Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Stephen Colbert's Tek Jansen (2009)
Stephen Colbert's Tek Jansen (2009) does not make a magnificent transition from screen to printed page, and that may be largely due to the fact that it was never magnificent in its original format. It was fun in a ridiculous, aggressively adolescent in its manifestation of an outsider's fantasy of mastering the universe through physical and sexual prowess. More than that, Colbert himself gave Tek Jansen a tone that separated the character from being a crass combination of Captain Sternn from Heavy Metal (1981) and Zapp Brannigan from Futurama (1999-2003, 2008-present).
In comic book form, Tek Jansen is just a character who is largely oblivious to what should be reality, but to keep true to the TV show bits, Tek always has to be right in the end...somehow. It undercuts the satire and reduces the collected issues to second-rate status. Surprisingly, by lessening the focus on Tek's need to turn everything to sex and then to be proclaimed an awesome and clearly having had "hundreds of girlfriends", the stories lose their bite. If Stephen Colbert's Tek Jansen is not a mockery of overwrought self-induced delusions of masculinity, then what is it?
From a storytelling perspective, there are some minor issues. Each issue may be missing a handful of panels that would allow for a much better flow, though this is only glaring in one instance. I assume that the creative process in assembling a comic book calls for some cuts and the most efficient use of space – not every comic book can be issue #11 of The Night Man – and that enough material is present to please an invested reader. Still, the main story arc is handled in too haphazard a manner to make one believe that there was any attempt to be serious in making the plot the point of interest. That is another failing, because having a story that means something makes the satire more meaningful.
I also want to complain that there is a drastic shift in the style of the artwork, going from looking like the TV shorts to a more stylized comic book look. I didn't care for it, but as my artistic skills are severely limited, I mostly just want consistency. That the artists do achieve.
I can't recommend Stephen Colbert's Tek Jansen. There isn't anything new in it, and much of what was present in the TV shorts seems lost. It may be far from terrible, but it isn't good. It isn't particularly funny. Worst, it lacks the bite that should have been the first priority when writing the scripts.