He Said/She Said – The Comic Book Cashing In On Scandal And Murder

The short-lived comic book series aiming to explore notorious scandals from the point of view of both people involved.

Back in the early 1990s, the comic book industry was still a buoyant one, with the sort of sales figures that could only be dreamt of today, and that inevitably attracted a number of fly-by-night publishers looking to cash in. Many of these publishers licensed TV and movie franchises, or published biographical stories about celebrities – it was easier than trying to establish new and ongoing characters to compete with the established superhero comic publishers.

Amongst the publishers that briefly popped up to help milk the market dry and make their contribution to the eventual comic book crash was the rather on-the-nose 1st Amendment Publishing, which brought us six editions of He Said/She Said, a cheap and tawdry effort that aimed to cash in on headline-grabbing scandals. Despite the ‘free speech’ implications of the publisher name, this comic didn’t exactly push the boat out in terms of investigation or accusation; rather, it simply took a then-current case and told the story from the point of view of both parties, sticking to what information was already in the public domain.

The first edition dealt with ‘Long Island Lolita’ Amy Fisher and her lover Joey Buttafuoco. For those unfamiliar with the case, Fisher had shot Buttafuoco’s wife, badly injuring her; she went to prison for the assault, while he was also sent down for the statutory rape of the 17-year-old would-be murderess. This salacious case spawned movies, books and a thousand jokes, making both felons into celebrities – it was arguably one of the first cases of criminal nobodies becoming famous thanks to their pathetic crimes. The comic book – which came complete with a Fisher centrefold poster – was pretty awful, with crappy artwork and storytelling, but it sold some 70,000 copies in America.

The format of the comic was simple – a flipbook, it came with two covers and each of the two narratives was told across half the page count, with different writers and artists – none of them exactly first division comic book talents, it must be said. It goes without saying that the stories are not exactly explored in detail; even the limited space available is wasted with too many full-page splashes. The best of the content was on the cover – Drew Friedman did the artwork for a couple of covers, and his work is the only stand-out element of the books.

After the Fisher/Buttafuoco story, the series tackled Woody Allen and Mia Farrow (in a way that now seems almost wholesome, given more recent accusations and counter-accusations), Bill Clinton and Gennifer Flowers (the much juicier Monica Lewinsky story had yet to emerge), Tonya Harding and Jeff Gillooly and Marcia Clark and Robert Shapiro – all big news stories of the day, but increasingly faded from memory now. These were all scandal stories, the stuff of salacious tabloid interest involving adultery and affairs, harassment and low-level criminality. Issue 5, however, went further into the realms of bad taste by covering the O.J. Simpson/Nicole Simpson murder case, while it was still under investigation. Here, there was perhaps less to go on with the female point of view, what with Nicole being dead. The comic also seems oddly sympathetic towards O.J., portraying him as a tortured soul in a clumsy narrative that might leave a sour taste in the mouth of some readers.

He Said/She Said was a concept that could have conceivably gone on forever, though today the very act of putting both sides of the story and letting the reader make their own mind up seems unthinkable in a world of moral absolutes where mere accusation is taken as conclusive evidence. However, the series suffered the curse of diminishing returns, and with each issue essentially being a stand-alone story, there was little incentive for readers to buy them all. The poor quality of the actual contents probably didn’t help much – these were terrible comic strips by any standard and had the inescapable feel of a cash grab with no regard for the reader or respect for the art form. After six issues between 1993 and 1994, both the comic and its publisher vanished. Copies have not become especially collectable.

Some images via www.cbr.com

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