June 20, 2011
Now you're playing with... nothing, because this isn't a video game console.
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn.
(A Game Boy commercial is shown)
Announcer: Introducing Game Boy! It's portable, it's in stereo, and its games are interchangeable!
Linkara (v/o): Ah, yes, the Game Boy! Portable gaming at its finest. At the time it was made, anyway. Personally, I never had one until I managed to acquire a transparent Game Boy Pocket in the late '90s. The thing served me well for several years, even though I only really played Pokemon on it. Pokemon is another discussion for another day, though. Instead, we're here to talk about the classic Game Boy, the big brick with a monochrome display, a contrast wheel, and the comic that was inevitable from such a product.
Linkara: Yeah, I don't get it either. What company thought it was a good idea to make a comic book about a video game console?
(Cut to a closeup of the comic company that would make such a comic: Valiant Comics, on the cover of "Ultimate Warrior's Workout")
Linkara (v/o): Why, Valiant Comics, of course! Yes, the fan favorite company that also had the foresight and wisdom to make "The Ultimate Warrior's Workout", though, in fairness, this was still Valiant's early days, and the company was only about a year old when this came out.
Linkara: So let's dig into (holds up today's comic) "Gameboy #1" and... see just what the hell they do with this concept.
(AT4W title sequence plays, this time in the style of an 8-bit video game, in keeping with the comic's theme for today; title card has "Mario Adventures I" (based on the theme music from Super Mario Land) playing in the background; cut to a closeup of the comic's cover)
Linkara (v/o): Our cover is... a kid looking at a Game Boy that's sitting on its side for some reason and a cartoon Mario on top of it. On his dresser, there are a bunch of video game characters that look like they're launching an attack on the unsuspecting kid. I theorize that these are characters for Super Mario Land, one of the Mario games for the happy little handheld... which I've unfortunately never played, so this is probably going to end up confusing for me. Also, at the bottom, there is a bar that indicates that this is the "Nintendo Comics System".
Linkara: Okay, Nintendo, we get it! Nintendo Entertainment System! You don't have to label everything a system! After all, you didn't name the product you're shilling here the Game Boy Entertainment System, now, did you?
Linkara (v/o): One final note on the cover: the Valiant logo over this kid's head makes him look like an NPC with a quest available.
(The comic opens to the first page)
Linkara (v/o): We open to a closeup of somebody's Game Boy as they play Super Mario Land. For some reason, I'm really hungry right now for a Hershey bar. There's some narration up on top.
Narrator: Look around you!
(Confused, Linkara looks around, then a thought comes to him)
Linkara: Oh, I get it. Trying to misdirect us so we won't notice how stupid this comic is, huh?
Narrator: This is the real world, where Super Mario Land is only an exciting video game...
Linkara: (as narrator) And don't you just wish you were playing that right now instead of reading this?
Linkara (v/o): The guy playing the game [Herman, as revealed later] loses against Tatanga, apparently the final boss or something of Super Mario Land.
Herman: That game* was fun! Hey, Atty, did you see that? I got Mario all the way to the end... and then I let Tatanga blow him away!
- NOTE: Herman only says, "That was fun!"
Linkara: Yeah, it certainly is more to lose at the game than to win it! (beat, then becomes confused) Wait, what?
Linkara (v/o): He's talking to his pet rat Atilla, making me afraid for a moment that this is going to turn into this...
(Cut to a clip of Phantasmagoria 2)
Curtis Craig: (to his pet rat in a cage) I love you, Bob. And no matter what, I'll make sure someone takes good care of you.
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): Oh, and check out the huge flag he has hanging up on his wall. (it's the American flag)
(Cut to a clip of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 gang watching Racket Girls (showing two guys in front of an American flag))
Crow: I wonder what country this is taking place in.
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): He leaves his apartment to go to work, and at the bus stop, a homeless guy asks for some change, which he angrily responds with "NO!" Oh, and just to cement his likeability, he then whispers that all beggars should be shot. Man, you have to try to be this much of a dick.
Homeless guy: Mister, I'm a vet. I got a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. I don't have a job or a place to live... but that doesn't mean that I have to put up with your grief!
Herman: I didn't--!
Linkara: (as Herman) Geez, all I suggested was that you all were scum and you should all be executed! Gah!
Linkara (v/o): He arrives at his job, an electronics store in the mall.
Store manager (Mr. Levison): Good morning, Herman. Hey, what's wrong? You look upset!
Herman: I was practically mugged, Mr. Levison--!
Linkara: (as Herman) They almost got away with my quarter!
Mr. Levison: Did they hurt you, Herman?
Herman: Well, they would have if I hadn't fought them off!
Linkara: (as Herman) There were twenty of them, and they kept yelling that they liked the Atari Lynx more! I went Kung-tendo on their asses!
Herman: There's no law and order anymore!
Linkara: Oh, come on, Criminal Intent and Special Victims Unit are still on.
Mr. Levison: Come on, Herman, it's not that bad!
Herman: It is! Don't you see the filth, the crime, the fear everywhere? If I had my way, every litterbug, jaywalker, mugger and liberal politician would be strung up!
Linkara: Yeah, because all of those are completely equal. What a nice man.
Linkara (v/o): Oh, and just to really emphasize how much of a colossal hypocrite and asshole that he is, his friendly boss walks off, saying that he noticed one of the Game Boys is missing, and it must have been shoplifted. The lovable Herman thinks to himself...
Herman: (thinking) It wasn't "shoplifted", you rich pig--I took it because I deserve it, considering how little I get paid!
Linkara (v/o): And because our friendly Herman has had a rough morning, he decides to help himself to another Game Boy!
Linkara: What are you gonna do with two, use a link cable between them and play a fighting game so you can feel good about beating yourself? (beat) Then again, a guy with such a great personality as yours is probably used to beating yourself.
Linkara (v/o): We cut to the real hero of this, because there's no damn way Nintendo would ever allow that prick to be the hero of the story. The true hero is Josh, a blond-haired kid with his hip, sunglasses-wearing friend Rick. Josh, being a dork, wants to go to the electronics store to see if they have any Mario 3 cartridges, but Rick has spotted the ladies and knows where the real action is. Still, Josh drags him into the store, but Herman is too distracted by playing on his Game Boy to even notice the two asking him questions. How has this guy not been fired yet? Rick pulls him away so they can hit on the girls they apparently see. However, there's a tiny "THUNK" sound that gets Josh's attention.
Josh: What was that?
Linkara: (exaggeratedly) A random sound in a mall?! What the hell?!
Linkara (v/o): We cut back to the electronics store and... HOLY CRAP! All this happened here and the only sound was "THUNK"?! Yes, an entire army of Super Mario Land characters have escaped from the Game Boy and tied Herman to the ground, a la "Gulliver's Travels". There's smoke billowing out of the Game Boy, coming off the spaceship there, and yet nobody has noticed this yet?! This is a mall, for crying out loud! The storefront is a big, open doorway! Leading the charge of pixelated profligates is Tatanga, the Mysterious Spacelord! Tatanga also happens to look like a rejected Muppet.
Tatanga: Behold, my beloved Daisy-- another world for me to conquer!
Princess Daisy: Why would you want another one?
Linkara: (as Tatanga) For tax write-offs, of course!
Tatanga: For you, Daisy! When you finally consent to marry me and become my queen, rather than my prisoner--I want us to reign together over the greatest empire in the history of the universe!
(Cut to a clip of Blackadder's Christmas Carol)
Spirit of Christmas: Being ruler of the universe is not all it's cracked up to be. There's the long hours. I mean, you wave at people the whole time. You're no longer your own boss.
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): Tatanga orders that Herman has served his purpose and so they can kill him now.
Linkara: (smiling) Hey, I like this Tatanga guy already.
Linkara (v/o): Daisy, in an attempt to save his life, suggests that they should interrogate him first. Herman asks how the hell this is possible. Tatanga's servant Pionpi (pronounces it "Pawn-pea") says that Tatanga used his psychic powers to span various dimensions in search of a new universe to conquer and found this world. They needed an anchor point through which they could travel into this universe, and Herman was chosen as the beacon.
Pionpi: You are weak-willed, bitter, full of fear and hatred! Such as you are easily hypnotized by Tatanga-- even across the dimensional void! You virtually invited Lord Tatanga here...
Linkara: (as Pionpi) And yet, you did not have any refreshments or appetizers perpared. This displeases us.
Herman: Wait a minute! Some game designer cooked you up! You're just little bytes of data from a chip! Something made you real...and now you think you always were!
Linkara: Ah, but they think; therefore, they have existed. It's very Cartesian. It's also more deserving a philosophical study than by a jackass who steals Game Boys from his electronics store.
Linkara (v/o): Herman says they're in the Wonder World Mall, and Tatanga orders his forces to go out and conquer the Wonder World. We cut to our heroes in the food court.
Josh: Rick, how come when you're around girls, you forget all about video games and baseball and everything else you usually like?
Rick: Look at those excellent babes!
(Cut to 90s Kid)
90s Kid: Duuude, of course you'll play video games when you've got lots of guuuuns! (pretends to shoot a gun) But the only way to bring them back in this case is if the games have bodacious babes!
Linkara: (seeing 90s Kid) Oh, there you are. Say, how did karaoke night go?
90s Kid: (suddenly feeling ashamed) I, uh... I don't want to talk about it. (looks away in shame)
Harvey: (singing into microphone) Did you ever know that you're my hero? (holds microphone to Pollo)
Pollo: Because you are the wind beneath my wings.
90s Kid: (running in and making the sign of the horns) ROCK OOOOOOOOOOON!!! (nods as Harvey and Pollo stare in bewilderment)
Linkara (v/o): The two are interrupted by the several game enemies that fly past them, leading to a splash page revealing a friggin' war zone, with the characters attacking everything in their path and causing explosions. As more of the mall is annihilated, Daisy tries to distract Tatanga and get him to stop his assault.
Daisy: I'm hungry. Be a dear and take me to lunch...right now...please?
Tatanga: Lunch? Now?!? Can't you see I'm right in the middle of conquering Wonder World!?
Daisy: Well, I'm sorry I bothered you. If Mario were here, he'd take me to lunch!
Linkara: Ooh, dude, she's comparing you to her ex. That's never a good sign in her relationship.
Linkara (v/o): Tatanga has Herman lead him to a nearby restaurant as Rick and Josh overhear them.
Josh: Look! That guy's got a Game Boy!
Linkara: (as Josh) Aw, dude, I should so challenge him to a Pokemon battle! I have, like, an entire team of Mewtwos!
Josh: There's only one guy who can stop Tatanga!
Rick: Who? Hulk Hogan? Chuck Norris?
Josh: No... Super Mario!
Linkara (v/o): Rick's reaction is the same as our own: a facepalm and an "Oh, give me a break!" Rick admits the possibility that aliens or something might be involved, he doesn't believe that video game characters are suddenly in the real world. It's not helped when Josh starts talking to his Game Boy.
Josh: Look, Rick! Look! Three doors! There's only supposed to be two! Let's try the extra door...
Linkara: (game show announcer voice) Congratulations, Josh, you picked door number three, and you win a new car! (Price Is Right theme plays briefly)
Linkara (v/o): No, suddenly, a beam of light emits from his Game Boy, and Mario pops out of it -- in hilariously mismatched art styles of the cartoony Mario against the more detailed-looking people next to them. And dear Lord, Josh looks really creepy here. Because the comic needed to be split into two parts due to some advertisements placed in the middle of the thing, we now enter part two of "In the Palm of Your Hand...", which is certainly the case for the pint-sized Mario.
Rick: How did you get here?
Mario: (Italian accent, a la Mario 64) The stork? No, really, I figure if Tatanga's here, he must've opened up a dimensional warp zone!
Linkara: Well, I should point out that this is exactly kinda before Mario was given an official voice, so the writing here doesn't capture the stereotypical Italian accent. Frankly, with the way he's talking, he sounds more he should be from Brooklyn. But for simplicity's sake, we'll do the traditional Mario voice.
Josh: The extra door in the Muda Kingdom--! All I had to do was get you there...
Linkara: (confused) So, like, could anybody's Game Boy do that? How did you even know there was an extra door there? What happens when you replay the game? Is Mario stuck in some kind of time loop, endlessly repeating the same events over and over and over? The moment you introduce this concept that the video game world is real, you start bringing up these little plot holes.
Rick: But...if you came out of the Game Boy, how come you're in color? Game Boy's black and white!
Mario: You're getting reception all the way from Sarasaland on that gadget and you want it to be in color, too?
Linkara: Is he the same Mario that's on the NES? That's a gadget that (makes a "finger quote") "transmits" in color. Years later, if someone puts a Super Mario Land cartridge in a Game Boy Color, and if this is "just a transmission", doesn't that mean that that should be in full color, too? It doesn't make any sense.
Linkara (v/o): Josh wants to go lead Mario to them, but Rick is reluctant.
Rick That's across the river! We're not allowed to go there alone! Mom says it's dangerous!
Linkara: Kid, you're, like, fifteen and live in New York. Grow a pair.
Mario: Dangerous? What is it--? Desert? Jungle? Frozen tundra?
Rick: Worse. New York City!
(Cut briefly to a clip of a Nintendo commercial of some kind, showing a bunch of men all chanting...)
Men: New York City!
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): We cut to New York and... the World Trade Center towers. Well, I mean, this was made in 1990. There shouldn't be anything wrong.
Narrator: Later, an ominous dark cloud (Linkara's voice trails off) hovers... above the... renowned... Twin Towers...
Linkara: (cradling his head in pain) Oh, sweet merciful crap!
Linkara (v/o): Mario and the kids head to the subway while we cut to Tower One, where Tatanga's forces demand food. They blast the maitre d' and clear out the restaurant, save for the cooks and waiters. Back to Mario and the kids, they encounter some of Tatanga's forces, and Rick gets his ass handed to him by bees with spears.
(Cut briefly to that classic panel from "Amazons Attack #3")
Batman: A deadly bee weapon... Bees. My God.
(Cut back to the Game Boy comic)
Linkara (v/o): Josh, however, fares better, hitting them with his bag.
Josh: You gotta hit them from above, like this! You ought to play your Game Boy more, instead of hanging around with girls.
Linkara: Nintendo: it makes you avoid women.
Linkara (v/o): (announcer voice) Now you're playing with a lonely, sheltered existence in your parents' basement. (normal again) Speaking of playing with yourself, by the way, really bad placement of this seahorse thing. (said seahorse is hovering close to Rick's anatomy) Anyway, for some reason, game blocks have shown up in the middle of the air, allowing Mario to smash some enemies and then hit a block, giving him access to a secret elevator. Back with Tatanga and Daisy, he's still trying to win her over.
Daisy: Tatanga--if you'd just give up war and conquest and...
Tatanga: If I give up conquering worlds... will you marry me?
Daisy: No, but...
Tatanga: Then I shall be what I am.
Linkara: Dude, get a clue. She's just not that into you, man. The cakes she bakes cannot be that good.
Tatanga: Server! More of this beverage!
Linkara: (as Tatanga, drunken tone) I figure if I down some more Vodka Gimlets, I'll appear more attractive to you.
Linkara (v/o): Mario and the kids arrive, and Mario makes his way to Daisy. He's numbered a hundred to one, though, and it turns out the entire reason Tatanga came to this world is because you only have one life here. Thus, killing Mario will mean he won't come back! Dude, that's... dark! And hardcore! Seriously, you don't see Bowser pulling this kind of thing. Anyway, Josh wants to jump into the fray and help Mario, but Rick is reluctant, since they could get seriously hurt. Josh finally convinces him he's got to help out, so Rick shoves his brother aside... Yeah, apparently, they're brothers, but have completely different hair colors; go figure. ...and leaps in to help. Mario gets slapped away by Herman. Ah, now he's actively assisting the would-be world conqueror. Herman gets more appealing by the second, doesn't he? But Rick saves him before he can fall to the hordes of enemies. Mario finally explains the blocks, saying that the enemies are building them for their own comfort and convenience. Yeah, because blocks are so much more comfortable than the huge materials they already have at their disposal in the real world. They formulate a plan and have the kids distract the enemies, while Mario runs to the blocks. A star comes out, and Mario leaps into it.
Mario: With the power you give me, I'm invincible!
(Cut to a clip of GoldenEye, showing Boris Grishenko (Alan Cumming) operating a computer)
Boris: Yes! I am invincible!
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): So, yeah, the Invincibility Star allows Mario to save the kids. Daisy points out that Tatanga's plan will work against him now, since he can be killed, too.
Tatanga: Bah! I'll battle Mario when I choose! This luncheon is over!
Linkara: (as Tatanga) But tonight, we will serve in (clenches fist) Hell, Mario!
Linakra (v/o): Tatanga and his forces travel through the dimensional Warp Zone back into the Game Boy. Mario says he has to follow; otherwise, he'll be trapped in the real world forever.
Mario: If Tatanga got out once, he can get out again--! If he does, call me!
Linkara: So, here's a weird thought: these two are the first DigiDestined and the Game Boy is their Digivice.
Linkara (v/o): The police show up, though all they do is point out that the patrons are locked in the bathroom and then yell out...
Policeman: Hey, there's a couple of kids over there!
Linkara (v/o): That was important, I guess. The kids realize Herman's nowhere to be found, and Rick says he ducked out during the fight.
Josh: Think anyone will believe what happened?
Rick: I hope Mom does!
Linkara (v/o): (as Josh, excitedly) Hey, Mom! So we were checking out girls and playing on a Game Boy when suddenly the game characters came out of an electronics store and killed a whole bunch of people while blowing up parts of the mall, and then they went to the World Trade Towers and took over a restaurant, and Mario beat them all up and they all went back into the Game Boy! (smiles)
(Cut to a clip of Invader Zim)
Dib's father: My poor, insane son.
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): And so, our comic ends with the kids wondering what to do if Tatanga appears in some other part of the world, and then suggesting they tell all their friends and spread the word.
Linkara: (dramatically) And thus, the Global Game Boy Alliance was born! (closes comic and holds it up) This comic sucks, but it's so much fun in its stupidity.
Linkara (v/o): This thing exists in its own little world, with a nonsensical premise that it just runs with, though there's not really much in the way of action or anything. Mario punches maybe one or two enemies, and the kids do more work. The really disappointing thing? We never get to see anybody punch Herman, and I was really hoping for that. Oh, and here's the best part: after the comic itself, there's a page asking for letters, since, of course, comic books traditionally have letters pages, and this one brings up the philosophical notions and questions raised by the idea of how fictional characters may have a reality unto themselves. I love this kind of thing, though, of course, if you really want to see it explored in a much darker manner...
(Cut to a shot of the cover of a comic called "Animal Man")
Linkara (v/o): ...check out Grant Morrison's "Animal Man" issues.
(End credits roll, to a dramatic orchestral rendition of Super Mario Land music)
I'd like to think Herman ended up a bitter conspiracy theorist who only trusted his rat and was fired from every job he ever held for stealing stuff, his final one being at a department store where he kept stealing panties and shoelaces.
(Stinger: Linkara is perusing the book he discovered last year, while holding two controllers in his hand, in which he makes calculations of what's going on lately)
Linkara (v/o): (narrating) Captain's Log: June 20, 2011: Work is proceeding normally on the new artificial intelligence for the ship. We should have her up and running by August. In the meantime, I have continued my study of the book I discovered last year. While many of the pages remain blank, others that were previously empty have begun to fill on their own. Since it was discovered during a time of heavy magic influence, it wouldn't surprise me if the book itself had several enchantments upon it that I haven't catalogued yet. Of the sections that have been revealed, most of it pertains to what I believe Lord Vyce was fighting: this... Entity. However, most of the stories within refer to it not as an entity, but rather a "lost beast". And it's referred to quite prominently in a poem that's also referenced in one or two accounts. However, from the accounts and the poem itself, the most disturbing part is that it seems... familiar, as if you studied for a test, but when you reached the question, the answer eludes you.
(In the book, he discovers a phrase written repeatedly: "I am the never should". He then hears that strange buzzing sound again, making him nervous)
Linkara (v/o): (narrating) And if I may speak to my own personal paranoia, ever since the incident with the Ninja-Style Dancer, I keep looking over my shoulder as if... (Linkara looks up) as if something's watching me. Upgrades to the arsenal of freedom continue. Even if the Entity is just a product of my own imagination, I know that something else is coming in a few months, and I intend to end it, once and for all. End log.
(From outside the room, as Linkara continues his studies, static fills the screen briefly)