I picked up The Broccoli Agenda as part of a local comic book store’s liquidation sale, and I knew nothing of its creator David Yurkovich, except that he possessed an eccentricity that placed him among the avant-garde of the comics industry during the late half of the 1990s. (Yurkovich’s most famous work remains Less Then Heroes; it was recently republished by Top Shelf Comics.)
Undaunted, I purchased a copy, promised with the prospect of an “absurdist view of comics.” The title certainly delivers.
The Broccoli Agenda is narrated by former superhero Dr. Broccoli (Doc Broc) over cigarettes with an F.B.I. agent (Swete, the protagonist of Yurkovich’s first work, Death By Chocolate), a man made entirely of “organic chocolate.” Doc Broc relates a childhood spent obsessing over the titular vegetable, and an adulthood wasted trying to force society’s acceptance of its benefits.
Following the tragic death of his parents, the boy is placed into the adoptive care of the DeCarlo family, local broccoli farmers (‘natch). Hard times fall on the family, and Mr. DeCarlo is forced to accept assitance from Jimmy “Glass Jaw” Marconi, small-time mob boss (who later aspires to public office). When Mr. DeCarlo can’t make his scheduled payment, Marconi kills him, leaving the boy again orphaned, and again adopted.
Yurkovich’s plot builds in an unwieldy way, branching off into tangents unexpected (albeit interesting) but without closure. A digression into the story of an ancient culture had me thinking that The Broccoli Agenda was Yurkovich’s attempt at interlocking narration (perhaps, even, resembling a Russian nesting doll), but it turned out instead to be merely a method of delivering Doc Broc’s mutation into “a plant/human hybrid.”
Now imbued with powers beyond those of mortal men(?), Doc Broc is invited to join the New York Super-Hero Syndicate (and given his codename). Soon, “along with Milk Maid, Multi-Grain, and the Abbatoir, [he] became a member of The Basic Four … and educational unit that would travel the country and demonstrate the importance of maintaining healthy eating habits.” Another branch, another digression.
I consistently found myself questioning the purpose of such plotting: why use frame narrative if what passes in-between claims little connection to it? That said, Yurkovich does succintly end his tale (in a “tidy-little-package” sort of way). My instincts tell me that Yurkovich did not intend to stifle himself with the particulars of plot, but rather meant to investigate (and possibly expand) the conventions of super-hero comics.
Yurkovich wrote an essay (now lost in the ether of the vast interweb) titled “Why Don’t Heroes Age?” An interesting topic, to be sure, if only I could have read it. The Broccoli Agenda doesn’t exactly provide answers, but it did cause me to rethink skipping on eating my veggies.