Keith Giffen And Bilquis Evely’s ‘Sugar And Spike’ Is Already The Strangest Reboot Of The Year
Legends of Tomorrow #1 is one of the weirdest comics DC has put out in quite a while. Despite the name, it doesn't seem to have much to do with the Legends of Tomorrow television show --- unless Metamorpho and the Metal Men are joining the cast sometime in the next season, which would be amazing, the only connecting thread to the comic is Firestorm, and even then, the comic's Firestorm is made of two completely different people than the show's. As good as it is to see DC using the TV show to get eyes on a comics anthology --- and as solid as those stories might be --- it seems like a bit of a strange approach.
But then you get to Sugar & Spike, and that's when you realize that the name of this comic is nowhere near being the weirdest thing about it. No, the single most bizarre thing about this book --- and the thing that makes it a must-read for me --- is that Keith Giffen and Bilquis Evely are doing the most unexpected reboot of the year.
On paper, rebooting Sugar and Spike as a pair of laconic, gun-toting private eyes who specialize in cleaning up embarrassments for superheroes before they get out to the press sounds like it might be the worst idea to come down the pike for at least a decade. It's not the idea itself that's bad --- that kind of premise, of following a couple of normal people as they work on the edges of the superhero world, dealing with stuff that would otherwise get swept under the rug in the name of focusing on the big action, has a lot of legs to it. There's comedy there, and action, and a lot of interesting stuff to uncover in a big, shared superhero unvierse.
But at the same time, it's such a bizarre departure from the original that at the very least, it raises the question of why you'd even bother keeping the names.
If you're unfamiliar with it, Sugar and Spike was originally created by cartoonist Sheldon Mayer --- perhaps better known as being the guy who convinced Harry Donenfeld that this new Superman strip was worth putting in Action Comics #1 --- back in 1956. It's a comedy book focused on the misadventures of two babies, Sugar Plumm and Spike Wilson, who toddle around getting into various hijinx. Through the magic of comics, they're able to speak to each other --- and, interestingly enough, to baby animals --- but for the adults in the strip, their baby talk just comes out as nonsense like "blpp" and "glx!"
It's often considered to be one of the greatest humor comics of all time, and unfortunately, other than a high-end Archive Edition that collected the first ten issues, its fifteen-year run has never been collected. The characters, however, have popped up in the DC Universe over the years, usually when someone wanted to work in an Easter egg in the form of a pair of distinctive babies.
It is, in other words, about the furthest thing you can get from a couple of gun-toting private eyes shooting their way into Killer Moth's hideout.
Relax. They're tranquilizer darts. Honest.
I have no idea how Giffen and Evely arrived at this premise as a Sugar and Spike reboot. I'm honestly not even sure why it's Sugar and Spike, and not, say, Body Doubles, or Swing With Scooter, or any of the other titles that aren't currently being published. I don't want to speculate too much on the planning behind the book, but it really does read like they started with, "What's the weirdest way we could reboot Sugar and Spike?" and then just worked backwards from there.
The thing is, if you can get past that all-consuming question of why --- or if you're the type of person who enjoys reading the most ludicrous comics you can find --- then it actually ends up being pretty great.
The premise of the story is that Killer Moth has somehow acquired an entire rack's worth of Batman's alternate costumes --- specifically costumes drawn from the weirder side of the Silver Age, making a somewhat tenuous connection to Sugar and Spike's own native era --- and they've been hired to get them back. As for who hired them, well, it's probably exactly who you expect, but the gag still plays pretty nicely.
It's a quick story, but it's the perfect sort of introduction for this kind of story, a simple reintroduction that plays off of an established character and, assuming that everything goes well, provides a starting point for bigger adventures down the line. And on that level, it's done really, really well.
Bilquis Evely is an artist I've been wanting to see more of ever since her work on Dynamite's first volume of Shaft, and she does her typically amazing job here, perfectly capturing this new dynamic between our title characters. Her Sugar, who comes complete with her signature ponytail, is all business, to the point of never smiling through the entire issue, and Spike, who comes off as slightly hapless, is all sideways glances that indicate an unrequited crush without a word ever having to be put into the dialogue.
For being as new as she is --- or at least as new to me --- Evely has crushed pretty much everything she's done, and the acting and body language she brings to the table in this issue show that she's just getting better.
It is, by any measure you want to throw at it, a strange comic. It's a weird premise in a weird book with a team that seems to be reveling in that weirdness, but while it's that sideshow aspect that drew me in and rocketed this book to the top of my reading list, it's the quality of the story being told within that makes me want to come back. It's one of those comics where I have no idea what's going to happen next, because I have no idea how we got to this point to begin with --- and while that's not always a good thing, it certainly is here.