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The Ultimate Comic Book
By Bert Ehrmann
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Fort Wayne Reader
As you may have gathered from reading my numerous and brilliant columns here in the Fort Wayne Reader (they’re lucky to have me really), I am a collector of comic books. Though I might not be a person who spends hundreds of dollars a week buying every title released, and believe me those people exist, I do, on occasion, enjoy spending money on “the funny pages.”
But even having bought comic books most of my life, I’m willing to say that there have only been a few really great titles: Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns (1986), Alan Moore’s Watchmen (1986) and V for Vendetta (1988) and the Kingdom Come (1996) mini-series.
But all these comics pale in comparison to the greatest comic book series of all time – Nth Man: The Ultimate Ninja. I can hear you now: “How can a comic book called “Ultimate Ninja” be the greatest series of all time?” Well, listen up…
Released between 1989 and 1990, the 16 issue series told the story of John Doe and Alfie O’Meagan. Orphans from birth, the two would grow up together as friends in an orphanage in rural 1960s Iowa. Some 20 years later, though, the two would be mortal enemies when O’Meagan, who possessed strange mental powers as a child but developed them into something more as an adult, deactivated all the nuclear weapons worldwide, sparking World War III. Without the threat of nuclear reprisal, a ground war spilled across the globe.
As an adult, Alfie had the power to make real whatever he could imagine, be it shrugging off a gunshot wound or turning himself into a Godzilla-like beast when attacking U.S. troops. John Doe was adopted by dentist/assassin Doc Yagyu and be groomed into “The Ultimate Ninja,” an assassin for the U.S. government. (is there anything better than a “dentist/assassin?”)
Written by Larry Hama with art by Ron Wagner (I spent several years trying to get things I drew to look like his), Nth Man flashes between 1960s Iowa and the 1980s in locales as diverse as the North Pole and Soviet era Russia.
The first few issues of the series deal with the rescue of John Doe from a Soviet prison in Moscow. In America, Alfie O’Meagan meets with a psychiatrist after transforming himself into a giant and taking the seat of Lincoln inside the Lincoln Memorial. Alfie watches John Doe’s group via a television, and sometimes intervenes in the action - like by stopping a sniper’s bullet aimed at John by thrusting a gigantic hand out of the earth.
Eventually the series would shift to an American locale for John Doe and outer space for Alfie O’Meagan.
More akin to Saving Private Ryan than Sgt. Rock, Nth Man refused to pull any punches. In one issue, Soviet children reap their vengeance on a Chinese soldier via sickle (how fitting) and shovel while in another one character remarks about an air-raid siren only to learn that it’s really, “…the combined screams of hundreds of tank crewmen fried to a crisp in burning T-80’s.” (And to think that I bought most of my copies of Nth Man on the rack at places like Keltsch next to Archie and Ewoks comics!)
If you’re a connoisseur of books with good plots, excellent stories and characters then I cannot recommend Nth Man enough. Good luck finding it, though; the series has been out of print for 15 years. I’d give the good folks over at Books Comics and Things a call. I’m sure they could hook you up with some “Ultimate Ninja” goodness.