top of page

Jared Gardner, of, reviews THE HERO MACHINE


Some comics—the good ones—make you want to go back and read them again as soon as you finish them. Davies' The Hero Machine is the first comics I have read since I was still in short-pants that made me go back to read it again with apencil in hand.

Davies' goal here is a simple one: to remind us that comics are meant to be read, re-read, and made! When Superman himself was launched in 1938 in Action Comics #1 the inside cover reminding us of this fundamental fact of comics: unlike movies or novels, comics was storytelling everyone could make and share. Today, mainstream superhero comics rarely offer such invitations to young readers (leaving aside the fact that so few mainstream comics today offer stories young people want to read, or, if they do, which their parents are eager for them to spend time with). Digitally mediated at every turn, the hand of the artist polished to invisibility, these are comics that say (as their corporate overlords at Disney and TimeWarner very muchwant them to say) look, but don't touch. Of course, the lack of invitation is made clear in other respects as well: long, convoluted story-arcs that leave any dream of completism and the sense of ownership that comes with it always out of reach; multiverses and parallel universes that leave young readers new to comics always fearing opening their mouths lest they get it "wrong." It is no wonder the comics reader is aging, nor any wonder that young people prefer—if they are going to be kept at arm's length from their heroes anyway—to consume them in manageable movie and tv series. If I were their age, I would as well. (My kids rightly argue that an 80-volume manga series is easier to engage with and participate in the fan culture of than most superhero comics, reboots notwithstanding).

Hero Machine gets back to basics: the pure fun of making up superheroes, drawing them, and sending them into narrative battle. And since the young folk like gadgets, Davies and his young creators even offer a simple machine you can make yourself (all you need is a pair of scissors, some pushpins, and some cardboard) to get the fun started. Comics were about participatory culture a good century before the interwebs came along and took credit for the whole idea. Davies is part of a growing movement (James Sturm's Adventures in Cartooning series being perhaps the most high-profile member) to give back to kids the power of cartooning and the freedom to make comics in an industry that often seems to have forgotten they exist. But even if Davies' intended audience is my kids, it was me who needed the reminder of how much fun it is to make comics. Thanks, Eric!



And, this review from PARKER's PICKS, the chief reviewer for Chicago's greatest comic book store:  Challengers!

bottom of page