COVER STORIES for 02/18/2007
COVER STORIES INSTALLMENT #93
Welcome, faithful readers (and those of you joining us for the first time) to the 89th installment of Cover Stories, the weekly column in which I, Jon B. Knutson, present a group of covers with a common theme (unless I'm doing an installment of one of the sub-series of Cover Stories, 1-10 or this week's installment)!
This time around, it's time once again for...
This time around, a break from the "Drive-In Movie Classics," as we look at three one-shot books from an alternate reality!
With the popularity of The Greatest American Hero, it's no surprise that one of the comics companies would do an adaptation of it... and I'd imagine most people figured it'd be Marvel. But as it turned out, it was Gold Key!
How about that cover blurb? Nice and generic, isn't it? Well, it doesn't really say much about the story at all, so I suspect it was generic on purpose.
The first page of the story inside is a nice quickie retelling of how Ralph Hinkley and Agent Maxwell met, Ralph getting the super-suit, and losing the instructions... I've often thought more TV show adaptations should do something like this in the first issue to get readers up to speed, you know?
The actual story begins on the second page, and it opens in Ralph's classroom. It seems the kids in his class have to put on a play (didn't they do that on the TV show?), and they've picked Romeo and Juliet. Or at least, they think they picked it (although the dialogue seems to indicate Ralph planted it in their heads). They're in the midst of a read-through when Agent Maxwell shows up to interrupt the reading, and Ralph and Maxwell are off on another adventure!
Well, the two of them and Pam, Ralph's girlfriend... seems Maxwell wrecked one car too many, and the Bureau won't issue him a new car for a while, so he recruited Pam to drive him around. As it turns out, Pam has a connection to the current case Maxwell's on, as her client was involved with a group of criminals (what they did isn't explained, really... apparently the writer wasn't sure what would be a Federal crime or not), and had offered to turn State's Evidence in order to get a lighter sentence. However, while on the way to the courthouse from his cell, the client, "Greasy" Mike Geller was intercepted by members of the group he was going to turn evidence against! Maxwell hasn't had much luck tracking the missing Geller on his own, so naturally, he's turned to Ralph.
The three go to a restaurant where "Lucky" Luke Baldwin, the reputed leader of the criminal gang dines every night, and Maxwell figures Ralph can use the suit's psychometric powers on Baldwin's checked-in coat to get an idea where Geller is being held. While Ralph is doing this, Maxwell is distracting Baldwin, basically by being a pushy Fed on him. Ralph gets a "reading" on the coat, but all he sees is an office with a mountain view... which doesn't seem likely for Los Angeles!
The three of them are hungry by this time, and stop at a diffrerent restaurant for something to eat, Maxwell's treat - which turns out to be a hot dog stand. As they stand there eating their hot dogs, Ralph notices a billboard which looks familiar to him... and realizes that the billboard has a photo of a mountain on it - the same mountain that Ralph saw when he "read" the coat! Pam mentions those billboards are all over the city, and so the three of them head off in Pam's VW Bug to everywhere Pam remembers seeing one of the billboards, looking to see which ones face an office building. After a few false starts, they find one very prominently facing an office building, so Maxwell figures it's where Geller is. Maxwell then has Pam wander through the building, looking for anything suspicious... like guards standing by doorways. She's given a walkie-talkie to keep in touch, while Ralph and Maxwell position themselves across the street, next to the billboard, so once they know which office is the right one, Ralph can fly across and break in to rescue Geller.
Pam assumes the pose of a door-to-door saleswoman (although she has nothing to sell) while she sees which offices are used for what. Finally, she comes to one office that doesn't have an identifying sign on the door, just one reading "Private". She tries the knob and finds it unlocked... but is pulled inside by a pair of thugs asking her what she thinks she's doing. She spots Geller tied in the corner of the office, and quickly manages to press the "transmit" button of her walkie-talkie so Maxwell and Ralph can hear what's going on. Ralph strips down to the super-suit to rescue Pam and Geller, but since he doesn't fly so great, he crashes into a neighboring office (and passes the crash off as a publicity stunt for a movie), then runs down the hall to the correct office, busting the door down and bouncing bullets off the suit. He takes out the bad guys, and Maxwell arrives shortly. Fortunately, Geller was blindfolded, so he couldn't see Ralph's super-stunts, and Ralph and Pam leave the room before Geller is untied.
Later, we see the performance of Ralph's students in "Romeo and Juliet", with Pam and Maxwell in the audience. It turns out the kids turned the play into a rock and roll musical! Afterwards, Maxwell says he preferred "West Side Story," which the kids don't show any awareness of.
Probably one of the more difficult sitcoms to attempt a comics adaptation of, this was the only issue of "Mork and Mindy". As you can see from the scan below, I've been lucky enough to get a copy signed by Robin Williams - how's that for luck, eh?
As the cover promises, Exedore appears in this only issue of the comic.. but he's not in there at the very beginning! It's nearing Halloween in Boulder, and at the music store, Mindy's father and her grandmother are getting the store decorated... well, Cora's decorating, Mindy's father is mostly grousing about how silly Halloween is. Mork and Mindy arrive to help with the decorating, but just about all that's left to do is carving the Jack O'Lantern... something Mork's not familiar with. Mindy tells him about cutting the top off, scooping out the seeds... and Mork instantly goes mad, deciding he needs to protect the pumpkin from the vile treachery of "Mindy the Ripper!" He darts around the store as Mindy and her family try to intercept him. Finally, she explains the pumpkin doesn't feel anything, it's just a vegetable ("Of course it's a vegetable, you're going to perform a lobotomy on it!" Mork quips). Mork finally agrees to give the pumpkin back to Mindy, but he refuses to cut into it... instead, he reacts as Mindy cuts as though he were being cut himself! Mindy suggests if it's too gruesome for him, he could run to the store and get candy for the trick-or-treaters (which she promises to explain later). She hands him some cash, and Mork leaves.
En route to the store, Mork runs into Exedore, who claims he's been looking all over for Mork ("Well, I've been at home, and then at Mindy's father's music store," Mork explains. "Ah! The only two places I didn't look for you!" Exedore replies). Exedore announces that he's on a vital mission to protect the Earth from invaders from beyond! When Mork asks what invaders, Exedore explains he means aliens... to which Mork, of course, says that aliens aren't invaders, they just like to check things out and scare people who live in trailer parks. But Exedore insists that evil aliens are going to arrive in Boulder on Halloween night, and that only he and Mork can possibly stop their evil plan. Exedore makes Mork promise to meet him in the orchard outside town at midnight so they can thwart the evil aliens, and to keep it a secret from every living soul. ("Can't I even tell Mindy?" Mork asks. "Is she a living soul?" Exedore inquires. "You'd better believe it, my man!" Mork enthusiastically replies.)
Later, Mork arrives at Mindy's apartment loaded up with candy... enough to take care of every trick-or-treater in the entire state, according to Mindy! She then explains to Mork about trick-or-treating, which leads to some typical Morkisms ("Ah, I see... by disguising themselves, no one has to know that they are begging for food!" is one of them). There are some humorous moments as various trick-or-treaters arrive, including a few children dressed as aliens.
That night, after Mindy goes to sleep, Mork sneaks off into the night to meet up with Exedore in the orchard. Mork still isn't quite convinced that any evil aliens are on their way, but Exedore is still certain... he has pages upon pages of calculations that prove the time and location! Mork looks over them inquisitively, and after a few moments, he tells Exedore that he missed a few decimal points... and the aliens aren't going to arrive for another 60 years or more! Exedore is relieved ("I didn't think the two of us would be able to fight them all off!"), and makes Mork promise to meet him there again in 60 more years.
Mork goes home, only to find Mindy waiting up for him...she'd awoken and saw Mork was gone, and was worried. Mork explains what happened, and lets her know the world is safe... for another 60 years, at least!
Mork then makes his report to Orson... explaining the Earth Halloween customs, and how people like to be scared for entertainment purposes.
Overall, not a bad issue... but it's hard to get Robin Williams' energy on paper, you know?
So, you'll recall that when I posted the first of the "Drive-In Movie Classics" covers so long ago, I mentioned that the hope was that one of the issues would sell well enough that Charlton could spin it off into an ongoing series, like they'd done previously with "Konga," "Gorgo," and "Reptilicus"?
Well, apparently issue 23, featuring the adaptation of "Them!", sold very well, indeed... so about six or seven months after that issue hit the stands, the one-shot you see above appeared!
Now, does that cover art look a little familiar? Perhaps it should...
Yes, this art was previously used for the cover of Mysteries Of Unexplored Worlds #29, from back when comics were still 10 cents each! Apparently, in the rush to get this sequel out (and, presumably, the first in an ongoing series, although I've only found evidence of this single issue), someone completely forgot to prepare any cover art whatsoever (either that, or the alternate theory is that the cover art that was prepared got lost or accidentally destroyed somewhere along the line).
Anyway, this issue takes up about six months after the end of the original movie. The only returning characters are police Sgt. Benjamin Peterson, FBI Agent Bob Graham, and Doctor Patricia Medford (the "romantic triangle" in the original movie - the absence of Pat's father, Dr. Harold Medford, isn't mentioned or explained). At the beginning of the issue, these three are making a report to the government about the giant ants, and how they were all supposedly destroyed (thanks to flashbacks using artwork from Drive-In Movie-Classics #23). But they warn that they can't really be 100 percent certain that all the ant nests were found, and so constant vigilance must be maintained.
The government official they're reporting to (not specifically identified, but since he's in a suit and tie, we can guess he's either the president or the head of the FBI... more likely than not the president) agrees, and has them lead a special task force to make a thorough search of the Southwest and beyond. He also tells them he'll be assigning them a group of 20 of our best military men, who will be commanded by Army Captain Gordon Douglas (an aside here: Named after the director of the movie!). The full cooperation of all military and law enforcement agents is also guaranteed.
As this meeting is taking place, the scene changes to Nevada, where a group of boys are riding their bicycles outside of Las Vegas (of course it's Las Vegas!), and they see a large hole off the side of the road. Of course, when they tell their parents and the police about this hole (as well as the giant ant they saw come out of it), nobody believes them.
All this takes place in the first six pages of this issue, believe it or not, including the splash page!
From this point, things take their expected turn, as the task force (which, it should be noted, are not only responsible for making sure there are no more giant ants, but also to be on the lookout for any other mutated insects) - code-named G.I.A.N.T. (for Giant Insect Absolute Neutralization Team) - set up a hotline system of sorts, making sure that all local law enforcement stations are made aware of the potential threat. While the wheels are set in motion, Pat uses weather pattern charts in an attempt to determine what direction other queen ants may have gone in to set up potential nests - and she is shocked to realize that Las Vegas is right on the line that the giant ants could have migrated along.
An army troop transport is made immediately available, and the team fly to Nevada, where the giant ants have begun to more aggressively attack. GIANT adds their might to the local forces to drive the ants back (using some special weaponry developed especially for GIANT - since flamethrowers have proven so successful before, they're provided with rocket launchers which have special shells which are filled with a highly flammable liquid - I'd guess it's basically napalm being used here, but it's referred to as the Greek Fire of mythology).
Anyway, after several pages of battling the ants, GIANT invades the nest, and there, they discover that more queens had been born there, and so there's still going to be more nests to track down and destroy!
Overall, this was a fun read, and I kind of hope that there were more issues created that I can track down!
So that's the three comics for this edition of "Comics They Never Made," so let's shut down the Kurtzberg Alternate Reality device, and get ready to look at comics you can actually find at a local convention... next time around!
Join me next time for another installment of "Cover Stories," in which I'll present some covers that revisit a previous topic, and in the meantime, you can check out my blog at http://waffyjon.blogspot.com for other musings and ramblings by me, or email me with comments about this column at !