Twilight Zone #9
September 12, 2011
A dimension not of sight or sound but of mind. A really stupid mind.
(The video is in black and white)
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. I freaking love The Twilight Zone.
(Clips of the show are displayed)
Linkara (v/o): Then again, I'm a sucker for horror/science-fiction anthology shows, especially this and The Outer Limits. I like how they can create captivating stories in a short amount of time and really show off their imagination. My favorite episodes of The Twilight Zone are the ones where there's a mystery that doesn't make any sense: "Where Is Everybody?", "And When the Sky Was Opened", "The Arrival", "Death Ship", "Stopover In a Quiet Town". It's just great watching the mystery unfold and try to see how people cope with bizarre circumstances.
(Cut to clips of later versions of The Twilight Zone)
Linkara (v/o): I never really saw much of the 1980s series, and I briefly watched the 2002 series, which was okay, but nothing special. Forest Whitaker may be a great actor, but he is no Rod Serling. Part of the reason The Twilight Zone and a lot of these kinds of series endure is because of good writing and good ideas.
(Cut to a montage of shots of comic books involving a similar anthology format)
Linkara (v/o): Naturally, the anthology format is perfect for comic books, and back in the old days, they had the likes of EC Comics, which was responsible for "Tales From the Crypt", "Vault of Horror", and "The Haunt of Fear".
(Another montage of shots is shown, this one of various "Twilight Zone" comics)
Linkara (v/o): With an easy-to-reproduce format and the popularity of the show, Dell and Gold Key produced "Twilight Zone" comics in the '60s and '70s.
(Still another montage is shown, this one of covers of comics from the company Now Comics)
Linkara (v/o): However, today's outing comes from 1991 and the company, Now Comics, which you may remember as the publisher behind "Mr. T and the T-Force". So you know we're in good hands here.
Linkara: So let's dig into (holds up comic of review for today) "Twilight Zone #9" and see what they made of the series.
(Suddenly, we cut to a second Lewis Lovhaug standing off to the side, dressed as Rod Serling)
Rod Serling: Submitted for your approval: a comic book reviewer named Linkara. He contends regularly with the surreal, the stupid and the sickening. But today, he must face off against a comic so utterly pointless and disorienting in its ineptitude. Will it be his undoing? Will it be the final nail on the sequential coffin? Who can say? All we know is... this is the Twilight Zone.
(AT4W title sequence plays; the title card shows Rod Serling's opening introduction playing over the Twilight Zone theme)
Rod Serling: You're traveling through another dimension. A dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. Your next stop: The Twilight Zone.
(Cut to a closeup of the cover of the comic of review)
Linkara (v/o): This cover baffles me. It's not the creepy clown image on it or the carnival sideshow pictures on the bottom. Those make for perfectly fine images, since this thing does have a carnival thing going for it in the story, but the thing that perplexes me is that for absolutely no reason at all, there's a hologram picture of two snakes on a checkered floor with a skull, two eyes in the shadows, and a monster. Why? What's the point? The hologram is positively tiny and serves no purpose. If the entire cover was a foil hologram, that would make sense, but why just the tiny hologram? Hell, it's not even a very good hologram. Most hologram pictures at least try to appear partially 3-D and leap off the page. (reads text on cover) "Full-Color"!
Linkara: (still in black and white) I love it when independent comic publishers feel the need to express that, though I admit, further confusion, I don't think we've run into any Now Comics yet that weren't in color. (looks around) Oh, speaking of... (snaps his fingers, bringing the color back)
Linkara (v/o): (reading text) "With Spectacular 3-D Segment!"
Linkara: (flatly) Oh, goody. I look forward to my eyes being hurt and not being able to comprehend what the hell is going on.
Linkara (v/o): And I'm sorry, this clown thing is starting to bug me. There's not even a clown character in this comic, and yet they're bringing out the creepy clown imagery. Look, I get it, clowns can be scary because they possess exaggerated physical features, and their silly mannerisms suggest something far more sinister, and because they're also associated with children, it creates an even bigger magnitude for potential horrible scenarios.
Linkara: However, I refuse to allow this thing against clowns to continue unchallenged! Clowns are only trying to make people experience joy and happiness, and I am a proponent of making people happy! As such, I'd like to introduce a new character to Atop the Fourth Wall.
(He gestures to that character, a clown (played by Lewis))
Linkara: This is Boffo the Clown. (Boffo waves) He is dignified, content, and above all else, HE IS NOT AN EVIL CLOWN. (points at camera) Take that, clown haters! (Boffo honks a horn he has with him) You said it, Boffo! (suddenly, he hears a buzzing sound) Boffo? (Boffo doesn't answer; he is missing) Huh, must be on a break.
Linkara (v/o): Anyway, we open on an alleyway where a woman with a black eye is laying on the ground with her dog. The dog wakes up and starts growling, a trash can nearby falling over because... I don't know, a cat or something? It's not clear. She tells the dog to shush, primarily because there's a policeman nearby that seems to be passing by and glancing at the alley. She takes off with the dog, and the Rod Serling-esque narration starts, the woman arriving in front of a coffee house.
Rod Serling: (narrating) Meet Darlene Larkin, lost child, one of the many the streets claim as their own.
Linkara: (as Serling) Unfortunately, the streets didn't have a receipt for her, so she couldn't be returned when they realized they already had one.
Serling: (narrating) She's not sure what she's looking for, but one thing's for certain: she hasn't found it.
Linkara: (as Darlene) Aw, I wanted a Denny's, not a coffee house!
Serling: (narrating) That is, until she wanders into... the Twilight Zone.
Linkara: (as Serling) She was subsequently kicked out of the Twilight Zone when she couldn't afford the entrance fee.
Linkara (v/o): Then it gets kind of weird, since the next panel suddenly mirrors her walking, but now she's going towards a carnival fun house. While yes, she will be going into this fun house later, I'm not sure why the hell we have the panels going like this. We cut to the inside of the diner where two assholes [Rut Jenkins and Squinty] are talking to the waitress.
(Cut to a clip of the diner scene in Birdemic: Shock and Terror)
Waitress: Here is the menu. (gives it to Rod)
Rod: Thank you.
Waitress: I'll be right back with you.
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): The woman walks in and the waitress gives her a hot chocolate on the house because she obviously looks disheveled and in a bad state.
Rut Jenkins: Check out Goldie Locks.
Squinty: Yeah, and I'm the Big Bad Wolf!
Jenkins: That's in Little Red Riding Shoes, you spatula head! Getcher nursery rhymes straight!
Linkara: Oh, what a bevy of delight I'm sure that these two gentlemen will provide!
Linkara (v/o): The two oily guys walk over to her, and the guy in flannel says his name is Rut Jenkins and his friend is Squinty.
Jenkins: I always fancied myself as kinda an expert in zoological signs and what not. Now, I'm a Feces...
Linkara: Oh, you most certainly are, I can tell.
Jenkins: ...and Squinty here's a Flagettarian.
Linkara: (as Jenkins) That's one of them weirdos who don't eat meat, right? Flagettarian?
Linkara (v/o): He continues to talk to her for a minute before the waitress returns and throws them out of the diner. Jenkins, being as oily and creepy as he can, offers the girl a ride and points out how dangerous the streets are at night. The waitress offers her a ride home herself, but the woman, Darlene, says she doesn't know where she's going. Later, Darlene is walking the streets before she's almost run down by a truck driven by – you guessed it – Jenkins and Squinty. She loses her dog as the guys crash into some garbage cans. She runs off, but is grabbed by a one-armed guy with a scar across his face who tells her to shush.
Jenkins: Well, looks like we done run outta real estate, eh Darlene? Come on out, sweetheart. This ain't no way to treat your Uncle Rut.
(Cut to another clip of Birdemic, showing Rod staring at Nathalie)
Rod: I was looking at you in the restaurant so pretty.
(Back to the comic again)
Linkara (v/o): Fortunately, the one-armed man shoves a dumpster at the two and knocks them away. Jenkins grabs a chain from... somewhere and belts him across the face.
One-Armed Man: My turn, fat boy.
Linkara: (confused) Fat?
(Jenkins looked to be in pretty good shape. Linkara looks down at himself)
Linkara: I'd kill for that figure.
Linkara (v/o): He manages to get the chain away from Jenkins by... uh, grabbing it out of his hands. Even Jenkins looks confused by this turn of events, made no better by the one-armed man just waving the chain in the air and yelling...
One-Armed Man: AHWOOOOOOH!
Linkara: So, is the twist ending that the guy is actually a werewolf?
Linkara (v/o): The one-armed man disappears, as does Darlene's dog. The two men drive off as well, but don't worry, that won't be the last we see of them. Somehow, in the course of a single day, she has completely left her urban surroundings and enters farm country. Leaves billow around her, and I guess this is important because the comic makes sure to show the leaves flowing before a big lightning strike. There's a sign on a tree that advertises the local carnival, in particular "the World Famous D.L. Kindle's Mysterious House of Fun!"
Linkara: Well, I'm glad somebody's having fun, because so far, I'm not.
Linkara (v/o): Another lightning strike splits the tree in half, and then suddenly, BAM! Carnival's in front of her. As she enters the area, there's a guy working on a ride that asks her if she's coming to the carnival. That creepy moment out of the way, she completely ignores him and keeps on walking. He even calls her by name, despite her not getting it, which amounts to basically nothing. There's another lightning strike, and she reaches into her pocket, pulling out... uh, a condom? A Nut Goodie? The hell is that? Anyway, we check back in with our brain trust Jenkins and Squinty.
Jenkins: Damn street freaks! Who the hell was that guy anyway?
Squinty: You mean what the hell was he.
Linkara: He was a guy with one arm. That's not much of a "what".
Jenkins: All I know is we gotta find that girl before she goes and snitches.
Linkara: (confused) What? Why? It was dark, you didn't actually do anything to her, and she has no proof of anything. And how the hell do you expect to find her, especially since, as the narrative captions have indicated, it's now the next day and several hours later? If she was going to report this or something, she probably already did!
Linkara (v/o): However, they quickly forget about their complete idiocy when they spot the carnival. One wonders why they were driving around the countryside to begin with when they were purportedly looking for Darlene and would have no reason to think she was going out this way, but whatever. Squinty is really excited to go to the carnival, but for some bizarre reasons, Jenkins thinks Darlene is somewhere around. Oh, and because somebody decided that this story needed to be 28 pages, we have some padding of Darlene going on rides, then the two hicks going on rides, and this is "The Twilight Zone", right? Stories about aliens and ghosts and nightmares and crap?
(Cut to a clip of an episode of the original show, "Perchance To Dream", which is set in a carnival, as Linkara explains...)
Linkara (v/o): Hell, the only time I can think of when The Twilight Zone went to the carnival was that guy who had the recurring nightmare of dying on a roller coaster, and that episode was sure as hell more interesting than it has been for the last twelve pages!
(Back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): Darlene asks the Ferris wheel operator about the nearby fun house.
Ferris wheel operator: That there is Dirty Lyle's House of Fun.
Linkara: And given the name "Dirty Lyle", I can presume it's a fun house that requires at least two forms of ID.
Linkara (v/o): Oh, and despite the fact that this panel shows Darlene getting out of the ride, we cut to the next panel, where she's staring down at the ground with her mouth hanging open. "D'uhhhhhhh!" She may have spotted that Jenkins and Squinty were on the ride with her, because she immediately leaves the Ferris wheel and runs towards the fun house. However, if that is the case, it's not made clear. This has been some damn haphazard art, I've got to say. A lot of these panels I'm sure are supposed to be significant, but they're never clear about why, and other times they look like they were put together out of order. Jenkins spots her running towards the fun house and gives chase, though Squinty wants to keep riding rides.
Jenkins: After I take care of her, I'm gonna snap yer neck like a chicken bone for puttin' me through all this!
Linkara: (as Jenkins) Makin' me ride on carnival rides and havin' fun! How dare you, Squinty!
Linkara (v/o): And now we enter the vaunted 3D segment. As I said back in the "California Raisins" review, I despise 3D, since it's a gimmick. However, in this case, I get what they're going for. By going 3D, it can create a unique visual style for the inside of the fun house. It can appear otherworldly and cool, like you're entering another dimension. There's one little problem, though.
Linkara: (wearing 3D glasses) It doesn't friggin' work! Oh, rest assured, it's better than the California Raisins comic in that there is anaglyph 3D going on here, but it doesn't make it seem any weirder or otherworldly, it just hurts your eyes!
Linkara (v/o): But like I said, some images do seem to kind of pop out, but it's nothing special, although, to be fair, this comic is almost twenty years old, and it's possible the colors have faded over time. That's probably the case, especially since the reds look closer to brown or maroon. To make matters worse, it's a barely comprehensible sequence. Okay, she enters the fun house and is told she has twenty minutes to find her way through. A parallel journey starts as Darlene makes her way through the fun house, while Squinty and Jenkins follow behind her. The two idiots are chased by ghostly images, while Darlene gets surrounded by balloons. Then the two fall into a pit of skulls and bones, and Darlene encounters a whole bunch of cogs and gears. Oh, and then Jenkins gets punched by a zombie. I've gotta say that's extraordinarily satisfying, but on the opposite end of the spectrum, Darlene is attacked by giant toys and is almost killed by a toy soldier with a real sword. To make a long story short, the two finally start catching up with her, and despite encountering stuff like a giant scorpion, they're still dedicated to finding her. Yeah, zombies, skeletons, psychedelic environments, and giant bugs aren't the real problem, this woman is.
Jenkins: Yeeeeehaaaa! It's Rut "the Pitchfork" Jenkins and I'm comin' to getcha Darlene!
Linkara: Jenkins earned that nickname because of his baffling tendency to use a pitchfork like a dinner fork while eating. It's subsequently also the cause of his brain damage.
Linkara (v/o): The two split up to try to find her, and Squinty gets taken by the one-armed man, who tells him to be quiet. Jenkins, meanwhile, is attacked by... uh... a giant mechanical spider. With lasers.
(Cut to Rod Serling, again played by Lewis)
Serling: Submitted for your approval: giant robotic spiders with lasers attached to them. (beat, then Serling takes out his cigarette and stares at it) What the hell is in this thing anyway?
(Back to the comic)
Linkara (v/o): Jenkins finally catches Darlene and tells her that she either has to come with him or jump.
Darlene: Let's jump.
Linkara: Let's jump around.
(He makes raise-the-roof motions with his hands, while House of Pain's "Jump Around" plays in the background)
Linkara (v/o): They pass through a whole bunch of random images before ending up back in the room they started from, Squinty waiting for them there already. The announcer says that they have twenty seconds to leave, and somehow, within that time, Jenkins says they've got to leave, but they'll leave Darlene there and that they'll use some scarf or something to tie her ankles and keep her there. Squinty suddenly turns right around and uses it on Jenkins, telling Darlene to run. Time runs out, and Squinty leaps out while snakes suddenly start appearing in the room. The 3D sequence finally ends as the two fall out of the fun house. They realize they're no longer at where the carnival was, and the one-armed man appears with a bunch of others.
Squinty: Don't be scared none, Darlene. This here's Mr. Lyle Kindle. He runs the carnival.
Lyle: Dirty Lyle. But don't let the name throw ya. Kind of endearin', ain't it?
Linkara: In a creepy serial killer kind of way, yeah. Oh, and by the way, WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED?!
Squinty: Mr. Dirty Lyle here's the man who saved ya in the alley from... Course that was before I realized... Well, I'm sorry, is all I'm tryin' to say.
Linkara: (as Squinty) I'm sorry I tried to rape and murder you, is all.
Linkara (v/o): Darlene once again says she she has to leave, and Lyle hands her her dog.
Lyle: I been watchin' you, Darlene. Watchin' over you. I know how ya got that bruise under yer right eye, fightin' off that no-good flesh peddler last week.
Linkara: Oh, goody! We finally get backstory for our main character. (beat) TWENTY-SEVEN PAGES IN! Oh, and by the way, she's barely spoken any lines throughout this comic.
Lyle: Ya never came to the carnival when you was in Richmond, or to the one in Churnville, but ya came today. Why d'ya come today, Darlene?
Linkara: (as Darlene) Well, I'd answer that, but then I'd have to have character development.
Linkara (v/o): Seriously, she doesn't even answer him! Smooth.
Lyle: What I'm offerin' you is a family. All of us here was in your shoes at one time-- a lot was even worse off.
Linkara: (as Lyle) That's right, I was a prostitute once myself. The pay was good, but the medical plan sucked, but we have much better insurance these days.
Linkara (v/o): Darlene decides to stay because... because, and naturally, we never find out why the hell Squinty isn't evil anymore.
Lyle: Alright, folks, we got us a carnival to throw. Darlene, you like horses?
Linkara: (as Darlene, excitedly) Do I ever! (as Lyle) Good, grab a shovel, you're cleaning out what the horses leave behind.
Linkara (v/o): A few hours later, Darlene is in charge of the horse-riding pavilion and wonders out loud to Squinty about what happened to Jenkins. And so, our comic ends with one more 3D page, showing Jenkins trapped on a wall, along with other people, and surrounded by decaying bodies and skulls.
Rod Serling: (narrating) Life proves time and time again, that things aren't what* they seem.
- NOTE: It's actually "as they seem".
Linkara: (as Serling) For example, you probably thought this was going to be a good Twilight Zone comic.
Serling: (narrating) What may hold retribution for one, might offer redemption to another.
Linkara: (as Serling) And yet another will just decide to run away and join a carnival. Look, we haven't quite figured out this moral yet. Just pretend this is a happy ending.
Serling: (narrating) But even the seemingly unwanted, forgotten, or lost, can find solace when this carnival comes to town.
Linkara: Excuse me, but the diner waitress was being plenty nice to her, and as far as I know, she wasn't part of the carnival!
Serling: (narrating) Especially when the doors to the fun house open one-way into... the Twilight Zone.
Linkara: (as Serling) Of course, it doesn't matter which way they opened, since people were still able to escape the fun house and everything. (closes comic and holds it up) This comic sucks!
Linkara (v/o): Let's ignore for a second the shoddy 3D nonsense. This was just terribly written and presented. Darlene had no character development and just spent the entire time running away. We finally get her backstory at the very end, but it's too little, too late. The villains were one-dimensional, and Squinty's redemption comes completely out of left field. Nothing about this magical fun house is explained, what it is, where it comes from, or how it works. The artwork itself is passable, but it fails in the story told in sequential art, as many sequences are unclear and lacking a point.
Linkara: Bottom line: open the doorway to imagination, and think of a better story than this one! (throws down comic, gets up and leaves)
(End credits roll)
I guess the leaves could have actually been the flyer for the carnival, but its shape is so ambiguous that I couldn't tell for certain, plus it's the same color as some of the leaves.
Other favorites? "The Obsolete Man," "Five Characters in Search of an Exit," "The Masks," and from the 2002 series "One Night at Mercy."
It was either this song or the ending theme from the Twilight Zone. I figure there are plenty more Twilight Zone comics, so I could always use that in the future. In the meantime, though – JUMP AROUND!
Pollo: Maybe he's just in Vegas or something.
Linkara: I called his manager. Harvey hasn't called him or told anyone else he was taking any time off.
Iron Liz: Do you think it's the Entity?
Linkara: Yeah, but it's worse than that. Nimue, tell them what you told me.
Nimue: Information: The Earth's population has been decreasing steadily over the last several months. Almost one-sixth of that population is no longer registering on my sensors.
Iron Liz: That's, like, a billion people! How in the hell has nobody even noticed that?!
Nimue: Based on transmissions picked up, it is only recently that governments and news agencies are beginning to take note.
Linkara: And even then, the drop didn't happen overnight. It's been going on for months now. And even then, most of the people who have disappeared have either been in such high population zones that nobody notices a few people going away here and there or they've been in such rural areas that there weren't a lot of people to begin with. And this is methodical stuff. Entire families disappear to decrease the chance of someone reporting them missing, it never happens when there are other people around, and there is no residual trace of energy or anything that would indicate what happened to them.
90s Kid: So what are we gonna do, dude?
Linkara: I've designed a series of new safeguards that should help, including force fields, alarms, and just emergency procedures that we can implement if we're ever under attack. We can't stay together all the time, but we can reduce the chance of us getting taken by whatever is going on. Pollo, (takes out his control and pushes some buttons) head into the living room and start implementing these procedures.
Pollo: Right. (leaves)
Iron Liz: We should probably not go anywhere without a phaser, something to protect ourselves.
90s Kid: (excitedly) Duuuude! That'll be awesome! I can carry the chain gun around and–
(Suddenly, they hear the sound of an alarm)
Nimue: Warning! Intruder is present in the living room!
Linkara: (alarmed) Pollo!
(Linkara runs out into the living room, his magic gun at the ready. He looks around, pointing his gun everywhere. The alarm stops, but Pollo is nowhere to be seen. Linkara takes out his scanner and waves it around. It makes erratic beeping sounds and flashing lights. Worried, Linkara looks at it closely. Iron Liz and 90s Kid run out into the room)
Iron Liz: Where is he?
Linkara: I'm detecting a residual particle trace, but...
Iron Liz: But what?!
Linkara: The particle trace is decaying so rapidly, it's... it's barely even there anymore! Even then the particles are just weird! Their mass and volume keeps shifting from second to second! It's never staying constant!
Iron Liz: Oh, Linkara, I think you're missing the bigger point here: Pollo is gone!
(Linkara looks up, too stunned to speak. He turns off the scanner)
Linkara: He's gone...
(Cut to black, as evil laughter is heard)