Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Continuity Comics Part 3: Cover Story

Continuity Comics is a strange traveler in comics history; its roots are with its creator Neal Adams in the exceptionally mainstream 1970s, its origins date back to the first big indie boom of the 1980s, its heyday was in the tumultuous market-driven 1990s and, today, it sort of gamely pokes at motion comics and licensed properties via its internet hub.

If there were a particular era, however, where Continuity most seemed at home, it would definitely be in the Nineties: Bloodier and grimmer than the average super-hero or adventure comic, loaded with terse codenames and stabby knife-hands and the like, muddily colored, utterly unedited, and – most importantly – ultimately subscribing to the gimmick cover phenomenon.

Some day I will light this fucking thing
on fire, I swear ...
There was a time, not so long ago, when every new comics day meant a rainbow of gimmick covers spread out across your local shop’s “Latest Releases” rack: gold foil, silver foil, platinum foil and holograms, glow-in-the-dark, embossed and die-cut, drilled-through and sweetly made love to in the men’s bathroom at Brenner Printing by the weird guy who works the night shift (not to mention a plethora of polybagged cards, pogs and – in the exceptionally grim case of the Death of Superman issue – a black armband).

Continuity certainly couldn’t resist the allure of the gimmick cover, so a decent number of their own stock came out with bells and whistles.

During its Deathwatch 2000 crossover - stay tuned for Deathwatches 2001 through 2011, we’re due! – Continuity invested heavily in the stereogrammatic process, which was a process requiring the viewer to stand staring cross-eyed at a dorm room wall until the pot leaf became visible.

As amusing an idea as it is to picture hundreds of comic book readers staring cross-eyed at inside covers, the pay-off was less than ambitious – you had revealed to you the Deathwatch 2000 logo, which was plastered over all the front of the comic and across a bazillion pages of advertising besides.

Here’s a quick run-down of some of Continuity’s other gimmick covers:
  • Crazyman – or, as I like to call it, “The most sensitive portrayal of mental illness in the history of everything” – joined the die-cut fervor with a Golden Book-style shaped book featuring Crazyman getting his head molested by the hand of an unseen assailant. If that don’t sell a book, I don’t know what will.
  • Hybrids had one of the most annoying cover gimmicks ever – a thermodynamic patch which was supposed to change color under the heat of your hand to reveal the primary villain of the series. I own this goddamn book and I can promise you that it DOES. NOT. WORK. I literally even dropped freshly dried laundry on it once, hoping to generate some result, but no juice. Evidently, the enemy of the series was an indistinct orange blob. Next up, I’m going to light this thing on fire.
  • Ms.Mystic, who typically wore zip-a-tone body stockings in her appearances, was portrayed statically dishabille on one cover of her own comic via stereogrammatic printing, capitalizing on the idea that a teenage boy will stare cross-eyed at something for hours providing it vaguely resembles tits in some fashion.
  • The Hybrids and Megalith also had some common-or-garden foil covers while Cyberrad has a hologram card insert. Booo! Bring on the mulch and phosphorus covers! Where’s the imagination?

There are probably twenty thousand
copies of this thing floating in that swirling
plastic mass in the Pacific Ocean ...
The best of all of them, however, was Continuity’s love affair with TYVEK, a space-age polymer out of which the company’s later covers were uniformly made, and which Continuity advertised as “INDESTRUCTIBLE”. I have not yet put this to the test, although I bet I probably could. I could always huck it on the fire with that thermodynamic issue of Hybrids.

Tyvek is a material used in environmental hazard suits and those wristbands you get at street fairs which allow you to drink beer (by which I mean they identify you as old enough to drink beer and that you’ve shown ID to the right people, not that it physically allows you to drink beer. I expect you knew that. Sorry, I’ve been drinking beers. Probably because of all the Tyvek I have lying around now) and which are impossible to remove without a blowtorch or Wolverine.

Additionally, Tyvek is meant to be recyclable BUT you can’t just huck it in your blue bin and wait for the nice garbage collector to take it away. It has to be specially disposed of in a dedicated facility. Which makes it additionally hilarious that the Tyvek was used on the covers of Ms Mystic and URTH 4, two books whose heroes were meant to be super-powered protectors of the environment…

Yeah, see what I mean?
Bucky O’Hare
Continuity’s entry into the world of anthropomorphic action-adventure, and arguably the one title least messed with by Adams in his role as enthusiastic editorial overseer. Produced by Larry Hama and Michael Golden, the series started in the Continuity anthology Echoes of Futurepast and ended up in its own graphic novel, video game, cartoon series and toy line. So, arguably the most successful of the Continuity properties, providing there hasn’t been a Cable ACE Award-winning Crazyman miniseries I’ve missed running over on HBO. Larry David’s Cyberrad. Something like that.

Bucky O’Hare got a lot of credit for its serious and violent tone, and to this day a lot of fans of the series praise it for its maturity. I’m gonna get some mail from those folks but – it’s a shoot-em-up about a green rabbit in space fighting robot toads with help from a displaced tweenie human pal. There’s only so much maturity you can cram into such a thing, this ain’t Usagi Yojimbo exactly…

Rockstar Simon Peak awakens one day to find his memory wiped, parts of his body replaced with cybernetic weapons and implants, and some dumb robot pursuing him for whatever reason. I don’t know from any of that, except that – having read several dozen assorted Continuity offerings - I envied Cyberrad for having his mind wiped.

Everything in the Continuity line at this point is relatively bog-standard Continuity-brand yelling and half-swears, but Cyberrad takes it to a whole new dimension with: MOTION COMICS! Never letting a property die a dignified death – or live a dignified life, I suppose – modern Continuity studios has put together a Cyberrad motion comic, complete with live action and oh-let’s-say slightly substandard cgi sequences to create something that looks like an even more adolescent version of Cool World or A-Ha’s Take On Me Pt2: The Reckoning:

You could certainly read a whole series like this, right?
Ms Mystic and URTH 4
Urth! Ayre! Fyre! Watr! I’m clearly having a stroke!

Urth 4 had debuted back in Ms.Mystic’s Pacific Comics series as The Elementals, but then were sat on for a decade and whoopsie Bill Willingham came along and claimed the name for his excellent-at-the-time-but-have-you-tried-rereading-it-since title of that specific name (i.e. The Elementals, not “excellent-at-the … “ etc etc). Anyway, I’ll give you a dollar if you can guess the super-powers of each of the individual members of URTH 4, and then I’ll take the dollar away because, for Christs sake, look at ‘em.

Ms Mystic herself was a victim of 17th century witch-trials, except she was also apparently actually a witch, so … score one for the witch-trials. She returned as a heavy investor in zip-a-tone with a bend for environmental issues and for staggering out a publishing schedule over a decade or so.

Special insider knowledge for you aficionados of Urth 4: The guy who turned into Urth would suddenly find himself speaking in a Thor-ful pidgin Elizabethan dialect whenever he transformed and also, believe it or not, his name was Dwight Godd. Of the Pennsylvania Godds. Here’s some more special insider knowledge for you aficionados of Urth 4: There are no aficionados of Urth 4.

Hint: It's the one with claws.
The Hybrids – or “Highbreeds”, enh – consisted of seven half-human/half-alien super-people from a baker’s half-dozen of alien worlds in this half-baked half-witted geegaw. See what I did there? Half jokes is what I did there.

The Hybrids consisted of Cyclone, Gymcrack, Horror, Hyperion, Mite, Sheath and Sprang, and if you say them all out loud in a row without pausing then you sound like a maniac.

The plot of the comic centered around the fact that all seven of the Hybrids shared a psychic link, despite the vast intergalactic distance between their homeworlds. United by their common Earthling heritage, they all came here to crash on our couch while shooting raybeams at robots and monsters and stuff.

You recall how incomprehensible your average Continuity Comic was with just ONE protagonist? How jumbled and impossible-to-follow Toyboy was, or Armor, or Samuree? Okay, try seven protagonists in one book. It’s like tuning all the televisions in Sears’ electronics department to a different channel and blasting the volume. PS Guess which one of these guys was their Wolverine…

Valeria The She-Bat
Okay. Valeria the She-Bat was legitimately so lame a character that I had her conflated with another company’s incredibly lame she-bat superhero.

Valeria is a hybrid, specifically a were-bred, more specifically a were-bat, and also somehow a fashion model. More famously, though, Valeria was intended to enjoy a crossover with Todd Mcfarlane’s Spawn – a crossover on which McFarlane voted with his feet, pulling out for reasons of his own. The Spawn appearances were redrawn to involve Knighthawk. That right there accounts for pretty much everything I know about Valeria the She-Bat, except this was the one Continuity/Windjammer comic that finally got to get the female lead almost raped. A RED-LETTER DAY!



Awesome work!

Casanova Frankenstein said...

I, for one, am glad that there is a bottomless-pit of comic book suck.
Great job. Keep up the good work!

Wooly Rupert said...

Yeah, I was convinced in Part 2 that Continuity sucked it long and sucked it hard. More Luke Cage villains!!! (ha-WINK)

Reid said...

Fantastic blog!

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