Justin Cannell is a slacker mailroom clerk at Drummond Investments who suffers from the Barry Allen Syndrome: Justin is always one step behind, always late for the more important appointments and events in his life. Like meeting his fiance, Bailey Smithers at Cake-O-Rama to pick the cake for their wedding. His supervisor, Mr. Rattigan, catches him in a small mailroom disaster and demands that he clean it up before he leaves for the day, even though he requested the time off well in advance. Meanwhile, a Russian operative named Pavel Vadinkov is trying to evade federal agent McGee with a secret package. He crashes his car in the Drummond Investments parking garage and is forced to switch his package for the one in Justin's car. Justin's package is a "GROOM" tee shirt from his friends to wear at his bachelor party. Agent Mcgee discovers this after finally capturing Vadinkov. Rushing to his own bachelor party, Regal Biltmore Hotel, Justin gives little thought to the unusual package left in his car. Until McGee shows up to kill the party!
If The Greatest American Hero is satire, as series star William Katt describes it; then Aaron Williams and Scott Kurtz's' Truth, Justice and the American Way from Image Comics must be lampoon. As well as genius. Not being a gamer, I have not followed Kurtz's PvP. I've checked out the webcomic once or twice and gotten a laugh, but I don't follow it regularly. The same is true of Williams' Full Frontal Nerdity and Nodwick. I do have the first two trade paperback collections for PS238, and I have enjoyed them immensely. Seeing the cover to the first issue, and a preview of the first few pages online and catching the similarities to The Greatest American Hero in the synopsis - I was onboard.
Truth, Justin and the American Way is a brilliant homage to the television pop culture of the 1970's and 1980's. Williams, Kurtz and Ferrario fill every panel and every line of dialogue with pop culture references. Italian artist Guiseppe Ferrario is a caricature master. His Justin Cannell looks an awful lot like Luke Skywalker from Star Wars. Justin is named for The Greatest American Hero creator Stephen J. Cannell. Cannell is responsible for a majority of 1970's and 1980's television, from The Rockford Files, to Riptide, to The A-Team. The first issue cover is an homage to the first issue of the Golden-Age Superman comic, as well as Katt's appearance as The Greatest American Hero on the cover of TV Guide. The first page of the story opens with a staple of classic television, a car chase. But this car chase looks to be on The Streets of San Francisco, with cousin Daisy, from The Dukes of Hazzard and sweathog Washington from Welcome Back Kotter looking on. Drummnd Investments, where Justin works is named for Philip Drummond the millionaire father on Different Strokes who adopts Arnold and Willis Jackson. Federal agent McGee is a spot on likeness of Robert Culp's Bill Maxwell, but is named for Jack McGee, a newspaper reporter who chased David Banner for five seasons on The Incredible Hulk. When McGee collars Vadinkov, he takes the collar away from California Highway Patrol officers Jon and Ponch from CHiPs. The kitchen of Justin's house is the same one from Family Ties, When Justin goes to pick up a keg for his own bachelor party, Fred and Lamont Sanford, from Sanford and Son are shopping there as well. Finally, Justin's fiance Bailey Smithers is named for Bailey Quarters a character on WKRP In Cincinnati, and the actress who played her, Jan Smithers. Even with all these references and cameos, the basic plot is that underacheiver Justin goes from zero to hero when an alien super suit falls into his posession. The cameos and references are amusing asides as wackiness ensues on Justin's adventure.
What I enjoy in reading and re-reading Truth, Justin and the American Way is that it tells the kind of story that William Katt's The Greatest American Hero did, but with more than a few original twists on the formula. It's a madcap, nostalgic romp, proving that comics can be fun!