There’s no arguing that there’s a pretty big culture of toxic masculinity in a lot of our media today, especially when it comes to our action heroes. While intelligent, earnest discussion is necessary to changing this reality, it’s also admittedly very satisfying to make fun of these tropes and characters, and nowhere is this more obvious than Kelly Turnbull’s satirical and aptly named Manly Guys Doing Manly Things.
The popular comic parodies, and routinely takes the piss out of, the overwhelmingly macho protagonists of video games, comics, TV, and film, while also following the everyday adventures of the long-suffering Commander Badass (yes, that’s his real name).
The Commander, a divorced father of two and ex-space marine from the future, runs a temp agency that strives to reintegrate beefy, antisocial heroes into regular jobs and society (Kratos of the God of War franchise, Solid Snake from Metal Gear, and Ganondorf of the Zelda games all make regular appearances). Given their testosterone-fueled rages, gameplay-based logic, and near constant desire to murder people, this is far easier said than done. Joining the Commander in his daily life are his children, sort-of girlfriend Jonesy, and intern Jared, a slacker Pokémon trainer who managed to evolve a Gyarados by simply using a Magikarp as a living bludgeon.
The comic is made up of largely disconnected scenarios, though a few longer story arcs have crept in, including a plague that turns macho men into anime bishounen and a trip to the future to meet Commander Badass’s equally badass family.
While this comic may not appeal to people who don’t engage in gamer or geek culture, it’s a fun romp that generally doesn’t require much knowledge of the games it’s parodying. Turnbull is very good at pointing out the absurdities of the things she parodies while still embracing a love of them, and Commander Badass is a surprisingly endearing example of how being a man or masculine shouldn’t equate to being a jerk.