"So what's he doing working in a gas station? If he really has these amazing powers, why isn't he using them to make himself rich?"
"Because some things in life are more important, I guess... Huck just likes making people happy."
Comic book series, released beginning in late 2015 through Image Comics. The series is written by Mark Millar and illustrated by Rafael Albuquerque.
Millar is probably best known as an "edgy" writer -- he's written comics that are both acclaimed and despised, including "The Authority," "The Ultimates," "Superman: Red Son," "Kick-Ass," "Wanted," "Old Man Logan," "The Secret Service," and more. The typical Millar story is characterized by over-the-top violence, a certain amount of contempt for the reader and for his characters, and just to make sure everyone knows how edgy he is, someone getting raped.
But for all that, Millar also appears to have a great deal of actual affection for some comic book characters, particularly Superman. And in an essay he wrote for GamesRadar.com, Millar says that, though he does indeed enjoy plenty of ultra-violence, even in superhero movies, the ending of 2013's "Man of Steel" film, in which Superman breaks General Zod's neck and kills him, left him concerned that the world's understanding of Superman in particular and superheroes in general had gotten turned around backwards. So he decided to try to push the pendulum the other direction for once -- and the result was "Huck."
The comic focuses on Huck, a big, blond, corn-fed gas station attendant in a small Midwestern town. He's good-hearted, but also a little bit slow. He was a foundling left on a doorstep as an infant with only a note reading "Please love him," and he tries to do one good deed every day. Sometimes, he'll handle an extra shift at work to give a coworker a break. Sometimes, he'll mow lawns for his neighbors. Sometimes, he'll give a little money for strangers. And sometimes, he'll rescue a couple hundred kidnapped schoolgirls and beat up all the members of Boko Haram in Nigeria.
You see, Huck has powers. He's strong, he can fly, he's nimble and hard to hurt, and he's able to track down almost anyone he wants. And everyone in town keeps Huck's secrets for him. He's happy being an anonymous do-gooder, and they're happy to keep him happy.
And then one day, one of the new residents in town decides to make a little extra cash. She sells Huck out to the media, and now everyone in the world knows about all the things Huck can do. That gives him a few more good deeds he can do for strangers, but it also allows sleazy politicians to exploit his trusting nature. It leads him to his long-lost brother and his missing mother. And it leads to an awful lot of trouble.
I've not generally been a big fan of Millar's work. His edginess mostly felt like style over substance -- an ornamental knife shaped like a really cool dragon but which hasn't ever been sharpened. Like the classic "Nextwave" cover says: "Mark Millar Licks Goats" -- so I've tried to make sure I avoid his comics. But hearing that he'd written this series as a response to the less-than-heroic Superman in the movies, and that he was encouraging readers to perform good deeds to emulate his character -- it piqued my interest enough to grab the collected edition of the series.
And it's good. Which shouldn't be surprising -- Millar wouldn't have been able to work this long in comics if he didn't have actual writing chops, and he'd spent a number of years writing well-received all-ages comics. I'd worried that he'd drop a downer ending on us, just to keep things edgy and "realistic" -- but he kept it upbeat, and he kept it fun to read.
Part of me suspects that it may not be the kind of comic that's remembered years into the future. It's not Miller's "Dark Knight Returns." It's not Moore's "Watchmen." It's not Gaiman's "Sandman" or Spiegelman's "Maus" or Ellis' "Transmetropolitan" or Morrison's "JLA" or even Millar's "Kick-Ass."
But it's an excellent comic with great characterization and art, and it speaks to concerns that a lot of people have about compassion and empathy and optimism and morality -- not just in comics or entertainment but in the world around us in general. We worry that our cinematic superheroes are too quick to fight with each other and to commit acts of mayhem and murder solely for the sake of creating a cynical silver screen spectacle, and we worry that our representatives in politics and religion and the media are more concerned with money and publicity and their own egomania and less concerned with our own ability to survive and thrive.
So Millar brings us Huck, who has the power to solve the gigantic problems we wish someone, anyone could solve -- like Boko Haram, like murderous political extremists, like people who are lost or injured. But most of his good deeds are simple and straightforward. Paying for strangers' meals. Finding lost pets. Helping old people across the street. Sending encouraging notes to people going through hard times. Huck is a hero who can do great things -- and many of his great things are acts that you or I could do, too.
The edgiest and most cynical writer in comics created a book that is unapologetically optimistic and wholesome -- and he showed that optimistic and wholesome don't have to mean boring.
"please love him"
Millar's essay on his inspiration for the series
Millar's #OneGoodDeed campaign