Digital Strips Podcast 295 – Review – God Hates Astronauts

I’ll save you the effort of scrolling down to the page to find the podcast file, because there isn’t a podcast this week. Sure, we recorded one, and it was quite a cherry of a listen, if I do say so myself. But, as these things go, when you don’t change your recording device on both Skype AND Audacity, well, one end of the conversation shrinks to the point of being microscopic. But this comic is a good one, and our conversation topics stayed lively enough that we felt it necessary to deliver this content to you, albeit in a slightly different fashion.

Many stories these days do weird in a different, but expected way. Some go the route of telling you right in the title what the source of the oddity will be (Ratfist, Battlepug, and Axecop come immediately to mind) while others use it to other narrative means (Sin Titulo and Alpha Flag get mystery from their bizarre happenings). But few are just balls-out, 100%, unequivocally insane. Ryan Browne’s God Hates Astronauts is that comic.

Steve defied me to sum this comic up in ten words. I failed after about four (which included, “parody, mainstream, superhero, and team”). He likened it to Venture Bros., as it’s messed up, but messed up in a beautiful way. The main impetus for the story seems to be to make things that are cool. Arm growing out of a dude’s chest, which eventually mimics the look and strength of The Incredible Hulk? Yep, it’s in there. Immortal leader who has his head beaten to the point of anonymity? Uh-huh. Carl Winslow of Family Matters sporting the arms of a gorilla, and pining after someone who will obviously never be his. I didn’t believe it either, but it’s got that, too.

The comic follows the happenings (thus far, at least, these can’t really be considered adventures) of the Power Persons 5, a band of superheroes who clearly have far too many issues to work through to be of any use to the citizenry. Star Fighter, the aforementioned punching bag; Starrior, his loving wife (for a few pages); The Anti-Mugger, nearly naked in both appearance and emotions; The Impossible, who defies most descriptions; and Craymok, who typifies the absurd tone of the entire team. Together, they fight crime. Or they would, if their personal lives and feelings didn’t almost immediately get in the way of such work.

While Steve sees a lot of Rock Manlyfist in the sheer ludicrous nature of the actions and motivations on display here, I see a lot more humanity in their delivery. Sure, Starrior has sex with another man in the first ten pages of the story, but it comes from a real place (not finding herself attracted to her now hideous, misshapen head of a husband, she turns to the comfort of a slightly less disformed cowboy). It’s these touchstones that ground the characters and bring them to a place where you can either root for them or wish them nothing but the rottenest of luck (re: the next happenstance of Star Fighter when his massive noggin is popped open).

Absurdity can be a great jumping off point for a story, but oftentimes the plot and cast can get lost in the off-the-wall nature, leaving the story itself languishing in never-before-seen antics that go nowhere because they exist simply to present something surreal. Truthfully, a lot of Mike Allred’s work, who comic writer Darick Robertson finds Browne to be in the same wheelhouse of, goes over my head and just seems bizarre for the sake of giving the audience something new. Steve worries that GHA will fall into that same trap, and I can agree with him on that fear. However, if the comic is able to maintain a sense of honesty in the relationships between the characters, then the circumstances in which their issues are hashed out will only be the icing on this truly freaky cake.