July 12, 2017
One in a series of enthusiastic posts, contributed by HILOBROW friends and regulars during 2017, on the subject of our favorite squads.
Superheroes are — or at least try hard to be — good for ordinary human beings. But they can be bad for infrastructure: their fights can level, undermine, or otherwise bust up buildings, roads and tunnels, and most heroes don’t have the wherewithal to make repairs. That’s where Damage Control comes in: the corporation and its most visible workers — dashing account executive John Porter, dapper CFO Albert Cleary, hyper-competent traffic manager Robin Chapel, and cigar-chewing foreman Lenny Ballinger among them — make money by putting parts of New York back together after super-battles tear them apart. Created by the late writer Dwayne McDuffie (a founder of Milestone Comics) and the versatile artist Ernie Colón, the Flatiron Building-based company had its own series of twelve comic books (technically three sets of four issues, or mini-series) from 1989 to 1991; they have made occasional Marvel Universe appearances since.
Damage Control’s “adventures” were, mostly, broad satire, slapstick, and sitcom-style workplace comedy. A steamshovel operator digs up a green sphere, exclaims “Suddenly I am filled with power,” and flies off; his foreman muses “we lose more employees this way…” The sphere’s discoverer returns to Earth as a super-being obsessed with cleanliness, who tries to seal heroes into clear plastic bags: a parody of comic book collectors. When he wasn’t making fun of comics culture, McDuffie aimed jokes at economic injustice, at corporate takeovers, and at New York. A dinosaur smashes the infamous Pan Am building (now the MetLife building), which blocks the view down Park Avenue: “Sure we can fix it,” Lenny remarks, “I just think it looks better the way it is.” A Hollywood film about Damage Control depicts Albert (who is, like McDuffie, African-American) as a jive-talking, pimp-suit-clad stereotype; the CFO exclaims “I was born in Grosse Pointe!” In the 2008 Damage Control revival (script by McDuffie, pencils by Salva Espin), the Chrysler Building comes to life and considers a move to L.A.: Porter convinces the edifice to stay on 42nd St., but with an annual vacation.
These stories were, in other words, self-consciously ridiculous. But costumed heroes are, from one point of view, ridiculous too. The real world’s most pressing problems — climate change, say, or Trumpism — do not generally involve malevolent, physically empowered individuals who can be defeated through the clever use of force. Some of those problems do, however, require the building and maintenance of cities; and if real metropolitan areas, from New York to Rio or Christchurch, come back from sea level rise, or endemic corruption, or massive earthquakes, it won’t be thanks to Iron Man or Thor. It may, however, be thanks to the skills, the diligence and the good humor of engineers, planners, accountants, and manual laborers, who raise foundations, put up scaffolds, replace pipes, and (not least) make sure that taxes are paid. Some of them (especially after disaster) will do it because they’re exceptional. But most of them will do it because it’s their job — and that looks like a job for Damage Control.
#SQUADGOALS: Annie Nocenti on THE WILD BUNCH | Alice Boone on PRETTY LITTLE LIARS | Gordon Dahlquist on BOWIE’S BAND | Rob Wringham on THE HOME GUARD | Jennifer Krasinski on WATERSHIP DOWN RABBITS | Annalee Newitz on ROBIN HOOD’S MERRY PALS | Adrienne Crew on THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP | Mark Kingwell on THE HONG KONG CAVALIERS | Adam McGovern on KAMANDI’S FAMILY | John Overholt on THE CLUB | Greg Rowland on THE VULTURE SQUADRON | Sara Ryan on BETSY, TACY & TIB | Chelsey Johnson on VI ÄR BÄST! | Brian Berger on THE JOHN FORD STOCK COMPANY | Sherri Wasserman on THE WARRIORS | Jessamyn West on FAREYNIKTE PARTIZANER ORGANIZATSYE | Josh Glenn on DADA | Matthew De Abaitua on THE TIME | Mandy Keifetz on THE FOUNDING FATHERS | William Nericcio on ZOOT SUIT PACHUCOS | Deb Chachra on FIREFLY CREW | Matthew Battles on THE ANIMAL FAMILY | Ingrid Schorr on THE HARLEM GLOBETROTTERS | Joe Alterio on THE USUAL GANG OF IDIOTS | Dan Reines on THE BREAKFAST CLUB | Rob Walker on LES TROIS INSÉPARABLES | Devin McKinney on 1975 RED SOX | Steph Burt on DAMAGE CONTROL | Elina Shatkin on THE HOLOGRAMS | Chris Spurgeon on THE ALKALI METALS | Carl Wilson on NEW YORK SCHOOL POETS | Barbara Bogaev on THE MOD SQUAD | Franklin Bruno on THE AACM | Judith Zissman on THE FUTURIANS | Mimi Zeiger on ARCHIGRAM | Jacob Mikanowski on THE RATBASTARDS | Lynn Peril on THE DALY SISTERS | Anindita Basu Sempere on MEG MURRY’S FAMILY | Libi Rose on THE ENIAC TEAM | Gary Panter on THE TRIBE OF HIPPIES | Peter Doyle on CORNEL WILDE BOYS | Ken Layne on THE MONKEY WRENCH GANG | Molly Wright Steenson on BAUHAUS | Katie Hennessey on BEAT POETS | Mimi Lipson on THE RUNAWAYS | Jordan Ellenberg on BOURBAKI | Michael Campochiaro on THE SUICIDE SQUAD | Deborah Wassertzug on THE BLOODHOUND GANG | Colin Dickey on ACÉPHALE | Douglas Wolk on SEVEN SOLDIERS OF VICTORY | David Smay on THE MYSTIC KNIGHTS OF THE OINGO BOINGO | Karinne Keithley Syers on BLACKLIPS PERFORMANCE CULT.
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