Sexy Losers, Or, How to Draw A Rascal and Make Him Look Good

Cobra, コブラ, Terasawa Buichi, Shueisha, Viz
Magnum PI, Tom Selleck for Donald P Bellisario & Glen A Larson, 1980
Who likes short-shorts?

I’ve been watching a lot of Magnum, P.I.

The thing about Magnum is that it’s not a good show, exactly, you just want to like it. The structure of the episodes is generally poor, the mysteries almost never matter at all, sometimes Magnum achieves literally nothing, and by the end the reunited couple are already bickering again. The sets aren’t that good and they’re often the same ones you’ve seen before. Magnum doesn’t have that many changes of clothes, although I don’t think he owns a single pair of whole trousers. The budget they spent on semi-regularly renting a helicopter or two probably could have been better-spent elsewhere. But it makes itself so likeable; all the regular characters love each other, I mean really love each other. They’re all men from the army, but they love each other like girls do in stories. Hand grasping, and self-sacrifice, and understanding at a glance that this is a scotch whiskey problem, even if the friend in trouble has just been really irritating. (Are you reading this in a Tom Selleck Introduction Voice? It’s OK. That’s how I’m writing it.)

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 11.25.40Magnum whines and sulks and shouts and wreaks petulant destruction on those close to him, he always owes everybody money, and again: his shirts are perpetually unbuttoned, and his shorts are so short. It was a role surely destined for Morgan Fairchild, and I hope that, in the Zayn Stayed universe, she played it. Magnum avoids responsibility and commitment and he likes babes. He has many “old friends” amongst the ladies, but here’s the other thing: I’ve seen him sad, and you could trust him with your sister.

If your sister was your property, like. It’s a patriarchal example from a specific episode of the show. Give me some slack so I can arrange this knot here, please?

Magnum’s two best pals are Rick and TC; he knows them from ‘Nam where they were all in a helicopter together. In this specific episode, Rick’s newly graduated, convent-educated little sister, whom he pays for the raising of, is coming to visit for the first time in years. Rick wants Magnum to take her to the cinema. Magnum feels weird about taking a virginal twenty-two year old sister on a date, and he whines about it. He’s thirty-eight and wearing a baseball cap. His chest hair is all out, he’s in a beachside bar. Rick is exasperated: it’s not a date! He explains that he trusts Magnum with his cute but legal sister. And the viewer? The viewer knows that he’s right. Things go wrong (obviously), but it’s pretty starkly registered. Magnum has boundaries and he respects other people’s. Magnum sees younger sisters fresh out of convents as people; people when they’re in a blouse, and people when they’re in a bikini top insisting they’ve been drinking for months. Magnum doesn’t move in on his friends’ loved ones; Magnum sees his friends as people with delicate emotional balances and those should be respected, too. Magnum will take a punch, tell a lie, risk a strafe of bullets, to make sure his friend Rick from ‘Nam is alive and emotionally healthy and healing (she dies) with some hope of closure. He’ll offer Rick coffee after Rick’s called him a pervert, and will get yelled at in a police station, and then put on a show of bravado to make him feel better in the end.

Magnum PI, Tom Selleck for Donald P Bellisario & Glen A Larson, 1980

Magnum cries in this episode, because he thinks Rick truly doesn’t want to be his friend any more. He cries in front of stuffy co-staffer Higgins. On purpose! That’s like Ron Weasley going to Percy for comfort during Chamber of Secrets. It’s outlandish.

I never really understood this before but I guess that Tom Selleck really is pretty handsome? Now that I understand moustaches, as an adult. His head’s pretty well defined. And there are the short shorts. I feel like all of the men should try short shorts.

Uncanny X-Men 167, Marvel comics, Paul Smith, Bob Wiacek, Yanchus & Wein, Tom Orzechowski, Chris Claremont: New Mutants watch Magnum
Magnum’s charms can even get past stern Presbyterian sin programming

Magnum’s got me thinking of two other globetrotting, gun-toting playboys I really dig: Space Pirate Cobra and Pete Trask, T-Man.

Pete’s a Quality Comics character who appeared first in Police Comics in 1950. He had six page adventures for a decent while, until it turned out he was so much fun he could handle his own magazine. T-Man #1 was published in September ‘51, and Pete ran with the banner until issue 38. He’s a hoot.

Pete Trask, T-Man, issue 5, Reed Crandall, digital comics museum, Quality Comics, 1951The T-Man’s job is to fly around the world busting international, money-related crime. So: all crime. But he talks about the American Treasury (T is for Treasury) a lot, and being a “T-Man” is an interesting gimmick that’s different from everybody else’s. Pete shoots a lot of guns, smooches a lot of dames, busts a lot of heads. He’s more effectual than Magnum, but there are tonal similarities anyhow. For example: he is always getting conked. He cares easy. And he’s a goof.

Pete Trask, T-Man, issue 5, Reed Crandall, digital comics museum, Quality Comics, 1951

Pete Trask, T-Man, issue 25, Reed Crandall, digital comics museum, Quality Comics, 1952T-Man will generally need to disguise himself in a way that’s slightly embarrassing to your everyday Joe. Singing? Pretending to be French? Or blind, or drunk, or a loose-lipped foreign robber? Trask’ll do it. He’s not worried about pride of that sort. He takes leaps and risks without knowing he’ll be fine, and sometimes he gets pretty well deep into danger. He’s been staked out on a desert rooftop, waiting to die, and chased by a bull, and he never checks if there’s anybody behind a door before he goes through it. He’s a wally, really, in a lot of ways. But he treats every woman he entangles with as somebody who deserves life and liberty, if she shows signs of vivacity and a lack of studied communism (a T-Man, obviously, is unnerved by socialism). If an old friend of his needs to be introduced having turned up dead, we’ll have heard about what a jolly good chinwag Pete Trask is looking forward to having with the blighter, like that time in Monaco, and how they laughed, and Pete has missed him so. When it’s discovered he’s been killed, why, that was Jimmy, you monsters, and he’ll never see Monaco again! Magnum will never get to chat good-humouredly with his best pal. Trask lacks the cauterised emotions of total masculinity, despite those Mad Men good looks (I have never watched Mad Men but I see you all tweeting, you all want a bite of that Hamm), is what I mean. There are chinks in his armour. He’s not a bully, he’s not infallible, and he thinks that women are real, no matter their ethnicity.

Pete Trask, T-Man, issue 5, Reed Crandall, digital comics museum, Quality Comics, 1951 Pete Trask, T-Man, issue 5, Reed Crandall, digital comics museum, Quality Comics, 1951

Cobra, コブラ, Terasawa Buichi, Shueisha, VizCobra’s the same again.

Cobra spends his time with a hardbody robot Lady (that’s her name), and in all of his adventures I’ve read so far he also hangs with one of three luscious sisters. First Jane, then Catharine, then Dominique. They’re all go-go ideal, and they’re all delightful: Jane is a little stern, capable; Catherine is contained, giving; Dominique is a thrill-seeker. As I read, Jane and Catherine have already died—Cobra mourned them. He really did. He mourned Jane like Philip Marlowe mourned Terry Lennox. He sees the sadness in their loss, the loss to their persons of their lives. And while they were alive, he explored and enjoyed their individual characters. He thinks that women… are people.

Cobra’s a guy who asks for milk in a bar and gets the sweats when things go wrong. He’s handsome, but not too handsome (kind of a blobby nose, Deputy Dawg eyes, no major definition of the bone structure); he wears a skintight bodysuit and has a sex toy for an arm. It’s also a laser gun, but it is incredibly smooth, long, and bulbous. It looks like a sex arm. I definitely think he’d use it that way.

Cobra, コブラ, Terasawa Buichi, Shueisha, Viz
Panting relief, a ridiculous dog man

Cobra, コブラ, Terasawa Buichi, Shueisha, VizThe deal with Cobra is that he used to be totally beautiful: he was a heartbreakingly perfect pirate prince, in a scale-male jumpsuit and long flowing hair, until… he got bored with life on the run. He medically suppressed his memories, got a new face, and lived with that choice until he, like, totally recalled the whole thing. If you see what I mean. Now, as I say, he’s handsome enough, dashing enough, and he cares about the death of an egg-shaped boy robot before any foxy ladies take a laser beam in front of him. He’s been broken down from alpha-catch, which is a relief—nobody wants that pressure. Do you want to be flirted up by somebody flawless? Or would you rather be fanned and teased by somebody delicious, a bit raggedy, who might fall over but will definitely make sure you’ve got your agency? If he finds you naked and feral, he’ll try to remind you who he is, or who you are. He won’t say “hey baby, I see you’re nude, there, let’s give it a shot,” because he understands that that would be inappropriate. He ignores that you’re nude. You’re generally hot, he can appreciate that, but you’re hot because you’re alive in there.

Cobra, コブラ, Terasawa Buichi, Shueisha, Viz

There’s a toungueoutishness about Cobra that’s as endearing as Magnum’s short-shorts and whining, and Pete Trask’s torn clothing, rumpled hair, and repetitive door frame injury. We meet him in his delivery boy, slacker’s bed, waking up cranky, feet all childishly crooked. He’s pretty muscularly defined but his expressions are cartoonish; he’s naked, probably. Cobra wears turned down swashbuckler boots and has short sleeves that show his biceps but don’t force them at you. You can look at something else, if you want. He constantly has something in his mouth. He gets fuzzy-smiley-tipsy drunk, and he’s got two dicks, guys. His hand is also a dick.

Cobra, コブラ, Terasawa Buichi, Shueisha, Viz

Somehow, despite the Heavy Metal and the prog and the thong daywear and the everything, Terasawa Buichi managed to create a man I’d feel safe standing next to in a rigid space bikini. He’s famous for doing crimes, but I’m not worried they’re going to be sex crimes. How did Terasawa manage it? By making Cobra kind, humane, and emotionally fallible. By repeating the message: women are people. Women should live. Women are clever and feel their own feelings.

These men are everything that Zainab said about Corto, really. Wearing different trousers.

Often smaller ones.

Claire Napier

Claire Napier

Critic, ex-Editor in Chief at WWAC, independent comics editor; the rock that drops on your head. Find me at and give me lots of money