January 11, 2010
Team purple shirt guy vs. Team Doom marine vs. Team Fisherman vs. Team Toucan Sam the Vampire.
(Linkara is seen wearing a gym jacket, pretending to punch something, before turning to face the camera, flexing his arms in and out before realizing he's actually on camera)
Linkara: (slightly hasty) Oh, hey, everybody. Welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. Caught me in the middle of my training exercises. (punches the air some more to demonstrate) See, not everyone has what it takes to take on the worst comic books ever made. It requires rigorous training. See, a bad comic is easy to riff on. The bland, the boring, the banal? That's where you really to get yourself pumped! (pumps his fists again) More on that after the theme song. (punches some more)
(The theme song plays, followed by the title card for this episode, with the theme to Buffy the Vampire Slayer playing; Linkara sits back down, putting his coat on over his gym attire)
Linkara: A question I frequently get asked is, why I do so many (makes "air quotes") "first issues"? Well, primarily, it's because a first issue is easier to spot if it's going to be crap or not. It's easy to get confused about what's going on if you picked up part four of a six-part comic, and you haven't read anything else in it after all.
(Cut to a shot of the cover of "Cable #1")
Linkara (v/o): The other reason is because a first issue is supposed to be the point where a new reader will pick it up and give it a chance. While I doubt that very many in the industry actually watch my show...
(Cut to a shot of the cover of "Mr. T and the T-Force #1")
Linkara (v/o): ...I like to think I'm doing a service to it by pointing out ways to improve. One of those is, of course, by instructing on the first issue. The first issue should be easy to follow, hook the reader in...
(Cut to a shot of the cover of "NFL SuperPro #1")
Linkara (v/o): ...and present the premise of the series while also making the reader care about the character. Now, admittedly, in this day and age of decompressed storytelling, it can be difficult to do that in just 22 pages.
(Cut to a shot of the cover of "Nightcat #1")
Linkara (v/o): But when you have 48 pages, there's no excuse. Say what you will about "Nightcat", and I've said an awful lot. It did at least set the stage for a series, even if the main antagonist was killed off at the end. It was a done-in-one that set up the character, the supporting characters, and created a viable storytelling engine for future issues.
Linkara: Which is why we're digging into (holds up comic of review today) "Scarlett #1", a donation from Spoony's girlfriend of the same name. This could conceivably have been a decent series, but as we'll see, the combination of terrible art, a lack of focus on the title character, and just plain silliness all amount to a mediocre comic.
(Cut to a closeup of the comic cover)
Linkara (v/o): And if it seems like I'm being easy on this thing as we go along, the cover is all you really need to know why. It's... average. Okay, the fangs and eyes are a neat effect, but the eyes are far too simple, and our heroine is just standing in a pool of blood while looking at the reader. Then there's this doofus, who looks absolutely confused, like he was taken out of a Rob Liefeld comic and just dropped off here. Also, I think he put his Mohawk on sideways. (the comic proper begins) We open to a prologue, because heaven forbid it just be part of the comic. No, it has to be a prologue. It makes it more like literature or something.
Text box: Manhattan after midnight.
Linkara: Comic creators do realize that there are places outside of New York, right?
Linkara (v/o): We meet some sort of evil gorilla man [Mr. Praxus], whose goons drag in another guy.
Praxus: Martin... Martin... I had such hopes for you. Instead, you shame yourself and jeopardize the interests of the Clave.
Linkara: The Clave? What, did this guy decide he didn't want to bang two sticks together to make music?
Linkara (v/o): The guy tries to get out of it by making an excuse, but his boss doesn't buy it for a second, threatening him with the power of his widow's peak. As the guy is dragged out, we learn that the gorilla man is named Mr. Praxus. A businessman [Vincent] is let in.
Praxus: Sorry to have kept you waiting. Last-minute business matters to settle, you understand.
Vincent: Yes. We saw him on his way out. Pruning middle management again, Cormac?
Praxus: Tough times demand tough measures, Vincent.
Linkara: He's going about this all wrong. As a boss, he should be encouraging his employees. This is just gonna create a hostile work environment.
Linkara (v/o): So we meet the other poorly-drawn losers, including O-Ren Ishii here* and the guy who assembled the New Men. Then we get a nice prolonged sequence of them walking and talking about the procedure of their little cult meeting, because Lord knows I buy comics so I can hear Robert's Rules of Order. Speaking of which, has anyone else sick of evil cults wearing hooded robes? Just once, I'd like an evil cult that dressed in business casual. Is that so wrong?
- NOTE: Actually, her name is Harmony Hamashita.
Cult leader: All rise and bid welcome to the Clave's chosen guild-master, the most ancient lord Cormac Praxus, to his honored guests...
Linkara: (as cult leader) But before that, we have some birthdays today.
Linkara (v/o): So Praxus the gorilla man sits down and begins his little monologue.
Praxus: I know your own affairs are pressing, but unity is important in this time of crisis.
Linkara: (heckling tone) Boo! Bring on the headliner! You're not funny!
Praxus: As you know, the Skrede-- that body of law which binds us as one-in-the-darkness-- contains much valuable wisdom...
Linkara: (reading from "The Nitpicker's Guide for Classic Trekkers") "Toothpaste does not go in your ears. Lucky numbers: 5, 17, 19..."
Linkara (v/o): So he rambles on about how the prophesy speaks of something dire coming.
Praxus: I am speaking of the prophesies surrounding the Dunkelkinder...
Linkara: (amused) I don't care if that turns out to be a real word, that is just an incredibly goofy name.
Linkara (v/o): The Dunkelkinder (snickers) are apparently...
Praxus: ...rootless creatures who are our wayward children, living beyond the law... It is written that one of their number shall, in blithe ignorance, bring forth into the world the Scarlet Redeemer--she who will ultimately destroy all that we hold dear!
Linkara (v/o): Boy, I'd hate to have to be this guy and have it turn out that he's not in the right meeting.
Linkara: (looking offscreen) Uh, sir, you have the wrong room. This is about planning Steve's bachelor party.
Linkara (v/o): So he wants to induct O-Ren as the new High Priestess of the cult and brings the guy down who had earlier disappointed him. And for some reason, they removed his shirt. I guess this is a cult that worships Captain Kirk. So they toss the guy onto a big spike, and he gurgles for a bit as purple blood drops out of his mouth.
Linkara: (disgusted) Ew! That'll put your pan fish down.
Linkara (v/o): Then O-Ren starts consuming the guy's blood, and we learn that this is a cult of vampires.
Linkara: (looking up) O Lord, please do not stay my tongue when it comes to Twilight jokes.
Linkara (v/o): So now we begin chapter one at a McDonald's stand-in. Two cheerleaders, a jock, and some guy in a purple shirt are all talking about how the blonde girl named Missy has been elected as prom queen. Something about that just seems weird; aren't the king and queen announced at the prom itself? Well, I don't want to think too hard about high school proms, so instead, let's see jock boy [McAdams] trip a nerd [Marvin] because, well, he's an asshole. The redhead [Bly], being sympathetic, goes to help him.
Bly: Hey, I haven't read comics since I was a kid. Are these any good?
Marvin: Well...I like 'em...an' some of them are real valuable.
Linkara: He's holding a comic called "Malibu High". Valuable, my ass! There's no way you can get a trading card with Mr. T from that!
Linkara (v/o): Oh, and by the way, thinking the comics are valuable instantly makes me want to smack the kid myself, so maybe I'm being too harsh on the jock. Speaking of which, they clearly think that the jock is an asshole, so why do they even hang out with him? Anyway, purple-shirted guy walks off with the redhead. Hell, even the characters are asking why they hang out why they hang out with him.
Bly: 'Cause that's what people expect, y'know. You guys are on the team, Missy and I are cheerleaders.
Linkara: Yeah, because hanging out with people you actually like would only bring about individualism.
Linkara (v/o): So, yeah, this is our main character, Bly, but I'm gonna refer to her by the title one of Scarlett from now on, since, for most of the book, no one ever bothers to say her name, which really confused me when I first read this. Oh, and she's a cheerleader. A cheerleader who's the chosen one to fight off vampires. Something familiar about that...
(Cut to the opening title for Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
Linkara: Okay, yes, this was made before the awesome TV series, but it was made after the movie, so I'm still gonna get away with the Buffy jokes.
Linkara (v/o): As the purple shirt guy walks off, we have a nice, creepy man tap Scarlett on the shoulder.
Creepy man: Pardon me, miss.
Linkara: (as creepy man) I just wanted to tell you that I still know what you did last summer.
Creepy man: Sorry to startle you. Would you like your picture taken with me?
Linkara: Hey, kids, if a strange man in a black coat who is three feet taller than you ever asks if you'd like your picture taken with him, run and scream as loud as you can!
Linkara (v/o): No, actually, he says his outfit is a Halloween costume.
Creepy man: It's part of the Halloween festival. The money goes to... charity.
Linkara (v/o): I love how he needs to pause there, like he's thinking about it.
Linkara: (as creepy man) The money goes to hookers– Charity! Charity! I meant charity! Yeah.
Linkara (v/o): Also, how the hell does simply taking a picture lead to money? But oh, well, let's not worry about that. Creepy guy's manservant takes their picture as he tries to decide what accent he wants to have. Now, in fairness, he explains that it's to make that part of him seem more memorable than his face, but that's just silly, since this is a fictional story. You can make someone not remember someone's face however you want.
Bly: Uh... who're you supposed to BE, anyway?
Creepy man: Count Dracula, of course.
Linkara: Yeah, because when I think Dracula, I think the fisherman from the I Know What You Did Last Summer movies. Hell, even in the Coppola film, he wore some goofy outfits, but not a friggin' raincoat!
Linkara (v/o): Before Scarlett can run in abject terror, the guy gets a balloon from a clown and gives it to her. And why?
Creepy man: It will make her easier to follow.
Linkara: (as creepy man) Yes, my superpower is to track balloons. (nods) Admittedly, not very many applications, but I get what I can out of it.
Linkara (v/o): So the manservant, named Ramon, reads off her biography from Wikipedia on his Game Boy.
Ramon: ...She attends McClintock High, where she is a straight "A" student with a shot at valedictory honors... As you can see, she's a cheerleader... Hmm... Thespian society... Several other clubs... A very accomplished young lady...
Linkara (v/o): Annnd where does this information come from, exactly? Did the writer just provide them a copy of the series bible so they could be fully aware of who they were dealing with? The fisherman asks if she's the one and he says that it's a 93% chance that she– (the next panel shows a closeup of Ramon's hideous face) WHOA! Too close! Too close to Ramon's face! Back it off! We cut to the desert, where a family is driving along a road with an annoying child in the background who won't shut up. They stop at a gas station to let the kid use the bathroom.
Creepy man: (appearing in the dark) Rest room's out of order, Dad!
Linkara: (as the dad) My God, it's my long-lost son, Creepy Face!
Linkara (v/o): More scary faces surround the car, and the family starts to drive off. One person leaps onto the car.
Man on top of car: (looking into car windshield) This whole freakin' place is out of order!
(Cut to a clip of And Justice For All)
Arthur Kirkland: You're out of order! You're out of order! The whole trial is out of order! They're out of order!
(Back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): So, for some reason, the guy lets them go.
Man on top of car: Whatcha say, Weasel?
Linkara (v/o): Yes, the horrifying vampire of old named Weasel. Weasel is mad that he let the family get away, but the blond vampire points out that someone else is coming. Turns out it's some redneck with a shotgun [named Reuben, as the comic points out] driving a monster truck.
Reuben: YeeHAW! Time to kick some hippie butt!
Linkara: Finally, some rednecks who aren't communists!
Reuben: Where's Lucy and Ramona?
Blond vampire: They're right here, Reuben... right here with me!
Linkara: (as blond vampire) They've acquired the ability to teleport, which is why you didn't see them a second ago.
Linkara (v/o): The redneck, named Reuben, tries to take one of the women back, but she claws him right in the face. Vamp Boy intercedes and tells us his name.
Blond vampire: It's Sam... Sunset Sam.
Linkara: I will not drink it at sunset. I will not drink it on a leaflet. I will not drink blood, Sam I Am. Now get your teeth off me before I spray you with Pam.
Linkara (v/o): Naturally, the redneck shooting him doesn't do crap to Sam the vampire. By the way, what's going on with the backgrounds? Is there a sandstorm coming up? Should I be yelling that we have WormSign? Then all of a sudden, Gary Coleman leaps onto a guy's head and starts clawing at his eyes! What the hell is going on?! Oh, but it turns out Toucan Sam the Vampire has sandstorm powers. Don't quite remember that from my vampire lore. One guy tries to get away, but I guess Weasel stowed away in the monster truck.
Guy in monster truck: Better get lots and lots of help!
Weasel: (grabbing him) How 'bout you call in the National freakin' Guard, man!?
Linkara: Well, gotta give these vampires credit. At least they give helpful suggestions when they're tying to kill you.
Linkara (v/o): So the truck crashes, burning Weasel up, but he's still alive, thanks to... uh, vampire powers, I suppose. I guess his new nickname could be Weasel Well Done. Sam the vampire smacks him and says they can't travel with him looking like that and decides to ride off without the burnt waffle until he can heal. Now, you're probably all wondering at this point why this is that bad. Well, let's consider a couple of things. First, that prologue with the cult? They never reappear. That was six pages completely wasted. While this biker gang does appear later, the first two pages with the family are completely pointless, and frankly, the backstory of these vampires isn't going to be all that important, especially when we just killed off the backstory of the two women.
Linkara: Essentially, we've just reached the halfway mark of the first issue, and less time has been devoted to the title character than to the padding!
Linkara (v/o): And this artwork is just awful! Several characters suffer from Youngbloods Disease, and I don't know if it's the inker trying to add more definition, but compare the detailing of the first page, especially the hatching on the gorilla boss, and then compare it to the second page, where suddenly the backgrounds have a lot less going on in them, and the characters have just filled-in colors with odd proportions to them. It's like they had two completely different artists working on this thing at once. Anyway, back to the story itself. Scarlett and her pals are at a Halloween party, with the purple-shirted guy now dressed as Robin Hood and plastered, thanks to spiked punch. The others make fun of Purple-Shirted Guy for his fake mustache. Scarlett, however, is a supportive girlfriend.
Bly: It looks fine, Errol...you can buckle my swash anytime.
Linkara: And who says there can't be likeable romantic dialogue in a vampire story?
Linkara (v/o): Because Purple-Shirted Guy is too drunk to drive himself home, Scarlett decides to drive him herself. On the way out, our friend, the jock, decides to show them that he can smash a beer can against his head.
(He looks offscreen to see a clip of himself from the "Wolverine: Adamantium Rage" review)
Linkara: (holding up a can) Adamantium Rage! (smashes the can against his forehead) Ow!
(The clip disappears)
Linkara (v/o): So they drive away, and Purple-Shirted Guy sobers up briefly when Sam the vampire almost hits them. They arrive at Scarlett's home, but find it ransacked, along with some writing on the wall in blood: "For Sam - Pigs Die, Scarlett".
Linkara: Ah, damn it, the Manson Family got drunk and hit the wrong house again!
Linkara (v/o): Back in the desert, a cop car drives up to Toasted Weasel and this guy in a mustard-colored shirt.
Weasel: Hey, officer! Howz it hangin'?
Linkara (v/o): The cop promptly shoots him in the head.
Linkara: Hey, I like this guy already!
Cop: Low, dirtball. Hangin' real low.
Linkara: Um... ew?
Linkara (v/o): Mustard Shirt charges in and tackles the cop, but thanks to the mighty karate technique of... boot to the head...
Offscreen voice: Boot to the head. (a booting sound is heard)
Linkara (v/o): ...the cop sends him down and shoots him through the heart.
Linkara: Shot through the heart! And you're to blame! You give love a bad name!
Linkara (v/o): However, Weasel the Krispy leaps onto the cop's back and knocks off his sunglasses, revealing him to be... (cop [Montero]'s voice) Who's a man and a half? I am a man in a half! (normal) Seriously, it's like the Doom Marine was transported into this comic! Suddenly, this whole thing is awesome! Oh, and it should come as no surprise that while this character is indeed on the cover, we never see him again in the comic.
Linkara: Say, you know how some people train with attack dogs? They were these suits that really protective. You know how they're so protective? THE PADDING!
Linkara (v/o): You know, it really shocks me that in a comic that has the Doom Marine, vampires with whirlwind powers, and an evil cult, that I could be so incredibly, unbelievably, pain-inducingly BORED.
Linkara: (makes punching motions with his hands) This is why you've got to train for this, people. It's not for stuff like "Bimbos in Time", it's for the phenomenally dull and dreadful.
Linkara (v/o): So, why the shift to chapter two? Well, we're at a hospital now. Two detectives want to interview Scarlett, and shockingly, one of them [Randy Bellamy] is Joe Don Baker from the movie Final Justice.
(Cut to the Mystery Science Theater 3000 gang watching Final Justice)
Geronimo (played by Baker): You think you can take me? Go head on!
(Back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): Scarlett seems to be suffering some memory loss, since she doesn't remember what had happened the night before. And neither do I. What the hell is the point of this sequence? Why don't they just tell us what happened the night before? Oh, but it gets better, because she doesn't even start with that. Instead, she decides to recount how she and Missy bought their costumes.
Linkara: And we couldn't have this scene instead of one of the ones in the desert because...?
Linkara (v/o): She mentions once again that the fisherman was stalking her, and she says that his costume didn't match Dracula. Even the comic admits that it's full of crap and doesn't know what it's doing! Anyway, Scarlett meets up with a group of leather-clad guys from school who are planning on going to a concert later that night.
Leather-clad guy 1: Big metal concert at the Coliseum!
Leather-clad guy 2: It's Dokken and Poison.
Linkara: You just know that Batman is watching the concert from high above and (clenches fist) seething with rage!
Linkara (v/o): Still in the needless flashbacks, Scarlett tells her parents about the guy following her, and they tell her not to worry, but to stick with her friends and call the police if something goes bad. However, they secretly pull out a gun and worry that it might be someone named Kiras. Scarlett of course overhears it, but doesn't know what to make of it. It suddenly dawns on her parents that her parents are dead, meaning that now she can become Batman and avenge them, as well as cement a hatred of rock 'n' roll. Oh, yeah, just look at her. Just the thought of rock 'n' roll has made her go nuts. (as Bly) Punk is, like, nothing but death and crime and the rage of a beast, you know? (normal) The cops leave her and... Joe Don, what the hell's going on with your head? You can close your fist around the whole thing! In any case, in Joe Don Baker's opinion, Scarlett's insane and probably killed her own parents for revenge upon finding out that she was adopted.
Randy Bellamy: Figurin' nobody'd ever suspect a buncha clean-cut high school kids...
Linkara: Yes, we should instantly be suspicious of the kids who do well in school. Joe Don, you've invented a whole new way to be stupid.
Linkara (v/o): We now cut to the desert, where a bunch of guys in white suits arrive, claiming to be from the FBI. Turns out the police investigation is being run by Ossie Davis here. Anyway, it's more pointless padding, so let's skip it. Scarlett dreams of what happened to her the previous night. Seems like this could be done in the actual narrative flow and not a dream, but what do I know? Scarlett and the purple-shirted guy run away from Kiras and his Peter Lorre-type assistant, but they're also chased by the motorcycle gang.
Linkara: Oh, God! They're gonna challenge her to a children's car game!
Linkara (v/o): Scarlett crashes the car, but then encounters Toucan Sam the vampire. Oh, no, look out! He's got Venn diagram vision!
Sam: You gettin' a burger, sweetness? ...Or maybe you're hungry for somethin' else?
Linkara: (as Bly) Hey, you're not vampires! You're not even sparkling!
Linkara (v/o): Fortunately, Kiras arrives on the scene and blocks the deadly beams of Venn diagrams.
Kiras: Ishvaleker! I summon your power!
Linkara: So in other words, (takes out and holds up sword) I HAVE THE POWER!!
(Cut to a clip of the opening of He-Man, where Prince Adam holds up his sword to become He-Man; cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): Kiras expounds that Scarlett is now outside his reach, but Sam the vampire is unimpressed, ordering his henchmen to hurl a Molotov cocktail at the car.
Sam: Flamingo! Do it!
Linkara: (bursts out laughing) "Flamingo"! You named your bald male vampire henchman "Flamingo"? It'd be kinda stupid for the woman, already for a badass vampire name, but suddenly, "Weasel" is looking like freakin' Megatron in terms of kickass names for vampires. (laughs) Flamingo!
Linkara (v/o): The vampires get a hold of Purple Shirt Guy and drag him off while Kiras retreats. Scarlett wakes up in the hospital to the purple shirt guy – okay, his name's Paul – who tells her that the cops think she killed her parents and that they need to run off to figure out what to do.
Linkara: Yeah, fleeing from the law will certainly make you look innocent.
Linkara (v/o): For some reason, she dressed in the devil costume again, and he pulls the tail to make it a skintight jumpsuit. Geez, what was holding the tail on there, gum? He gives her his jacket to keep her warm as she tells him about the flashback/dream, suddenly recalling that he was taken by the vampires. And so, the comic ends with her being confronted by the vampire gang, along with her rocker friends.
Linkara: Huh, I guess Batman failed to stop the concert. (closes comic and holds it up) This comic sucks.
Linkara (v/o): The narrative doesn't flow naturally, the artwork is subpar, and our title character in half of the book. And even then, she's basically an incidental character, since nothing she does affects the plot or the subplots this thing is littered with.
Linkara: So let this comic be an object lesson for first issues: there's a bad comic, and then there's (points to comic) "so bored your ass will start to hurt". (throws down comic, gets up and leaves)
Not nearly as many Buffy or Twilight jokes as I thought I would make. Batman's crusade against Rock and Roll actually got more mentions. Weird.
(Stinger: A scene from Mystery Science Theater 3000, showing Mike Nelson on trial)
Professor Bobo: You're out of order! You're out of order! The courtroom is out of order! The candy machine by the men's room is out of order!