Wednesday, April 2, 2014


In the 1970s, we held stuntmen, daredevils and high-wire artists in the sort of awe reserved for conquering heroes home from the war or the best-hung of male porn stars - just blind, nail-biting wonder, admiration and a soupcon of vicarious terror. It might almost be impossible to reconcile this with the shape of the world after the advent of extreme sports - hell, I've seen guys on So You Think You Can Dance pull moves that make the Snake River rocket-sled jump look like playing hopscotch with a Care Bear on a pillow farm.

Still, we held the stuntman to an ideal of physical perfection, hedonism, and self-sacrifice for the greatest cause America has or will ever know - entertainment consumerism, and the King of the Daredevils was clearly Evel Knievel.

"Damn, if only I owned a motorcycle or a jet-car!"
We had Hooper, we had George Willig, we had Rick Rojatt, but we never had another daredevil quite like Evel Knievel. A charismatic and telegenic man who combined Elvis looks and Elvis showmanship with “almost dying in a fiery explosion” to create a phenomenon that carried him through an entire decade and into the Guinness Book of World Records, Knievel is a man with an almost limitlessly compelling backstory.

Unfortunately, it’s not his story that’s the focus of this contemporary comic book release, but rather a promotional effort to sell the Evel Knievel line of stunt toys which Ideal manufactured in the early Seventies. Available as a giveaway at toy stores, the book catalogs Evel’s attempts to perfect a series of new stunts at his new stunt stadium (which doubles as a protective enclave for endangered Everglades wildlife – no trick missed, the toys get tied into the awakening environmental movement plus having an enclosure full of alligators on the premises sure makes it a handy place to accidentally crash your jet cycle).

Knievel’s practice runs are sabotaged by Mr.Danger, a black-clad baddie who is actually “local racketeer”  and real estate developer Bernie Hutton, who had plans to take the failed stunt stadium down and replace it with an industrial park. For extra evil, he’ll also force the animals of the Everglades to work there as temps, but with limited bathroom breaks and no free sodas in the break room. The cheek!

Well he just flat out looks like a penis here.
Practicing the individual stunts themselves would be sufficient to get Evel onto replicas of all the assorted toys sold by Ideal as part of their line, but having a baddie means he gets to use them in exciting chases. A personal favorite is Evel’s Sunt-And-Crash car which is intentionally designed to “fly apart on impact” so as to protect Evel from harm. That’s a good line, Detroit, and I bet someone planned to use it.

Evel also makes use of a Sky Hook Ramp, a semi-replica of his “Canyon Sky Cycle”, his stuntcycle (revved up by a “Gyro-Powered Energizer” – i.e. “a crank”) and, of course, the piece de resistance, his “Scramble Van”.  The features of the Scramble Van, described as a “fabulous rolling workshop office lounge” (and not, as the name implies, a delicious Denny’s breakfast special), according to captions within the story, include:

  • A slide-up windshield
  • Flip-up read door
  • Slide-out side panels
  • A mountable jump ramp for stunts

What isn’t but ought to be included are:

  • Full crash cart and paramedics on call
  • A wall map of all 433 broken bones in Evel’s  body
  • A consent form for risky surgery
  • Insurance documents identifying the next of kin
  • Morphine

With the aid of his pals, franchise partner and former Hollywood stuntman Ray Bradley and Ray’s son Dan, Evel is able to put a kibosh on Mr.Danger’s plans without ever having to resort to the pesky bother of calling the police. Who needs to place a phone call to the cops when you have all of these exciting toys and accessories that complete your Ideal Evel Knievel Stuntman playset, ready for adventure!

You're breaking the hearts of some of your most devoted fans with your prejudice, Evel.

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