Big Bang Presents 3: Protoplasman!
March 23, 2015
Features a human water balloon, a Nazi vampire, and horrific murders – all the stuff that made old comics great!
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. So, one of the perks of my Patreon... which you can find here... (he points to a link reading "HTTP://PATREON.COM/AT4W") is that the top tier is to choose something for me to review.
(Cut to a shot of the video game Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines)
Linkara (v/o): And we've got some stuff coming up in the next several weeks and the rest of the year to exemplify that. Hell, we've even got a video game review in the next few weeks.
Linkara: And how could a video game review go badly for me?
Linkara: (audio from video) ADAMANTIUM RAGE!
(The Nerd punches him first, however. Then cut back to the present-day Linkara)
Linkara: Oh, right. But for this week, we've got ourselves a comic! ...Although, the odd thing about it is that it's... well, kind of a lesser-known comic.
Linkara (v/o): Don't get me wrong, I'm more than happy to do that. We spotlight bizarre unknown crap all the time on this show. It's just I expected, when I open the floodgates to choose the review subject, that I would get, like, I don't know, "Final Crisis", "One Moment in Time", even though I already did that...
(Cut to a shot of "Legends of the Superheroes")
Linkara (v/o): ...that horrible "Legends of the Superheroes" thing from 1979...
Linkara: Why the hell haven't I reviewed that? Erm, whatever. The point is that today, we're looking at an offering from Big Bang Comics.
(A montage of shots of comics from Big Bang Comics is shown)
Linkara (v/o): To explain Big Bang Comics, we have to go back to the '80s and a black-and-white anthology series called "Megaton". "Megaton" was made by a guy named Gary Carlson, and it apparently included some of the first appearances of both Savage Dragon and Youngblood, years before their debuts at Image. Carlson would go on to do a few other projects, debuting a few characters in other series, until finally, in 1994, he created Big Bang Comics alongside Chris Ecker, starting with a five-issue miniseries published by Caliber Comics. What was Big Bang Comics? An anthology homage to Gold and Silver Age superhero books.
Linkara: And when you consider that in 1994, the speculator boom was finally crashing, a comic homaging the goofier beginnings of superhero comics wasn't exactly in high demand.
Linkara (v/o): However, a second series followed, published by Image that lasted for 35 issues in several specials. Since 2005, Big Bang Comics has been self-published, including presenting a lot of their characters in web comics. In fact, they're still publishing books today. Next month is supposed to premiere "Big Bang Universe #1".
Linkara: Today's offering is from 2006, and I think at this point, we should just get into it. Let's dig into (holds up today's comic) "Big Bang Presents #3: Protoplasman" and see what we've got.
(AT4W title sequence plays, and the title card has "Polka On 45" by Weird Al Yankovic playing in the background. Cut to a closeup of the comic's cover)
Linkara (v/o): With a company devoted to homaging Gold and Silver Age superhero books, it's no surprise the cover is also an homage – in design at least. Artistically, the design is definitely more modern in inking and coloring. You especially see that in the logo for Protoplasman... Protoplasm-man...? I don't care. Anyway, the gradient coloring on it is pretty much the surefire sign that it was made after the '90s, but everything else in the style is great, with a central image to grab our attention, then a bunch of side bubbles describing other stuff we'll find in the book. And Protoplasman himself, looking like a blue Plasticman, is punching a giant dragon head in the eye while it's in the middle of trying to devour three people at once.
Linkara: It deserved that hit, too. Clearly, this monster has never been taught any table manners. Stop stuffing your mouth with food and actually eat it!
Text: The Untold SECRET ORIGIN of the HUMAN WATER BALLOON!
Linkara: Sooo... he's easy to pop?
Text: ACTION! HORROR! LAUGHS!
Linkara (v/o): Ah, yes, truly there is nothing more humorous than a woman yelling at her own reflection. Wait, what?
(The comic opens to the first page)
Linkara (v/o): Erm, we open with that monster from the cover biting into the Earth.
Linkara: Seriously, dude, table manners! You don't have to eat the whole planet in one bite!
Narrator: The entire world trembles! An ancient evil has been released to prey upon humanity once more! An undead fiend who worships death and destruction and revels in the horrors of war like some Fifth Horseman of the APOCALYPSE!
Linkara: Perez Hilton?!
Narrator: Meet the world's most horrible, history's most venomous vampire! Read for yourself, if you dare--- the return of... DR. FANG!
Linkara: He calls himself that, but really, his doctorate is honorary.
Linkara (v/o): Since we're on that Gold-Silver Age homage, Dr. Fang actually kind of resembles...
(Cut to a shot of...)
Linkara (v/o): ...The Claw, that racist, giant monster from "Daredevil Battles Hitler" that I reviewed on the first DVD.
(Cut back to the Protoplasman comic)
Linkara (v/o): We truly open at a German missile base... or rather, a Nazi one. Now I just want "Protoplasman Battles Hitler". Speaking of, Hitler himself is at the base to oversee a rocket launch, which conveniently has "Secret Missile Base No. 13" written on a nearby sign.
Linkara: (holds up index finger) Now, you would think this would be an obvious giveaway, but look, it's written in English! No one in Germany could read it! (gives a thumbs-up while smiling)
Linkara (v/o): The missile was headed for London, but fortunately, it overshot the city. Instead, it... uh, manages to fly all the way to the USA.
Narrator: It is a long-range prototype designed to cross the Atlantic Ocean and has a new target-- Mammoth City, U.S.A.!
(Cut to the well-worn shot of the Hitler Clones from "Superman At Earth's End")
Hitler Clone: Of course. Don't you know anything about science?
Linkara: There's something weird about using that clip when Hitler is actually involved.
Linkara (v/o): The missile hits the city, but it doesn't explode. Fortunately, a bomb squad just happens to be nearby and starts investigating it. They hear ticking from inside the missile.
Linkara: My God! They've got the cast of 60 Minutes inside of there!
Linkara (v/o): A doorway on the missile opens up, revealing... this dude [Dr. Fang]. Also, some bats, because nothing better ensures the success of your mission than bat droppings while you're steering your missile. The creepy monster guy tosses out some dynamite, which manages to blow up a nearby bank.
Linkara: You know, this is why the Nazis lost World War II. They develop intercontinental ballistic missiles, but Hitler shoves vampires instead of, you know, actual explosives. Well, that, and America's werewolf programs.
Linkara (v/o): The military opens fire on Dr. Fang, but of course, bullets are useless against him. He unleashes a swarm of bats to attack them. After scaring away a good chunk of people, he suddenly grabs this one kid in shorts and a sweater vest... and a Moe Howard haircut. Even in the '40s, that must have looked awful. He wants information from him, but the kid wants to know who he is.
Dr. Fang: I am known by many names! I was Rasputin in Moscow and Jack the Ripper in London!
Linkara: (as Dr. Fang) I was Fred in Circle Pines and Steve in Sherman Oaks! (beat) It was a slow year.
Dr. Fang: I am evil incarnate! I am DR. FANG!
Linkara: (as Dr. Fang, reaching his hand out) Here, have one of my business cards.
Linkara (v/o): That's a pretty impressive resume. I don't think any of the theories about Jack the Ripper figured him to be a Nazi vampire. Dr. Fang reveals that Hitler has exiled him to America, which seems like kind of an odd thing for Hitler to do. Wouldn't he just keep him imprisoned or try to figure out how to use the vampiric nature to make his own army of Nazi vampires? Isn't this how Helsing started? The kid reveals where he is, much to the surprise of Dr. Fang, who suddenly grows hair in this panel. Weird.
Dr. Fang: America? I haven't been here since 1865 at the Ford Theater!
Linkara: Okay, dude, now you're just name-dropping.
Linkara (v/o): Dr. Fang decides to conquer America himself.
Dr. Fang: First I'll need a base of operations and money!
Linkara: (as Dr. Fang, holds up fist) Real estate business, here I come!
Linkara (v/o): Or you could get into the construction business. I'd say you've got some good money there, given how much destruction you've caused in this panel. From there, we get a splash page montage featuring Protoplasman fighting against Dr. Fang with his amazing Three Stooges technique (...which involves poking Dr. Fang in the eye), as we can see here. So, what's the deal?
Narrator: The most amazing hero on the face of the Earth has appeared to battle the most foul of villains, living or dead! Only a man composed entirely of protoplasm, the very stuff of life itself, has a chance to defeat the horrible undead monster!
Linkara: Technically, couldn't just a guy with a pointy stick stand a chance against him?
Narrator: But who is this champion of justice and where did he come from? What is the secret of the--- PROTOPLASMAN?
Linkara: The secret? (leans in close, sotto voce) He's actually a really vile anonymous hate commenter.
Linkara (v/o): Three nights later, Dr. Fang tosses a powerful solvent onto a hydroelectric dam, the entire thing collapsing in mere seconds under such power. With that destruction done with, he transforms into a bat and flies off.
Narrator: In the blink of an eye, the undead anarchist transforms...
Linkara: Didn't he say he wanted to conquer America? Anarchists are not really known for wanting to rule.
Linkara (v/o): Someone in a trenchcoat follows after the Castlevania monster, who arrives at the Mammoth City waterworks. His plan is to drop poison in the water supply, but fortunately, the trenchcoated guy arrives to stop him, though it's never explained how the hell he got inside. And he's even armed with silver bullets.
Guy in trenchcoat: The name's Jake Castle, private eye! You killed my brother...
AngryJoe: Father. Prepare to die.
(Cut back to the comic)
Dr. Fang: I've killed thousands of people! You can't expect me to remember them all!
(Cut to a clip of the Street Fighter movie)
M. Bison (Raul Julia): But for me... it was Tuesday.
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): Jake reveals that his brother's name was Butch, but all of a sudden, Dr. Fang pulls out a tiny version of Butch from... nowhere, since his robes don't have pockets as far as I can see. In the shock of seeing the miniaturized Butch, Dr. Fang is able to toss some of his poison at Jake. His reflexes are fast enough to shoot it out of the air, and the liquid spills it out all over him. It turns out to be the same solvent that had been used earlier on the dam, so of course, he starts to disintegrate under its effects.
Linkara: And yet another homage to the Gold and Silver Age: people suffering horrible, lingering, chemically-induced deaths caused by Nazi vampires. I'd say I was kidding, but I've read DC Comics; it's not that far off.
Linkara (v/o): Jake Castle falls over the edge of the walkway into the open vat of water, which Dr. Fang happily pours some more chemicals into. However, two security guards suddenly approach.
Dr. Fang: Curses! I thought the dam demolition would divert security here! Time to vamoose!
Linkara: Man, who knew that a water plant security force wouldn't be called upon to deal with a burst dam?
Linkara (v/o): Also, why the hell are you fleeing? I doubt average security guards are packing silver bullets. The guards wisely order the water supply to the city cut off so this doesn't spread, as well as spotting Jake Castle's gooey, disintegrating hand emerging from the water tank.
Guard: And th-there's somebody in the tank!
Linkara: (as guard, reaching hand out and grunting) Here, buddy, let me give you a hand! (with a grunt, he pulls up... a severed hand and becomes concerned) Uh... I-I think you dropped this... (puts hand back)
Linkara (v/o): And that's the story of how Jake Castle became the Joker. No, actually, they can't reach him to get him out of there, but decide to drain the water tank, which is apparently a big faucet on the ground floor. They do so, and... we get this nice, gooey mess. And the security guards flee when the water seems to disappear and the goo starts moving. The goop starts forming into Jake Castle again.
Jake: Those chemicals reduced me to protoplasmic slime... but I'm still alive somehow! I'm some sort of protoplasm man!
Linkara: (as Jake) It's a good thing this is an homage to older comics. Otherwise, I would be absolutely horrified by this!
Linkara (v/o): By concentrating, he can keep himself in a normal human shape, and immediately decides he needs to go deal with Dr. Fang... except he also realizes he's quite nude and needs to do something about that. As such, he finds a rubber jumpsuit used by janitors to clean the tanks, as well as a pair of goggles, and he finds it helps him retain his shape. And soon, he's gotten the hang of himself as he runs out of the place.
Jake: I'm like a human water balloon!
Linkara: If that's the case, you should really stop running. In my experience, water balloons pop more on the ground than when they reach their target.
Jake: I bet he went back to his spooky hideout I discovered earlier!
Linkara: (as Jake) See? It's not a plot hole! I was there already!
Linkara (v/o): Said hideout is a condemned building, and Castle stretches himself inside, quickly punching Dr. Fang, who I just realized never closes his mouth. You think flies get trapped in there?
Jake: Where's my brother, you pasty-pussed zombie?!
Linkara: Um, excuse me, that's "pasty-pussed (points to camera) zuvembie".
Linkara (v/o): Aaand then he vomits out his eyes. Because he can do that, I guess. However, yeah, he can reform himself and even do a little bit of shapeshifting, mimicking Dr. Fang and his general appearance. He makes Dr. Fang restore his brother to normal size, and upon closer inspection, we see that he's actually the kid from earlier with the Moe haircut. Unfortunately, Dr. Fang then keeps making him grow, which somehow causes Butch to become a crazed maniac who attacks Jake. Jake finally gets Butch to snap out of it by shapeshifting into their mother and ordering him to stop. Dr. Fang tries to escape using the missile, which I guess is also a rocketship now, but Dr. Fang gets him to release him by throwing solvent on the two. However, Jake is now immune to the solvent, thanks to his unique properties... buuut his brother is not so lucky. Yyyeah, Butch is now just a giant skeleton...
Linkara: So, not only did he kill a child, but he did so in what was probably a horribly agonizing death! What the hell, comic?!
Jake: I'll get you Dr. Fang!! ...If it's the last thing I do!
Linkara: (as Jake, looking up and shaking fist) DAMN YOU AND YOUR LEMONADE!!
Jake: I will avenge you, Butch! So swears the PROTOPLASM-MAN!
Linkara: So... did the letterer just continually misspell his name everywhere else? Because it's still spelled "Protoplasman" on other stuff.
Linkara (v/o): We're not quite done yet, since there's another story for Protoplasman. (reads story title) "DOUBLE-HEADER DEATH!"
Linkara: What, are more of his siblings gonna die horribly?
Linkara (v/o): And we see from this preview panel that there are two Grim Reapers chasing after Protoplasman. And of course there's more than one Grim Reaper. One guy can't reap all the dead people on Earth. It's not like he's Santa Claus.
(Cut to a clip of Terry Pratchett's Hogfather)
Grim Reaper: Ho, ho, ho...
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): Most of the time, anyway. We open with an ambulance.
Narrator: An ambulance screams through Mammoth City! Its destination is not the hospital--- because this is the city's meat wagon!
Linkara: (as narrator) Which probably means they really shouldn't be going that fast.
Linkara (v/o): There's a whole slew of bodies in here, nine in total, all victims of Dr. Fang. However, the latest, as it turns out, is Protoplasm-man! They soon do some medical tests, like x-raying him.
Mortician: All his bones and organs have been removed! ...Except maybe his stomach!
Linkara (v/o): Aaand we see that in his stomach is a fish skeleton.
Linkara: Okay, why did Protoplasman eat a whole fish? Spoilers: This takes place right after the last story. After his brother died, his first instinct was, "Boy, I'd better swallow a whole fish now"?
Linkara (v/o): When they try to embalm him, he wakes up, much to the shock of the mortician and his nurse.
Mortician: Then it's true! Fang was a vampire!
Linkara (v/o): He even grabs the nurse's cap off her head to use as a cross to repel him.
Linkara: His body was super stretchy and limp and all his organs were gone, and your instant reaction is "vampire".
Linkara (v/o): Protoplasman explains his backstory and that after he defeated Dr. Fang, the paramedics arrived to bring his victims from the house, and he... uh... took a nap on a stretcher. Because of course he did. However, the other victims start getting up, for they have indeed been changed into vampires. He quickly entangles the vampires to keep them from attacking, but they don't have any proper weapons to fight them. Fortunately, Jake Knight's assistant, Rose Daly, arrives with a tommy gun full of silver bullets, because awesome!
Protoplasman: Nice shootin', doll! This time they'll stay dead! But you sorta ventilated me, too!
Rose: Jake! Didn't see you!
Linkara (v/o): Didn't see him? He was wrapped around eight vampires! Although, upon inspection of that panel, your eyes were closed when you fired. Whoops. Protoplasman explains to her in more detail what happened to him.
Protoplasman: Now I'm some sort of protoplasman! This rubber suit bonded with me!
Linkara: Okay, clearly, we have missed some things between stories, since all he did originally was just put on the suit. Or are you really sticky now? Eww!
Protoplasman: At 96% water, I can stretch, bounce... and could even melt!
Linkara: Is this story just a remake of The Incredible Melting Man?
Linkara (v/o): I bet the mortician's name is Dr. Ted Nelson, too. Speaking of, the mortician wants him to take a look at another body, the thing with two heads. Yeah, seriously. Although, in this case, the mortician says that the white guy was his son, and the two were fused together during a bank robbery. He asks Protoplasman to investigate how the hell this happened.
Mortician: They were each carrying one of these coins!
Protoplasman: Hmm! Looks Oriental to me!
Linkara: Okay, (holds up index finger) one, that's a taijitu, AKA a friggin' yin-yang. (holds up two fingers) Two, (makes an "air quote" sourly) "Oriental"? I see we're homaging the racism of the Gold and Silver Ages, too.
Linkara (v/o): We're not done there, either. The bank robbers were identified as one or two in white and black, and since it fused two people together, Protoplasman assumes it's conjoined twins who are responsible, or, as they keep referring to them, Siamese twins. Uh-huh... As such, he goes to a circus and a freak show, where he meets with this woman in a Chinese dress.
Woman: Gee, you're cute!
Protoplasman: Gosh, thanks! What's a nice gal like you doing in a freak show?
Linkara (v/o): Aaand in the next panel, we see that she's a conjoined twin.
Protoplasman: (thinking) Eyow! It's the Siamese twins!
Linkara: He couldn't tell that before because the sister was off-panel. (shrugs in confusion)
Linkara (v/o): And naturally, they are named Yin and Yang. The two start fighting each other since they can never get along. One of them is happily married and the other is single and flirtatious, handing over another yin-yang coin to Protoplasman and asking him to meet her in the park at midnight.
Linkara: I know I should be feeling much more upset about the way this is playing out, but right now, I'm just more confused why these sisters didn't question why Protoplasman is in a rubber suit and goggles at the circus if he wasn't a performer.
Linkara (v/o): Protoplasman meets up with Rose at the local library where she's been researching the yin-yang. Simplified in this story, it's the idea that the sides represent opposites, but not absolutes, and that one can transform into the other and cannot exist without one another. He gets her up to speed about meeting the twins and she's frustrated that he's going to meet them.
Rose: You've been in love with me since the first grade!
Protoplasman: Yeah, but you married my partner!
Linkara: (confused) Good point. Why is she jealous if she's married to another guy?
Linkara (v/o): He goes to the park, and all of a sudden, another fused man runs into a lamppost and is dying. Protoplasman grabs the coins from their bodies and tosses them away, hoping that'll help them out, but then sees that the nearby bank is being robbed. Heading in, he finds Yin and Yang... as a single person, wearing, of course, a yin-yang-themed outfit. She tries to kiss him, but fortunately, Rose suddenly arrives and starts opening fire with her tommy gun. Not so fortunately, she's also carrying one of the yin-yang disks on her, and the villainess splits into two different people, one in black and the other in white. They explain that the coins are actually ancient mystical objects and that they can separate from each other as long as they transfer that conjoined status. Thus, Rose and Protoplasman begins to merge together. Their separation is only temporary, and they've been robbing banks to go to Tibet to get a mystic operation to separate themselves from each other permanently.
Linkara: Okay, makes sense, but is one of you still married? The marital statuses of our characters are still very much in the air.
Linkara (v/o): Since Rose will die if the merging continues, Protoplasman melts himself into his basest form to keep himself from combining with her. It works and she's okay, while he's just gooping ahead. He reforms again and attacks, forcing Yin to open fire on him with her own gun. However, the bullets ricochet and hit Yang in the back. Protoplasman says he'll go get help, but she tells him not to, declaring that she's finally free of her condition. However, the two then merge again, killing the other as well. And so, our comic ends with this narration...
Narrator: Somewhere, a clock tower strikes one with a seemingly Oriental tone...
(Linkara throws his head around in frustration at the word "Oriental" and nods his head sarcastically)
Narrator: ...and the case ends as it started: with a corpse with two heads!
Linkara: (as narrator) And a really dour tone! (normal again, as he closes comic and holds it up) This comic is... actually pretty good, just containing some problematic elements.
Linkara (v/o): Even if you were to say that phrases like "Oriental" and "Siamese twins" are just the language they would have used back in the day, it's still iffy to use them today, and creates kind of an uncomfortable atmosphere in otherwise good material. I also take a bit of umbrage with killing Butch at the end of the first story. Or rather, not so much his death, since Jake Castle walked into things believing he was dead already, but just the horrific way he died. And then it's completely ignored in the second story, which is supposed to take place immediately after afterwards. However, if you ignore those parts, this is actually really entertaining. The superhero stuff is classic, and the origin fits right in with those kinds of stories. The pacing is not as quick as an actual comic from back then, but still pretty fast, which allows the stories to actually be done in a good length of time. Aside from the racial stuff involved with the yin and yang, I actually thought the concept behind them as supervillains was pretty neat. Dr. Fang as a Nazi vampire is awesomely entertaining and makes for another great opening opponent. Although, here's the really weird thing about this story that fascinates me: it's actually kind of like a hybrid of a superhero story and a "Tales From the Crypt"-style E.C. horror comic. The gory and terrifying elements are there, but you've still got a superhero who's very much in the vein of those back in the day: rather charming and likeable. Rose makes a great and active partner with her tommy gun.
Linkara: But yeah, aside from those iffier parts to this, I actually really enjoyed this and hope to check out some more. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have go start collecting footage for my next Patreon-sponsored review, which also involves vampires. (puts comic down, gets up and leaves)
(End credits roll)
I'm sure I mispronounced Taijitu. I look forward to hearing everyone tell me how wrong I was.
Next week's scheduled review of Vampire: the Masquerade – Bloodlines is being pushed back a week due to a number of factors... yet the one it's being replaced with STILL has vampires.
(Stinger: The cover is shown again, showing Yin and Yang in the corner beneath the word "LAUGHS!")
Linkara (v/o): (uncomfortably) Yeah, the comic sure contained laughs! Laugh at the murderers who died tragically due to their desire to be separated. (laughs nervously)