April 23, 2011

Two-Bit Comics -- The Good Guys #1

Two-Bit Comics
Random Pulls from the Bargain Bin

In these economic times, finding inexpensive entertainment is difficult. Thank goodness for my local comic shop and a slew of comics nobody cares about anymore! Each week I randomly grab a comic from the bargain bin (for 50 cents) to see what kind of bang I can get for my two-bits. These are those tales.

April 20, 2011 – paid 50 cents for:
Published by Defiant Comics
Written by: Jan Childress with Jim Shooter
Art by: Grey


November 1993 is responsible for Look Who’s Talking Now, RoboCop 3, and Ms. Doubtfire. November 1993 is responsible for Fran Drescher and The Nanny. November 1993 is responsible for Duran Duran on MTV’s Unplugged. November 1993 is responsible for the Battle of Pooneryn during the Sri Lankan civil war in which over 400 Sri Lankans are killed. November 1993 is responsible for NAFTA. November 1993 is responsible for The Good Guys #1 from Defiant Comics. I hate you November 1993.

I’ve talked at length about Jim Shooter’s Defiant Comics when I danced through Warriors of Plasm #1, so I will not foist that upon you again today. What I will be foisting upon you today, though, is a journey through The Good Guys #1 – a bad marketing idea swaddled in the soiled diaper of a bad comic.

The Good Guys was, at its heart, a marketing idea. The premise behind the book was that Shooter and his pals at Defiant put out a “Casting Call,” roping all these doe-eyed kids who dreamed in tights and capes into submitting character ideas for a comic book. Kids all over the place wrote into the Defiant offices and unburdened their dreams of escaping their mundane lives and becoming Super Heroes! The crack Defiant staff (or the Defiant staff ON crack – whatever) then cherry picked the eight kids they thought were most marketable, I guess, and thus were born The Good Guys.

From a marketing point of view, the concept sounds initially pretty good. It was a great way to get kids involved in the Defiant Universe and gave them all a sense of hope that their Super Hero dreams could somehow become a “reality” (although the word isn’t really apropos, as this is still a fictional representation). By doing this open Casting Call, Defiant was able to spread the word about their comics, and get kids to buy into the idea that this was a whole new enterprise, attuned to their sensibilities.

What Defiant didn’t do, though, was look at the long tail of this puppy. Once the eight kids were chosen and the comic was printed, the “losers” of the contest exercised their disappointment fueled backlash power and lost interest in the book as fast as internet memes stay in the public discourse. The Good Guys ran for a total of nine issues, from 1993 to 1994, eight more issues than it really should have.

Now about the comic itself. Oh, yes. Let’s look at The Good Guys #1.

The book begins by letting us know that it’s November 1993 and we are in the Anaheim, California bedroom of two boys, Zack and his older brother Matt. It also tells us we are going “To gaze into the eyes of youth … To prostrate before all beginnings… To wish a Mile High” Then Matt tells us all excitedly that “Rob Liefeld is signing autographs at Mile High Comics Store. Today!”

Well this certainly sets a tone, doesn’t it. I am impressed with the fact that The Good Guys #1 is probably the first comic I have ever read that has completely turned me off in the very first panel. Good job guys.

So… the story. Matt has to get money from his paper route customers in order to buy comics. Matt’s mother makes him take his brother along. Matt constantly feeds Zack all sorts of bullshit that Zack laps up because he is a gullible eight-year-old. Matt goes up to a door where his customer usually leaves his money under the mat (which may be an intentional pun, but I doubt it).

A blonde woman in a nightgown opens the door and invites Matt in to get his money and have some ice-tea. She tells him that she gets “so tired of being alone.”

What the hell is this? This woman is what, in her 30’s? Matt is probably 12. This is seriously creepy, is what this is.

Matt responds appropriately for a comic called The Good Guys:

and does not engage in any shock site video uploading (if you know what I’m saying).

The woman then starts crying and telling Matt that she has been alone for hundreds of years because of this dream box her lover gave her the day he left. Because her dream was to be waiting for him when he returned, she’s still waiting. She now hates the box and wants Matt to bury it cement and gives him $20 to do it.

Zack overhears this and starts hammering at Matt to do as the woman has asked.

Next we are at the Los Angeles Airport watching a bearded man looking for his daughter. Finally he finds her:

She’s wearing pants. Serious pants.

This is Laura. She likes body building. That’s all you need to know.

The next page finds us at Mile High Comics Megastore back in Anaheim where we get to meet “recently arrived from Montana” Daniel Jacob and his matching bike pants, hat, shirt, and backpack ensemble (quite fetching for its time, I’m sure).

Just so you know, Mile High Comics, while know for its Colorado locations and internet presence, did actually have a megastore in Orange County, California in 1993. I looked it up. Wikipedia would never lie to me.

Next we meet a bunch of kids in a van:

Why they are in this van and where they are coming from, we never find out. We do know that they are going to Mile High as well. Of all of these six kids and the guy driving, only Paul and Reggie matter. The rest disappear. Which then begs the question, “Why the van?” At this point, though. I’m really starting not to care.

Finally, inside of Mile High we are introduced to the last of The Good Guys, Jenni.

Jenni likes Wolverine. Her parents don’t care about her interests and think she is a slob. Fascinating.

Now all of our lead characters are at the comic shop. They are there to see Liefeld.

There he is! Did you see him? We also get introduced to Steve Fingerman who is a sleaze. He plays no role in the rest of the comic.

For the next ten pages of the comic (it’s 45 pages long!), they try to establish that all the kids we have met wish they had super powers. Then there’s this long complicated mishagas to finally get the “Magic Box” open. When it opens, there is a blinding light and a loud explosion, but only our kids can see or hear it.

Now they have super powers. Seriously.

Zack manifests his powers first and creates a magic doorway “like in a video game” which sucks them all in (the word “sucks” resonates in my brain). The door leads them to a brick room with platforms and a giant purple scorpion. Why a giant purple scorpion? Just go with, it will save you a lot of pain.

The muscular pants lady discovers she is super strong and grabs the purple scorpion off of Paul. She then reaches down to help the poor boy and discovers something amazing.

Paul apparently has some sort of force field surrounding him. Look what it does to the lady’s hand, for goodness sake. That’s nasty (actually, this comic has all sorts of problems with hands, but I’m not going to nit-pick any more than I’m forced to)!

Matt and Jenni discover they have super-agility. Reggie can become invisible, and “fresh-from-Montana” can fly.

So everybody has got a pretty stock superpower now. Good for them.

Next we cut to another kid that happened to be at the comic shop when the magic box opens. His name is Ridgely. He is an asshole. But now, because of the box, he is a super genius asshole.

Don’t ask what happened to the beeper.

Ridgely takes over his father’s factory and turns it into a super-villain headquarters because, I guess, he can.

The Good Guys realize that Ridgely has the box and that it could be dangerous if “the wrong hands got it”. Zack magic doorways them to Ridgely’s new super headquarters and they decide to go get the box because, I guess, they should.

Before they do, though, Zack does another spell to give them all super-neato superhero costumes.

Pay particular attention to Zack’s costume. I’m pretty sure I will have nightmares tonight. Thanks.

Oh, and they get super-neato superhero names, too: Recon, Front, Flex, Nobody, Spellcaster, White Crane, and Skrag. At this point I don’t even care why he wants to be called Skrag. I’ve also started drinking.

The Good Guys make a frontal assault on Ridgely’s headquarters because they don’t have time to see if there is some other way to get in or they sense danger or ….. oh, I don’t care. They just do.

While this happens, Ridgely is examining the box.

I have no idea what he is talking about. Some sort of Supergenius gibberish about … oh, who cares. Apparently, the box has no powers. It was Zack that made them all Super.

The Good Guys chase after Ridgely. They fight some lasers or something. Then Ridgely captures Zack, I mean Spellcaster. As Ridgely is about to sever Zack’s head to extract his brain and “preserve the key lobes in an enriched plasma bath and use his cerebellum … as (his) personal ‘Alaaddin’s Lamp’”, Nobody shows up. Um.. the character named Nobody that is. Not nobody, as he is obviously somebody. Just so you understand what I’m… oh, forget it.

Poke you, cruel man-child!

The Chauffeur hugs Nobody in appreciation or something. Ridgely runs away and The Good Guys hightail it out of the headquarters to avoid being blamed for the destruction (even though the Chauffeur would have told the police that… oh, who cares).

Matt and Zack return to the pedo-lady’s house to return the box.

There’s our big reveal. The lady was crazy and the box was a fake. Ridgely was correct about Zack’s powers and … oh, who cares….

So anyway, The Good Guys lasted for eight more issues and the kids that inspired the comic – well, who know what happened to them. Were they derided in school because the comic sucked so hard? Have they led tragic lives of dreams deferred like a Raisin in the Sun? Have they parlayed ANY notoriety from this endeavor? What would their answer be if you asked them if it was worth it all?

Do Jim Shooter and Defiant Comics owe these children so sort of karmic recompense for putting out such a shitty comic about them? Who pays the piper here?

And what about my fifty cents? I’m so exhausted from thinking about this comic that I don’t care anymore. I pulled this comic randomly from the bargain bin. It was somehow part of the great cosmic plan that I put myself through this experience. Have I gained any insight because of it? No. Sometimes, I guess, fate is indeed just a bitch.

That’s two weeks in a row. Third time is the charm. Next week’s Two-Bit Comic is going to be great! Just you wait…..

I need to lie down.


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