By: Hess Sahlollbey
The cities that heroes defend have always been deeply connected to their mythology. Whether it was the characters of 300 hailing from Sparta or Joan d’Arc leading the French army to victory, their homes were weaved into the tapestry of the characters.
Nowhere was this more prevalent than at this past Toronto ComiCon. With Toronto’s burgeoning indie comics scene, there was strong pride and celebration of homegrown heroes.The hero put at the forefront of this was the Human Lizard.
While Spiderman and the Avengers are known for defending New York City, Jason Loo, the creator of The Pitiful Human Lizard followed suit by situating the misadventures of Lucas Barrett, aka the Human Lizard, in Toronto.
In the first volume, Loo introduces us to his protagonist as a nine to five pencil pusher. He is broke, with never enough time or resources to live up to his full potential. His life outside of super heroics is anything but super. Strained by a tight budget and piling bills, Lucas becomes a paid test subject for a pharmaceutical company’s experimental drug.
Despite drugs giving the Human Lizard the incredible ability to recover from any injury, the challenges of his day life continue to plague him. Written, drawn and lettered by Jason Loo, the book got its start a few years ago by blowing well past its initial Kickstarter campaign. It was then picked up and published by the Toronto-based Chapterhouse Comics.
At Toronto ComiCon, Loo noted that his biggest artistic influence was Alex Toth (Hanna-Barbera, Super Friends, Space Ghost) and it more than shows in the art.
Rendered in beautiful brushwork, the art has a flowing rhythm and slick flow to it.
This is further amplified by the vibrant colors that serve to elevate the final product even more. In a market that is becoming increasingly dominated by DC and Marvel, this is a well polished product with an essence on par with major mainstream publications.
Wha the reader is treated to instead is a tale of the nuances that plague anyone living the hustle of an urban lifestyle.
That essence however is not limited to only the production values of the graphic novel. Loo’s depiction of downtown Toronto is a unique, personal attempt from Loo to his city as he sees it.
His representation is more than just rendering some familiar locales and orange-cyan Beck taxis. What truly resonated during The Pitiful Human Lizard were the aspects that were the parts of contemporary life in the city that Loo chose to highlight. While this may be a superhero story, the bulk of each issue is instead committed to exploring love, relationships and adult responsibilities.
One stand out segment is an extended scene where Lucas attempts to date online. The reader gets to follow our protagonist as he browses profiles and starts communicating with a young lady, with expectedly mixed results. There is a charming realism to the tension created from his online match who on occasion takes hours to respond.
This is less a book about a character possessing superhuman abilities. The super heroics often take place in the background. What the reader is treated to instead is a tale of the nuances that plague anyone living the hustle of an urban lifestyle.
There is an old adage that states that writers should write what they know. Beset by money problems, dating issues and overbearing parents, it becomes evident that Loo mined his own life so that he could inject a unique realism it into his cast of characters to make them feel like flesh and bone.
Much like the heroes of Marvel comics and their allegories for real world affairs, The Pitiful Human Lizard is a funny and heart-warming comic that never once stops feeling Canadian.