Gift book season is upon us already, and this year you have a chance to prove to your narrow minded friends that there's more to comics than just Batman and Spider-Man. A new book from St. Martin's Press, Holy Sh*t! The World's Weirdest Comic Books, collects decades worth of comics about bizarre superheroes, human-eating farm animals, the giant "monster cat," — and the "Russian Barbarella," who wears a flimsy bikini while trying to bring back the spirit of the October Revolution to the decadent USSR. All in a small purse-sized coffee-table book. The book includes some weird science fiction, including the anti-Communist propaganda comic Brain Boy, in which Matt Price aka Brain Boy discovers that people are being mind-controlled due to swimming in a weird green-tinged lake. Using his telepathy, Brain Boy figures out that billions of tiny space monkeys have joined together into a single entity, and they're trying to convert humans into their mindless slaves. Just like Communism.
My favorite bizarre superhero featured in the book is probably Super Shamou, the first Inuit superhero, who spends all of his time stopping kids from sniffing glue. Literally. The whole comic is a superpowered crusade against solvent-huffing. There's also a weird Spanish Batman parody, and "Reagan's Raiders," a super-commando team led by Ronald Reagan himself. And for Spider-Man fans, there's Mr. A, the Ayn Rand-inspired slayer of evil that Steve Ditko created after he left Marvel. Weirdly, the book includes a few comics about Nazis. (Mostly satirizing, but in some cases it's hard to tell.) Including Hansi, The Girl Who Loved The Swastika, which it turns out you can read in its entirety here. There's also some religious comics, like Chaplains At War and The Gospel Blimp. A surprising number of the weirdest comics are published as promo tie-ins for companies, including a Walls ice-cream comic about frosty superheroes, and a Greyhound comic about a really good driver. Did you know Dark Horse Comics published Godzilla Vs. Barkley? (Sort of the comics equivalent of Space Jam, I guess.) I didn't. Charles Barkley gets zapped to the size of a skyscraper so he can fight Japan's most famous giant monster. Yeah.
But yeah — Russia's Barbarella. She's called Octobriana, and she was created by Czech dissident Petr Sadecky, who thought that creating a quasi-pornographic samizdat comic and then smuggling it out to the West would prove to Western intellectuals that the youth in the Soviet bloc were rising up. Or something. She fights a giant walrus, at least 30 feet long, and stuffs it inside a volcano. Sadecky was later sued for fraud, but the adventures of Octobriana continue, and David Bowie was trying to make a movie about her at one point. Holy Sh-t! is the sort of book you'll put next to your toilet and pore over at regular intervals. People who come over to your house will end up spending way too much time on the john and you'll have to start hiding it. As an look inside the secret history of weird comics, it's hard to beat. Be warned, though: it does have a bit of softcore porn, including Eric Stanton's fetish comics and the Leather Nun. [Amazon]