could have been much better. As it is there are many silly jokes and comments that are supposed to make fun of super hero comics, but for me just come across as un-humorous and their for the sake of it.
The plot seems to jump all over the place too, with one of the characters flip-flopping between good and evil almost every issue, with almost no explanation and no consequences for the characters. Characters say and do things for the ‘comedy’ of a scene rather than for the plot or to build upon the characters themselves. Yes, the book may be intended as a parody, but even the silliest comedy stems from something more than just being their for the hell of it.
There are some very interesting moments in the book, and the basis for more stories about these character where they can be given room to grow and mature, however not on volume one. The book could have benefited from a larger page count, not to add more action or story, but for more characterisation, which as it stands often feels rushed and unrealistic.
If you are a fan of satire and silly comedy then pick up Hero 9 to 5 and give it a read as I’m sure you will enjoy it. If you are a fan of super hero comics then yes, you too should give it a read, though be prepared for the fact that you may not like it. This is a book that I believe you will either love or find ‘okay’ (love or hate is too strong a phrase to be used here as I don’t believe that there is anything here to truly hate).
In conclusion Hero 9 to 5 has an interesting concept and is written with great passion, and whilst it may or may not set your world on fire it is definitely worth the time to sit and read it.