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‘Stephen Colbert’s Tek Jansen’ Gets the Comic Treatment

Cover for Issue #1 of Stephen Colbert's Tek JansesA few months ago I was writing profiles for Time.com’s online poll leading up to the magazine’s annual Time 100 list–basically 100 Person of the Year issues all rolled into one to sell twice as much ad space as the Person of the Year. In any event, my job was to come up with one reason why a person is influential, and one reason why they’re not, theoretically giving the online reader the chance to decide whether they deserved a spot on the list. I was working my way down the list and I got to Stephen Colbert. Well, forget the arduous task of having to find something negative to say about my favorite fake newscaster (in fact the “con” I went with was in my mind a “pro”…), what would his pro be? His emmy-winning performances, his enormous following, the fact that along with Jon Stewart he’s the only source of news for the majority of America’s youth? Those are all great, but I went with the fact that when Captain America died, Marvel’s Joe Quesada sent Colbert his legendary shield. Seriously.

The point of this anecdote is that no matter how cool Stephen Colbert is, at heart he’s a geeky fanboy–he went to this year’s New York Comic-con where he spent 20 minutes on a panel trying to remember the name of an obsucre 1950s sci-fi series. And that’s what I love about him. Needless to say I’m probably one of the millions…thousands… hundreds?… of people eagerly awaiting the comicization of Colbert’s cartoon alter super-ego Tek Jansen, whose first of five issues hits stands July 11.

To those of you for whom this is news, the series follows Tek as he sets off an intergalactic war by assassinating the leader of a benevolent alien species for offering to eradicate hunger, greed and suffering from his home planet, Alphalon-7. As Tek puts it, “In a world where everybody’s cared for, how could you be treated better than the next guy?” Published by Oni Press and written by Scarface‘s John Layman along with Tom Peyer (Legion of Super-Heroes) and Jim Massey (Death Takes a Holiday), each issue will be broken into two parts–the main story and a series of standalone “case file” stories that feature Tek going undercover for various hijinx.

I know what you’re thinking–what? Stephen Colbert’s not writing it?? But according to Entertainment Weekly’s website, which recently posted a preview of Tek’s first casefile “Horn Like Me!” Colbert was very much hands on–at one point nixing an idea that Tek and his sidekick eagle would team up to fight bears in space, I guess a little to much Colbert, not enough Jansen–and offered advice and criticism throughout the whole process. In addition, the story supposedly has a much more coherent narrative and structure than the cartoon snippets featured on The Colbert Report, a welcome relief for anyone familiar with the disjointed, sexually charged, self-indulgent rigamarole that passes for the cartoon “excerpts” from Colbert’s “novel.” Well, hopefully that will be there too.
What will also hopefully remain will be the cartoon’s politically-charged satire–it is, after all, a child of the Report. “Horn Like Me!” features Tek going undercover to infiltrate an alien society that discriminates against a segment of their population that don’t grow horns on their forehead (apparently Colbert nixed the too-on-the-nose original concept of having half the population discriminate the other half based on their skin not being green). Given the horn metaphor, however, you can imagine where Tek’s mind wanders…”Beneath her sadness she was beautiful,” Tek remarks upons seeing a smooth-headed woman. “For a moment, I considered making love to her to boost her self-esteem. But I remembered my mission. If I was successful it would be like making love to her entire race, metaphorically, especially with regard to the males.”

And as far as the main storyline, read the latest issue of Rolling Stone and tell me you don’t see Tek’s refusal to change the Alphalon way of life, despite the possible benefits of doing so weighing against the certain dangers of not, paralleling the Bush administration here and there.

In any event, it looks as though Layman and his writing team have hit the right tone with their series–and by the way, John Cassaday drew the cover for the first issue–so Colbert fanboys can look forward to enough space vixens and sexual harrassments to make even Captain Kirk green with envy. Pa Rum Pum! So when does the Alpha Squad 7 movie starring Natalie Portman as Lady Nocturne come out?

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