Review by Graham Johnstone
Robert or ‘R’ Sikoryak is now well known for his satiricial re-appropriations of other comics. His Masterpiece Comics adapted classics of literature in the style of E.C. (‘The Crypt of Bronte’), Peanuts, Silver Age Superman covers, and more. 2017 saw two new releases: Terms and Conditions, with Apple’s late supremo Steve Jobs reciting the entire iTunes user agreement, while moving through a different comic on each page; and The Unquotable Trump, which put the controversial president’s image and words into classic comic covers. That year also saw the twentieth anniversary of The Seduction of Mike, which started it all.
Flipping the book’s subtitle, this is an overview of sixty years of (American) comic books woven into the life story of everyman industry insider Mike. It’s a three level narrative, with a comics story, a series of fake comic covers, and an introduction by an external commentator, all playing into the fictional conceit of Mike working for comic characters like ‘Bad Vanya’ (pictured).
The introduction by TV and pop culture commentator David Marc, adds credibility to the whole enterprise. He’s in on the joke, and provides a matter of fact overview of Mike’s life: he misses out on a reporters job to a red-headed kid called Jimmy Olsen, but within a few years is office manager for the Do-Gooders League, and so on. Sikoryak complements this with pseudo-photographic wash drawings of Mike, in his distinctive checked outfit, with Captain America, Donald Duck’s nephews, etc. There’s also Mike with a motorbiking ‘Robbie’ boy wonder in a sidecar sporting matching checked livery – typical of Sikoryak’s witty attention to detail.
The cover parodies are note perfect right down to the branding and blurb. True to description, they start with the earliest comics – thick compendiums of newspaper strips, before taking us through costumed hero ‘Superior’, funny animals, and jungle stories. Each has Mike credibly worked in. ‘Superior’ crashes through the office wall to take the call Mike is answering for him and in ’Real Dope on Crime’, amidst a hail of police bullets downing guys with syringes, Mike bemoans a parking ticket. While The Unquoteable Trump re-appropriates existing covers, here Sikoryak pastiches styles and key elements to create new images.
EC’s war, SF, and horror lines – are nailed, even their post Comics Code ‘New Direction’ with the hapless Mike in the dock for ‘Subpoena’, in lieu of EC’s publisher Bill Gaines at a Senate Subcommittee. This followed Fredric Wertham’s claims of comics causing juvenile delinquency in The Seduction of the Innocent – the source of Sikoryak’s title and cover design. It’s a great example of Sikoryak’s witty distillation of comics’ history.
Mike appears in a sixteen page Little Lulu parody, as he tries to manage the aforementioned Do-Gooders League, and get advice on dating Jungle Empress Shaana from a dodgy guru with beard, while the deathly hosts of horror comics try to sell him life insurance. It’s a fun story, and in bringing these characters together across franchises, an example of an intertextual comic that predates The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
Further cover images take us through ‘Pictorial Literature’ with Mike aptly cast as Voltaire’s innocent abroad ‘Candide’, cleaning up the planet in ‘Sludge Thing’, and talking about the minutiae of his daily life in ’American Slacker’. Along the way Mike stars in typically spot on parodies on Dark Knight, Love and Rockets and many more.
This is both a lot of fun, and a smart history of American comics. Copies can still be found, and it’s to be hoped that Sikoryak’s higher profile will prompt Fantagraphics to fit a reprint into their busy schedule.