Sir Charles Barkley and the Referee Murders #1
July 9, 2012
Ah, nothing like another tale of that hard-boiled detective Charles Barkley.
Holokara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. You know, it's been a while since we've checked in with Earth's greatest warrior, Charles Barkley.
(The cover of "Godzilla Vs. Barkley" is shown)
Holokara (v/o): Admittedly, we've only seen his brilliance as a tactician and fighter when he faced off against Godzilla, but perhaps it's time we see him demonstrating more of his talents.
(Cut to a shot of the cover of today's comic, "Sir Charles Barkley and the Referee Murders")
Holokara (v/o): This time, as a detective! Oh, I'm sorry. That's Sir Charles Barkley, even though he has never been knighted. I've been trying to figure out why the hell his nickname was Sir Charles...
(Cut to footage of Barkley at a basketball game)
Holokara (v/o): ...and I've gotten various explanations, from his aggressive and outspoken demeanor... that doesn't sound particularly knightly... or his play style. Is there some sort of method of playing basketball that involves wearing a suit of armor? Otherwise, the only other thing I've got is that Charles is an English-sounding name.
Holokara: Because, of course, only English people can be knights. Isn't that right, Joan of Arc, Lancelot, du Lac, and Isabel of Conches?
(Cut back to the cover of "Barkley and the Referee Murders")
Holokara (v/o): But whatever. Today, we look at a comic that... I really don't know what to make of it. It's an oversized prestige format book. A prestige format book is a comic book that tends to have a book spine, a cover made of cardboard, and is usually longer than the standard comic book. For example...
(Cut to a shot of the cover of...)
Holokara (v/o): ..."Nightcat" was prestige format, as well as...
(Cut to a shot of the cover of...)
Holokara (v/o): ..."The Dark Knight Strikes Again". This one, for some reason, has larger dimensions in total for the comic, like...
(Cut to a shot of the cover of...)
Holokara (v/o): ..."The Backstreet Project" comic I reviewed last year.
Holokara: And yet, with all these references that I'm dropping to previous reviews I've done, the weird thing is that the main reference in this one is to a comic strip hero I haven't talked about before. So let's dig into (holds up today's comic) "Sir Charles Barkley and the Referee Murders".
(AT4W opening titles play; title card has "Sunglasses At Night" by Corey Hart playing in the background. Cut to a closeup of the comic's cover again)
Holokara (v/o): The cover is pretty bland: a photo of Charles Barkley wearing the yellow trenchcoat that he'll be supporting in this story. Yeah, a yellow trenchcoat, because all of a sudden, Charles Barkley equals Dick Tracy. I don't get it.
(Cut to the back of the book, showing shots of Barkley in a photo shoot wearing his yellow trenchcoat)
Holokara (v/o): But yeah, according to some pages at the back of the book, Barkley actually was in a photo shoot in this getup so they could get reference pictures, so kudos there.
(Cut to the first page of the comic proper)
Holokara (v/o): We open at a basketball game in Phoenix, Arizona, where the good Mr. Barkley gets whistled by the ref right as he makes the winning shot of the game.
Referee: You fouled him, Charles. On your way down court. That's two shots.
Barkley: Are you sure? Are you absolutely one hundred percent correct?
Holokara: (as ref) No, I'm only 64.7% certain. (points) Back off, Barkley!
Holokara (v/o): Barkley, being the smartest guy in the room, grabs the ref and turns him back around to face him.
Barkley: Listen, Mel...
Holokara: (as Barkley) Come in closer, my darling.
Holokara (v/o): I can't think of a sport where touching the ref is ever allowed, so he gets expelled from the game. Later, in the locker room, some reporters are interviewing him about what happened.
Reporter: So, Charles, what about that last-second call?
Barkley: It stunk, and it cost us the game. You all saw it. But it'll come back to him.
Reporter: What do you mean by that, Charles?
Holokara: (as Barkley) Murderous revenge, obviously. What else would I mean?
Barkley: Just what I said, life has a way of seeing that things even out.
Holokara: (as Barkley) I'll call Godzilla later and he'll stomp on the ref's house. Dude owes me a favor.
Holokara (v/o): While in the parking lot, Barkley is approached by a random fan. She agrees that it was a bad call and she knows he's going on a road trip, and thus, she offers him the Dick Tracy coat and hat.
Another fan: Go on, Chuck, take it. I hear it's colder than Hell back east right now. That man Barkley, he sure knows how to plead the ladies!
Holokara: Take down this romantic advice, heterosexual men: (sotto voce) the ladies like it when you accept their gifts of coats and hats. (nods and mouths "Oh, yeah.")
Holokara (v/o): The referee from the game is walking to his car when a silhouetted figure comes up to him and stabs him! Naturally, he doesn't cry out or anything,Ho because if referees are known for anything, it's silent they are. Barkley's team, the Phoenix Suns, arrive in Chicago.
Narrator: Chicago... home of da Sox...
(Cut to a clip of the "Superfans" sketch from Saturday Night Live)
Todd O'Connor (Chris Farley): Da Bears!
(Cut back to the comic)
Narrator: ...and the Suns' next opponent, da Bulls...
Holokara (v/o): If you look closely in this shot, you can see Super Mecha Death Christ and Giant Robotic Donkey Kong Jesus riding a puff of smoke, fighting each other. During the next game, a ref once again halts things on account of Barkley.
Barkley: Man, that was clean!
Referee: Sorry, Charles, you got the ball but you also got his arm.
Barkley: What arm? He ain't even scratched!
Holokara: You know, I've actually seen quite a few basketball games, and while arguments with the ref do happen, usually, the players are too busy catching their breaths to get into fights like this. Plus, it's just bad PR for the team. Where's the coach?
Holokara (v/o): The ref calls the foul anyway and gives the other team's player two free throws.
Barkley: Hey, Bob, he's not that good. He's just another player.
Holokara: The hell is that supposed to mean?
Barkley: And you're just a--
Referee: I'm a what?
Holokara (v/o): Somehow, Barkley's utter silence causes the ref to get really angry, especially in his Bruce Campbell-esque chin.
Referee: Barkley, that's a "T"!
Barkley: What? A "T"? For what, man?
(Cut to footage of a commercial for Hitachi featuring Mr. T)
Mr. T: First name, "Mister"; second name, "period"; last name, "T"!
(Back to the comic again)
Barkley: You can hear that fifty times every night on TV!
Holokara: Hear what fifty times? Look, if you want to censor it, just censor it! But there wasn't a word spoken at all!
Holokara (v/o): Barkley says to forget about it and walks it off, but later, the ref is walking down the streets and a man in silhouette approaches.
Man in silhouette: Hey buddy, spare a smoke?
Referee: Sorry, I don't smoke.
Holokara (v/o): And then a man grabs him and throws him off an overhang to the ground below.
Man: Not smoking can be bad for your health.
Holokara: (as this man, pointing at camera) Because if you had a cigarette, I wouldn't have murdered you for completely unrelated reasons! (nods, then shrugs in confusion)
Holokara (v/o): The next morning, the team has a layover in Chicago, so they stick around for another day, letting Charles Barkley check out the Field Museum.
Boy: Gee, it's a good thing the dinosaurs like this one are all dead, Mom.
Holokara: Aw, poor kid. He's too young to remember Godzilla's reign of terror.
Holokara (v/o): Barkley is approached by two police detectives who have put together the fact that both refs had fights with him and that witnesses stated that the guy who attacked them was a large black man.
Holokara: (pointing) Calling it now: the twist ending is that it was Shaq!
Holokara (v/o): Barkley just walks off, pissed off at the accusation and yelling that, at the times of each murder, he was in his hotel room. And then we see that Barkley is now with the rest of his team, heading to Manhattan. Yep, I'm sure that neither Phoenix nor Chicago police would be interested in detaining him for questions or anything. Just let the murder suspect flee. His teammates talk to him and Barkley has calmed down.
Barkley: I guess you can't blame them. Until they catch somebody, everyone's a suspect.
Holokara: Or... (shrugs) just the guy who is having arguments with both of them on national television.
Holokara (v/o): During the next game, Barkley gets into a scuffle with one of the New York Knicks players and an audience member yells out...
Audience member: Hey Barkley, you can't kill him 'til after the game!
Holokara: He's right, you know. Murdering the referee is a two-shot penalty.
Barkley: Don't worry about it. You just sit up there and watch the game.
Holokara (v/o): Heh, dude was lucky Barkley didn't spit on him. Barkley spots two fans talking to one of the referees and then sees the two walking out. Considering how pricey the seats the two had were, Barkley is suspicious of why they would leave only halfway into the first quarter. After the game, Barkley puts on the yellow coat and hat and follows the referee the two were talking to. The ref keeps looking behind him and not seeing Barkley. Ah, a bright yellow coat; it's the perfect camouflage! It blends in perfectly to the dreary city, especially on such a big guy like Barkley. He's like a ninja or something!
Narrator: Barkley steps into a deli and buys a pretzel. Chewing nonchalantly, he watches Pickering's every movement.
Holokara: How does one "chew nonchalantly"? Is there a way to chew suspiciously?
Holokara (v/o): Also, why did he waste his time getting a pretzel when he's supposed to be tailing this guy? Anyway, he spots Pickering meet with the two guys who had earlier left the game. They duck into a taxi and Barkley hails another one to follow, but before he can get in, he hears screams from an alleyway. Two thugs are beating up a woman, and of course, it's time for the standard "superhero saves woman in alley" scenario. It's cliched, yes, but I've got to admit, I still do like it, even if it's being done with Charles Barkley in a yellow trenchcoat and hat instead of, you know, a superhero. And actually, this is a pretty imposing drawing of Charles Barkley. Naturally, the intelligence level of thugs drops about fifty percent in these types of situations, so they start making fun of him.
Thug 1: Hey Philly, what we got here? Somebody from the Good Sam Club?
Holokara: (confused) You mean a Good Samaritan? Was "Good Sam Club" really slang in 1993?
Thug 2: Nawww. He wants something for America's Funniest Home Videos. Where's your camera, man?
Holokara: (as Barkley, pointing to camera) You got a lot of mouth on you, man. I think it's time for you to shut up and jam.
Barkley: You don't know who I am?
Thug 2: You mean besides old an' ugly?
Holokara: (as Barkley) Well, I know I'm not a role model, but come on! I fought Godzilla! I bought him giant sneakers!
Holokara (v/o): And you know, even if you don't recognize him, he's still six-and-a-half feet tall and looks like he can kick your ass. This will not end well, dudes. And it doesn't, as Barkley quickly kicks their asses and tosses on of them into a dumpster, the other one running away. Barkley carries the woman over to a nearby diner and has some coffee with her.
Barkley: He beat you up before?
Woman: Sometimes. When I deserve it.
Barkley: Hey, no woman deserves to get beat up like that. You hear me? Any man does that, he's a self-defined jerk!
Holokara: Charles Barkley, feminist.
Woman: But Vince...he's okay. He's cool.
Holokara: You think you're being cool by hanging with a punk like that?
Woman: Well, yeah, sure.
Holokara: Are we mixing up PSAs here? I don't think people get into abusive relationships because (makes "finger quotes") "they're cool".
Barkley: Let me tell you something, girl-- being 'cool' gets you this and no more.
Holokara (v/o): Barkley drops a quarter onto the table.
Barkley: Don't be 'cool'; be smart. Smart'll do you a lot better than cool. Now call your momma.
Holokara: Being Earth's greatest warrior, Charles Barkley is also known for his (points to his own head) keen wisdom.
Holokara (v/o): And with that pointless segue done with, Barkley continues his investigation by heading into a taxicab office.
(The title sequence for Taxi is shown briefly, with an added credit for "Sir Charles Barkley", before returning to the comic again)
Holokara (v/o): All the people in the office recognize him and just casually ask him what's up, and he asks to go to the dispatcher's office. He asks said dispatcher for a favor.
Barkley: I just missed some friends of mine. They got into your cab number 4826 at the corner of Seventh and Twenty-Eighth, about half an hour ago. Three guys: two white, one black. I'd like to know where they were dropped.
Holokara: (as Barkley) Yeah, I went all the way to the taxicab office for this because, um... (awkward pause) Friends. (beat) Don't question it. I'm Charles Barkley; shut up.
Holokara (v/o): The dispatcher points out he's got a great memory.
Dispatcher: When you have to keep track of guys like Shawn Kemp and Patrick Ewing, you learn how to remember things.
Holokara: (as dispatcher) I'm playing chess by mail with them. It's easy to get lost over which turn it is and what pieces have moved.
Holokara (v/o): He gives him the names of the guys in the cab as well as where they were dropped off, because I guess there isn't a taxicab driver/customer confidentiality thing. It's especially helps that the driver has one of the business cards of one of the guys in it. Barkley heads over to the place they were dropped off: an upscale hotel. He goes to the counter and claims to be a friend of the guy from the cab. At first, the clerk insists on phoning up to the guy to ask if he's really a friend, but then he notices that it's Charles Barkley.
Barkley: I'm not him, though!
Clerk: Of course you're not! I understand completely now... Er... Well, I suppose we must not annoy Mr. Johnson! Go on up!
Holokara: Charles Barkley: Earth's greatest warrior (holds up index finger) and master spy.
Holokara (v/o): He knocks on the door and then hides behind a corner, waiting for the guard inside to stick his head out... before shoving his way in. Yeah, this isn't illegal or anything, especially since the only thing you know is that a referee got into a cab with two guys. This would be seriously awkward if it turned out they all just went to high school together. But no! Shenanigans are afoot. A drug dealer wearing sunglasses – because only drug dealers wear sunglasses indoors – invites him in, even offering one of his lingerie models to him.
Lingerie model: (to Barkley) C'mon baby, you're all tense. Let me run my fingers through your hair.
Barkley: I don't have any hair.
Holokara (v/o): She even takes off his hat and is shocked to discover he's bald!
Holokara: (not wearing his hat; as Barkley) People with shaved heads are completely without sin, you know.
Holokara (v/o): The referee comes into the room holding cocaine in one hand and a woman in skimpy attire in the other. You know, I never thought I'd actually encounter this in a comic, but it turns out the referee with them does indeed have hookers and blow. The referee pleads with Barkley not to reveal this to the NBA League officials, but Barkley just berates him for ruining his own life. The drug dealer explains that the referee isn't indebted to them, but they just have an arrangement.
Barkley: I always wondered about some of your calls. I'll bet your game partners did, too.
Referee: I didn't mean for them to get hurt! ...He said he was just going to get Coury and Lavelas to keep quiet!
Holokara: There you have it, folks! If a referee makes a bad call in basketball, it's because they're actually cocaine addicts in league with drug kingpins.
Holokara (v/o): Well, actually, it's that the two who were murdered suspected what was going on and were getting too close to it, but enough about that. The drug lord has had enough and has his goon pull out some garrote wire, wrapping it around Barkley's neck. The drug lord says they'll frame Barkley, make it look like he was a cocaine addict who had a bad fall over the balcony. Barkley, however, has faced tougher competition than this and flips the guy over his head. They start shooting, but he flees quickly back to his hotel. I should note that it'd be pretty easy for the drug dealers to find out what hotel he's staying at, and he should really go to the police, but whatever. He collapses on his bed, drained from the experience, but gets a phone call from the drug lord.
Drug lord: You didn't give me a chance, man. We didn't get a chance to talk. Me, I like to talk.
Holokara: (as drug lord, pretending to talk on a phone (using his pinkie and thumb)) For example, I'd like to know what your favorite Lars von Trier movie is. Or perhaps you're more of a Terrence Malick fan.
Drug lord: I like to play the game, too.
Holokara: (as drug lord, still pretending to talk on phone) And you just LOST the game! HA!
Drug lord: I read that today's an off day for the team. How'd you like to get together and shoot some hoops?
Holokara: (as drug lord, still on "phone") And by "hoops", I mean "heroin".
Holokara (v/o): Barkley says he'd rather talk to some cops. Why the hell didn't he just do that right away? But the drug dealer threatens to murder the rep if he doesn't show up. He arrives at a basketball court, and the drug dealer says they're gonna play some free throws. Barkley says he's not very good at free throws and would prefer some one-on-one, but the drug dealer refuses since he has to give his backstory. Seriously, he goes into an expository rant about how he used to be a really good basketball as a kid, but in eleventh grade, a bunch of other kids beat him up and broke his leg so badly he couldn't keep playing, which eventually led to him going into drug-dealing. Subsequently, he's pissed that Barkley had a good life in the country as opposed to growing up on the mean streets of the 'hood, yo.
Holokara: (pointing at screen) Damn it, Charles Barkley! How dare you grow up in a completely different environment! YOU MONSTER!
Holokara (v/o): They're playing for control of a gun. Whoever misses a free throw first loses and the other gets the gun. You know, you've got him. You could skip all this horse hockey and just shoot him or take him someplace else and go with your original plan. How did you get to become a rich drug dealer by being this stupid?! Anyway, I will give the comic this credit: it is a fairly tense sequence as we see them free-throw shot after shot, the drug dealer starting to sweat. Then again, maybe his problem is that he's wearing his sunglasses at night. He may be able to see the vision in his eyes, but he probably can't see the hoop. Anyway, he loses and tries to cheat by going for the gun, but Barkley tosses the basketball at his face, knocking him out. The referee helps stop the goon holding him, and they're arrested. And so, our comic ends with the drug dealers being led away and Barkley saying he'll put in a good word for the ref in rehab. A police detective congratulates Barkley on his detective work, thinking he has off-court talents he could take advantage of.
Barkley: I'm just a country boy from Leeds, Alabama...
Holokara (v/o): Aaand our final panel is the detective shrugging at the reader.
Holokara: (holds up comic) This comic... is surprisingly decent.
Holokara (v/o): Don't get me wrong, the premise of Charles Barkley going off and doing detective work is stupid, but there's nothing horribly wrong with the comic, nothing that insults your intelligence... aside from the unnecessary PSA about abusive relationships not being cool. But the artwork is competent, and this is the best you're ever gonna get with this concept. It's just a stupid idea, but hey, I've seen good ideas screwed up royally, so if that idea pulled off well, it's perfectly fine.
Holokara: And much as I hate to admit it, (shrugs) Barkley does actually pull off the Dick Tracy look. (shrugs again) Who'd have thought? (gently puts down comic, gets up and leaves)
(End credits roll)
I'm sure I mispronounced Conches at the beginning, but couldn't find where to properly pronounce it.
Also, I know Lancelot was not real. But the character was French.
Well, there's really no other thing to say about this comic other than a shrug, is there?
(Stinger: Linkara is at SpringCon, held at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds)
Linkara (v/o): The first day of my journey brings me... er, south... when I'm supposed to be going north... Yeah... I probably should buy a map. I find myself at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds for the comic convention, SpringCon. Perhaps here, I can locate some individuals who can assist me in my quest.
(Linkara brings his magic gun to some guys at a table reading "Nextuus". They all look at the gun closely)
Linkara: All right, that's my magic gun, guys. Is there anything you can do for it?
Man 1: Well, I guess we could draw on it.
Man 2: Uh...
Man 3: (spreads arms wide) Put "POW!" right across it.
Man 2: I-I can, uh... I can, uh, make some funny stuff for it. Uh, put in, like, uh, a zombie there or a... you know, like...
Linkara: (confused) But aren't you guys, like, scientists?
Man 4: (laughs) No.
Man 1: We're cartoonists.
(Confused, Linkara looks up at the sign at their booth. It reads "Nextuus: The Search for the Ocean Shard". Linkara groans and shakes his head, then takes his magic gun and leaves)
Man 4: Hey! Hey! Aw...
(More shots of the convention are shown)
Linkara (v/o): While the web comic creators were of no help, I take the opportunity to meet with some fans and tell anecdotes to them of how things are going with my life.
(Linkara is seen sitting at a table addressing a woman sitting there with him. She listens with delight)
Linkara: The thing I don't understand about Snowflame is that he's (facepalms himself) just so annoying every single time he comes in. "Hey, I wanna steal your shoes! Hey, I wanna steal your show!" It just gets kind of irritating after a while. And I know the guy is having drug problems, and I put him through rehab, like, three or four times now. I just can't stand it anymore. And you know what? You know what? I-I just try to do the hardest that I can...
(Three hours later, Linkara is still rambling on about his life experiences to the woman, who is now looking disheveled with boredom from having to listen to him this whole time)
Linkara: ...and that was the last time I stole a traffic cone. (laughs, while woman takes Linkara's magic gun) But anyway, so I filled it up with gravy (woman repeatedly hits herself with gun, trying to knock herself out) and then I just tried to kind of marinate it with a bunch of cheese and whatnot. You'd be surprised how good a marinated cheese gravy dish really goes.
(Meanwhile, the woman, having hit herself so many times with the gun, starts slumping over, eyes rolling up. Linkara barely notices)
Linkara: And you know what the best part was? It turns out that she was a hairstylist! (laughs, while woman hits herself one more time, falling over) Oh, you should've been there!
(Now a montage of scenes is shown of Linkara looking around at the convention for any clue about his situation. He stares at a man dressed as a black dragon. The dragon raises its claws at him and he runs off)
Linkara (v/o): The purpose of my journey is to find experts in the field of magic, or at least the paranormal. And fortunately, such individuals were nearby.
(Linkara now is seen addressing a group of people cosplaying as the Ghostbusters. He holds up his magic gun to them)
Linkara: Okay, guys, so that's the story of my magic gun. Is there anything you can do to help me?
(The Ghostbusters look at each other and shake their heads with disappointment)
Ghostbusters: No. No, sorry.
Linkara: All right, thanks anyway. (shakes their hands) Keep up the good work. (leaves)
One Ghostbuster: Thanks.
(More shots of the convention are shown)
Linkara (v/o): Still, in spite of my setbacks, I try to keep an open mind for other individuals who may be able to help. While my devices aren't working, other people may devices that could assist.
(A man is now seen scanning Linkara's gun for him, with a blue light emitting from the scanner)
Linkara: No, no, no, use the red setting!
(The man changes the setting on his scanner and resumes scanning Linkara's gun, a red light emitting from it now. Linkara nods. Now cut to another booth, where a man, Gordon McAlpin, who wrote "Multiplex: Enjoy Your Show" is signing autographs in his copies of the book. A Cybermat running across the table, much to McAlpin's confusion. Linkara is wandering across the convention floor in one direction and then running back across in the other direction)
Linkara (v/o): It's important to keep a level head during these situations. In my line of work, it's easy to lose yourself in depression or ramble on and on about things that nobody cares about. The important thing is to keep yourself in control at all times and never do anything to embarrass yourself.
(Linkara is now seen sitting at another booth, talking to someone next to him, and sounding drunk doing so, having taken a few drinks from a small alcohol canteen in his hand)
Linkara: (slurring) So the thing about "JLA - Act of God" is that they get Booster Gold's character wrong. They think he's just about the money. He doesn't care about actually helping people, he's just like "Oh, I just want the fame and fortune." You know, I just realized that you don't probably don't even know who the heck I'm talking about, who are you, anyway?
(The camera pulls over to reveal the person Linkara has been addressing this whole time...)
Person: My name... is Dan Jurgens, the creator of Booster Gold.
Linkara: (awkward pause) ...So the problem with Blue Beetle these days is...
(Linkara is now standing at one end of the convention floor. He looks around)
Linkara (v/o): My quest continues. Hopefully, I'll figure out what direction north is.
(The woman that Linkara was talking to earlier is seen again. She sees the Cybermat on the table)
Woman: (stroking Cybermat like a pet) Hello, little Cybermat. You're so cute. I love you. You're gonna be mine forever and–
(Suddenly, Linkara runs up and grabs the Cybermat away from the woman)
(He leaves with the Cybermat, leaving the saddened woman behind)