Out digitally this Wednesday, Cougar and Cub #4 sees Cub out for revenge after Cougar being ambushed! Eager to make amends after his hysterical hissy fit, he’s got his eyes on the city’s big bads but ends up running head first into Megaville’s biggest baby. Plus, backtrack to the black and white boom as a grim ‘n gritty Cougar is pulled out of retirement by a plucky Cub to battle a mutant shark with a shady past
Written by Nick Marino and Rosie Knight with art by Daniel Arruda Massa, the Action Lab: Danger Zone series will be released as a trade paperback in a few short months.
In honor of the latest issue’s release, Nick discusses the influences and historical touch points that they used to put together their epic flashback that shows Cougar’s career from the late 30s Golden Age through to the “realistic” superhero comics of the 00s!
by Nick Marino
At the start of Cougar and Cub #4, our protagonist has been pummeled by her rogues gallery. Distraught, Cub ponders the career of his mentor, wondering how these villains could be so cruel to the courageous Cougar.
What happens next was not only a joy for Daniel Arruda Massa and I to dream up, but it also became an incredibly important aspect of world building for our series when Rosie Knight saw an ingenious way to run with it for our backups.
I wanted to embrace the ludicrous and contradictory nature of superhero flashbacks with this sequence. Rarely do we get to see modern Batman acknowledge that he had hard boiled Golden Age adventures, wacky Silver Age adventures, grim Bronze Age adventures, and so on. But Cougar is all about embracing her entire history!
So we begin with purple gloves and a gun, two of my favorite things that’ve faded from Batman’s persona. To me, they represent the odd combination of silly and serious from the pulpy tales of early superheroes in the late 30s. Daniel’s crook really takes that contrast to the next level, with his violent and surreal death.
We transition to fun-loving, lighter heroics and show Cougar with her first Cub! This peak 40s era of Golden Age of sidekick superheroics is often embodied by swashbuckling attitudes and swooping action. Plus, we’ve got a fun dog villain here who could always show up in a future issue….
Then it’s onto that zany time when the end of the Golden Age found itself softened by the congressional inquiries sparked by Frederic Wertham. This proto-Silver Age of the 50s was often ensconced in especially outlandish moments, so I felt a steamroller would be a fitting feat. We also see one of our present baddies, Miss Chievous, make a vintage appearance.
As we move into the science-fueled Silver Age of the 60s, it seems to me like Diaper Rash is a wonderful antagonist for Cougar and her righteous raygun! This era saw Kirby’s big, bold science and Stan’s fear of radiation merge into a weird blend of superheroics that’s since come to define the rise of Marvel.
But it’s back to DC inspiration on our second page as Cougar sheds her iconic threads just like Wonder Woman of the late Silver Age! Here we see Minerva without a sidekick but representing the idealistic morals of the Hippie movement as she bashes Norm, the sinister stalwart of conformity. Plus, who doesn’t enjoy seeing a guitar smashed to bits?
We sorta gloss over the rest of the 70s a.k.a. the start of the Bronze Age because we have an in-story flashback occurring in Cougar and Cub #5 that delves deeper into that part of Cougar’s career! Instead, we skip ahead to an infamous turning point for superheroes, as they became literary darlings during the grim and gritty 80s. Father Fornicator and his Altar Boys get their butts whooped by Cougar and her first female Cub, Patsy (who we spend more time with in the backup story from Cougar and Cub #4).
No recap of superhero history would be complete without the Image-drenched early 90s and that’s exactly what we’ve got here as an anatomically absurd Cougar takes on the aggressive appetites of Sugar Mama. And daaaamn… look at Cub’s shiny knee pads! Very chic.
Finally, it’s the heady days of 00s realism when tactical body armor became the standard and the Ultimates reenvisioned superheroes as morally complex but incredibly zealous purveyors of fantastical violence. The Roach is at the ass-end of Cougar’s stern and stoic question, as our protagonist prepares to pound this insect into a million highly-rendered and late-shipping tiny pieces.
When Daniel and I showed his tremendous flashback artwork to Rosie Knight, she was inspired to find notable eras of comic book history that we managed to miss! That led to her backups stories, which tackle influences from crime to romance to underground to the black and white boom (seen in this issue’s TMNT homage) and finally alternative comics in our final outing.
Thanks for taking this trip down memory lane with me! I love recounting the thought process behind these pages and showing you how the superhero sausage gets made. I hope you’ll pick up Cougar and Cub #4 digitally this week and consider pre-ordering our Cougar and Cub print collection from the May 2017 Previews catalog.