Mister Blank is a comic book series by Christopher J. Hicks, consisting of 15 issues (running from #0 through #14), currently collected in a graphic novel entitled mister blank: exhaustive collection. It's published by Slave Labor Graphics.

It's quite good.

The first nine pages set the background. You meet our hero, Samual M. Smith. You see his apartment; you meet his dog; you meet Julie, with whom there is clearly mutual attraction, though he has not yet summoned up the nerve to ask her out; you see his crappy job as an office drone; you meet his boss, who forces him to work late.

The action starts on page ten, when he gets on the elevator with two suspicious characters. He notices one has an armored suitcase which could hold a bomb, and the other has a remote which could be a detonation device. Sam spends page twelve in a debate with himself as the elevator rises to the 125th floor:
"That suitcase...!" (floor 35, picture of suitcase)
"A bomb!","terrorists!" (floor 51, pictures of bomb and terrorists)
"...and only me to stop them!" (floor 67, picture of heroic looking sam)
"Who'm I kidding?" (floor 84, picture of Sam trying to beat terrorists up)
"If I do something and I'm wrong..." (floor 98, picture of Sam's boss yelling at him again)
"but if I'm right... and I do nothing... BOOM" (floor 121, button on remote being pressed, building blowing up)

So Sam steps off the elevator and announces, "My name is Samuel M. Smith. I am a representative of N industries and I am forced to ask you to justify your presence in this building." Which brings Sam out of his ordinary life and into 348 more pages of adventure and excitement (with a good helping of humor).

Ok... I'm a sucker for this type of beginning. Every adventure story must start with the hero undertaking the quest for some reason. Sometimes the hero has special powers so is the only one who can undertake the quest, sometimes the hero is forced to undertake the quest to save themself or his love, and sometimes the hero chooses to undertake the quest for glory, honor, or revenge. These all can be interesting, but my favorite is when the hero is no one special but gets involved simply because it's the right thing to do.

Taken at face value, Mister Blank is a heroic action story. It has many of the classic elements of the genre: people with weird powers, clones, mad scientists, giant robots, time travel, global conspiracy, angels, demons, and mystic objects. The action is well paced and the heroes quite likable. The characters are well characterized and the world (despite its strange elements) has a refreshing amount of internal consistency.

Mister Blank can also be viewed as a response to the worst clichés in such stories. The villains (though villainous), are rather likable; by the end you are rooting for them as much as you're rooting for our hero. Many of the characters have strange powers or access to advanced technology, but the most dangerous people are those with a clever plan and the moxie to see it through. Most importantly, the hero has no special powers or origin story. He emerges victorious because he's quick thinking and has chutzpah (and, of course, a lot of moxie).

Which brings us to why the comic works. At its heart it's a modern fantasy story, and Chris Hicks has worked very hard to strip from the comic everything that might interfere with the audience's ability to identify with the hero, Sam. As mentioned, he has no special powers, nor even skills we cannot picture ourselves having (he smart, can throw a punch, and fire a gun; but is neither a genius, black belt, or sharpshooter). He's everyman (the original title of the comic, which had to be changed because of a Mike Allard title of the same name), and Julie (the heroine) is everywoman. She's not the star of the comic, but she matches the hero in likability and moxie. Sam's not even draw with any distinguishing features, being essentially an expressive Smiley face in a suit. We can imagine ourselves living in his apartment and having his job.

Which is great, because by the end of the comic you really like him. He's a decent guy without being an insufferable goody two shoes. He's brave, but runs away when necessary. He's confident, but also in over his head much of the time. He makes mistakes, but admits them and deals with him. His main motivations are too figure out what's going on and protect innocents (or his dog). You cheer when he defeats some menace with his quick wits and whatever happened to be about; you can almost feel it when he takes a hit. He does just what you hope you'd do in the same situation. Not only do you identify with him, but you're happy to identify with him; doing so makes you feel better about yourself.

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