By: Brian Maruca & Jim Rugg

Review: “Alan Diesler, a frail, humble janitor in Hardwood Elementary, awoke to his true calling the day jerk aliens invaded his turf.  While trying to protect the student body, Diesler used the only weapon at his disposal – an old beat up cane – the magical pimp stick, Mackjolnir.  Slamming it on the ground for emphasis magically transformed the meek, crippled janitor into the legendary… AFRODISIAC!

This is but one of the many origins that Maruca and Rugg give as the origin of their hero in the awesome original graphic novel, Afrodisiac.  Although they were deadly serious at the time, 1970’s blaxploitation movies have become the kings of unintentional comedy and this book pushes very hard to ramp up the unintentional comedy factor while NEVER knowingly making fun of itself.

In terms of presentation, Afrodisiac is 94 pages of 6″x9″ fun.  The book is presented as a compilation of silver age comic material, so you get a series of shorter stories (5-6 pages) with random covers interspersed throughout.  The only downside to this presentation is (alas) Afrodisiac was not a real silver-age comic and unfortunately you cannot go buy the back-issues.  Maruca and Rugg made it up.  Sigh…..

Although I and most others have lumped Afrodisiac into the blaxploitation-spoof genre, the stories really are not pulled from that type of source material and that is why this book really shines.  I’m not sure if there were blaxploitation comics in the 1970’s or not……  But, if there were, they wouldn’t have been able to do more than a story arc or two about the hero protecting his turf from slum lords or white drug dealers who were selling heroin/guns/booze in their neighborhood.  Pretty soon those comics would have moved onto the types of situations you see in Afrodisiac: fighting aliens, staking vampires, dealing with kung-fu guys, thwarting killer computers, etc.

The stories change constantly in terms of their look at feel as did many B-list silver age comics, but two things remain true.  Afrodisiac is a cool cat and he has a way with the ladies.  And, his enemies KNOW that he has a way with the ladies.  When we first see Afrodisiac, he is tied up and held captive by some geeky looking villain who is threatening to let his two female lackeys torture Afrodisiac.  Just as you think that a woman could never harm the king of the asphalt jungle, the villain boasts, “And they’re…..LESBIANS!!!!”  Of course, Afrodisiac’s way with women prevails to the chagrin of the villain.  In a later scene, the ‘desiac’s charms take down a comely female CIA agent as her back-up team listens to the entire sequence of events over the wire.  Before the less-fun of you start accusing this masterpiece of racial insensitivity…..the idea of the smooth black man who has a way with the ladies isn’t something that was born and died in the 70’s.  Lando Calrissian?  The dude in the current Old Spice commercials?  This theme has been around forever.

I alluded to the art before, but it is just outstanding.  Rugg switches styles about 10 times in this book and each one is brave, bold and evocative of the period.  I love his work.  He really just goes for it with his linework.

Conclusion: This is probably the funniest OGN I’ve ever read.  It is the type of book that has you snickering to yourself and trying to read passages of it to anyone who will hold still.  There is nothing wrong with the entire package.  I can only hope Maruca and Rugg return to this material because I’d like more.

Grade: A

– Dean Stell