This comic is utterly terrible and yet also utterly fascinating and brilliant. Part of that reason is its gruesome level of ineptness (in a similar kind of way to any given Z-grade movie), and the other part is the fact that it's basically a comic out of its time. But I'll get to that later - first, I'll give a synopsis of the story as briefly as I can.
In the far flung future the entire world is regularly held to ransom by a satanic crime mob consisting of loads of weird, ultra-powerful mutants, and a boss who always has loads of weevils or something crawling over his head. They are holding the young daughter of some president hostage because they had the audacity to capture and put on trial some of their gang, who merely killed millions of people and destroyed an entire city.
The boss bloke isn't actually that bothered about getting a ransom and a mutant man ends up eating the young daughter in a live video link-up with the president (of the world or something). Incidentally, said mutant man is the gay lover of one of the captured mutants. As the girl is consumed, the president screams and screams and screams. Then the crime boss breaks off the video link and buggers off to conduct some human sacrifices. And once he's gone - a twist!
The little girl who was eaten suddenly bursts out of the gay mutant bloke intact, killing him. She then sets about killing all the evil mutants. They try burning her to death, but then she turns into loads of skeleton clones, and they all freak the fuck out wondering why they can't stop her. Then it turns out - well, of course - that it wasn't the little girl at all, but all along it was DOCTOR LEVIATHAN dun dun daaaaah! The actual little girl happened to be hiding in a cupboard or somewhere all this time.
In short, the Doctor kills absolutely all of them, then interrupts the crime boss's human sacrifice and prescribes some justice. As the crime boss screams about how they haven't seen the last of him, Doctor Leviathan throws him into the sun and he gets burnt to a crisp, which means that we most likely have indeed seen the last of him. A final caption reads "THE BEGINNING".
That's the story - a rather basic, crude and violent one, very very much like an X-rated Fletcher Hanks turned up to 11 (maniac criminal fucks shit up, loads and loads of innocent people die, unstoppable hero eventually intervenes and sorts everything out). There's two ways in which this comic differs quite a bit from "Stardust The Super Wizard" and whatnot, though. The first and most obvious is the art.
While Fletcher Hanks's stuff was pretty crude, it generally "read" quite well and you could tell what was going on. While there were some occasional peculiarities going on with Hanks's layouts, it all flowed nicely. With this comic, there's some serious over-rendering and plenty of ugly cramped layouts. There's no "breathing space" anywhere, and a level of drawing ability that stopped developing when the artist was about 13. The whole book, from front cover to back, is pretty much exactly like the inside of some maladjusted kid's school notebook, with grimacing hypermasculine men, badly drawn sexy women and "futuristic" stuff, only arranged in the format of a story.
The second, and this isn't noticeable until you've read it all, is that Doctor Leviathan feels like a supporting character in his own book. Stardust The Super Wizard and Fantomah (Hanks's other big character) were very much the main feature and had plenty of dialogue. Doctor Leviathan says nothing, doesn't properly show up until about two thirds of the way through, and you don't learn a single thing about him or his background - he just turns up and kills everyone.
It initially seems that this is a typical product of the mid - late 80s black and white independent comic book boom, started off in around about 1984 or thereabouts by the first issue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. If you're unaware of what that entailed, there were thousands of total chancers who hurriedly put together countless shitty comics (a lot of which were rubbish rip offs of the Turtles only with some other animal, or attempts at doing some kind of "gritty", "grim", Watchmen-esque superhero/action book - like the good Doctor here) in the hope of creating a new comic book sensation.
There were loads of utterly dreadful first issues, all of which were printed in fairly large print runs, which were bought in mass by comic book shops which in turn were bought by speculators with the eventual intention that they would sell those copies for lots of money, assuming some of them became as big as the Turtles. All that happened in the end was that around the end of that decade the market became utterly saturated with crap and the boom turned into a bust. It was so severe, in fact, that many comic book shops had to close from over-investing in complete rubbish.
Anyway, absolutely everything about this comic - from the cover, to the art style, to the fact that all type-set text has been done on a typewriter (noticeably the cover price listed for the benefit of potential UK purchasers omits the pound sign, as it must have been done on an American typewriter with just a dollar sign) screams "mid-80s B&W indie bollocks". So imagine my astonishment when I got to the back cover and saw a copyright date of... 2005.
Up until that point I assumed I'd just got hold of a fairly pristine copy of an 80s comic. No - this was created in the 2000s, when George "Steve Bell" Bush and Tony B. Liars were in charge. It was published the year Youtube launched. How the fuck did that happen?
Well, it's partially explained in the creator's letter on that same back page. In anachronistic typewriter text (all-caps), the creator explains that he actually had the idea for the comic in the 1980s, but didn't get round to it then as he was apparently too busy "chasing women". So this comic wasn't made by some teenager / emotionally arrested guy in his early twenties in 1985, but by a grown man aged around about forty something, with just the most absolute basic tools, who seems to be artistically stuck in the eighties. Or possibly he decided to just emulate those B&W 80s comics as closely as he could (there's some artists nowadays working in this style, most of which I generally can't stand).
You may be wondering how I know he was in his forties at the time this was published - the reason is that most of his letter talks about his experiences of reading comic books to shut out the scary world outside, and the first example he gives is of him being a young kid reading a comic while a news report about Vietnam is on the TV. That would put his childhood somewhere between the early sixties and mid seventies. In his letter, he uses the aforementioned memory of Vietnam news coverage (and also the Challenger Shuttle explosion, and a girlfriend - I presume - who he had split up with or something) to explain that comic books helped him cope with stressful and unhappy times, and he hopes that his creation will somehow comfort other people in times of stress. Which is kind of sweet, except personally I wouldn't be that comforted by a comic book in which things like (to grab a random example) a mad mutant with some sort of "electrical" power kidnaps a beautiful woman, kisses her and then makes all the flesh on her head explode off her skull with his kiss. Still, takes all sorts, I suppose...
If I have sounded dismissive about Doctor Leviathan, I don't mean to make it sound like I hate this or anything. Yes, it does have a lot of faults. A lot. I'll also admit that at first I was genuinely repulsed by it, but over time I realised that this was something that was perfect and brilliant in its own way. A single one-off comic book (there appear to be no other issues) that perfectly achieves what those aforementioned modern day cartoonists who ape 80s B+W shite are trying to do, but don't quite achieve because they're younger and are inevitably suffering from a major dose of irony, which prevents them doing what came naturally to their predecessors in the 80s. Most of those comics were garbage, but usually funny garbage, and for me this is the most perfect example of that kind of trash. As I stated at the start, it's great because of its many problems, like those Fletcher Hanks strips or the works of Tommy Wiseau.
Doctor Leviathan is, at least in my opinion, the finest crappy 1980s B&W comic ever made, even if it wasn't published until the era of broadband internet. If that synopsis above sounded intriguingly demented, you might as well try and track this down. I don't think you'll be disappointed.
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