I know, the title is almost a year old and there's in existence a Toxic Shock Comics #2. That's one of the pitfalls of requesting something for review and not following through with said review until almost a year later. Thing is, this comic has a lot of marijuana-related references (the title being one) and… you know, mellow and… I guess I'm supposed to make a joke about inertia among "the potheads" to be disarming. Suffice it to say that there's a heavy stoner influence. Also, bowl.
To say that Toxic Shock Comics #1 (Sept. 2006: Toxic Shock Comics, $3.00) is appealing only to the stoner crowd, though, would be inaccurate. The Superman-parody cover art suggests that there's something more to the comic than blunts. Granted, Toxic Shock Comics is self-publishing at its basest level – four people fucking around, putting out a comic to entertain themselves and seeing who else might be interested. It's not like Toxic Shock Comics is threatening Stray Bullets, Love and Rockets and other established alternacomics for readership, but Toxic Shock Comics is surprisingly good for what it is.
The first story introduces the "Kind Budz," basically what an Archie comic would look like if the characters had any grounding in what actual high-schoolers act like. The story is typical enough – loner Dan Palmer befriends main character Tim and his friends, then ditches them to join the "cool kids." Also, Palmer's dating Tim's former girlfriend Selina. I didn't care much for "Kind Budz" but the dialogue is decent and the artwork is passable in spots. It's the most stereotypically "alternacomic" of the stories in Toxic Shock Comics but "Kind Budz" isn't without merit. The theme of "Kind Budz" is universal enough, since everybody knows a Dan Palmer.
The "Generic Super-Hero Man" fake ads are the best thing about Toxic Shock Comics. The inspiration for the parody is obvious and overexposed (the Hostess Fruit Pies ads) but it works since writer Mike Storniolo strips the hero/villain dynamic down to its most basic level – flamboyant, verbose villains, hero without personality, overwrought dialogue. Superhero parodies are a dime a dozen but making fun of bad writing in superhero comics is potentially fertile ground for parody – Generic Super-Hero Man dies in TSC #2, which seems to indicate that Storniolo's going that route. Toxic Shock Comics is pretty much Storniolo's comic from this point forward, which isn't a bad thing. Chris Wilson's artwork fits "Generic Super-Hero Man" well and it's too bad his role in Toxic Shock Comics #1 is limited to two gag pages.
The two-page teaser for "Killer Lawn Gnomes from Hell" is just that – lawn gnomes gather and plan to overthrow humankind through the use of blunt or sharp objects. Nick Clark's artwork shows poor perspective – when there's perspective at all – and is a bit rough-looking, a common theme since Clark's art is featured throughout Toxic Shock Comics. Still, the teaser interested me, so it served its purpose.
I'm not sure what "The Subculture Syndicate" is supposed to be. On one hand, it features ninjas and a talking monkey named Kirby. On the other hand, Kirby's fairly anthropomorphized – he wears a Ween T-shirt and seems to have some experience with firearms. That's pointless shit since half the comic is The Subculture Syndicate killing ninjas and the other half is debate about the merits of Jack Kirby and Will Eisner. Is the monkey supposed to be a reincarnated Jack Kirby or is he just there to draw out a punchline? I'm honestly not sure if the ninjas being killed has to do with them being overused comic book fodder or if Mike Storniolo just wrote a shitty story. If nothing else, Storniolo shows up Kirby vs. Eisner as a more high-minded version of Hulk vs. Thing arguments, so "The Subculture Syndicate" isn't a total loss.
Toxic Shock Comics isn't an essential purchase but it isn't that bad. This is the sort of thing that feasibly could have come out during the black-and-white comics explosion of the 1980s. It's obvious to see where the comic could be improved, but at least some thought was put into this title beyond "chronic" and judging by this the comic has improved some. There are far worse ways to spend three bucks.