The Paybacks Does Superhero Satire Right

Kenny Coburn Kenny Coburn
December 2nd, 2015

I’m a lover of all things comics. Be on the lookout for my future comic project Olympus’ Forgotten Children. When not shamelessly plugging, I watch the Buckeyes. Go sports!

The Paybacks Does Superhero Satire Right

New satirical series The Paybacks is a love letter to the absurdity that the superhero genre can become. ComiConverse's Kenny Coburn is here to explore its unique brand of thoughtful and respectful satire.

Not every superhero and villain can afford all of the elaborate equipment they need with just their day job alone. Sometimes, they need to take out a loan. And, sometimes, those same heroes and villains can't exactly pay back those loans and begin to rack up a massive amount of debt. That's where the Paybacks come in. They are a super-repo team that, because of poor loan repayments themselves, has to re-collect everything that was purchased under a loan from their benefactor, Mr. Pierce. With this premise, in just a few short months, The Paybacks has already become one of the best superhero satires in comics because of everything it does right.

This is one of the best premises for a superhero comic book I have seen in a long time. Paybacks holds nothing back when it comes to forcing the superhero genre to look in the mirror and laugh at how ridiculous it can be. If you don't believe me, you need to look no further than the very first repossession target in The Paybacks, Night Knight. If you're like me, you've often wondered how Batman can constantly afford to fund a literal battalion of superheroes. Night Knight, being a completely shameless ripoff of the super hero archetype that Batman has made so famous over the years, actually finds out you can't. He lives in a mansion, on a hill, with a cave underneath filled with objects fitting his Night Knight persona (Sound familiar?). The best, being a horse that he has armored to look like a unicorn for no other reason than he thinks its a good look for his image. This is great because, the idea of heroes and villains making their arsenal match their name gimmick is so accepted it takes something as jarring as an armored unicorn to really show how goofy that can become. Night Knight soon finds out that, even as a billionaire, at a certain point, you can't sustain this lifestyle.

Paybacks #1

Credit: Dark Horse Comics

Our team of makeshift, sort-of, heroes forced to collect on this debt consists of all types of superhero tropes. The twist being, each person on the team is an extreme representation of each archetype. The physician of the team, Doctor Blaqk, is a doctor in the same way that many of our favorite comic book heroes and villains who call themselves Doctor are doctors; he's not. In reality, he just likes to call himself a doctor for some unexplained reason. He's actually a magician who just likes to do magical experiments on people in the med bay. He is also a great spoof on the many magicians who permeate the superhero genre. Sure, there are times for serious adventures but, at the end of the day, you're doing magic. There should always be some joy in that. In The Paybacks, a person with magical powers just enjoys having magical powers. It's a nice change.

The Paybacks are led by a vampire because, as Miss Adventure puts it, why not? The team also includes Bloodpouch, the wisecracking pretty boy who doesn't exactly think he's beautiful which, naturally, only makes him more attractive to people. I think Batman had a sidekick like that once or twice? The Soviet Nunchuck is a throwback to foreign stereotypes of large, hairy, burly European men unable to learn English properly.  Miss Adventure is our naïve, in-over-her-head superhero with no real powers but likes to kick a lot of ass. And, finally, we have Skisquatch. He is a giant anthropomorphic Gorilla filling in our role of talking animals that complain about being animals.

Paybacks Ice Cream Break

Credit: Dark Horse Comics

None of these character archetypes are ever done in a demeaning manner either. The Paybacks is as much a love letter to the superhero genre as it is a satire of it. And that is what good satire truly requires to go from mean spirited to enjoyable. We all have to suspend our disbelief to enjoy the many adventures of our favorite comic book heroes. But, it doesn't mean we can't sometimes pull ourselves away from the blood, gore, and, violence of many of the stories we read and, enjoy how far fetched they can become. Here, The Paybacks takes what we love about the genre and asks the simple question, what happens in between world-shattering crises? What happens when the same problems that unavoidably effect the common person, happen to a superhero? Like, paying off massive debt for instance.

All of this is contained in a story where someone is killing off the Paybacks' targets before they can get to them. There is also a mystery of who Mr. Pierce is and why he keeps giving out loans that no ones seems to be able to repay. But that's not the best part of this series so far. The best part comes when The Paybacks peels back the curtain of what goes on in the normal day of a superhero. Sure, there's action and adventure. But, what happens when a group of super-powered beings are hanging out in the break room eating popsicles together? What happens to superheroes who don't actually have useful superpowers? Like Napalm, whose skin turns to napalm when it's exposed to air. She has to roll around in a plastic bubble to stay safe. That's what happens to those kind of heroes. These are the type of questions I have. If you've ever been reading a superhero comic and wanted to peek behind the curtain or, felt one of your favorite comic book heroes had become too over-the-top, this is your chance to celebrate that. The Paybacks does superhero satire right. You should absolutely be reading it because, why not?

Kenny Coburn is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @kennyacoburn

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