PSA Hell: Energy and Safety with the Justice League
February 3, 2015
See all the thrills and excitement of people standing around lecturing you!
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. And welcome, my friends, to "PSA Hell"!
("PSA Hell" title is shown)
Linkara (v/o): Today, we're talking about a somewhat bizarre little PSA comic made in conjunction with Con Edison, a New York energy company.
(A montage is shown of comics made by DC in conjunction with Con Edison)
Linkara (v/o): I call it "somewhat bizarre" because this one just seems... lazy. It's only six pages long, which you'd think would make it ideal for "Comic Book Quickies" and not a full episode, but the thing is that Con Edison and DC produced multiple PSA books, supposedly six in total, though I could only find covers for five, and this one is the shortest, and it has a different name from the rest. Those are called "Energy and Safety Adventures", which is probably accurate because those ones apparently involve stories, whereas this one... not so much. They're most trying to appeal to those who watch the DC Animated Universe, plus Teen Titans, which would make sense, but what also confuses me is that the PSA is also pretty much an ad for Con Edison, which only services New York... and one subsidiary company handles Pennsylvania and New Jersey, but still... so was this really necessary?
Linkara: The answer, as with so many of DC's decisions when they are asked that question... is "yes". So let's dig into (holds up today's comic) "Energy and Safety with the Justice League" and see... (pauses awkwardly) no adventures. (weakly waving fist in the air) Yaaaay...
(AT4W title sequence plays, and the title card has "Polkarama" by Weird Al Yankovic playing in the background. Cut to a closeup of the comic's cover)
Linkara (v/o): The cover is... pretty bland when you realize the background is just a light blue gradient going down to white. There are a bunch of powerlines in the sky, but no buildings for the powerlines to connect to. Is this out in the desert? Also, despite this being "Energy and Safety with the Justice League", only Superman decided to show up. Or perhaps the rest of the Justice League are standing just out of view. Or inside one of the buildings equipped with a cloaking device. You'd think those people down there were all excited to see Superman, but in reality, they're just surprised because he's about to fly right into those powerlines and shock himself like a cartoon. Also, probably not a good sign for the promotional comic for your company that these powerlines apparently need this many workers to perform maintenance on them.
(The comic opens to the first page)
Linkara (v/o): We open with Green Lantern John Stewart.
Linkara: Has anyone ever actually asked The Daily Show's Jon Stewart about sharing the name? No joke; I'm just really curious if anyone has ever done that before. Comics make the occasional joke about it sometimes, but I don't think he's ever mentioned the connection. I'm gonna get like a hundred emails linking to a joke he made about it once now, aren't I?
Green Lantern: Hi! I'm the Green Lantern. This is Bill...
Linkara: (as Green Lantern) Bill doesn't deserve a last time.
Green Lantern: We're here to talk about how you can do your part to protect the environment.
Linkara: (gangster voice) Maybe the environment'll cough up some money for our protection after we (clenches fist) rough it up a little.
Green Lantern: As you may know, our energy supply is not limitless.
Linkara: (as Green Lantern) We're all doomed to die horribly when we eventually run out of fuel sources. (waves) Enjoy the post-apocalyptic world that will be created when that happens!
Green Lantern: It's a precious resources, and we have to think seriously about how we're going to use it.
Linkara (v/o): Know what's also a precious resource? Proper grammar. And that comma splice is endangering it.
BECAUSE POOR LITERACY... IS RATHER UNUSUAL FOR A PSA.
Linkara (v/o): Our man Bill informs us that Con Edison is working to conserve energy while helping to safeguard the environment. Yes, they're trying to "conserve" energy... which is why they distribute it to people. Wait, what? Erm, no, of course they mean they make them more fuel-efficient, reducing emissions, and of course, he and Green Lantern have some suggestions for how to be more eco-friendly.
Green Lantern: Remind the last person to leave a room to turn off the lights.
Linkara (v/o): Uh, Green Lantern, if that window behind you is to be believed, you're in space right now, possibly on the moon. In fact, I'm pretty sure that's a sign you're using the JLA Watchtower, which has super science and superpowered generators. I don't think a single light bulb still on is gonna make that much of a difference when you've got frigging force fields and crap.
Green Lantern: Save a stamp and go paperless-- get and pay your bill on the Internet by using E*Bill.
Linkara: Are we still in space? Because if we are, wouldn't you have to use Internet bill pay? Or is the post office that good?
Green Lantern: Use compact fluorescent bulbs--they use 75% less energy! Not only will these tips help the environment-- they'll benefit your bank account, too!
Linkara: Ah, yes, good information for those ten-year-olds who pay the electric bill.
Linkara (v/o): And before you say that maybe this wasn't meant for children, we then get our next segment featuring these two kids approaching a downed power line.
Boy: (to another boy) Wow, look at this! Come over here!
Linkara: (as boy) Hey, let's stick our faces directly in the sparking powerline!
Batman: No, stay back! Don't go near or touch a fallen power line, or any other damaged electrical equipment!
Linkara: (as Batman, wearing his mask) Electricity powers electric guitars, the main weapon of rock 'n' roll music! Reject it, children!
Linkara (v/o): Batman instructs them to instead call the power company if they spot something like this.
Batman: This downed power line is dangerous--very dangerous!
Boy: Gee, thanks, Batman! We had no idea the downed line was so risky--we could have been hurt!
Linkara: The fact that they didn't know that: an example of poor parenting or just utter stupidity? (points to screen) You make the call!
Linkara (v/o): Next, we're in a snowy city.
Man: It's absolutely freezing out here--and doubtless it inside our apartment, too!
Linkara: (incredulously) What do you mean "doubtless"? Did you turn off the heat when you left the house? That's how your pipes freeze! And yes, I know heating bills can be expensive, but I think replacing all your pipes after they burst would be more expensive!
Man: When we get in, I'll turn on the oven and open the door--that'll get the place nice and toasty in no time.
Woman: Good idea!
Linkara: Well, I see we're going to have the long-awaited return of Vapora.
Linkara (v/o): Batman teleports from that sunny neighborhood into this snowy city to inform them of what morons they are.
Batman: An oven isn't designed for space heating-- it can easily cause a fire, deplete oxygen levels and cause a buildup of lethal carbon monoxide gas!
Linkara: (as Batman, wearing his mask) And I know that that sounds cool at first, but...
Woman: Thanks, Batman--we could have really caused a lot of trouble in there! Maybe I'll just go put another sweater on...
Linkara: (as Batman) Excellent, citizen! I will return to simply standing in this alleyway in my bat thermal underwear and wait for someone else to suggest something that will get them killed. (beat) I am the night.
Linkara (v/o): Next, it's time for the whole Justice League to get in on the action, as they just happen to be hanging out in their living room. I don't know, maybe it's still the watchtower? Superman isn't with them, since he's in the middle of opening a new recycling center. However, the power suddenly goes out. Wonder Woman says not to panic.
Wonder Woman: All we need is to call the power company and they'll get us up and running in no time.
Linkara (v/o): I was gonna complain about the telephone still working, despite the power being out, but apparently, landline telephones don't require that much power to operate, so phone companies actually have copper wiring buried under the ground that supply power to phones so they can operate when the power goes out, a fact that you should probably include in this comic. But no, let's make sure people in the year 2008 know about Internet bill pay.
Linkara: And wait, if they're in the watchtower, why are they using a landline phone?
Linkara (v/o): I mean, Martian Manhunter even suggests just going and fixing it themselves, but Wondy insists on waiting a few minutes for the power to return. Um, guys, why is the power out to begin with? Did some of you not pay your bills? Is a supervillain attacking? Why isn't anyone investigating this?! Oh, whatever. Superman's making his grand entrance to help open that recycling center.
Wonder Woman: You see? Even the JLA can't fix every problem.
Linkara (v/o): Uh, except you really could fix this problem. There was nothing stopping you from doing so.
(Cut to the next story/PSA)
Linkara (v/o): Next, we cut to a rather unexpected member of the JLA: Oracle. Okay, I don't think I've ever really gone over Oracle before on the show, and we're already on the fourth page out of six in this comic, so...
TIME 4 BACKSTORY
(A shot of Oracle as Batgirl is shown)
Linkara (v/o): Oracle is Barbara Gordon, whom you may recall as being Batgirl. Well, in 1988, the character of Batgirl was retired. Not sure why they did it, but the decision was made.
(Cut to the cover of "Batman: The Killing Joke")
Linkara (v/o): Aaand then immediately afterwards, Alan Moore wrote "The Killing Joke", a story that offers a possible backstory for the Joker, though it's left unclear. The Joker himself admitted that he remembers things differently all the time and that if he's going to have an origin, it might as well be multiple choice.
(Cut briefly to the cover of another Batman story: "Hush Returns")
Linkara (v/o): Unless the story is "Hush Returns" and they just say, "Eh, screw it, that's what happened." Man, I really need to review that crapfest, don't I?
(Cut back to "The Killing Joke")
Linkara (v/o): Erm, anyway, point is that the Joker shoots Barbara Gordon and the bullet hits her spine, paralyzing her from the waist down. However, the point of the story was not Barbara being shot, but it was about the Joker trying to drive Jim Gordon insane. It was a classic example of women in refrigerators, which I have gone over before. Pissed off over the treatment Barbara received in this regard, as her paralysis was an afterthought, one Alan Moore admitted to being a terrible mistake, editor Kim Yale and her husband John Ostrander decided to make things right by enhancing her character through this. And thus they turned her into Oracle, the DC Universe's premiere hacker and tech expert. She was pretty much a member of the JLA at this point in time, too, providing them with information as they needed it.
Linkara: And for some stupid reason, they unparalyzed her in "The New 52", with little or no explanation, because (exaggeratedly) iconic or some crap. But the book was actually really good, so... I'll give them a pass. Sort of. Not really.
Linkara (v/o): But whatever. The point is that it's really weird to see Oracle here. As I said in the intro, they were mostly borrowing from the cartoons, since that was the most recognizable imagery of the characters, so seeing the comic version appear like this is pretty weird. Anyway, it's time to talk about electronic billing – again. Oracle is here with her friend Ted, who is apparently the real star here since Oracle gets, like, two lines of dialogue on this page while Ted gets the rest.
Ted: Recent studies show that if all U.S. households paid their bills online, it would save 18.5 million trees...
Linkara: (incredulously) We're harvesting 18.5 million trees just for bills?! I think the bigger issue here is that we're not using trees efficiently! That's only like seventeen pieces of paper per tree!
Ted: ...avoid 2.2 billion tons of toxic air pollutants and 1.7 billion pounds of solid waste and save 15.8 billion gallons of precious water.
Linkara (v/o): So, recent studies say that, eh? Care to tell me which studies say that? It's not that I don't believe you, it's just... well, I don't believe you, because you're full of crap already on this. I can't speak for other countries on this, but America is not in danger of running out of trees. We actually have more trees now than we did a hundred years ago. Trees are a renewable resource, and we do an exceedingly good job of replanting them. About one-and-a-half billion new trees are planted each year. And I can actually cite my sources: namely, the damn U.S. Forest Service. Now, you can probably make other conservation arguments concerning fragmentation, species becoming endangered due to changed forest lines or anything else, but they're arguing about (sarcastically) saving the trees, the trees that are not in any danger. This is what happens when you oversimplify things.
Linkara: (looking at comic and feeling it) I also noticed this strange material the comic is made out of. Ooh, what is it? Could it be plastic, or maybe some kind edible cloth– (becomes annoyed) YEAH, IT'S PAPER! And rather high-quality paper at that, which is more expensive!
Linkara (v/o): Then again, comics have had a real problem with this paper thing. Companies have blamed unnecessarily rising prices of comics on the more expensive paper before, but most people I think would honestly be more than happy to just have newsprint again if it saved them money. But whatever. What's really important, according to Ted, is that we save a stamp, too! Oracle, you have any input?
Oracle: Help us save the environment!
Linkara: Don't you run a lot of electronic equipment that drains a considerable amount of power?
Linkara (v/o): You know, in comic books, with as many rich people exist in them who are constantly giving money to charities and environmental programs, it's an honest-to-goodness wonder that any problems exist whatsoever.
(Cut to the next story/PSA)
Linkara (v/o): Anyway, let's go over to Superman, who's teaching us about being prepared in the event of a disaster.
Linkara: Don't worry, Superman, the CDC has already instructed me on what to do in the event of a zombie attack.
Linkara (v/o): It's actually not that different than those instructions: having a lights-out kit, battery-operated devices, surge protectors for electronics, stay indoors and away from downed powerlines, and keep candles and lighters away from flammable material. Also, keep them out of reach of children, and for some reason, this kid and dog are standing over the X instead of underneath it. So, I'm getting mixed messages: do we want to set children on fire or not? They also bring up how Con Edison workers will sometimes be trimming trees that are in danger of falling over and breaking powerlines.
Superman: Qualified Con Edison contractors generally trim and/or remove trees along the right-of-way every three years.
Linkara (v/o): Oh, yeah, qualified contractors, like that woman whose outfit doesn't have any sleeves, or the space cop who is interefering with one guy's trimming by doing his own trimming. Seriously, though, what the hell was that guy cutting? He's not even aiming anywhere near the tree. But enough of all that pesky advice; time for a story! ...Sort of. Okay, more like, reprocessed story by-product that's had all the flavor squeezed out of it, then some salt sprinkled on in the vain hope you won't notice. Superman is flying over a city when he suddenly smells a gas leak. He flies down to the building to investigate, but fortunately, it's already been taken care of, and he's just detecting the aftermath.
Man: I smelled the gas, but assumed somebody else had already taken care of it... Luckily, my girlfriend was a lot more sensible than I!
Linkara: (as this man) Well, I should probably say "ex-girlfriend"; she's not too happy that I ignored the potential danger to our lives.
Con Edison worker: Never assume somebody else has already seen the problem!
Linkara: (as worker) Interfere in everything around you, even if it's none of your business!
Superman: You should not strike a match or smoke. Don't use telephones, switch on or off any electrical appliances, or start a car nearby a leak. All of these can produce sparks that might cause an explosion.
(The Superman logo appears while the theme from the Superman movie plays)
Linkara (v/o): (dramatically) Superman: guardian of truth, Man of Tomorrow, gas expert! (normal) The girlfriend confirms that she remembered all these safety details and especially remembered to call for help away from the area, which she did so.
Superman: Well, it looks like everything's under control now. Nice job, everyone!
Linkara: (as Superman) If you'll excuse me, I have to go lecture Lex Luthor about emissions caused by the giant robots he sometimes sends after me.
Linkara (v/o): And so, our comic ends with the Con Edison man explaining what to do in these situations.
Con Edison worker: Yes, and remember, if you smell or suspect a gas leak, call Con Edison toll free...
Linkara: (as Superman) Whoa, now, citizen! Let's not get too hasty. Their problem is (points offscreen) over there, and "over there" needs to take care of itself.
Linkara (v/o): So, uh... yeah, that's the end. The back cover is just an ad for Con Edison and how you should call them for more information.
Linkara: (looking at comic in confusion) Why do I feel like I did two Comic Book Quickies episodes in a row? (holds up comic) This comic is... (hesitates) hmm... kind of sucks... I think...? Yeah, we're going with it sucks.
Linkara (v/o): The PSA part is fine, with various small issues and safety tips. The problem is that this isn't even a story. If there are any stories, they're hidden very well, since the presence of the Justice League adds nothing to this. Could've been any random characters in this situation. You could've replaced the superheroes here with the cast of a sitcom, and it would have made just as much sense. The heroes have no point in doing this except name value. The artwork is fine, but there's not really much in the way of sequential storytelling because there is no story. Some people are not very smart, and others are. Also, buy Con Edison.
Linkara: Well, at least we got another episode that was short. (tosses comic aside and sighs, with his head resting on his head) Maybe I'm getting soft this year, with less things to complain about. So, uh, what's next week? (looks at schedule) "Youngblood"! Somehow, I'm thinking that playing with downed powerlines would be preferable. (again puts his head on his hand)
(End credits roll)
My math is slightly off about the trees. That's 17 pieces of paper per tree for ONE MONTH of bills. But then again, they don't actually stipulate what they mean, sooo that could be it.
I thought the episode was short since the script was about the same length as the Comic Book Quickies one. Weeeeiiiirrrrd.
(Stinger: The panel showing Batman warning kids to stay away from the downed powerline is shown again)
Linkara (v/o): Why is Batman lecturing children randomly on a street about safety concerns? Isn't this the job of that superheroine Guardiana?
(Cut to a clip of a film on home safety, as looked at by the cast of RiffTrax. A woman is shown)
Kevin Murphy: Oh, mighty Isis! Er, Shazam! Uh, Farfegnugen!