Wednesday, August 20, 2014


"An original story" is right. 
If you’re running a blog about weird and messed up comics, then something like the first – and only? One almost prays it’s the only – comic book story printed entirely on a single roll of toilet paper kind of writes itself.

To be fair though, judging solely by this very experience, you get stopped at the gate wondering just how many poop-related puns to launch with. Would starting with “In the annals of comicdom” be too much of a stretch, is it fair to call it the “first undeniably-crappy comic” in history, is it wrong to suggest the heroes ply their trade to wipe evil from the whole world? PS poop poop poop.

Because someone's about to wipe their ass with your face, probably.
The Gamma Gambit, a comic story told entirely via the medium of toilet paper (and thank goodness this was in the days before Baxter printing. Imagine if this thing were prestige-bound), was a genuinely odd bit of promotional merchandise produced by something called “Oh!Dawn Inc” operating out of New York, because where else would they be?

Novelty printed toilet paper rolls isn’t only a disappointing tongue-twister, it was also a niche product not uncommon in the tackiness-obsessed late Seventies and early Eighties. This was the era in which Spencer’s Gifts became the world’s third-largest economy solely on the sales of blacklight posters and pens where the girls got naked if you turned them upside down.  To my recollection, they sold toilet paper rolls with dirty jokes printed on them, to give you something to do in the bathroom besides voiding your bowels. This was the world before Smartphones, guys, it was like caveman times, I don’t know how we survived.

Gamma Gambit – featuring Spider-Man and the Hulk – is comics’ thankfully sole entry into the medium, although I suppose there may have been comics on toilet paper rolls before this. Ideally they would have been drawn on the rolls, but … um, maybe one time a comic strip ended up on a sheet of toilet paper by, um, accident, you know? Maybe by remarkable happenstance, or unprecedented amounts of muscular precision, someone was able to make a comic on toilet tissue? Surely that would constitute a miracle; they’d wall off the place where it happened and charge admission.

That Mechanoid is adorable.
No such mysterious wonders were at work on this product, a six page comic scripted by Marvel editor Jim Salicrup and drawn by Michael Higgins, and unfortunately not labeled “FIRST TISSUE SPECIAL” which is what I would have done. Printed in inoffensive blue ink on what I assume was a sturdy yet traditional toilet paper tissue – and not cardstock, one hopes – the short story documents a chance encounter between Peter Parker and Bruce Banner at a scientific exhibition, where a powerful new engine is debuted which attracts the attention of The Leader and his titanic “Mechanoid” battle armor. Then you wipe your butt with it.

The brevity of the story is something of a relief; I was a wee’yin when tis product was on the shelves, and I remember being inordinately stressed about the idea of the roll being one long story. Imagine if someone used the bathroom in between your own visits, you’d miss whole pages of the story! What if they were a paper hog? What if it had been Manwich night? You might miss a whole chapter! Thankfully, toilet roll comics are digital now.

Since it’s a six-page story on a toilet paper sheet, it’s almost hilariously brief. I mean, this was the age of the oversized Marvel Treasury Edition, would it have killed them to make this thing tabloid sized? (No, but it would have demolished your plumbing) Still, absolutely only the essential plot points can be touched on – the two heroes meet, the engine is described, the Leader shows up, fights the Hulk, fights Spidey, is defeated, and then you flush.

Despite being such a brief story, though, I do hope it’s in canon. I’d love to see the “Gamma Generator” or the “Mechanoid” referenced in a modern comic, with a little asterisk and a “*See Gamma Gambit” credit in a little yellow box in the panel corner - or possibly one of those Marvel “AR” enhanced reality things. It could lead to a little video with blue-lined faces of the characters slowly floating by as an intern reads the dialogue – for the first time ever, it’ll explain why it sounds like they record those things in a bathroom!

Despite not making much of a splash beyond the initial bugfuckery of its mere existence, The Gamma Gambit does seem to promise a world of comics printed on every paper surface imaginable.  Hospital gowns, marriage licenses, the Google Maps results you print out for your parents because they still don’t know how the GPS works on their phones, Kleenex … “I gotta sneeze, but not before I find out if The Defenders can beat Annihilu – aaaaaaah aaaaHHH CHOO! Shit, now I have to wait for the trade tissueback.”

Frankly, that seems like the least of your problems right now.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I never heard about this until just a few days ago when it came up in a discussion about what the Grand Comics Database should & shouldn't catalog.

IIRC it was deemed more of a comics publication then Wolverine Saga.


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