September 3, 2012
A startling deconstruction of superheroes in the real world! …Or, just a really stupid black and white comic about an asshole who gets superpowers.
Holokara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. And oh, me, oh, my, we have a bad one today!
(Cut to a montage of rock 'n' roll-themed comics)
Holokara (v/o): A few weeks ago, we looked at a biography comic about Vanilla Ice. I didn't really talk about the comic's publisher, Revolutionary Comics, because it's actually kind of difficult to find a lot of information about companies like this. The rise of the direct market of comic distribution, primarily comic book stores in the '80s and '90s, allowed a lot of independent comic companies to suddenly have a venue for their material. Most of these companies aren't around anymore, and finding details about them tends to be a waste of time, so I didn't bother. It turns out, I gave up too quickly. Jay Allen Sanford, the co-creator of Revolutionary Comics and the writer of the Vanilla Ice comic, actually commented on the video and provided a historical details about how, yes, they did hate Vanilla Ice and pointed out a few more biography comics they made that I should check out. But if that wasn't enough, it turns out that Revolutionary Comics and the Rock 'n' Roll comics line was surprisingly popular back in the day, to the point where there's actually a lot of history about the company, particularly concerning lawsuits from various bands against them. The most famous was probably a lawsuit from the New Kids On the Block, which Revolutionary Comics won against.
Holokara: What, the New Kids On the Block will sue over a biography comic, but not the Christmas comic that depicted them as morons tricking a blind woman, whom they all wanted to sleep with??
Holokara (v/o): Threats of lawsuits against them over Bon Jovi and Motley Crue forced comic stores to stop carrying some of them. As such, they had to create their own distribution network to get their comics into music and retail stores, primarily using resources that Todd Loren, the founder and president of the company, had used for a previous venture called "Music Aid" for music-related merchandise and the like. They started expanding into more than just the biography comics and even added a horror anthology called "Tipper Gore's Comics and Stories", mostly called that to make fun of Tipper Gore, and I'm willing to bet a good number of my fans probably don't even know who the hell Tipper Gore is. There's a lot more history to go through, and if you're interested, I recommend reading a brief essay about the history of rock and roll comics you can find here.
Holokara (v/o): Or you check out the 2005 documentary, "Unauthorized and Proud of It: The Story of Rock 'n' Roll Comics". The only remaining history I should tell you is that Todd Loren was sadly murdered in 1992, and his killer was never found. Todd Loren himself actually scripted the first of "Psychoman" as well as a second issue, though when Jay Allen Sanford took over for Todd, he cancelled it pretty quickly because of how awful it was.
Holokara: (somberly) And on one hand, I do feel kind of bad making fun of the last work of a man whose life was cut down so tragically. (brightens up) On the other hand, this thing sucks! So, let's dig into (holds up today's review) "Psychoman #1".
(AT4W title sequence plays; title card has the opening theme for The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air playing; cut to a closeup of the comic's cover)
Holokara (v/o): The cover is actually not that bad, compositionally. "Psychoman" is supposed to be about a teenager who gets superpowers and, in an attempt to subvert cliche, he decides to use them like some ordinary asshole would use superpowers instead of becoming a superhero. As such, the image of him sitting in a chair in his home, the room wrecked from his obviously-flowing, superpowered hand looks fine. The problem is in the artwork itself, wherein our hero is staring at the reader with a completely blank expression, while two other individuals gaze into the house with looks that call to mind a certain emotional depth...
(Cut to a clip of Mystery Science Theater 3000)
Crow T. Robot: Dull surprise! (pretends to cheer)
(Cut back to the cover)
Holokara (v/o): Oh, and he doesn't have energy beams from his hands in the comic, but whatever, semantics.
(The comic opens to the first page, revealing an introduction)
Holokara (v/o): Before we begin with the comic proper, Todd Loren wrote and introduction explaining why he's writing the comic, basically outlining his problems with superhero stories.
Todd Loren: The costumes are silly. They all look basically the same.
Holokara: Damn right! Batman and Wonder Woman? Completely the same!
Loren: Secret identities are stupid. Writers use them as a crutch. A real superhero wouldn't have one.
Holokara: Of course not. It's not like some criminal would try to take revenge on their family or anything.
Loren: Origins generally have no basis in fact, and make no sense.
Holokara: (as Loren) All I'm saying is that if Booster Gold is flying around with a force field and shooting energy beams, he should be from this time period and not be a time traveler from the 25th century.
Loren: Supervillains. Another crutch.
Holokara: Yeah! I mean, who would have a character act like an asshole with their powers. Heh. Anyone who writes something like that is just using a crutch.
Loren: They don't act like real people.
Holokara: (as Loren) And dammit, if Cyborg is going to be possessed by an alien computer intelligence and try to pull the moon out of its orbit, then I expect him to act like a real person!
Loren: They don't teach relevant lessons.
Holokara: Exactly! Teaching people about compassion or responsibility or aspiring to be better than they are is just completely irrelevant!
Loren: They don't explore many of the positive things a superhero could do.
Holokara: (as Loren) Stopping criminals, rescuing people in danger. (scoffs) What's so positive about that?
Loren: The same gimmicks repeated over and over.
Holokara: (raises his finger as if to speak, but realizes...) Okay, you've got me.
Holokara (v/o): We open above the Earth, where no doubt the TARDIS is crashing down for the fiftieth time.
God: (narrating) Let's see... Who shall I choose? Ah yes, he'll do...
Holokara: (as God) I am the narrator and I bestow upon the power to narrate!
God: (narrating) This is God speaking... I want to tell you a story.
Holokara: (as God) Now, this is a story all about how my life got flipped, turned upside-down.
God: (narrating) Kevin Hardin is a normal seventeen year old American boy.
Holokara: (as God) Aside from his crippling fear of sock puppets.
Holokara (v/o): God, I guess, is narrating to us about how Kevin recently moved out of his parents house and moved to California, where he lives a normal life. However, God is disappointed that this guy, whom our Divine Lord has decided to point out is really good-looking, has never had sex.
God: (narrating) Even with his looks he only repels women.
(Cut to a clip of an episode of Blake's 7)
Avon (Paul Darrow): Being a born loser may have something to do with it.
(Cut back to the comic)
God: (narrating) Those who fail to make use of gifts I've given them... lose them. That's the rules. But there are exceptions to every rule.
Holokara: (as God) Some comic creators have absolutely no gifts, yet somehow still managed to use the nothing that they have.
Holokara (v/o): God has decided to grant the young Kevin Hardin super strength.
God: (narrating) I do this from time to time, to make improvements on my creations.
Holokara: (as God) I once gave Mara Wilson the power to call upon all video footage of people and then smite them for their sins. Man, that one was awesome.
God: (narrating) Some call it mutation. Or natural selection, evolution, whatever.
Holokara: (as God) I call it "snookerdoodle", but I'm God, I'm wacky like that.
God: (narrating) If he can impregnate a woman now, he'll be solely resposinle for moving his race towards a higher level of evolution. All he has to do is get LAID!
(Cut to a clip of Real Genius)
Kent (Robert Prescott): It is God!
(Back to the comic again)
Holokara (v/o): So, just to recap: God decides to give superpowers to some random seventeen-year-old because he was bored. Speaking of, Kevin tosses his alarm clock into a wall, not realizing what he's done until he awakens. God also speaks up again to say that there's no way he'll get laid since women are too picky these days and want a man with brains. So... God's just dicking around with him? Also, prostitute! Boom, problem solved! Kevin's roommate doesn't believe he has powers, so Kevin decides to try throwing something else and seeing what happens. As such, he hurls a baseball at a wall... Well, more like the baseball just magically propels forth from his hand, if this image is to be believed... and it goes through the wall, although I should note that if the walls are that thin, chances are good you could've thrown a pillow at the wall and had the same effect. He decides to leave and immediately realizes he has superpowers.
Kevin Hardin: Or maybe this is just one of those mysterious things that just happens, like the first time I came!
Holokara: Man, aren't you glad that this avoids all those needless cliches that other superhero comics possess? Whew! No, no, this, this is what the people to know about.
God: (narrating) See what I mean? Dumb! What a sense-less waste of human life!...
Holokara: (as a random person) Uh... then pardon me, Lord, but then why did you give him superpowers? (as God) Look, shut up! I work in mysterious ways!
Holokara (v/o): Kevin starts wondering if he dreamed it all and, to test it out, he punches a waist-high wall and smashes it. Question: What was your plan if it had been a dream? Break all the bones in your hand? A random cop is nearby and is upset over this.
Cop: Do you realize that's public property? What's the matter with you, boy?
Holokara: What's the matter with him? What's the matter with you?! Kid just smashed up a concrete wall with his bare hands, and all you care about is the damage to public property?
Holokara (v/o): Kevin, wanting to flee the cop, leaps to a conclusion without anything to back it up.
Kevin: (thinking) If I've got super strength then maybe I can... FLY!
(Cut to a clip of Doctor Who, showing the Cyber Leader)
Cyber Leader: There is logic in what he says.
(Back to the comic again)
Holokara (v/o): After crashing into the cop while getting used to "flying", he finally flies off and head to the San Diego boardwalk to figure out what to do with his newfound powers.
Kevin: (thinking) First off, I ain't going to work today! Forget that s**t! I'm gonna use this s**t to score some chicks!
Holokara: (giving a thumbs-up) Aim high, Kevin.
Holokara (v/o): He stops a random woman and flies in front of her, hoping to impress her. The woman, however for some inexplicable reason, thinks he's some kind of weirdo. Lady, he's flying through the air! BE IMPRESSED, DAMMIT! She runs off (...into her apartment building), but our protagonist decides to follow her.
Kevin: I hope she's not calling the cops! Great! I don’t know her name so I can't buzz her! Even if I bust the door down, it'll take hours to find her!
Holokara: Our hero, everybody! Wanted to bust down the doors of someone's apartment to keep them from calling the cops!
Holokara (v/o): He realizes that nuts to everything else, he can friggin' fly! As such, he buzzes some people at a beach.
Kevin: Ha! Ha! You're all a bunch of geeks! F*** you! F*** everyone! F*** THE WORLD!
(Cut to a clip of The Room)
Johnny (Tommy Wiseau): I'm fed up with this world!
(Cut back to the comic)
Holokara (v/o): In what is, admittedly, probably a realistic view of what one would do if they suddenly developed superpowers, Kevin flies over to the comic store where he worked and insults his boss and says, well, screw his job and his boss 'cause he can fly! He goes to back to the beach to try to pick up women – literally, as he tries to fly with a woman. However, he quickly deduces that he can only fly by himself. Kind of a weird rule to put in by God, but hey, I'm not the divine narrator. The other beachgoers are upset at him because he said "F you" to them, but then they realize he could be a superhero. And this makes them act like jackasses.
Beachgoer: Yeah, yeah, but this dude is totally psychotic! Maybe he's Psycho-man!
Holokara (v/o): And such witticism as "Psycho-man" gains Sunglasses Dude uproarious laughter.
Holokara: Look, I can't get over this. I wouldn't care if the guy hurled insults at me, HE CAN FLY! STOP PRETENDING THIS IS NOT A BIG DEAL!
(Cut to a man with an Australian accent, played by Lewis (almost like Mick Dundee from Crocodile Dundee) walking past the comic shelf, holding a bow and arrow)
Australian Guy: PUSH THAT CART! (sees camera) Oh, we'll be right back. (walks off) THE CART'S MOVING THE WRONG WAY, YOU BLOODY WANKERS!
(The AT4W logo appears in the corner as we go to commercial; upon return, the sound of blood spurting is heard, and the Australian guy returns)
Australian Guy: Ha! Not so smart with your brains outside your head! (sees camera) Uh, we're back now.
(He leaves, laughing, as the AT4W logo appears in the corner; the review resumes, on a shot of the list of Loren's complaints at the start)
Holokara (v/o): I would also remind you that one of Todd Loren's complaints was: "They don't act like real people." Well, that, and "They're origins have no basis in fact and don't make any sense," but hey, I don't doubt the power of the Lord to grant people superpowers.
(Cut to a clip of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier)
Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner): What does God need with a starship?
(Back to the comic again)
Holokara (v/o): Kevin goes up to the guy and punches him so hard, it does this to him.
(The beachgoer in question is seen now lying on the ground as dark liquid (possibly blood, although it's hard to tell since the comic is in black and white) leaks out of his nose and mouth)
Holokara (v/o): Naturally, the woman runs away after this and all the people just stare in horror. Well, clearly this is a turning point in this comic where he must learn about the harsh reality of having such incredible power and it'll get all dramatic and stuff... or we could just have some random guy [named Jim, as later revealed] come up to him.
Jim: Hey, what's the matter with you? Are you nuts? Don't you know that with great power comes great responsibility?
Holokara: Ooh, bad call. Don't remind people of other, better comics they could be reading instead of this. I mean, instead of reading about some psychotic killer, they could read "Amazing Spider-Man", which at the time was introducing Carnage, a psychotic killer! (stops as he realizes what he is saying) ...My point still stands!
Jim: Man, you need help! Listen, I've been waiting my whole life for a real superhero to come along, and when he finally does, this happens!
Holokara: (as Jim) God, you just straight up murdered someone, dude. This is a complete bummer for me!
Holokara (v/o): A cop comes along and tries to arrest Kevin, but he flies off... and a question mark appears over the cop's head. Insert your own joke here: The Sims, Metal Gear Solid, they all work. The cop shoots at him as he flees, since he can't fly very fast. He's not bulletproof, so he does get hit and starts bleeding a little from it. Realizing that he needs to skip town, he plops onto a bus and decides to head back east to his parents.
Kevin: (thinking) I'll show my new powers to my parents and they'll f**kin' worship me!
Holokara: Man, I'm so glad Kevin's likable. Otherwise, this whole thing would fall apart!
Holokara (v/o): We learn at the emergency room that the guy Kevin punched will live, which is impressive considering it looks like the guy got his neck snapped from that. We then cut to New York City, where we see that this guy is watching about nine different TV screens at once of horrible tragedies and the like. (this is likely similar to The Matrix Revolutions) And then we learn that this guy is apparently James Lipton. Or rather, he's a skeptic who debunked people's claims of otherworldly powers. We get an entire page where we see him get interviewed about assholes who make money off of conning people into New Age spiritualism, psychic powers, and all that stuff. I admit, I like seeing those things get debunked, but if I wanted to see this, I'd just watch Penn and Teller's show Bull... Well, you know, and I do. Unfortunately, this entire sequence is pointless, since this comic never went past the first issue. Really, I'm just more mystified that this guy took the time to blow up a newspaper article so it was the size of his frickin' wall and the put it up against it. Anyway, let's catch up with Kevin, who's arriving back at his old home in Michigan. His parents greet him at the door... and are immediately assholes to him, because he moved out to California when they wanted him to go to college. The two yell at him some more, and his dad, charming fellow that he is, even tosses some insults in his direction.
Kevin's dad: He doesn't hate us, he’s to stupid to hate us, he's to stupid to go to college.
Holokara: The Future Five would be ashamed of you, young man! You might as well just be a pawn of Dr. Know!
Kevin's dad: He's just one big nothing, a great big ZERO!
(Cut to a clip of Cool as Ice)
Johnny Van Owen (Vanilla Ice): Drop that zero and get with a hero!
(Cut back to the comic)
Holokara (v/o): You know, Kevin, maybe you should have called ahead, just saying. Angered about their reaction, he picks up the TV and throws it through a wall and flies out. His parents, like everybody else, are unimpressed. Well, to be fair, the mother asks how the hell he can do that, but the dad just thinks it's "another one of his stupid pranks!" You know, dude, your kid is an idiot, but I see now where he got it from. And now, not kidding, we get a full page of his parents fighting with each other. The hell was the point of that? Kevin stops in at a White Castle to consider his situation, and yet he does not order the wonder that is chicken rings! Flight and super-strength? (scoffs) You want to impress people? Show them chicken in a ring form, my friends! He decides that he doesn't need to work anymore and, upon seeing a newspaper, decides to head back to California.
Kevin: And goin' back to sunny f**kin' California! Cause I have seen the face of God!
God: (narrating) Oh no, not this crap! It's bad enough to make me sorry I gave man free will!
Holokara: You know, I'm beginning to suspect that narrator God is not as all-seeing and all-knowing as regular God.
Holokara (v/o): We cut to "a hidden government lab", where a child is trying to use psychic powers to make objects implode. His handler is this gentleman in sunglasses, though I can't help but notice that instead of the usual men in black attire, he's wearing a blazer and a turtleneck. This just confuses me, since instead of dressing like a government spook, he's dressed like a 1970s hired goon. When the child fails to make the objects implode, he lets the kid go, though he whispers to a guard that the kid and the kid's parents will soon be in an auto accident. How pleasant. Also, this scene affects nothing because only the one issue. It's just kind of sad that we don't get resolution for this guy's subplot.
God: (narrating) Back in California "Kevvy" follows up on his moronic plan...
Holokara: How moronic are we talking about here? Like, "give some seventeen-year-old slacker idiot superpowers" moronic or your regular "without raisins" brand of idiocy?
Holokara (v/o): "Kevvy" decides to call up a faith healer and claim to be Jesus.
God: (narrating) Hoo boy! This kid is asking for big trouble! If this keeps up, I'm turning this whole project over to Mr. Morningstar.
Holokara: Hey, get in line, man! Spider-Man has a 10:00 with the dude.
Holokara (v/o): Kevin arrives at the faith healer's establishment and just hovers over the place, naturally getting their attention. And for the first time, somebody is actually mystified with the fact that he's flying. The leader of the church, Terry, comes out, and Kevin admits he was just BSing about being Jesus, and she has a guard feel him up for weapons... and said security guard has a handlebar mustache and thinks to himself...
Guard: (narrating) Thank you, Jesus!
Holokara (v/o): (uncomfortably) I'm pretty sure this was supposed to imply that the guard is either gay or a pedophile.
Holokara: (laughs) Statutory rape!
Holokara (v/o): Kevin proposes that he use his superpowers to benefit the church and make millions of dollars.
Kevin: Listen, I don't really believe in any of this crap, alright? All I know is all my life I've been treated like shit by everyone I know. I've taken crap from my parents, friends... Everyone treats me like an idiot!
(Cut to a clip of an episode of Scrubs, where Dr. Cox tells a story about a character based on J.D.)
Dr. Cox: (narrating) Now, this was no ordinary idiot, he was a colossal idiot.
(Back to the comic again)
Kevin: But now I've got a chance to show them all that they're the idiots! You can tell the world I'm Christ for all I care! You can tell them I'm an angel or the Devil, whatever you want! I just want to be treated like I'm somebody for once!
Holokara: (pointing to camera) Yeah, you really show people by conning people out of their money and lying and wasting your incredible powers! Who's got mud on their face now, huh?
Holokara (v/o): Terry, not being a total idiot, examines the situation and asked him some questions, like how old he is, where his parents are, and looks into settling the matter of him decking a guy so hard he thinks the beach is Antarctica. She weasels around the point, saying that they need to get him declared as an adult so he can sign a contract and they'll make sure he won't get shoved in jail for the assault. And so, our comic ends with Kevin agreeing to all her demands. It's really as simple as that, believe it or not. That was three pages right there.
Holokara: Oh, man, I'm sure the second issue of this comic is gonna be just as good as "Neutro"'s second issue. (closes comic and holds it up) This comic sucks.
Holokara (v/o): Even putting aside amateurish artwork, the story itself doesn't know what it wants to be. Is it a deconstruction of traditional superhero tropes? Or is it just some pseudo comedy about an asshole getting superpowers? No one in this comic is believable or likable, especially not our protagonist, who's just a jerk to everybody,and we never have any real reason to sympathize with him, since he squanders his powers. And why the hell did we need Narrator God to bestow these powers on him? Wouldn't it just be better if he woke up one day with powers and we never learned the explanation behind it?
Holokara: I can't imagine that even if Todd Loren had lived, that this thing would've survived longer. I mean, who wants to follow a fictional story where the main character is just a douchebag who you can never relate or sympathize with? Oh, that reminds me, (gets up, throws down comic and leaves) Nimue, we need to reposition Comicron-1!
(End credits roll)
This comic is operating under a very strange theology.
I was greatly disappointed that this comic was NOT about Norman Bates with superpowers.
(Stinger: Linkara is seen walking down a path, his head hanging, depressed by the news he got from Aplos. He looks up to spot Margaret, a young girl in front of him with red hair and glasses, played by S.S. Lee. Linkara takes out his magic gun and examines it. He then has a revelation)
Linkara: (to Margaret) Is it you?
Linkara: How are you...?
Margret: Does it matter?
Linkara: Well, I'd love to talk to you more often like this, if it's possible.
Margret: Don't worry about that right now, it's not important.
Linkara: Okay. (they remain silent briefly) I've made a real mess of things, haven't I?
Linkara: Well, what am I supposed to do? Act like a goody-two-shoes all the time? Never raise my voice to anybody? Never get angry at anything? Never lie or make mistakes or take a shortcut to anything?
Margret: Of course not, no one's perfect.
Linkara: (yelling) WELL, WHAT THE HELL DO YOU WANT FROM ME?!? (becomes exasperated) I ju– I just don't know what to do! What am I supposed to do to make things right again?!
Margret: I want you to be better.
Linkara: (sarcastically) Oh, that's helpful!
Margret: You're aware of it now, aware of what could happen to you.
Margret: I've been holding back, because I haven't been certain about you, about what you could do if I really cut loose.
Linkara: Maybe you shouldn't. Maybe Aplos is right and I am going evil. Maybe you should use that power you have and snuff me out before I get worse.
Margret: You're my partner, you're my friend. You don't leave your friends behind when they're in trouble; you try to help them, try to make them better.
Linkara: And if you can't help me?
Margret: (shrugs) Then at least I made the effort.
Linkara: What's the next step?
Margret: Just be mindful, try to think a little bit more, and be more aware of things.
Linkara: I'll try.
Margret: Doing is better than trying.
Linkara: True that. (pause) I think I'm ready to go home.
Margret: I'm already home.
(The camera pulls back, but Margret is no longer there; she's back in the gun, which Linkara puts back in his holster. He then begins to walk the journey back home)