March 29, 2009

Battlemania #5 [1992]

This is the final issue of Valiant's licensed WWF wrestling comic, Ditko having drawn one of the two stories for every issue. In this case, "Justice For All" is a 20-page story featuring Sid Justice, a good-natured farm-boy type, going up against the vile Jake "The Snake" Roberts. Laura Hitchcock writes and Charles Barnett III inks.

The story opens with Justice settling down for some milk and catching up on the Arkansas Farm Journal. His apartment is pretty funny in the opening page, with a butter churn, some gardening equipment, a basket of vegetables, a bookcase with a gaslamp, what appears to be a lot of moonshine, various models of farm equipment and animals, some family photos and for some reason a TARDIS model (okay, a police box, but I don't think they actually make models of those that aren't tied-in to Doctor Who, and I don't think they have them in rural Arkansas). Anyway, his housekeeper opens a package, which turns out to be a cobra, which Justice makes short work of. Since his housekeeper broke her glasses in the commotion, and refuses to accept a handout from Justice to pay for them, Justice goes to get the money from the man logically responsible, Jake "The Snake" Roberts.

The resulting quest for remuneration takes Justice to battles with The Snake at the gym, a rooftop (with, hey, a water-tower!), the streets and finally the snakehouse at the zoo before justice finally prevails.

This is surprisingly good, maybe the best of Ditko's BATTLEMANIA stories. The faces lack a certain Ditko-ness, presumably to keep them on-model to the actual wrestlers, but the body language is all there, the story structure follows the classic Marvel formula that Ditko had a hand in defining, "The Snake" is very much shown as a Ditko villain in the style of Kraven, and the fights in the various locales are very well done, especially the rooftop and the zoo. Not a masterpiece by any means, but you could do far worse in looking to sample Ditko's late-period for-hire work.

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