Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Induction of the Sycophant

by John Adcock

“We are getting to the roots of one of the contributing causes of juvenile delinquency when we study the influence of comic books. You cannot understand present-day juvenile delinquency if you do not take into account the pathogenic and pathoplastic influence of the comic books.” — Dr. Frederick Wertham, M.D., speaking at 1948 symposium on The Psychopathology of Comic Books

THE SCENE is set in the early 1950s, Cold War America, where a virus is spreading across the country infecting the nation’s children with sexual perversion, suicidal epidemics and murderous impulses. Dr. Wertham, children’s psychiatrist, “fueled with a youthful vigor that bordered on constant rage,” takes a wrecking ball to the comic book industry, laying waste to the livelihood of greedy publishers and hapless cartoonists alike. This might seem like a familiar story to fans of comic books but East Village author Tiger Moody posits an alternate history of the well-worn tale with savage black humor and a brutal disregard for the tender feelings of the reader. Shock follows explosive shock in a merciless rendering of events shot through with tenderness and horror.

Dr. Wertham painted by Moody.
THE NOVEL is a short one so I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, suffice to say the politically incorrect characters include: overworked hero Jack Coal, cartoonist-creator of Elastic Man, who is suffering testicular problems from fears of job redundancy; his stuttering pal Bert Meskin; shop-boss Will Meiser; a flashy up and comer, Wallace Good, accompanied by an ever-present guitar; Millard Gaines, a rye and Benzedrine-besotted publisher; and Zach Kirby, a hack who dreams of doing headier stuff; names which will ring a bell with anyone at all knowledgeable of US funny book history.

On a personal note, by the time I reached the third page I had a smile on my face which never left me until I had reached the last page of Induction of the Sycophant. In between I was seized by eruptions of groans, raised eyebrows, snickers, involuntary guffaws and uncontrollable laughter. The fact the book has been only sporadically reviewed in the media seems nothing short of criminal.

AUTHOR Tiger Moody was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota and raised in Trenton New Jersey. He has worked as a fry cook, tattoo artist, bouncer, zine artist and janitor. His previous book was Heart of Brass, published by United Crud in 2015. Moody also wrote the introduction to I Fought the Law: The Life and Strange Death of Bobby Fuller, also from Kicks Books, 2015.

Moody personally describes his pulp novel Sycophant of the Innocent as a “little love-letter to despair, Benzedrine and horseflies.”  Moody himself painted both the portrait of Dr. Wertham gracing the back cover and the front cover illustration. The little boy on the cover is Lester, a character in the book, with a skull ring for a crown. The interior is illustrated with 46 chapter header panels from public domain comics.

Induction of the Sycophant by Tiger Moody, Foreward by Lenny Kaye, 254 pp., Kicks Books, NY, 2015. Available from Amazon or HERE.

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