LA Review of Books: The Adventures of Unemployed Man


RACHEL NEWCOMB, and JAYNA BROWN with short takes on five new books.

imageImage from The Adventures of Unemployed Man by Erich Origen and Gan Golan
Courtesy of Little, Brown and Company
Erich Origen and Gan Golan
The Adventures of Unemployed Man

Little, Brown, October 2010. 80 pp.

Let me tell you, nothing focuses one’s attention on the plight of the unemployed like humiliating, disorienting, emasculating unemployment, even if, now, the sting of it is mitigated by its sheer commonness. Who doesn’t know of horrible stories of rejection, tales of wholesale destruction of careers? For the last few years I’ve watched the slow-motion slaughter of the careers of my journalist friends, many of whom lost their jobs because of the super villainous machinations of one of the most despised men in journalism, The Zell, CEO of our dear, bankrupt hometown paper, the Los Angeles Times. Who among us, newspaper readers all, has not wanted to punch Zell in the kisser? And even so, he’s only a sidekick to the most evil of the bunch — Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch, the Darkseid of CEO’s — overseeing a ghoulish army of merciless minions impersonating journalists. As our time descends into economic chaos and general mayhem, the world often seems like an outsized comic book. And those who speak with the loudest and most hysterical voices seem as determined as any supervillain to set the entire country aflame.

The Adventures of Unemployed Man, by Erich Origen and Gan Golan, looks at the current economic tragedy with a comic book sensibility and a populist world view, bringing to mind the inventive genius of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, with a 1960s underground-comic vibe, wit, and good nature. It tells the story of the economic decline of the United States through the travails of the vainglorious Ultimatum, a Batman-like character, who is at first a defender of the status quo, branding unto the foreheads of the unfortunate a reminder in the shape of a U that they are solely responsible for their economic misfortune, but a moment’s painful awakening reveals his naivete and how rigged and unfair the economic system is, and everything is torn from him — including his standing in his father’s former company, his palatial estate, and his fortune. He becomes the Unemployed Man! Beaten and bested at every turn, he finds refuge among the denizens of Cape Town, penniless superheroes who have formed a squatter’s camp. Eventually, Unemployed Man finds himself in the middle of rebellion against the unmitigated greed of Just Us, a villainous super group of CEOs, hedge fund operators, and Wall Street brokers.

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Below are the lyrics to “Arnold’s Rhapsody” a parody of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” 


Is this the real life? Or sci-fi fantasy? 
Caught in the crossfire, no escape from reality 
What’s wrong with my head, look into my bed and see, 
Lamentations of women, I get no sympathy
Cause it was easy come, easy go, pumping hard, pumping slow 
Anything I blew up, didn’t really matter to me! To me… 

Mama, just stiffed the help
Put my schlong next to her rump
Pulled my trigger, baby bump 
Mama, it’s not a tumor 
Now I’ve gone and thrown it all away 
Mama, ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh, didn’t mean to make you cry 
I’ll be back again this time tomorrow 
Cameras on, cameras on, as if I’m the greatest actor

Consider that a divorce
End of the Schwarzenneger lines, muscles aching all the time 
Goodbye, ev’rybody, I’ve been erased 
Who is your daddy and what does he do?
Mama, ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh, I’m a party pooper
One ugly motherfucker, kill me now! Do it, c’mon! I’m here…

I see the Last Action Hero of a man
Rat tat tat, Rat tat tat, tag and bag all the women
Terminators fighting, very, very fright’ning me
Get to Mars. (Get to Mars) Get to Mars. (Get to Mars) 
Mr. Universe is ours, by our stars

I am a hero, everybody loves it
But I must admit hero stuff has its limits
Damaged goods with three tits, blow you to bits 

Pumping hard, pumping slow, to the chopper go
The CHOPPER! NO! Stop the running man (Running Man!) 
The CHOPPER! Stop the running man (Running Man!) 
The CHOPPER! Stop the running man (Running Man!) 
Stop the running man (Running Man!) 
Stop the running man (Running Man!) 
Never stop the running man, no, no, no, no, no, no, no!
(Oh Maria, Oh Maria.) Mama get your ass to Mars 
You’re a choir boy compared to me! To me! To me!


So you think that I know the Riddle of Steel?!
So you think I have a license to cop a feel?!
Oh, baby, hasta la vista, baby! 
Here is subzero, now just plain zero!

Haheah! Ooh! Haheaheahaaaa!

I’m the greatest actor, anyone can see 
I’m the greatest actor
I’m the greatest actor, to me 

Anything I blew up…

In Goodnight Bush, Origen and Golan turned Goodnight Moon into a less-than-fond farewell to George W. Here, they take unorthodox economic revenge on Wall Street fat cats with a side-splittingly hilarious tale that’s affectionate superhero parody by day and stinging political satire by night. In a country where every citizen is a costumed hero, self-appointed self-help guru The Ultimatum is ejected from his superteam, the Firing Squad, and enters the outcast ranks of the jobless, where he meets student debtor Master of Degrees, single mom Wonder Mother, poor immigrant Fantasma, and others who have tried to get ahead by doing the right thing but find themselves stymied by the Invisible Hand. Meanwhile, the Lemur Brothers, Golden Sack, and the Free Marketeers are hatching a dastardly plot. VERDICT Aided by a top-notch art team (including Rick Veitch and Ramona Fradon), Origen and Golan demonstrate a firm grasp of both economics and comics via incisive spoof ads, biting “Fantastic Facts” features, and spot-on homages to Jack Kirby, EC Comics, and many others. Thoughtful, uproariously witty, and brilliantly successful on every level.
Library Journal Review