Hardcore Station #1
July 26, 2010
While it may not be hardcore, it certainly is stationary. It doesn't move forward with its story or advance in any capacity.
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. However, today is not a time to get mad at the bad, but use it as an educational tool for the future comic writers and editors of tomorrow.
(Cut to shots of a comic series called "Hardcore Station")
Linkara (v/o): "Hardcore Station" was an utterly forgettable, six-issue miniseries from the late '90s. It had no promotion, no pushes, it was there for a few months, and then it went away without anyone giving it a first or second thought. According to an interview with Jim Starlin, writer of not only "Hardcore Station", but several classic stories...
(Cut to a shot of another comic Starlin had worked on)
Linkara (v/o): ...like "Infinity Gauntlet", "Hardcore Station" was a nightmare to work on, partially because it was rewritten by committee after he had turned in his initial scripts for the series.
Linkara: This attitude continues to baffle me! Editors, if you want to tell your own stupid story, write your own script! It is not your job to write for the writer! If there's a problem with the script, talk to the writer and fix it with them!
Linkara (v/o): And by the way, when has writing by committee ever proven to be a good idea?!
(Cut to a shot of a cover of an issue of "Countdown To Final Crisis")
Linkara (v/o): THAT DOESN'T COUNT!!
Linkara: So let's dig into (holds up today's comic) "Hardcore Station #1" and see if this place is that hardcore. (beat) Of course it isn't. What show do you think you're watching?
(AT4W title sequence plays; title card has "The Blue Danube" playing over it; cut to a closeup of the comic's cover)
Linkara (v/o): The cover is BLAAAAAND. Admittedly, it's better than a random group shot where we just have a seemingly-unrelated elements all shoved together. I'm assuming the big wheels right here is [sic] supposed to be the titular "hardcore station", and I'm not sure it is hardcore, what with it being essentially the big space station from (a shot appears in the corner of the space station from...) 2001: A Space Odyssey, except stretched out from the center. You can't get more hardcore than that, my friends. Then we have this face just kind of floating, with an expression that says only one thing, and that thing is...
Linkara: (imitating the face, mouth crooked and one eye wide) Hey, everybody, check out how big I can make my eye!
Linkara (v/o): There's this over-muscled guy in a hood who proudly proclaims, "Oh, yeah? Check out how big I can make my eye!" The thing that draws our eye is the guy in yellow armor. He is automatically awesome because he has rocket boots. Admittedly, I'm not sure how the heck he's flying with them instead of spinning around in circles on the ground, since only one of the rocket boots is firing, but hey, maybe that is what's happening, and everything around him is some sort of hallucinogenic dream. (the comic opens to the first page) We open on a splash page of two extremely sunburned aliens flying through what I'm sure is supposed to be space.
Linkara: (as one alien, calling out) Hey, Steve, space is purple, right? (as second alien, calling back) Oh, definitely! It's because space is grape-flavored!
Narrator: A dream is formed of hunger and struggle, Tarsus Deltar.
Linkara: So that dream where I was fighting evil alongside the Seventh Doctor on board the Enterprise was because I wanted a sandwich?
Narrator: Yours was born in the ghetto.
(Cut to a clip of an episode of South Park, showing Cartman walking along)
Cartman: (singing) In the ghetto...
(Back to the comic again)
Narrator: The dream was always of power.
Linkara: And of widow's peaks, based on that hairstyle. So, it turns out they're not in space, but rather are fighting on an alien world and trying to reach something. And HOLY CRAP, these two are apparently killing machines! I see no evidence that they have any troops under their command, but look at this! They're kicking soldiers in the face, shooting them all down, and in the background, we see tanks and giant robots smoldering. How does one exactly "dream of power" when they're already giant-robot-proof.
Narrator: It began as a rumor, whispered by a drunken lout.
Linkara: (drunken, slurred speech) I am totally being serious. (holds up two fingers) One time... (withdraws hand awkwardly) I got replaced by a robot who drank even more than I did. You're a very pretty man.
Linkara (v/o): Our two characters, named Tarsus and Challa, are in pursuit of a guy named General Zhan on this planet of purple rain. However, this really has nothing to do with the plot, as we'll soon see. For starters, we never see what General Zhan looks like. Let that be the first lesson, writers and editors: DON'T WASTE OUR TIME WITH MEANINGLESS ACTION SEQUENCES!
Narrator: Yours is an appetite that can never be sated. It is your greatest weakness and strength. It is why I crave you.
Linkara: (as narrator) I am the narrator, and I'm being very creepy.
Linkara (v/o): The faceless general shoots our intrepid... uh, whatever the hall Tarsus is. It hits his lower arm, burning it away.
Narrator: It is indeed fortunate that Challa is at your side, Tarsus Deltar.
Linkara: (as narrator) 'Cause you could really use a hand. (rim shot) Thank you, thank you! I'm the narrator, I'll be here all week.
Linkara (v/o): Challa succeeds in pretty much atomizing General Zhan, leaving him in a Mars Attacks!-esque fashion as just a skeleton. What, was General Zhan naked? Why can this gun burn away clothes and flesh, but leave bones neatly picked?
Challa: Tarsus, my love?! Are you...?
Tarsus: Alive. But in sorry need of a strong arm.
Linkara: (as Tarsus, hiding his hand in his coat sleeve as though he's armless) If only I had worn that glove made out of bones!
Linkara (v/o): How come they only used the charred skeleton setting now? We didn't see any of that going on when they were fighting the troops outside. Everybody seemed perfectly well-preserved out there. Maybe General Zhan was wearing a bunch of oily rags and acid when he died, and he just cooked faster than everybody else. She helps him over to the door, where he says the "secret chant". Said secret chant includes a blank-faced emoticon.
Narrator: Yes, mouth the meaningless words I left for you to find.
Linkara: He left him a copy of "Southland Tales"?
Narrator: Step through the doorway and savor the end of your quest. (the Legend of Zelda "item received" tone plays) To you it is the omnipotent Stone of Eternity.
Linkara: (as narrator) To me, it is a coffeemaker.
Narrator: Others know it by myriad names.
Linkara: (as narrator) There are some who call it... Tim?
Narrator: Whatever you call it is of no importance.
Linkara: Then why the heck did you bring it up?
Linkara (v/o): This is one of those cases where you wonder if the writer is paid by the word. The narrator has just admitted that the name of the thing is irrelevant, so why bother bringing up all this info? It wastes the reader's time!
Narrator: It is but a symbol.
Linkara: Yes, the giant, glowing rock on an altar with electrical bolts launching from it is a symbol. (raises index finger) Clearly, it represents the growing discontent of the working class in the digital age.
Linkara (v/o): However, as Tarsus begins to climb the stairs, Challa shoots him in the back! However, it seems the blast wasn't quite enough, despite it clearly going straight through the guy!
Tarsus: I thought I taught you better, woman. You turn on someone, make sure you kill them.
Linkara: (as Tarsus) Which is why I'm talking right now to give you ample opportunity to shoot me in the face.
Tarsus: Especially if you have an explosive implant in your skull.
Linkara: (looking visibly uncomfortable) Yyyyeah, when you're putting explosive devices in your girlfriend's head, it's probably time to look at couples counseling.
Linkara (v/o): Tarsus reaches the top and touches the crystal.
Narrator: The prize is yours. Forgotten is the spilt blood, broken promises and other dark deeds. All you need to do is reach out and the power is yours.
Linakra: (alarmed) Oh, God! In the future, Captain Planet has gone mad!
Narrator: But instead you discover what a truly fatal flaw belief is.
Linkara (v/o): Oh, boy, people, here we go...
Narrator: For when you live a lie... there is no prize... no truth. Only manipulation.
Linkara (v/o): And nakedness, apparently.
Tarsus: I'm alive! And whole!
Linkara: (as Tarsus) Yes! I– (looks down at himself, becomes uncomfortable) Oh... Uh, I'm not quite as whole as I thought I was.
Linkara (v/o): So now, we're in this nightmare version of Yellow Submarine, along with the multi-faced beings.
Narrator: My names are legion.
Linkara: That must get confusing at parties.
Narrator: So to avoid confusion... you may call me THE NAMELESS!
Linkara (v/o): So is "The" your first name, or do you just want the dramatic way of somebody calling out to you "O Nameless"?
Nameless: Be honored, Tarsus Deltar. For you I have searched and waited many a millennium.
Tarsus: Me? Why?
Linkara: (as the Nameless) We need you to unclog our sink. It is a great honor.
Nameless: Because you are destined to change the universe.
Linkara: (as the Nameless) You are the inventor of TiVo!
Linkara (v/o): The Nameless explains that Tarsus keeps getting reincarnated as a horrible dictator in every one of his lifetimes. And it tells him by reaching into his chest.
Tarsus: What have you done?!
Linkara: (as The Nameless, pretending to hold something in his hand) Got your spleen!
Linkara (v/o): Oh, and get this: one of his former lives was Stalin! Yes, Tarsus Deltar's official new name in my book is Space Stalin! Oh, it gets even better. I'm not usually one to attack this sort of thing, but according to this book, Space Stalin is the most evil person in the history of the universe. As such, consider the artwork here, and then consider the placement of the average humanoid's... anatomy, as it were. Or, to put it in much blunter terms, Space Stalin has a tiny penis! Or maybe his species doesn't have one, but I prefer my answer. I mean, just look at this artwork! The Nameless explains that it wants the ultimate monster to act as its shepherd to build a church in its honor amidst lots of religious symbols. And here's where I start to get pissed at the comic. Now, is it just me or does Jim Starlin have a real hate on for religion? Not only does this book talk about faith being a lie...
(Cut to a shot of a cover for "Infinity Crusade")
Linkara (v/o): ...but "Infinity Crusade" about a false religious prophet...
(Cut to a shot of the cover for "The Death of the New Gods")
Linkara (v/o): ..."Death of the New Gods" turned the entire basis of faith for Jack Kirby's characters into nothing more than an uncaring cosmic entity...
(Cut to a shot of the cover for "Rann-Thanagar Holy War")
Linkara (v/o): ..."Rann-Thanagar Holy War" was about... well, two warring religious factions worshiping bad guys!
Linkara: I probably wouldn't mind it as much if he didn't keep saying "Religion is bad" in his writing and ignoring the positives in favor of creating transparently evil beings for people to worship to make his point!
Linkara (v/o): Anyway, Space Stalin accepts, though the Nameless says they'll need a third being to act as the soul and dignity of their unholy trinity.
Linkara: And Heaven knows that by this point, Space Stalin needs some dignity.
Linkara (v/o): However, such a being won't be born for a long time, so the Nameless begins a process for transforming Space Stalin into the necessary instrument of its will. We cut to a hundred years later, where we finally arrive at the place this freakin' place this comic is supposed to be about: Hardcore Station. Seriously, we're more than halfway through the book before the place shows up! So, why is this place called Hardcore Station anyway?
Narrator: The place started off as part of an asteroid mining operation. That's how it got the name HARDCORE STATION.
Linkara: It's a bit of a stretch, isn't it? That's like saying the Hard Rock Cafe is named that because it used to belong to coal miners.
Linkara (v/o): I mean, that's a lame excuse to get away with the stupid name of your book. The only things that I think of when I think of "hardcore station" are either a space station for rock bands or a self-descriptive porno movie. I mean, this was made in the '90s. "Hardcore" is supposed to describe something completely rockin' and awesome.
Linkara: If you're gonna call a station "hardcore", then you'd better match what that meant in the '90s!
(Cut to the space where 90s Kid usually shows up, but while his theme plays, he is conspicuously missing)
Linkara: Uh, where is he? Doesn't he usually pop up when I say something like that?
90s Kid: (running in) Duuuuuude! I just finished Justice League: Task Force!
(Linkara rolls his eyes and hangs his head)
Linkara (v/o): The station now has five million people, and it's protected by that golden guardian from the cover.
Guardian: (narrating) My name's Maximillion Deville. But everyone calls me... CHIEF JUSTICE MAX!
Linkara (v/o): Yes, I'm sure the criminal element scurries in fear of the man named... MAX. He's the station's security chief, which of course explains why he's only got the one rocket boot. Seriously, I thought it was just a color thing, but checking out these panels, only one of his boots shoots rockets at a time. I think there's maybe one or two panels where I see them both firing, but what the heck is up with all the others? He gets a call from security and he's told to pursue some body part scavengers.
Max: My favorite type of crook.
Linkara: (as Max) They make a mean steak.
Linkara (v/o): The scavengers have a little kid held hostage and hold a gun to his head, telling Max to back off. Max does just that, but he knows that if he lets them go, they'll kill the kid anyway. As such, he shoots down the ship.
Max: (narrating) Got to be hard in this line of work. That's why they pay me the big bucks.
Linkara: (as Max) Yes, I'll risk his life anyway, by shooting down the ship he's on. (holds up fist) I am a tactical genius.
(Cut to the well-used clip of the well-used scene from Patton)
Patton: (looking out through a pair of binoculars) You magnificent bastard, I READ YOUR BOOK!
(Back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): With the help of his rocket boots, he manages to get to the falling ship and take the kid away while letting the ship crash. And our brave, intelligent hero lets the ship crash, obviously risking the lives of pedestrians on the street, as we see this person fleeing from the crash. Smooth. He tells command that he's letting the kid watch the blaze with him.
Dolly: Max, are you out of your mind?
Max: It's okay, Dolly. He's a kid. The boy's got other things on his mind besides... life and his own mortality. He'll learn soon enough.
Linkara: (as the boy, excitedly) Wow! Look at their bodies burning up like that! Killing things is fun!
Linkara (v/o): And so, our comic ends with a ship approaching Hardcore Station. Huh, look at the design for this thing. (it looks like a fish)
(Cut to a clip of The Hitchhiker's Guide To the Galaxy)
Ford Prefect: Looks like a fish, moves like a fish, steers like a cow.
Linkara: Yes, our exciting climax for issue 1: a ship docking with the station. (closes comic and holds it up) This comic sucks.
Linkara (v/o): Three-quarters of the story have nothing to do with the station itself and serve only as a setup for the rest of the mini. However, that's not a good storytelling technique. The first issue was supposed to introduce us to the main character, the setting, and why we should care about him. The stuff with Tarsus and the Nameless is irrelevant to that, unless it turns out that Space Stalin is actually our main character, but given that he's not the one on the cover, I sincerely doubt that.
Linkara: So I hope you've enjoyed this little educational jaunt in the world of comics. (holds up comic) Let this serve as a lesson to future generations on how to make a comic blow and not sell. (throws down comic, gets up and leaves)
(End credits roll)
We've secretly replaced Tarsus' "Stone of Eternity" with Folgers Crystals...
Remember, kids – if your rocket boots are only firing one at a time, consult a licensed mechanic.
(Stinger: The final page of the comic is displayed)
Narrator: Next: BUGS!
(Cut to a clip of Starship Troopers)
(A swarm of Bugs descends on the fleeing soldiers)