COVER STORIES for 07/08/2007
COVER STORIES INSTALLMENT #114
Welcome, faithful readers (and those of you joining us for the first time) to the 109th 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...
Today, I present four new comics never published in our reality, and a real mixed bag they are!
The Greatest American Hero #1
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 different 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.
Next up, we go back to the 1960s, for Tennessee Tuxedo #1 (and only)!
This one-shot was apparently a bit of a trial-run for Gold Key, to test the waters before committing to an ongoing series (they'd done this before with the single issues of Astro Boy and Atom Ant). This issue, creators unknown, featured two stories plus a filler, that appear to have been taken directly from the Tennessee Tuxedo cartoons (although strangely, these were cartoons that had appeared in the "Underdog" cartoon).
The issue's lead tale is entitled "Tennessee Tuxedo in The Rainmakers."
At zoo, TT and Chumley leave the zoo, dressed as weathermen to get jobs, to prove they're as smart as humans. They're interviewed and are hired. They relax in the office, Tennessee playing guitar. Man shows up complaining about rain predicted that never came, shoots up office. He says to make it rain, or else!
Chumley wants to quit, but Tennessee won't quit... tells Chumley to make it rain. Chumley tries to perform rain dance. He learned how from a library book, an Indian history book. Chumley says he's part Indian - a Blackfoot! "That's hysterical, Chumley." Tennessee doesn't know how to make rain, either... so they go to see the man with all the answers, Mr. Whoopee!
Phineas J. Whoopee is told what's going on, and he gets out the 3DBB, which is in the closet (like McGee's closet). He expands it, and starts drawing... rain comes from clouds, clouds are made of droplets of water, so light they stay in the sky and float around. As the cloud floats around, droplets bump into each other and join until they're too heavy to stay in the sky, and whoopee, it rains! One way to make it rain is to fly over the clouds in a plane and sprinkle thousands of pieces of dry ice on it. Chumley wants to know how to dry ice. That's just a special kind of ice, like ice cream men use to keep the ice cream cold in their trucks! When you sprinkle dry ice in the clouds, it's called seeding, because each seed makes the droplets grow bigger. Of course, it doesn't work every time!
And soon, our heroes and Whoopee are flying over the sky. Chumley is entrusted to sprinkle the dry ice, and drops out of the plane, followed by Tennessee... parachutes keep them safe, and they drift down... the ice was dropped on the clouds, and it starts to rain, and they come down at the weather office. But there's a noise as they come down... a crowd is angry at them for making it rain, and ruining their hair, golf games, etc. The crowd realizes they're animals, not weathermen, and they chase after the duo, who run back to the zoo.
They failed again, but Chumley said they didn't goof entirely, they learned something... Chumley poem: "Rain rain, go away, that is what the people say. Other people want it teeming, when it is not, they are screaming. But one thing we have learned that's true, the weather business isn't easy if you're a penguin, or a walrus, and be it ever so humdrum, there's no place like home."
Sometimes, Chumley, you're just too deep.
Before the second feature, there's the one-page gag, "A Riddle." This was a feature in the Tennessee Tuxedo program, and as there, it opens with a rocket blasting off, and Tennessee, Chumley, and Professor Whoopee are inside, suited up. Chumley says, "Here's a riddle: What do you call a sleeping cow?"
Tennessee replies, "I don't know. What do you call a sleeping cow?"
Professor Whoopee says, "I know!" and turns on a TV screen and says,, "A bull-dozer!" and they all laugh.
The issue wraps up with the Go Go Gophers in "Moon Zoom".
Colonel Kit Coyote arrives up at the fort, and he and Sergeant Okie Homa go out after the Gophers, who stole buffalo guns and clothes from the fort. The Colonel is surprised to hear there's only two of them. The gophers drop rocks on the pair.
Ruffled Feather and Running Board meet up, and Running Board tells Ruffled Father what happened, but the Colonel is still coming. Running Board's next idea is to put the Colonel on the moon! They build a rocket from wood, disguising it underground with a teepee over the nosecone. The Colonel and the Sergeant show up at the scene, seeing signs and charge into a big hole in the ground. They follow a tunnel to where it's being finished by the gophers, who build fake root beer stand. Col and Sgt enter, and fall off cliff behind.
They see the teepee, charge in, and the gophers close it, raising the rocket out of the ground and light fuse, rocket shoots into space, and it lands on moon.
Here he comes, here comes Speed Racer, he's a demon on wheels!
Yes, at the height of the Trans-Lux Productions translated anime, Speed Racer, Gold Key Comics put out this great one-shot issue!
And I'm guessing the reason there wasn't a #2 was because someone forgot to change the cover price on this issue to 15 cents!
Anyway... the full cast from the show appears this issue... Speed, Trixie, Pops, Sparky, Racer X, even Inspector Detector... and, of course, the Car Acrobatic Team!
Speed and the gang are getting the Mach 5 ready for the incredible Amazon River Race, which will go down a special track built alongside the Amazon River. Of course, this will be a dangerous race, as there are all kinds of dangers along the river... and the track is basically just a dirt road!
Speed finds out his chief competitors in the race will be Racer X (secretly Speed's older brother, Rex, who left home many years before) and the Car Acrobatic Team, who tell Speed he'd better not even race in this competition, because he'd just be wasting his time to lose a race!
Of course, the plot can't be that simple... Inspector Detector is also there, tracing some stolen gems. He asks Speed to keep an eye out for any sign of them (on a race down the Amazon River????), and Speed agrees.
Just before the start of the race, Spridle (Speed's little brother) and Chim-Chim (Spridle's monkey) stow away in the Mach 5's trunk (as they ALWAYS do), and the race is on! Speed gets an early lead, but the Car Acrobatic Team's tactics allow them to get ahead (their cars are equipped to let them "skip" over the water like a thrown stone, so they don't need to rely on the road itself). Racer X is keeping an eye on Speed while they race, in case his brother encounters any trouble.
Meanwhile, in the sky above, Trixie is following along in her helicopter, and reporting back to Pops and Sparky on Speed's progress. She's momentarily blinded by a bright light ahead on the track, and nearly loses control of her helicopter!
Along the river, Speed is wondering how he can make up for being behind when a rainstorm starts... causing the waters of the river to overflow, and washing out the road! This is no problem for Speed, though, who uses the Mach 5's buzz-saw blades to cut a new roadway through the jungle so they can avoid the washed-out part of the road, with Racer X and the other cars following Speed.
Meanwhile, the Car Acrobatic Team is in trouble... their cars weren't equipped for this kind of problem, and soon all but the leader's car are washed underneath the water! The leader's car is better equipped, and he presses a button on his car to give him underwater capabilities like the Mach 5's!
The rain stops as suddenly as it started, and the waters recede. Speed gets a radio call from Trixie telling him about the flash of light, and Speed realizes this could have been the reflection from the stolen gems... and soon discovers that the gems were also sought by the Car Acrobatic Team! With Racer X's help, Speed recovers the gems and captures the leader of the Car Acrobatic Team... and then, of course, Speed wins the race!
Our last feature this week is yet another one-shot, "The Groovie Goolies" #1! As you may recall, The Groovie Goolies Filmation show was a spin-off of sorts from "Sabrina the Teenage Witch," herself a spin-off of the Archies cartoons. In fact, the earliest Goolies appearances are in a Sabrina toon guest-starring the Riverdale gang!
This is probably the main reason why there was only one issue of this book. Filmation head honcho Lou Scheimer, happy with the deal that Gold Key cut to publish a Fat Albert comic (even though Bill Cosby got a fair chunk of those fees) was definitely ready when Gold Key approached him about a Goolies book. The deal was struck, and a first issue was prepared and went to press...
...but as soon as it hit the stands, Scheimer got a call from the Archie Comics people, who weren't happy with this. They felt that since the Goolies spun off from Sabrina that if anyone was going to publish a Goolies comic, they would! Gold Key wasn't too happy that they had to recall as many copies of the book as possible (making it rather scarce) and destroy them, but in return, they did get an even cheaper deal for future Filmation adaptations (which they made certain Filmation had the rights to in the first place).
As to the book itself, it's structured very much like the cartoon (which is available on DVD, and I actually had a hand in helping create the special features, as I have with other BCI/Eclipse Filmation releases... you'll see my name in the credits for the special features, trust me!). The first page shows Horrible Hall, the home of the Goolies, and Drac (in bat form) flies to an open window, which moves to one side so he smacks into the wall, transforms back to Vampire form, and lands on the ground, saying, "This place is driving me batty!"
From there, it's gags, gags, and more gags! Normally, a book like this would have a number of three or four page stories interspersed with one-page strips, but in keeping with the free-flowing format of the show, there's no story title, and indeed, things flow pretty much from one piece of shtick to the next!
All the gang is represented here... Drac, Frankie and Wolfie (Wolfie spends time driving the other Goolies crazy as he drives his Wolf-Wagon all over Horrible Hall, even up the walls and on the ceiling), Bella LaGhostly offers advice while sitting at the switchboard, Doctors Jekyll and Hyde (a two-headed doctor) is asked by Bone-A-Part for some medical advice after Wolfie hits him with the Wolf-Wagon, and he can't quite get himself together, and so forth. It's actually a pretty fun read, and all it's missing to really provide the full Goolie experience is a song from the Goolies or one of the "guest bands" like the Rolling Headstones or the Mummies and the Puppies! Still, they do provide one page with lyrics for "Chick-A-Boom," the only big hit that came out of the show.
And that's it for the four alternate reality comics for this week! I'd like to extend some special thanks to Patrick Owsley for his invaluable assistance with the Goolies and Tennessee Tuxedo issues (check out his blog at http://powsley.blogspot.com/, won't you?).
Before I wrap up this week's column, it's time for that SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT I teased at above! You may recall that six weeks ago, I presented Joe Lenius' choices for sexy comics covers. Well, you can get in on the act yourself!
Have you ever read one of these columns and thought, "Wow, I can think of four or five better covers that fit that theme," or maybe, "Why doesn't Jon do a column with this theme and these covers?" This is my challenge to you: Any one of you who have your own idea for covers that fit either a theme I've already presented, or have covers to fit a theme I've never presented, just write to me at with your choices and your comments, and I'll fit them in as soon as possible.
What will you get for your troubles, other than the glory of seeing your name credited in here? It'll be a surprise... in fact, as I write this, it'll be a surprise to me!
This is an open-ended challenge to you readers... at least, it's open until I get tired of reminding you guys about it!
Join me next time for another installment of "Cover Stories," where the theme will be "TV Comics," 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 !