PSA Hell: Captain America: Return of the Asthma Monster
August 8, 2011
Yes, a villain so good that people DEMANDED his return! After all, YOU remember the asthma monster, right?!
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. Well, the Captain America movie has hit theaters recently, and frankly, I loved it. But the patriotic hero has even worse villains to contend with than Nazis, H.Y.D.R.A., and three crappy movies previously: (points to camera) Asthma! (a dramatic sting is heard)
(Cut to a shot of a Captain America comic where he battles an asthma monster)
Linkara (v/o): In 1988, Marvel teamed up with pharmaceutical company Glaxo, Inc., to educate kids on asthma and asthma medication. The result was "Captain America Meets the Asthma Monster!", a comic we'll probably get to down the line, but most people were eager to donate its sequel to me.
Linkara: Yes, a sequel to a PSA comic; wrap your head around that one.
Linkara (v/o): In it, we all met the Asthma Monster, a guy in a weird-ass green suit who could teleport around and had an "allergun" to make it difficult for people to breathe. He was foiled by Captain America and two students with asthma who were immune because they took asthma medication, and subsequently, asthma medication is used to stop him. And it turns out the monster is a guy who has asthma but felt alienated because of his sickness and decided that, instead of taking readily-available medication, that he'd spend years becoming a supervillain and inventing a toxic gas that would give people asthma symptoms so they'd all be just like him.
Asthma Monster: I didn't want to breathe like other people! I wanted them to be like me!
(Cut to the Cyber Leader from Doctor Who)
Cyber Leader: There is logic in what he says.
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): At the end, he swears revenge and that he'll be back.
Linkara: So let's dig into (holds up comic of review) "Captain America: Return of the Asthma Monster!" And let me welcome you... to "PSA Hell"!
("PSA Hell" title is shown, followed by the regular show title sequence; title card has the theme from the 1960s Captain America cartoon playing; cut to a closeup of the comic's cover)
Linkara (v/o): Our cover is decent, but lacking background details. It shows the Asthma Monster, along with his new... uh, whatever the hell these things are facing off against Captain America and the two kids.
Asthma Monster: Eliminate Captain America, my Allergen Gang, and we can spread asthma across the globe!!
Linkara: (as Asthma Monster) Yes, Captain America is the only thing stopping us from spreading asthma! (as one of the Allergen Gang) Uh, what about the police? They have guns. (as Asthma Monster) Well, obviously the police will have to be dealt with, but... (as one of the Allergen Gang) And, uh, then there are other superheroes... (as Asthma Monster) Okay, I didn't really think of that, but... (as one of the Allergen Gang) And you can't really spread asthma because it's not really a communicable disease. (as Asthma Monster) Oh, just shut up and help me kill Captain America!
Linkara (v/o): We open on a recap page detailing the events of the first comic.
Narrator: While seeking out the Asthma Monster's whereabouts, John and Ruth were surprised to learn that Captain America also had asthma when he was young.
Linkara: Though they were more surprised by the goofy-looking motorcycle helmet he was wearing.
Linkara (v/o): Anyway, after that, we truly open on a splash page of a hallway in jail, where the Asthma Monster is in full costume again and spraying a guard.
Asthma Monster: Attack, Allergen Gang! Show these fools the price that must be paid for trying to keep the Asthma Monster in jail!
Linkara: (as Asthma Monster) The price is $6.95, plus tax. (laughs evilly) Oh, and I don't accept checks.
Linkara (v/o): The Allergen Gang is made of a bunch of really hairy... monkeys or something that apparently blows smoke in people's faces. Oh, and then there's this raccoon that's shedding all over the place.
Linkara: That diabolical maniac, preying on people's allergies to raccoon fur!
Linkara (v/o): I also love how they all have little clothes, too. The modesty of small demonic imps must be maintained. Something else I just noticed: none of the police officers are pulling guns. I see police batons and even one guy here carrying a broom, but nothing that would end this problem in a single second. Their creatures ask him what they're going to do when they get out.
Asthma Monster: Between the allergens in my gun and those at the disposal of you and your cohorts, we will be able to trigger asthmatic in the entire city in a matter of weeks.
Linkara: You know, not only is his evil easily treatable, it's also inefficient. What's he gonna do, go up to every single person in the city and spray that stuff in their face like some evil perfume seller?
Asthma Monster: Warden Barnes, how nice of you to see us off. I have a message for you to pass on to Captain America for me. Tell him that I'm coming after him and those little brats...
Linkara: (as Warden Barnes, clutching his throat and gasping) But I can't tell them! I can't breathe! (as Asthma Monster) Oh, I, uh, I didn't think of that. Oh, could you write it down on your hand or something before you pass out? Thanks.
Linkara (v/o): And of course, despite him coughing and unable to breathe, the warden gasps out that he has to alert Captain America. I think you have some other priorities, dude. Captain America has super strength and an indestructible shield. I think he can take on an idiot in a rubber suit and his band of gremlins. We cut to the school where the child protagonists of the first book, John and Ruth, spot another kid who's gasping and wheezing.
John: Hey, are you okay?
Gasping kid: Yeah... (gasp) I'll be fine in a minute.
Ruth: Does this happen a lot?
Linkara: (as the gasping kid) Yeah. I'm supposed to be in a smoking PSA with Spider-Man, but I kinda got lost.
Linkara (v/o): They say that if this happens to the kid a lot, he may have asthma, and he should go to a doctor. He says he doesn't want his parents to find out and asks why they can't just share their medicine with him.
Ruth: No way! The only person you should ever take medicine from is your family doctor.
Linkara: (as Ruth) But never from a doctor who isn't your family doctor. I don't care if your family doctor's on vacation, ONLY FROM THEM!
Linkara (v/o): They also say that they don't even know if he has asthma and only a doctor can say for certain. He's surprised that they have asthma since they act so normal, even being on the swim team. I've gotta say, as far as PSA material goes, the actual educational part of this is pretty decent so far, giving logical information, like don't share your medication with other people, consult a doctor, and that people with asthma can still live normal lives without interruption. And then Captain America shows up without warning.
Linkara: (as a kid) Captain America, where the hell did you come from? (as Captain America, holding his shield) Oh, please, I'm Captain America. I died once and went to Valhalla to fight demons. The only reason I left is because I'm too awesome to die. I move through the power of badass.
Linkara (v/o): But seriously, why the hell is Captain America just hanging out in an elementary school? Where did he even come from without anyone noticing him coming up? Cap talks about what it was like for him having asthma as a kid and that asthma attacks can happen by getting overly excited.
Captain America: When this happens the most important thing to do are to stop, think and act! Stop activity that has brought on the attack.
Linkara: (as Captain America) Stop having fun. Fun brings on asthma attacks.
Captain America: Think about the plan of action your doctor and parents have taught you. Act: Follow through with your plan.
Linkara: (as a kid) Okay, it was something about... sticking my head between my legs and kissing my ass goodbye. But I'm not that limber!
Captain America: Remember not to panic. Breathe slowly and deeply while waiting for your medication to work. If this happens once or twice a week, ask your parents to take you to the doctor.
Kid with asthma: Wow. That works. I can breathe. How come it was so hard before?
Linkara: The truth is that this kid doesn't have asthma; he's just incredibly stupid and forgot how to breathe.
Linkara (v/o): The kid says he doesn't want to go to the doctor because he's afraid his parents won't let him try out for baseball next year if it turns out he has asthma. But of course, the kids say that that isn't necessarily the case, and a few hours later, they take him to the doctor's office.
Captain America: Remember how both of you were able to control your asthma attacks last year and help me defeat the Asthma Monster?
Linkara: (as one kid) I remember you taking all the credit for it. (as a second kid) Yeah, we didn't even get a lousy medal or anything. (as Captain America) Yeah, good times.
Linakra (v/o): The kid comes out of a hospital room... Wait, we see the one kid's mom, but what about the parents of the other two? Captain America, child abductor, everyone! Anyway, the kid leaves with his mom, and now, the doctor says that the kids' parents called and gave Captain America permission to take them home early? Wait, early?! You mean, this isn't happening after school?! Captain America abducted these kids to go to a hospital?! And yeah, he only now just permission to do this stuff! Cap explains that the Asthma Monster broke out of jail and is coming after them.
Captain America: He's sworn to get revenge against me for foiling his plan of world domination through the spread of artificially created allergens.
Linkara: (miserably) Just when I think I'm done with stupid plans for world dominations, they pile on another one!
Linkara (v/o): Let's check the list, shall we? There are plenty of dumb plans, but let's look exclusively at the ones for world domination.
(Cut to a shot of a panel for "Uncanny X-Men")
Linkara (v/o): There was Nightcrawler elected as the Pope...
(Cut to a shot of a "Dr. Know" comic)
Linkara (v/o): ...Dr. Know's plan of making everyone dumber than him by convincing them not to go to college...
(Cut to a shot of a "Dr. Doom" comic)
Linkara (v/o): ...Doctor Doom's convoluted and nonsensical plan to make Magneto flood the world or something...
(Cut back to the Captain America comic)
Linkara (v/o): ...and now we have "conquer the world by spreading artificial allergens to simulate an asthma attack".
Linkara: For the love of crap, you've got five gremlins and a gas gun! You are not going to take over the world like this! I can foil this plan right now by holding my breath and hitting him with a stick!
Linkara (v/o): Oh, and just like the Captain America TV pilot movies, our all-American hero drives around in an unmarked van.
(Cut to a clip of the pilot)
Steve Rogers: Pretty mellow set of wheels.
Dr. Mills: Yeah.
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): The creepy vibe continues. The two arrive back at John's house. When they see the front doors left open, Cap suggests that he goes in first.
Captain America: Hello-- Mrs. Wilson, are you home? It's Captain America.
Linkara (v/o): I love how blase everyone is over Captain friggin' America running around. The Asthma Monster teleports in and sprays Cap with some allergens.
Captain America: His Aller-Gun... triggered an asthma attack. Only one chance. Children, you know what to do.
Linkara: (as one of the kids) Right, Captain America! (takes out a gun and fires several shots)
Linkara (v/o): No, of course, it's for them to pull out their inhalers and use them.
Asthma Monster: NOOO! They have the antidote to my super-allergens! The confounded medications that those lousy doctors hand out work every time.
Linkara: You know, you could just load that gun up with, like, poison gas or something. There's no rule that says you need to only be about the allergens.
Linkara (v/o): He says that his Allergen Gang has John's parents, and he plans to test his new super-allergen that will turn them and everyone else into permanent, incurable asthmatics.
Asthma Monster: Then I'll be the only one able to breathe.
Linkara: Except for, you know, standard asthma medication. Again. You suck at this, Asthma Monster.
Linkara (v/o): The Asthma Monster teleports away, and Cap calls the doctor from earlier to bring over a ton of asthma remedies. Naturally, he doesn't call the police or the Avengers, because that would be, you know, helpful. John says there's no way he's being left behind and grabs a Dust Buster to defend himself with. They start to head upstairs when this happens...
Voice: (whispering from rug) Psst, little girl. Wanna cut a rug?
Ruth: Cap, the rug--it's talking.
Linkara: (as Ruth) What the heck is in this inhaler anyway?
Linkara (v/o): No, it's one of the gremlin things... that happens to be on roller skates just to ramp up the goofy, who tries to get them with smoke from cigars – seriously – to trigger an asthma attack. Fortunately, John still has the Dust Buster, which sucks the creature into it.
Linkara: (as the gremlin, flailing his arms around) OH, DEAR GOD, I CAN'T EVEN BEGIN TO DESCRIBE THIS KIND OF PAIN!
Linkara (v/o): He then tosses the little monster into another room. Did it hit a wall or something? Why don't they make sure it's dead or unconscious? And Cap somehow makes the leap of logic that the Allergen Gang is hanging out anywhere one can find asthma triggers. Considering they've seen only one of these guys, I'm not sure how the hell you deduce that. They head upstairs and encounter some kind of dragon, but this is Captain friggin' America, who just smashes the thing into a wall. You know what I'm reminded of in all this?
Linkara (v/o): The Surgeon General from "Daredevil". This is once again a villain really pathetic and completely out of the league of the hero they're facing, and yet somehow, they've scored a hit or two, and we're still supposed to take them seriously, despite them being complete idiots.
(Back to the Captain America comic)
Linkara (v/o): Anyway, they enter a bedroom where some kind of feather boa... snake... otter... thing attacks Cap and tries to simultaneously choke him and use the feathers to cause another asthma attack. Ruth smashes the thing over the head with a lamp.
Linkara: The fearsome Allergen Gang, who have been so far defeated by common household appliances.
Linkara (v/o): Next up's a little furball thing, but Cap just kicks it down the stairs. They enter a bedroom full of flowers, which John knows wouldn't be there because of pollen and mold spores. And thus, the mold patrol attacks, a group of flying demons that spray pollen and mold and actually physically assault them. Fortunately, the doctor shows up.
Linkara: Unfortunately, he takes one look at a scene like this and decides, "Screw this, I'm outta here!", and decides to retire.
Linkara (v/o): Nah, the doctor attacks them with his medical bag, and the creatures fly out the window. The final member of the Allergen Gang is just some creature that has little shorts and suspenders, despite the shorts clearly being three sizes too small, that Captain America just punches out. I think the Asthma Monster may have overestimated the effectiveness of the Allergen Gang. So they enter the final room, where the Asthma Monster is waiting, aiming a gun at their parents.
Asthma Monster: Once I'm through with the brat's parents, I'll turn the gun on all of you. You'll have asthma forever. And none of Doctor Franklin's precious medicines will be able to help you.
Linkara: Why didn't you use that in the first place?
Linkara (v/o): The doctor tosses his medical bag and deliberately misses him to act as a distraction, allowing Cap to toss his shield and knock the gun from his hand. Cap then socks the guy so hard it knocks his mask off. And that, my friends, is why Captain America is so friggin' awesome!
(A snippet of "America, F*ck Yeah!" from Team America: World Police plays)
Background singers: America, fuck yeah! Comin' again to save the motherfuckin' day, yeah!
Asthma Monster: (coughing and gasping) Can't breathe... Have asthma... Costume helped me breathe.
Dr. Franklin: If you have asthma, why are you trying to give it to everyone else?
Asthma Monster: So I wouldn't be... different.
Dr. Franklin: I can help you control your asthma. You don't have to be different.
Asthma Monster: You'd help me?
Dr. Franklin: Absolutely.
Linkara: (glares, then points at camera; deep voice) NO! (normal) NO, NO, NO!
Linkara (v/o): THAT IS BULLCRAP! In the first issue, they asked him why he didn't just take his damn medicine, and he said he didn't want to breathe like everybody else! He DELIBERATELY avoided doing the logical thing! You can't pull this mealy-mouthed happy-ending-for-all bullcrap now, comic! He studied for years to do the teleportation stuff and develop all this, and not ONCE did he just think, "Say, maybe if I just took my allergy medication, I could live a normal life"?! Ugh! Anyway, three months later, he's coming out of the hospital and says that the doctor has helped him, and he's even on parole for his crimes by doing community service. Oh, in what frickin' imaginary candy land do you live in, comic? And so, our comic ends with them saying you should trust your doctor, talk to your parents, etc., etc.
Linkara: (angrily holding up comic) This comic sucks! I was going to be more lenient with this one, because, honestly, the PSA info they give in this one is actually pretty damn good. But that ending comes completely out of left field! Look, I love happy endings. I am genuinely an optimist, but they pulled this one completely out of their own asses. (throws down comic, gets up and leaves)
(Credits roll, to the opening of the pilot for the Captain America TV show of the 1970s)
Remember, if you like asthma, then you hate America.
The addition of the van, the motorcycle in the first comic, and then the goofy helmet makes me wonder if this WAS influenced by the Reb Brown movies in some way.
(Stinger: Linkara is seated again)
Linkara: This comic taught us an important lesson: the real way to defeat allergens is with violence. When you see dust and dirt, (holds out fist) just punch it.