January 14, 2013
A comic in which having people at a rave would actually be an improvement. For one thing, I actually know what goes on at a rave, unlike this story.
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. We've talked before about the rise of independent comic publishers in the '80s, so let's spotlight a specific one today: Malibu Comics.
(Shots of comics published by Malibu are shown)
Linkara (v/o): Malibu got its start in 1986, mostly with black and white comics, as a lot of indies did at the time. After doing some revivals of a few Golden Age characters, acquiring a few other small companies as imprints, and even joining together with a video game company to try to capitalize on the growing market, Malibu was on the rise. Hell, when Image Comics was just starting out, they published most of their books through Malibu before splitting off for their own publishing houses. As a result of all the money they had gotten from the Image books, they decided to try their hand at their own shared superhero universe. This line, known as The Ultraverse, was actually pretty well planned out in advance. The creators were mostly seasoned veterans of the industry, who held a writers' conference to flesh out the universe and create a universe bible for the entire line. Malibu was pretty hot at the time and did a lot of advertising for the books on TV, newspapers and the like. Hell, they got pretty creative in some cases.
(Cut to a shot of a videotape adaptation of one of the comics is shown: Firearm)
Linkara (v/o): James Robinson's book "Firearm" had a number-zero issue that included a 35-minute VHS tape of a live-action story that would continue in the comic itself.
(More Malibu-created comics are shown, some derivative of other forms of media)
Linkara (v/o): There were video game tie-ins, commercials on MTV and the Sci-Fi Channel, and I have to assume it all paid off since, reading up, it seemed quite popular, but for some reason, I wasn't able to find any sales figures for Malibu Comics, aside from the Image ones they had done previously.
Linkara: So, why the hell haven't most of you ever heard of Malibu or the Ultraverse before? Well, that's because only a year into their life, the company was bought out by Marvel.
(A shot of the Marvel/Malibu crossover comic "Ultraforce Avengers" is shown)
Linkara (v/o): It wasn't really a case of killing the competition or anything like that, but rather, Malibu had a revolutionary computer coloring system for their comics that Marvel wanted to get their hands on.
Linkara: And if you don't think that coloring is important in comics, I would remind you that "Silent Hill: Dead/Alive"'s coloring was brown, with a side of brown.
Linkara (v/o): Marvel did make an effort to promote the Ultraverse, but it was by that point that the speculator boom was collapsing and Marvel was approaching its bankruptcy. The Ultraverse is actually still well-loved by its fans and there is a demand for the characters to return, but the most popular rumor about why it hasn't happened is royalties to the original creators. We'll touch upon the Ultraverse some more when we eventually get around to looking at Marvel's failed reinterpretation of the character Mantra, but for today, we're going to talk about another non-Ultraverse Malibu book.
Linkara: Why this one in particular? Well, you're about to find out as we dig into (holds up today's comic) "Raver #1".
(AT4W title theme plays, and the title card has a remix of Fred Rogers' "Garden of Your Mind" playing in the background. Cut to a closeup of the comic's cover)
Linkara (v/o): "Raver" was a creator-owned title independent of their main universe. Who was the creator in this case? Why, none other than Walter Koenig of Star Trek and Babylon 5 fame. Koenig is actually also a writer and director on occasion and even wrote an episode of the Star Trek animated series. It's such a pity, then, that in a hundred years, he's probably going to be mostly remembered for this.
(Cut to a clip of Star Trek IV: The Journey Home)
Chekov (Koenig): (to a policeman) Nuclear vessels.
(Cut back to the comic's cover)
Linkara (v/o): Oh, but I kid, Walter Koenig. Anyway, let's talk about the cover. First thing to note, of course, is that, in true '90s style, it's a holo-foil cover, and as you know, I'm a sucker for those. One weird thing is that areas of the holo-foil look like they have sticker residue on them, but that could just be my copy. Although, they don't feel like residue, they feel completely smooth. Otherwise, the cover is nothing interesting, just a guy who I presume is Raver posing at a bizarre angle and making a "dull surprise" face.
Text: COLLECTOR'S SPECIAL!
Linkara: You know, I'm beginning to think that these comics don't realize that the way to a true collector's edition is a trading card with Mr. T on it.
Linkara (v/o): We open at an elementary school, where a teacher [Abigail] is bringing a man named Norman in to her class.
Norman: I can't believe that third graders are going to be interested in a career in buying and selling.
Linkara: Agreed. These kids are just now learning about multiplication tables. Can we try to not start throwing them into the job market?
Norman: Abigail, I really think this is a mistake.
Abigail: It can't be raining outside!
Norman: It could always start.
Linkara: (confused) The hell was that?
Linkara (v/o): The dude never even brought up the weather. Why did you start talking about the rain? I guess it could be because he's wearing a trench coat, but some people wear trench coats without it raining.
Linkara: (wearing a blue outfit) You think I have this thing to protect me from the weather? I have it because it's friggin' awesome!
Linkara (v/o): The teacher, Abigail, opens the door and reveals that her students are completely out of control, running on desks, throwing stuff around... DEAR GOD, THAT KID IS JUMPING UP AND DOWN ON ANOTHER KID!!
Abigail: Silly, my students and I have a special understanding.
Linkara: Yeah, an understanding! An understanding that you're the worst teacher ever!
Linkara (v/o): Abigail takes out a box of cookies.
Norman: What is this? You bribe them with cookies?
Abigail: It's either that or beat their behinds and make them afraid of me.
Linkara: HOW HAVE YOU NOT BEEN FIRED YET?!?
Linkara (v/o): Despite the presence of cookies, the kids continue to argue and brawl until they accidentally smash a clay cat sculpture on a girl's desk. All the other kids in the class berate the kid responsible and Norman steps in to defend him, saying he should just apologize, and they may even be able to fix it. However, the kid is a complete and utter brat.
Brat: It's all your fault! Who wants to hear about your stupid job anyway?
(Cut to a clip of The Room)
Mark (Greg Sestero): (to Johnny) Leave your stupid comments in your pocket!
(Cut back to the comic)
Brat: You, you're the one to blame!
Linkara: Oh, man, I bet the teacher's gonna have to give this kid (holds up two fingers) two cookies to get him under control! Seriously, bribing the students?! No wonder they're a bunch of little crap-heads!
Linkara (v/o): Such a stirring argument as "You're the one to blame!" is apparently too much for poor Norman, who just shuts his eyes and yells out...
Linkara (v/o): ...before a bunch of lights emit from his body and... we cut to our cover character, Raver, in the middle of the street.
Raver: (thinking) Boy, did that hurt. Where the hell am I?
(Cut to a clip of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 gang watching Outlaw)
Mike: You're the hell here!
(Back to the comic again)
Raver: (thinking) No pestilence, no gargoyles! By Jove, Norman, I think you've finally got it!
Linkara: (confused) Did we skip over a page or something? Raver is Norman and... what pestilence? The hell is going on?!
Linkara (v/o): He comes across an ice cream truck that boasts that it contains over a hundred flavors.
Linkara: And yet, somehow it does not contain rocky road. We live in a strange, strange world, my friends.
Linkara (v/o): Some kind of monstrous hand emerges from it, but no one seems to notice. A kid pulls on the hand and demands almond crunch with chocolate sprinkles and a vanilla center.
Raver: (thinking) Do I believe this?
Linkara: (as Raver) A kid wanting a vanilla center? What kind of hell am I experiencing?!
Linkara (v/o): And now there's a giant monster outside of the ice cream truck.
Monster: Give me the one who would destroy us!
Linkara (v/o): And then the people point to a girl in a pink dress, claiming that she's the one who would destroy them, and the monster picks her up while a guy in a cardigan...
(Editor's note: "I have been informed that the sweater is NOT a cardigan. There wasn't space to put a 'Dr. Linksano Corrects Linkara' bit here, but sorry for the mistake I keep making.")
Linkara (v/o): ...just walks away, completely oblivious... and the people are cheering for her death? Don't ask me, people; I just work here. Raver runs over to the ice cream truck, past the guy in the cardigan, who seems completely disinterested in his surroundings... Unlike Mr. Rogers and his sweater, he is not using the garden of his mind. ...and thinks to himself that he doesn't have super speed. Uh, why would he assume that? Is this like in "Marville", when Al thought time travel gives you superpowers? Also, he's gasping for breath in his own head. I don't think that's how that works. But even if you wanted to grant artistic license for that, he's doing a mild jog across a street. He doesn't look out of shape, so is he just a really heavy smoker or something? When he reaches the other side of the road, the monster is gone.
Raver: That thing... That monster... It grabbed the woman and...
Boy: There was no monster, mister.
Linkara: (incredulously) So all of a sudden, it's Monster friggin' a Go-Go?!
(Cut to the MST3K gang watching Monster a Go-Go)
Narrator: There was no trail.
Joel and the Bots: Huh?
Narrator: There was no giant, no monster, no thing called Douglas to be followed.'
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): However, instead of being a stupid, nonsensical way to end a movie, we're still only on page six here, so Raver's just confused as all hell. A nearby old lady states that they don't know what he's talking about.
Old lady: You dress like that, sonny, you could be in a lot of trouble.
Linkara (v/o): I agree. The dude looks like Snowflame if he put on a black leather trench coat. It is not a good look for him. We cut to later that night, at a fireman's ball. A guy is giving a speech when all of a sudden, we see some woman in lingerie standing on the stage. She doesn't say anything, but then the guy giving the speech says...
Guy: Ah, well, ah... Thank you...
Linkara (v/o): And then he's grabbed by some kind of friggin' Hydra! (stammers) Are there scenes missing or something? Was this comic printed before it was finished?
Hydra: Which is he who would destroy our happy world?!
Linkara: Well, if it means we can end this sooner, then (raises index finger) I volunteer to destroy it.
Linkara (v/o): The people in the crowd point to some guy who was just getting some punch. What a bunch of dicks!
Hydra: Punish him who would lead us into war!
Man: For God's sake... I have a rash!
(Linkara stares, utterly dumbfounded, then cut to a clip of an episode of Scrubs)
Dr. Cox: Do you actually listen to yourself when you speak, or do you find you drift in and out?
(Cut back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): The Hydra gives the speaker guy some kind of torch, presumably to set fire to the dude. I can only assume that's meant to be ironic, what with the whole firefighter thing, but as we learn on the next panel, the guy was actually electrocuted, so I don't even know what's going on. Then again, I haven't known what's been going on this entire comic, so nothing new there. Raver is passing by and overhears something going on. When he tries to confront the people, they once again tell him nothing is going on and promptly toss him out on his ass.
Raver: (thinking) I guess we can also assume that I don't have super-strength! Now, if someone would just tell what powers I do have...
Linkara: (holding up hand) Okay, I have to stop for a second and try to explain this, because Lord knows the comic never does.
Linkara (v/o): The comic is very, very vague on the details on what the hell is actually happening. I had to do some Google searches to try to figure out the basic plot, and fortunately, Comic Vine provided a summary based on a trade of the book, and even that was a bit ambiguous. Apparently, when Norman is yelled at – seriously – he suffers some of psychotic breakdown and he twists reality into some kind of new bizarre shape each time. To that end, Norman then becomes Raver, whose powers are different in each one of these realities. If he fails to defeat the enemies he has in this world, he can never return back to normal. And no, the summary did not explain why that happens, where these powers came from, why he has to become Raver for that, or even why the hell he's called Raver to begin with.
(Cut to a clip of Southland Tales)
Linkara (v/o): It's very much like Southland Tales in that regard. You might have a pretty good idea of what events are transpiring, but the "why" of any of those events is unclear, and if you do learn the answers, they just make you even more confused and irritated. That's not a sign of a good narrative if I have to look that up.
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): Anyway, Raver sees Cardigan Man again.
Raver: Aha! You're the one! You're the one who has been sent to make all this clear to me!
Linkara (v/o): And then Cardigan Man walks away.
(Cut to 90s Kid)
90s Kid: Duuuuude! That is not how you "not"!
(Cut again to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): Raver continues on, and I guess it's daytime now since he walks past a field with kids in it while wondering about the monster he had seen before. The kids are exchanging baseball cards, when all of a sudden, the baseball card comes to life and tells them to tear up all their cards. And then Raver proclaims...
Raver: Now you tell me! A shape-shifter!
Linkara: (confused) Now who tells you? Are you hearing things that the rest of us aren't?
(Cut to a man (played by Lewis) wearing Australian garb running past the bookshelf)
Man: (pronounced Australian accent) The ball ain't movin', lads! (notices he's on camera) Oh, we'll be right back. (walks off) Bloody 'ell!
(The AT4W logo appears in the corner, and we cut to a commercial break. Upon return, the Aussie man from before returns)
Man: Oh, we're back now. (holds up a bow and arrow) That pyro's a spy!
(He runs off-screen as the AT4W logo appears. Then the sound of a flame is heard)
Man: OH, GOD, NO, HE ISN'T!
(We then cut back to the comic again as the review resumes)
Linkara (v/o): Anyway, one of the kids is pissed off about losing his baseball cards, but the manifestation responds...
Manifestation: You want to be responsible for death and destruction, for the the return of wars?!
Linkara: So, in this reality, the baseball card speculator boom eventually led to wars.
Linkara (v/o): Because he can shapeshift now, I guess, Raver transforms into a giant baseball pitcher and tosses a baseball at the green guy's face. This dissolves the green guy before Raver reverts to normal. Some random... kid? Woman? Guy? I have no idea... comes up to Raver and says that the creature took their brother away and that people who are taken away don't come back. We then cut to a foggy, pink... whatever.
Narrator: And on a distant planet, those who are ultimately responsible for the creation of Raver the -ho- watch and muse...
Linkara: (looking uncomfortable) The... ho... (sighs and massages his forehead) You know, I would just like to take this opportunity to remind you all that books are full of thinking.
Linkara (v/o): They spout off some stuff about how they should have found someone else, that Raver will fix things, and we immediately cut back to Raver talking to the guy from the fireman's ball. Raver claims that there are kidnappings, but the fireman denies and that there's no crime at all.
Raver: You've got a bald-headed fireman here.
Linkara: Was the goal of this comic to make every line more nonsensical than the last?!
(Cut to footage of an episode of the Star Trek cartoon series)
Linkara (v/o): Look, I know I shouldn't be surprised by this, considering Walter Koenig's episode for the animated series featured cucumber people, purple tentacled dragons, and a guy who wanted to create an army of giant Spocks to take over the universe. However, I would hope that the writing would make a little more sense twenty-plus years later, is all I'm saying.
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): Someone sneaks up behind Raver and knocks him out with a wrench. I prefer to think it's Murphy Pendleton. I always thought the wrench was the best melee weapon in Silent Hill: Downpour. And frankly, I could use someone with a more logical story behind him than this. We cut to an evil castle where is Raver being held captive by some kind of mad scientist. Said mad scientist explains that his name is Dr. Izn (pronounces it "EYE-zen") or Izn (pronounces it "IS-in"), I don't know, and that he is the one responsible for controlling this world and is also the creature who was dealing with the locals before. He's apparently a shapeshifter, according to Raver. I'll have to take his word for it. Raver tries to shapeshift himself into something smaller to free himself of his restraints, but it doesn't work.
Raver: (thinking) My shape-shifting must be automatic...
Linkara: As opposed to manual shapeshifting, with use of a stick.
Raver: (thinking) I can only do it when he does it.
Linkara: Well, that sounds like a really stupid and inconvenient superpower. If this was being created by your own mind, wouldn't you give yourself better abilities?
Linkara (v/o): Instead, he decides to stall for time – time for what exactly isn't clear – by engaging in a pointless argument about how oppressive his utopia is. It touches the standard points of living in fear versus a lack of war and crime and whatnot.
Raver: A world strangled by conformity.
Linkara (v/o): Erm, what conformity? It looked like people were eating very different ice cream flavors. That helps.
Dr. Izn: No war!
Raver: No individuality!
Dr. Izn: No crime!
Raver: No soul!
(Cut to a clip of Judge Dredd)
Judge Dredd (Sylvester Stallone): You started a massacre!
Rico (Armand Assante): I caused a revolution!
Judge Dredd: YOU BETRAYED THE LAW!
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): But then it starts getting weird.
Dr. Izn: We're proud of our housing.
Raver: Your people lack character.
Dr. Izn: Our plumbing is superb.
Raver: They are disloyal to each other.
Dr. Izn: Sanitation is never a problem.
Linkara: You know, people don't really stop and think about how important plumbing and sanitation are to a dictatorship. I mean, how long are people really gonna put up with it if their toilets aren't functioning?
Linkara (v/o): Raver is thrown into a pit full of "abnormals", but in reality, that just means people who, unlike those in the outside world aren't assholes. They catch Raver and explain that a lot of people end up "cured" down here, and Raver figures that the cardigan-sporting people were people brainwashed by Dr. Izn. Aaaaand then a Pterodactyl attacks. Or possibly a Pteranodon. I honestly don't know the difference and more so, I don't care. It seems Dr. Izn doesn't know how to delegate, since the creature is actually him. And because he shapeshifted, that means that Raver can shapeshift now as well. As such, they crash out of the castle and turn into giant mech suits. And... then there's a random cat between them. Okay, whatever.
Dr. Izn: Who are you?
Raver: My version of whatever it is you turn into so I can stop you.
Dr. Izn: You are a fool. With my powers, I have eliminated crime. I have cured the world of all war!
Raver: (thinking) Infect a society with a deadly disease you cure it of starvation but nobody writes odes to the bubonic plague.
Linkara: (stares in utter disbelief) There aren't enough Dr. Cox clips in the world for me to get across how much I want you to shut up.
Linkara (v/o): After some more shapeshifting, they finally revert back to human form and Dr. Izn offers a deal.
Dr. Izn: If I can hurt you without you hurting me, I win. My world rules. If not, you win. I'll go away and leave these people to their own self-destruction.
Linkara: (as Raver) All right, Dr. Izn, I agree! (as Dr. Izn) Very well. Honey Boo Boo is getting its own comic book. (as Raver) ...Okay, you win. Your world is better.
Linkara (v/o): No, instead, they transform so that Dr. Izn has become the annoying brat of a kid at the start of the comic and Raver has become an eight-year-old Norman. Norman flees up a tree while Izn grabs two kittens, saying that if he doesn't come down, he'll bash their heads in.
Raver: (narrating) If you come down, Norman, he'll hurt you. Izn will win. The planet will remain enslaved. I'll never leave here. And you won't grow up to kiss Abigail at the Garden Gate.
Linkara: Isn't it nice when you don't know any of the backstory for the main character? It means you have no reason to give a damn about the important events they never explain.
Linkara (v/o): Norman says that if he does that, he'll never have friends in his life and that fact will haunt him for the rest of his life. But if he lets the kittens go, he will be Izn's friend. Izn considers it, then lets the kittens go. He says he's gonna punch him in the face once, but then asks if he'll still be his friend afterwards.
Norman: I don't think so.
Linkara (v/o): Izn hesitates and then asks if the guy wants to play instead.
Linkara: As I will get into in my "Titans Retrospective", (points to camera) this is bullcrap, since sometimes, the best way to express friendship is to punch your friend squarely in the face.
Linkara (v/o): Since the situation wasn't resolved with either side hurting the other, the world reverts to normal and the kitten statue on the little girl's desk has been fixed.
Linkara: (listlessly) Yes, seriously, this situation was resolved... by the power of friendship.
Linkara (v/o): The space hos(?) say that the alternate universe is still going, but it will eventually form a free society once more. And so, our comic ends with Norman walking down the street and a woman yells at him, asking if it's his car that's blocking her driveway. He says it isn't, even though the license plate says it is. (listlessly) Well, what a gripping finale these last few panels are.
Linkara: (holding up comic) This comic sucks! (pauses awkwardly) ...I think.
Linkara (v/o): Look, it's okay to have some things unclear in a story if you think your audience is smart enough to figure it out on their own, but this is inexcusable! It feels like great big chunks of the story explaining things are completely absent. We know virtually nothing about Norman or Raver or the situation that they're currently experiencing. We don't know his origins or why he's doing what he's doing, and it's all just a big, confusing mess. Pieces of dialogue feel like they weren't printed and random events just seem to occur with little rhyme or reason. I got the idea of the dystopia where people ignore the terrible things that the higher-ups were committing, but why the shapeshifting monster? Why are baseball cards evil? Why the lingerie lady? Why does the teacher suck at her job?! Why the cardigans?! And it was the little brat all along?! What?! The artwork is at least passable, which is more than I can say for a lot of other comics of its time, but it's nothing to write home about. Overall, the whole thing is just a complete mess.
Linkara: You know, next week, we talk about the infamous Transformers comic called "The Car Wash of Doom". I can assure you that, as bizarre as that concept is, it's still gonna make a hell of a lot more sense than (points to "Raver" comic) this one. (throws down comic, gets up and leaves)
(End credits roll)
Seriously, WHY is he called "Raver?"
And why did the evil little brat want to make an oppressive world? Wouldn't you think an out-of-control third grader would try to make an insane fun-land or something?
(Stinger: The panel showing the argument between Raver and Dr. Izn is shown)
Dr. Izn: And before me, there were centuries of destruction.
Raver: And in your wake, moral decay.
Dr. Izn: Excuse me, have you seen the inner city?
Raver: I've seen another kind of immorality.
Linkara: (as Raver) There was no peppermint bonbon in that ice cream truck. (points to camera) You diseased maniac!