Batman was a rich man who liked to dress up as a bat. Superman was a poor orphan and journalist from another world. Iron Man was another rich man with a heart condition, who made himself a suit of electronic armour which not only kept his heart ticking but also enabled him to fly, punch people very hard, and park where he liked.
Dabman was nothing so simple. He may not have been the first post-modern comic book hero, but he was almost certainly the most mundane. The story of Dabman is scarcely worth telling again, but here it is.
The conceit was simple. By day Neil Dick, Dabman's everyday alter ego, was indeed a "dabman". Working as a trainee fingerprint expert at Scotland Yard, he was a reluctant accomplice to the process of law and order.
The adventures of Dabman sprang from Dick's dreams of having something interesting happen to him. In Dabman #1 he muses on the origins of Spiderman: "I'll never be bitten by a radiocative fingerprint, that's for sure." Looking through his magnifying glass, his mind is drawn into the hypnotic whorls of the fingerprints he is examining, and so the adventures of Dabman were born.
But not for long!
"When I realised what they'd done, killed him off after the first edition," says writer Damon Zedbed. "I went to them and waved the contract in their face. They were embarassed. They thought it was a pilot they could dump after one issue, but I had the agreement which clearly signed them up for twelve monthly instalments."
Spartak, the publishers, conceded defeat, and work quickly began on issue two. But to Zedbed's surprise, while he was still ringing round the original Dabman team, an old friend who worked on another Spartak title, telephoned him.
"Dave said I'd better come along quick, because issue 2 of Dabman was about to go to press."
What he saw when he arrived at Spartak surprised him even more. A new issue had indeed been printed, and although the story carried his name, it bore only the vaguest resemblance to anything he had written.
It started badly, and got worse. Since he had only been a dream character, bringing Dabman back to life after his gory demise in #1 need not have been difficult. The fact that Neil Dick had also met his end, dramatically falling to his death from the twelfth floor of New Scotland Yard, presented more of a problem. But in Dabman #2, the new writers forgot all about this. The character was completely reinvented.
Left for dead in the icy slopes of K3, Bruce Burger is rescued by the inhabitants of a mystical, hermetic society, which can perform magical feats by invoking the ancient power of the Snow God Dahib. Schooled for many months in these mystic arts, Bruce returns to New York City to fight the crime wave caused when an alien hormone crash lands in the Colorado desert.
Only in the final frame do we discover that these feeble ramblings are still in the mind of Neil Dick as he plummets towards the pavement outside St James's Park.
"At that point I quit," says Zedbed. "I said to myself: I'm going to sue them and quit. In fact, I quit first and then sued them."