This started to cause problems during periods when there wasn't particularly anything which needed killing. And at the company picnics? Forget about it! "Hey MODOK, we need a sixth for basketball ... AAAGH, I've been killed! Why are you killing us? Basketball is for playing basketball, not for killing!" and I'd be all "Do I LOOK like a Mental Organism Designed For NOT Killing and Playing Basketball Instead (MODONKPBI)?" No, it was a mess all around.
Luckily, I've been reprogrammed as a MODOHBCRF (Mental Organism Designed Only for Hosting Bad Comic Related Features) ... so, settle back, kick off your in-lines, and ENJOY (Entertainment Now ...um ... no, Naively Just ... um ... Over ... shit, I'm out!)
Sometimes, you get thrown a curve. I returned from San Diego with a big, brassy and beautiful copy of Superman vs Muhammed Ali in my mitts. My intentions were good, as I intended to take this treasury-sized edition of Superman and - neverminding he was the greatest boxer of all time - what amounts to a fragile sack of boxing Earth-flesh, and relate to you in microscopic detail what surely was going to be a four-color anatomical study of Superman putting planet sized holes in Ali's ribcage, merely by forgetting his lines. I expected - nay, anticipated even - a really crappy comic ... and for that matter, it was, like, FIFTEEN TIMES LARGER than a regular comic, so it should be exponentially worse than even the worst comic, right?
Well, damn, it turns out that Superman vs Muhammed Ali is not only NOT a crappy comic, it's a downright GOOD comic. In fact, one of the best I've read in YEARS. Excellent pacing, nice and completely contrivance free plot twists and gimmicks, lots of empathy for ALL the main characters, and Adams' art was at an absolute peak. A four-star project, despite its somewhat flimsy premise.
And as screwed up as this is, the joy of reading a really good comic was almost overshadowed by the realization that what I expected to be a real prize for G&F had slipped out of my fingers. Luckily, while at the Con, I ALSO came across a copy of SKATEMAN, considered by many to be one of the worst comics ever done. One of those many is me, now. Wow. This comic. If a future civilization were to come across only copies of Superman vs Muhammed Ali and Skateman as the last remnants of our world, they'd think Neal Adams was a schizoid maniac, or our god of duality, or Two-Face. Whatever, as far as this book goes, Neal flipped the coin to the scarred-up, "let's make a book that sucks" side.
Actually, there's no clear indication that Adams wrote and drew this. Sure, it's in his style, but Neal oversees a lot of kids who work in his very imitable technique. Of course, Neal's name appears proudly (or, as proudly as possible, given the circumstances) right above the character name, although that could just as well imply Neal's proud ownership of the property. I really should've asked him while at the Con, but I was either drunk or apathetic, I can barely recall from the hazy obfuscation of miles of fanboy-flesh squeezing out all traces of oxygen and good taste.
But to the book! Skateman opens with a blinding action sequence, dropping us unceremoniously smack into the middle of an ongoing story. This is alright because the damn thing's gonna end right on the climax, more about that later.
The very first thing you notice about the book - besides the fact that you're laughing at the idea of a hard-boiled vigilante who kicks people with his roller skates - is that the cover is reproduced on the interior as the splash page. Always a sign of quality, that. Of course, they added dialogue, which includes Skateman's dynamic introductory line in his crimefighting debut:
"Hands off, jerkhole! ... We're forming a union! My foot and your face!"
So, you can see why I love this book.
It goes on from there, Skateman beating the hell out of some faceless thugs and ... of course ... skating the hell out of everything. During a hazy flashback (brought on by taking a damn 2x4 across his mug), we get a glimpse into the complex work of art that IS Skateman.
The story starts with Billy. I forget his last name, honestly, and I neglected to write it in my notes. I'm pretty sure they mention it in the book, but c'mon, I had to read this thing, like, EIGHT TIMES already, so have some pity on me. Anyway, it starts with Billy - a lifelong martial arts enthusiast - coming back from his Army stint in Vietnam to a new career as a - - - wait for it - - - ROLLER DERBY athlete! Yes'm, Billy finds fame, glory, and more as the star of the Roller Derby circuit. Unfortunately, it all falls apart for him when his best friend - and fellow Roller Derbier (what do we call these guys, anyway?) - "Jack" (Way to work those names, gang) is KILLED ... his death possibly owing to Billy's carelessness (but more likely to a gangster plot), Billy retreats into shrieking depression, cared for by his girlfriend Angel.
AND IT KEEPS GOING! Billy also befriends a local neighborhood "Beaner" (his words, not mine, folks) Paco, whom he teaches to "defend himself AND ride a skateboard." Teach what you know, I guess. This starts to help Billy out of his depression, until BIKERS KILL ANGEL! Thanks for being in the Dramatis Personae, hon, we really cared deeply for you as a character.
This sends Billy over the edge, and inspired by Paco's comic book collection, our flaxen-haired derby jockey adopts a disguise to strike terror into criminal's hearts - assuming the criminals live in Venice Beach and are easily scared - SKATEMAN!
Point of order. Here are the three things which have defined your life up to this point: You have studied martial arts for years, you served in the Army during the Vietnam War, and you roller skate. Which do YOU choose as the central theme for your career of masked vigilantism? Roller-skating? You're an idiot, someone please call Daredevil.
Let's fast forward to get through this. Billy is romanced by a girl named Jill, whose "personal brand of rock 'n' roll" - and a No-Prize
to whomever can explain what that means - and slavish devotion touch his
tender heart. Jill gets abducted by bikers, who apparently are in league with migrant workers to bring "shit" (according to the only black man who gets a speaking role in the book - I think he's
Rudy, from Fat Albert) into the country. Billy slaps on a pair of cotton briefs and a scarf around his head and rollerskates FOR JUSTICE, and is aided by a Newsboy Legion of
As an aside, all the hispanic people in this book are apparently migrant workers. This alone is just not right. Then all the white people are either bikers or disco dancers. And all the black people in this book aren't anywhere to be seen at all. (Okay, except for Rudy). This is just one of many things that are chronically not right with this book.
Anyway, here's my favorite part of this book:
The thing ends on a climax. Like, the last thing we see is Skateman rescuing Jill from a massive explosion at the evil bikers' hideout, barely keeping ahead of the flame and shockwave, while Paco cheers on from the sidelines, shocked and amazed, and then the word "Finis" is on the page. Boom. The end. No plot strings tied up, no "to
be continued" (Though it pretty obviously was intended to be), no questions answered, no satisfaction delivered.
I'm not sure I have the words to describe how jarring it is to have a story end on the climax. Like, try to picture this; Luke Skywalker flies into the Death Star trench, Vader follows him, Solo ambushes Vader's TIE fighter and Luke drops in the blast that destroys the Death Star ... the Death Star EXPLODES ... freeze on the explosion, roll credits. Boom. The end. Unsatisfying, right? How about - Indiana Jones is tied up at the post, the Nazis open the Ark, they all melt - freeze frame, roll credits. Agh! Or, here's another example: This book sucks.
But Skateman sure doesn't fail to deliver! No, rather than leaving with us with a story which abruptly ends at no logical point, it brings us THREE stories that fail to end in any satisfactory manner.
The first backup is "Futureworld," featuring art by Andy Kubert from back when he used to draw a lot like his father, and less like not any good whatsoever. The story focuses on a post-apocalyptic future where a single brave youth - Korlak - must brave the wastelands and terrible dangers of two panels worth of flying a big zeppelin to get to "The Great Machine."
The "Great Machine" turns out to be an old Nuclear Power Plant, which we know because Korlak exclaims, upon seeing it, "Th-the Great Machine! It lives! A WORKING ATOMIC REACTOR!" ... Of course, in his very next word balloon, he muses "I have never seen such contrivances." Then how did you know it was a nuclear power plant, you dope? Korlak broke kayfabe. The rube.
The next story is "The Rock Warrior," which is what I'm gonna name my first-born. Here's the plot, as figured out following somewhere between the twelfth and fifteenth read: Edgar is a boxer. Om is an inventor. They used to be partners in adventure until Edgar settled down, married, and had a daughter - Angie. Om accidentally drops his new invention - a handheld personal teleporter - while rushing to get some free lunch. The infant Angie grabs the thing and sends her and her father on a wild tour of dangerous spots throughout the universe. Along the way, Angie and Edgar meet the Rock Warrior, Om's twin (apparently fraternal) brother who fights crime with a space guitar. After a near miss rescuing Angie from a death ride in a giant missile, the duo come home, safe and sound.
Now, here's what the story felt like during the first eight thousand exhausting
efforts of making heads or tails of it: This guy with the stripes and this
guy and he has a teleporter, right? Then the baby grabs it and the guy I don't remember who go through time and the Space Warrior plays his guitar
and then they have to stop the missile so they go into space and they fight
it with lasers and then it's over and they're back home and the guy with the stripes, he says "should we tell them" and the baby says "Wok! Wah Wah!"
I hate to admit I enjoyed the whole Skateman experience - Rock Warrior and Skateman more than "Futureworld," just for the former duo's excessive incompetence and insanity - but I get to qualify it by saying I enjoyed it in the same manner as I enjoyed Manos, The Hands Of Fate, or groin injuries on America's Funniest Home Videos. On a final note, Skateman ends with this
line, tacked on to the end of the Rock Warrior story:
"Ok, readers. Do you want to see more of Rock Warrior? It's up to you, then. Write in!"
I can't resist when creative teams beg for support. Needless to say, I have pen in hand as we speak. How many "R"s in "Warrior?"