The Backstreet Project #1
March 28, 2011
Backstreet's Back! ...Wait, is that a good thing?
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. If you've been checking the list of upcoming reviews on my blog, you'll know that today was supposed to be a review of something called "ARComics Premiere #1".
(Cut to a shot of that comic)
Linkara (v/o): Well, I've looked it over, and despite very amateurish quality in the art and lettering department, it wasn't really all that bad; certainly better than this thing deserved to be. I don't know very much about this company, ARComics – or ARC Comics; I can't tell which way to pronounce it, except they seem to periodically release material...
(Cut to shots of ARComic's website)
Linkara (v/o): ...and they claim to have lots of readers and embracing digital comics and animation wholeheartedly, but their website hasn't really been updated since 2006. I'm not counting the copyrighted 2011 thing at the bottom. I have a hard time believing they're still around.
(Cut back to "ARComics #1")
Linkara (v/o): The comic in question was made in 1993, and the cover, which they were very proud of on their website, features a lenticular card that they call a "lenticular animation". Yyyyeah, two different images does not qualify animation. Some of the stories certainly have potential and weren't anything offensive and had a genuinely funny line here or there, but this is not exactly the stuff that new comic companies are made of.
Linkara: Instead, we're going to look at a different independent comic that's been requested before. What is it? Well, all I'll say is that BACKSTREET'S BACK!
(Cut to footage of a Backstreet Boys music video)
Linkara (v/o): Ah, the Backstreet Boys. When you think "boy band", you either think N*SYNC or these guys. (the cover of "New Kids On the Block #4" pops up briefly) Okay, maybe New Kids On the Block, but you get my point. I don't really think some of the popular songs of the group are actually all that bad, but the thing about the levels of popularity of singers leads people to the really stupid conclusion that if they're successful in one market, then fans will eat up anything containing their work in another market. Enter Stan Lee Media, an Internet-based business for Stan Lee to promote animation and new comic books. Aaaand it sank with the dot-com craze in 2000. I'm not gonna make any correlations, but I would point out that this thing apparently came out in the summer of 2000, and the company itself went under in December of 2000. Make your own conclusions.
Linkara: And like a lot of failed businesses, there are of course legal issues revolving around Stan Lee Media. But we're not here to talk about that. Instead, let's dig into (holds up today's comic) "The Backstreet Project #1".
(AT4W title sequence plays; title card has "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)" by the Backstreet Boys playing in the background; cut to a closeup of the comic's cover)
Linkara (v/o): The first thing to note about this comic is that it's BIG. I don't mean that it's a really long comic; I mean that the dimensions of the comic itself are bigger than a normal comic. A standard comic book is about 6 1/2 inches wide and ten inches long. This thing is 8 1/2 inches wide and 10.75 inches long. The only reason I can guess as to why they felt it needed to be bigger was that they wanted to trick people into thinking it was a magazine and not a comic book. Hell, even the structure of the cover is like a magazine, with a big, blank space featuring the five in their superhero outfits and surrounded by text bits, including "EXCLUSIVE BACKSTREET PHOTOS INSIDE!"
Linkara: (mock excitement) WOW! Photos of the Backstreet Boys?! It's like those didn't even exist before this! (points to comic)
Linkara (v/o): I'm sorry, but it's not like they're leaked photos of a TV series that can give away plot details. THEY'RE FRIGGIN' SINGERS. What exactly is so appealing about "new photos" of them? Buy my new magazine; it has exclusive photos of them all wearing baseball caps! As for the superhero looks, they're not all that bad, actually, though I do have to wonder about this guy [Brian Littrell] who's wielding a flaming basketball. I guess he was bitten by a radioactive NBA Jam cartridge.
Voice (from NBA Jam): He's on fire!
Linkara (v/o): And this guy [Kevin Richardson], who bears more than a striking similarity to Tony Stark in his Iron Man armor.
(The comic opens to the first page)
Linkara (v/o): We open to an outdoor Backstreet Boys concert that's packed to the gills.
Narrator: We don't claim this story is true--but no one can prove it isn't!
Linkara: (excitedly holding up index finger) Ooh! I can!
Narrator: Are the boys as nervous and worried as you'd expect? Let's see...
Linkara (v/o): The basketball guy from the cover says they have twenty minutes before the show starts, and we see the others playing a football video game or reading a book. So, no, they're not nervous or worried, but apparently, that's because instead of preparing themselves for a concert that's in less than twenty minutes, they're screwing around. Good to see how professional these guys are.
Narrator: ...they were on stage in five, and they never missed a beat!
Linkara: Pretty impressive, considering they were on stage fifteen minutes earlier than they were supposed to be. What were they doing during that time, just kind of milling around for fifteen minutes?
Linkara (v/o): Maybe they should've used that extra time picking out better outfits. Take a look at these jackets and how they're hanging off their bodies. I think someone used a wee bit too much starch in them.
Narrator: The audience eats it up...
Linkara (v/o): Yeah, just look at this poor woman with her face stuck in that position, "eating it up".
Narrator: ...as the world's most popular group gives it their all.
Linkara: (as narrator) With very disappointing results.
Narrator: But no one suspects the terrible danger lurking!
Linkara (v/o): Meanwhile, behind the moon is a giant spaceship, the flagship of Sinissta.
Narrator: Aboard ship, communications officer Zanell enthusiastically monitors the Backstreet Boys' concert...
Linkara: (holding out a TV remote, as Zenell) Three hundred bazillion channels, and nothing's on.
Zanell: They're so exciting, so full of joy and energy! If only Queen Sinissta would allow such concerts on Zophacia!
Linkara: (as Zanell) Instead, we have to listen to "High School Musical: The Full Orchestral Score".
Linkara (v/o): She listens in on the Queen talking to a subordinate referred to as a "robot captain", who reports that the planet can't resist them.
Robot captain: But, my queen, they have never harmed us. There are women and children...
Linkara (v/o): So, if he's a robot, why is he sweating? And if he's not a robot but someone who captains robots, why would the robots require one? Naturally, the queen doesn't take kindly to someone objecting to her plans for being evil and kills the guy.
Queen Sinissta: Not for nothing am I known throughout the galaxies as Sinissta, the Death Queen!
Linkara: You know, you'll probably inspire more fear if you don't awkwardly add (makes "finger quotes") "not for nothing" at the beginning of your evil statements.
Linkara (v/o): Zanell, not wanting to let all the innocent Earthlings be destroyed... I notice it's only through the power of the Backstreet Boys that she has decided to stop letting her queen kill people... decides to put a stop to Queen Sinissta. She sneaks into the Queen's sacred shrine and steals mystical crystals that she, and I quote...
Zanell: (thinking) ...can bestow a fantastical super power upon whomever wears it.
Linkara (v/o): You know, I'm aware that radiation is no longer the go-to source of superpowers, but couldn't you just say "bestows incredible power"? You don't need to actually outright state that it grants its wearer a superpower. Zanell is stopped at the hangar bay.
Guard: How can I allow you to fly a scout ship, Zanell? You are no pilot.
Zannel: The Queen has so ordered!
Guard: Queen Sinissta must be obeyed.
Linkara: Boy, this is really not gonna look good on this guy's performance evaluation.
Linkara (v/o): However, the guard was right, and she isn't a pilot, so she sets an automatic course for Earth and prays. Meanwhile, as the concert ends, and the Backstreet Boys are wearing completely different outfits, everyone spots the light in the sky as the ship heads through the atmosphere.
First female concertgoer: It looks like a space ship! [sic]
Linkara (v/o): How can you tell? Look at that! It's just a pointy thing with a stream of fire and smoke behind it – at night!
Second female concertgoer: This is the greatest finale any concert ever had!
Linkara: Well, look who's easily impressed! (female voice, pointing offscreen) Wow! Look at the most amazing garbage can that any concert ever had!
Linkara (v/o): The Backstreet Boys see it as well and think it's going to crash, but realize that the audience thinks it's part of the show. Back on the ship, we get to hear this wisdom from our alien survivor.
Zanell: I was so entranced by the concert below... that I forgot to manipulate the controls!
Linkara: Let me get this straight: either you were too busy watching the concert on a monitor instead of driving, which I thought you were on autopilot anyway, or you were looking out the window at the concert below, which is on a very small area because you're so high up, that's passing by very quickly! Either way, you're not coming off as someone that's especially competent.
Linkara (v/o): However, the power of the crystals is apparently saving her and allowing the trees to bend and create a soft cushion for her to land on. It's also probably starting a forest fire, but let's not try to think too much about that. Back at the crowd, the Backstreet Boys are sad that they don't have time to talk to all their fans – very noble thought, I've got to say – and are wondering about the ship. Oh, and once again, their clothes have changed. Having never been to a Backstreet Boys concert, I'm not sure if that's a common thing or not. Anyway, to avoid the paparazzi and more ravenous fans, they've sent out a limo as a distraction while they board an old busted-up bus to get to the airport.
Narrator: And so, the world's most popular group heads for its date with destiny!
Linkara: They subsequently insisted that destiny pay for the entire date and spent most of it staring at the waitress.
Linkara (v/o): They spot Zanell walking along with an army injury. I thought she landed safely.
Howie Dorough: Hit the brakes, Nick! Hey, check out that girl!
Linkara: (as Nick) A girl?! As a boy band, we never get to see those!
Linkara (v/o): Zanell hands them the crystals, conveniently in amulet form, before she falls unconscious. I should also note something about the artwork: every woman in this comic has perfectly spherical breasts. I only mention this because the artist wanted to make sure we notice them, what with them conforming perfectly to her uniform, despite it clearly having a flap that goes over them and being then, you know, kind of impossible.
Howie: All I know is when she wakes up we're going out on a date.
Linkara: (chuckles) Yeah, that isn't a creepy thing to say at all. (scowls)
Linkara (v/o): They decide to put on the amulets, and it [sic] instantly transforms them into their superhero forms. Before they can really react to it, a gigantic robotic claw smashes through the bus and grabs Zanell. I love how this thing just appeared out of nowhere. Either the Backstreet Boys are deaf or the giant robot is on stealth mode or something. The robot sticks Zanell in a compartment and wrecks the bus before it flies off.
Nick: (taking out a phone) I'd better phone ahead. We'll be late for our next concert.
Linkara (v/o): Yeah, that's your top priority after all of that, of course: your friggin' concert tour schedule. Anyway, one of them says that the whole area is without power, so they can't reach anyone. Not sure how he deduces that, considering what kind of phone it is. Doesn't it make more sense that he can't get a signal? They see the crashed spaceship inside of a lake, and the Iron Man wannabe swims down and recovers it, since the amulet imparts super strength onto him. They examine the ship, which I admit actually looks pretty cool, and the one who has goggles thinks that with his new magic powers, he can repair it and make it space-worthy. Zanell is brought to Sinesstra [sic], who demands to know where the crystals are. Zanell says she's already given them to five humans, but she won't tell who. The Queen stands over Zanell's console.
Queen Sinissta: No snip of a girl can frustrate Queen Sinissta! Those amulets shall be mine again, no matter what it takes!
Linkara: (as Sinissta) Hmm, I'm sure these images of five boys that were on display on Zanell's console had nothing to do with the five she gave the amulets to.
Queen Sinissta: Now, by my command-- prepare to invade Planet Earth!
(Cut to a clip of an episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, showing Rita Repulsa and her goons on a planet overlooking Earth)
Rita: Ah! After 10,000 years, I'm free! It's time to conquer Earth!
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): While the tech boy, whose name is Nick, works on repairing the ship, the others practice their powers. The basketball guy can leap, and the dude decked out like a sorcerer can project mental images, Iron Boy is super strong, and the cowboy has laser blasters. I guess laser guns are a superpower now. Through the power of plot convenience, Iron Boy can mentally pilot the ship... Okay, his name is Kevin... and they fly off, locating the spaceship.
Guard 1: A small ship approaches.
Guard 2: You know what to do.
Guard 1: Attention, ship! Transmit password-- or be blown from the sky!
(Cut to a clip of Horse Feathers, showing a clip of Professor Wagstaff (Groucho Marx) gaining access to the speakeasy)
Prof. Wagstaff: (to Baravelli (Chico Marx)) Is it "swordfish"?
Baravelli: That's it! (lets him in)
(Cut back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): Nah, they use a mental projection of the Queen to let them in, though this does make me wonder how the hell the Backstreet Boys know who the Queen is. Zanell never told them. After they land, Nick confronts some more robots and manages to cut off their heads with a sword that he has now. By the by, I know it's a stupid point, considering this was meant for Backstreet Boys fans, but we're twenty pages in, and only now do we learn a majority of the names of the characters. The cowboy is named AJ, and the mental projectionist is named Howie. Howie uses his projections to scare off the guys in the engine room, and Nick has now magicked himself up some nunchucks. AJ rescues Zanell from her cell, while Nick plants a bomb on the engine.
Linkara: Okay, so within one hour of gaining their superpowers, they have somehow learned about the Queen, learned and memorized the layout of her ship, learned where Zanell is, learned where there were explosives on the scout ship, and then came up with a plan to put explosives on the engine core of her ship. (pauses as he tries to make sense of it all) Narrative magic at its laziest, people!
Linkara (v/o): Their escape route is blocked by Sinissta, who transforms into a giant demon tentacle monster. Just roll with it. And after all those plot holes I just mentioned, we still have the laziest, dumbest one yet.
AJ: There had to be a reason why I got these light-beam blasters! Here's where we learn what it was!
Linkara: (holding up index finger; confused) Okay, are they saying it was some sort of destiny thing that all their powers would come in handy? Because magical basketball Backstreet Boy still hasn't done anything! (beat) And he won't!
Nick: You're hitting the main power cells!
Queen Sinissta: NOOOO! The cell-powered light-beams are the only things that can make me lose my demonic form!
Linkara: (massaging his cheek in frustration) So, let me see if I get this straight: the only thing that can stop you in this form, and you decided right at that moment to stand next to them? (stares, then rolls his eyes listlessly) Okay, whatever.
Linkara (v/o): So, yeah, they escape on board the scout ship as Sinissta's ship explodes. However, they notice an escape pod also leaving the ship, suspecting that Sinissta got away. Of course, they could just fire on the thing or try to contact it, but whatever. And so, our comic ends with the Backstreet Boys arriving for their next concert. It's been, like, two hours; do singers routinely give multiple concerts on the same night? A little late. They even give Zanell a job as their new recording engineer.
AJ: What does she know about that job?
Howie: Probably nothing.
AJ: But that's good.
Nick: It means we can spend a long time teaching her!
Brian: And, y'know somethin'?
Kevin: We hope she's a real slow learner!
Linkara: (laughs sarcastically) All five of them want to do her, and that is creepy and terrible. (voice turns sour as he closes comic and holds it up) This comic sucks.
Linkara (v/o): I mean, WOW, this is bad. I admit, there are moments when it seems like it could have been awesome in its stupidity, say, if they actually fought the giant robot, but sadly, nothing like that ever happens. They just manage to use incredible luck and coincidence to get through this, and the five have no distinguishable personalities. Originally, this was planned as a six-issue miniseries, but scaled back to a one-shot. After the comic itself, there are some concept sketches and photos, and we learn that part of this was Nick's idea, that he's a big comic book fan and thought it would be cool to have them as superheroes.
(Cut to a clip of a Backstreet Boys Flash animation entitled "The Backstreet Project", after the comic, where the band is a group of superheroes just like in the comic)
Linkara (v/o): There was also apparently some Flash cartoons related to the concept, but those are probably a subject for another day.
Linkara: But hey, I suppose they got the best person for the job of writing this thing. After all, Stan Lee has experience writing about singing superheroes, and that turned out great! (shot of cover of "Nightcat #1" pops up) Or not. (throws down comic, gets up and leaves)
(End credits roll)
I didn't comment on the "world's most popular group" thing since I allow for the possibility that this was true. Please feel free to correct that.
Yeah, I COULD have had an actual Backstreet Boys song playing during the credits. Or I could have done another Weird Al song. Decisions, decisions...
(Stinger: Dr. Linksano stands by the door to Linkara's room, giggling a crazed giggle)
Dr. Linksano: Foolish Linkara. He thought he had me distracted with that Junior Chemistry Playset, but I have the last laugh! I used that Junior Chemistry Playset to create this! (holds up a gun-like device) The ultimate doomsday weapon! I'll kill him! Or maybe just send him into another dimension. (?) what this thing does. But I'll do whatever it is I do! And then I'll take the spaceship AND RULE THE WORLD!!
(He laughs evilly. Suddenly, however, he looks up with a start and becomes terrified as something closes in on him)
Dr. Linksano: What the hell are you?! (the screen starts filling up with static) N-No! No, stay back! STAY BACK!! NO!! NOOOO!!!
(The screen fills up with static completely as creepy, robotic laughter is heard; the static disappears, revealing that Dr. Linksano is gone)