Monday, December 5, 2016

Kid's Stuff, Part XXV: The Inhumanoids #1



  
It's not Cthulhu!





"The Coming of the Inhumanoids!" 
Writer – Jim Salicrup
Penciller – James W. Fry
Inker – Joe Del Beato
Letterer – Rick Parker
Colorist – Juliana Ferriter 
Editors – Eliot Brown
Exec. Editor – Tom DeFalco
Editor in Chief – Jim Shooter 
January 1987


Hasbro believed they had the masterplan when it came to creating successful action figure lines.

And it is easy to see why. In the mid-80's, Hasbro had two huge successes with the revitalized G.I. Joe and the just-launched Transformers product lines. Figuring that the secret formula was action figure + animated tv show + comic book = sales revenue, Hasbro applied it to the newcomer C.O.P.S., M.A.S.K. and The Inhumanoids franchises. The results were not what they expected. With the Inhumanoids in particular.





Unfortunately sales of this line appear to have been so bad that it never made it to a second season. The concept was good-guy Earth Corps scientists faced off against evil, giant creatures from a subterranean world. It was the oversized monsters that everyone craved from this with the rest of the action figures falling into the mostly forgettable category.





The TV show got 13 episodes, although the first five were all one show sliced up into seven minute shorts. So really only nine episodes. The comic book fared MUCH worse. Slated to recap the first handful of seven-minute episodes that introduced the Inhumanoids and the Earth Corps that opposed them, the comic book series made it to issue number four before being cancelled, leaving the fifth episode off. That final seven minute episode was crucial, as one of the main cast was turned into a zombie-like being. The comic ended with this sequence. Pity poor kids who read that issue and then never saw another. Nightmares for sure.

Are there some rabid Inhumanoids fans out there? Of course, and for a look at their collections go Here or Here! 

Yuck, although I can honestly state I've seen toys that freak me out worse (*glances back to the Sectaurs).

And I can't think of a more bizzaro storyline than the one episode where the Statue of Liberty is revealed to be an Inhumanoid in hiding, albeit a benevolent one.

 

But you might be asking how does the comic of this failed attempt actually come across? That's the right question to ask, of course. We begin with Jim Salicrup adapting his little heart out. Here in Big Sur National Forest, it appears that someone has uncovered a big glob of prehistoric snot containing some kind of fossilized creature.




Getting it out of the forest is a chore, as the local flora keep dropping trees on the workers.




And if that isn't enough, the trees start making odd ghostly sounds.



Which brings in the lead character of our team of Earth Corps scientists to investigate.




See what I mean about the forest actively working against the people trying to remove the giant booger? Maybe take that as a sign and put that crap back, guys. Whatever could it be causing this? Well the name on the box doesn't say "Inhumanoids" and not mean it. Appears the thing in the amber is evil and there are good forest Inhumanoids working to keep it from leaving. Of course, THAT isn't explained this issue. We just get this one goofy panel of a tree with a face.



Reading this issue before the plot synopsis from Wiki leads to a lotta WTF. Salicrup could have given us a bit more info via dialog box of what exactly we are looking at here. Nope though, we just get a single shot of Treebeard there with no explanation nor even voice over conjecture.



What we get instead is we move on to this power-mad industrialist who is commanding his loyal workers to "drill baby, drill" like he is the 80's version of Sarah Palin. His workers do, which of course ends in a giant cave in and the release of this creature, a sort of plant thing called Tendril that is supposed to evoke Cthulhu-ish comparisons.



You might ask where are our heroes during all this? Why they are having a big party hosted by Sandra Shore for the Shore Museum to show off their giant snot wad. A party which dear old SoC here can't figure out the dress code. I mean take a look at Herc here in his resplendent tux.





…which I will admit seems a little odd due to the red cummerbund and bow tie. Unless after the unveiling he's doing a magic act or something. However, I am really giving it the old "Spock eyebrow" when the next few people are introduced.





Okay, who did not notify Doctor Bright that this was a formal party? Or is it a semi-formal affair and Herc just loves to wear a tux? That can't be so, as we introduce the rest of Earth Corps including Eddie Augutter, looking totally causal in his no collar pullover and dinner jacket (very "Miami Vice" Eddie); and Jonathan M. Slattery, who picked up this little number from the circus trailer the clowns use. 

 

Since Sandra needs SOMETHING to distract the audience from the garish fashion disaster in the makings, she pulls the cord on the goo-ball, getting a bit more of a distraction than she bargained for. The yellow sludge is melting away, revealing this horrible monster thing called D'compose. 



But if you think THAT is horrible, you haven't seen anything yet. LOOK at THIS!:



LOOK At this bunch of fashion fax pas! Two people wearing turtle-necks to a semi-formal event? A guy with his sweater tied around his neck like some college bo-hunk from a 70's Disney flick? A bun-headed librarian coming straight to the event from work? Some dude in a winter sweater and scarf ensemble? 





And it only gets worse. I mean, semi-formal means NO pantsuits allowed, lady with the go-go chex neck scarf. And dude, where is your tie? Also RED is not a color formal tuxes come in. This book is so horrifying and we haven't even gotten to the gross out monster fight. I mean, seriously! WHO DRESSES YOU PEOPLE!



Well, whomever we have to blame will just have to wait as Tendril arrives to attack the guests at the party and cause a bit of mayhem. I'm all for throwing him those guys without collared shirts, if you hear what I'm saying.


 

All of this has Herc and crew in a tizzy, so they rush off to get dressed in their official Earth Corp battle…er, SCIENTIFIC suits. They are these suits that they totally needed the government to fund that lets them do the same things as earthmoving equipment or missile launchers or toxic acid sprayers while still looking stylish. Basically they are a government pork barrel project that in no way should have been funded. But there you go: guys dressing in cosplay armor that really works is something worthy of taxable appropriations.

 

"Has anyone seen my eyeliner?"



Tendril is meanwhile having a blast destroying San Fran, and who could honestly blame him. Stupid cable-cars!

  
Once suited up, the guys spring into action. And by that I mean they pay no attention to what their leader Herc might have to say, but just decide to randomly do things. This doesn't work out so well.



I love this exchange as the police are trying to stop Tendril.



"Stop! Police!"

"No! National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration!"



I mean how else is a liberal arts major supposed to feel empowered in our society?



This is where we get our action part of the book, which is a couple of pages of stuff like this:




And this:


 

Which leads to one of the Earth Corps guys finding Sandra Shore hanging around the yellow-snot covered one as Tendril begins breaking in. Don't ask me which one of the Earth Corps guys that is, either because I am not buying these action figures.




Whichever one that is, he saves her from a cave in as the two creatures start to REALLY converse. Sandra has been saved from being crushed by rocks one time at this point and in her mind that is one time too many. She wants to beat feet and says so.

 

That is probably the warmest this book ever gets for me, up there in that second panel. It feels genuine where everything else feels like bad 70's TV show action drama. Anyway, Tendril gets his friend D'Compose out.





…just in time for a menacing cliffhanger splash and we are out…

 

The story could use a lot of Mantlo, is where I'll go with this. It just doesn't stray enough from the animated TV show to give any life to the heroes. The villains are likewise one note. About the only thing decent is the art from Fry and Del Beato being up to 80's standards.



I wouldn't recommend these to any but the die-hard fan. Doing otherwise would be … inhuman.

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Fairer Sex, Part XXII: Fashion in Action Winter Special




It’s like Nick Fury, Agent of V.O.G.U.E.

Beginning as a backup feature in Eclipse comics' Scout book, Fashion in Action charted the exploits of a group of well-dressed female celebrity protection agents. Years before V.I.P., this five member team got two solo shots at being “in style”; a Summer Special issue followed by a Winter Special issue. Unfortunately for them, the books never made a splash with comic buyers. I’m not sure if I found this issue in the discount bin or hanging on the clearance rack.

Wherever it was located, Fashion in Action was created, written, drawn and inked by John K. Snyder III. Snyder’s done work all over, although frankly I don’t remember most of it. He did a Dr. Mid-night painted series that looks interesting and he’s done comic covers for a variety of DC and independent books as well as interior runs on Suicide Squad and Grendel. His style in FiA is too heavily shaded for my taste, but it could be that my eyes are still healing from having to look the ultra bright panels in J.U.D.G.E. For the record, this makes the second book with a paper doll page in the crapbox. Maybe there’s a connection between paper dolls and the quarter bin?



The story in this issue concentrates on the leader of the FiA team, Frances Knight. Frances has it rough. She’s become the target of a media smear campaign over something that happened while she was a foreign correspondent seventeen years ago. At the same time, her arch enemy, Dr. Cruel, has issued her an ultimatum: either she turns herself over to him or her fellow FiA agents will be placed in jeopardy. Not the TV show. These two plotlines are both sewn up in this issue, and even though the stories progress simultaneously they are fairly easy to follow. The only drawback to both stories is that Frances is mostly Fashion "Inaction", allowing events to just unfold around her instead of actually doing anything to affect what’s going on.
 
We begin with a reporter named Mark being given an assignment to interview Frances Knight. A magazine called “Bleed ‘n Die” has released a cover story outing our FiA leader as a murderer. The story cites her as the killer of a special forces commander named T.C. “Spike” Karson who was gunned down while assisting freedom fighters in a third world country called Ghudana. Frances asked specifically for Mark because she believes he will tell the real story of what happened. As Mark takes the assignment, we switch to Frances at the Fashion in Action headquarters.

 
Notice that Snyder’s art in this book has a touch of old school Chaykin. It’s got that same angled look to many character features. Also notice that FiA’s headquarters *snicker* is in the crown of the actual Statue of Liberty. This is suppose to take place in the future, so I guess anything’s possible. I just feel really sorry for the guys leasing out those two floors where Lady Liberty’s butt cheeks are.

Frances has already prepared for Karson’s story to break. In fact it appears she’s been ready for years. What she isn’t prepared for is a surprise video call from her arch-enemy, Dr Cruel.


Frances acquiesces to Cruel’s demands. I mean he’s threatening everything she loves, which includes the F.I.A. crew, several cute puppies and Celine Dion. Maybe she could hesitate just enough for that last one to…sorry, on with the story.

That’s the basic setup of the two tales. Mark spends his time with the rest of the FiA team at the Statue of Liberty going over the sordid tale of Frances’s involvement in Karson’s death. Meanwhile Frances herself is whisked away to Dr. Cruel’s hideout in some ancient Egyptian ruins. Since the stories cross over every page, I’m going to break with tradition and tell each one straight through instead of following the book. In the book each is clearly told, but I don’t want my review be a confusing back-and-forth jumble because of which cronological story element I’m focusing on.

Let’s start with the contents of that manila folder that the FiA team gives Mark. It relates a story of Frances as a journalist in the poor African country of Ghudana. The Ghudanaise government has gotten sideways with this major U.S. corporation by imposing taxes and enforcing labor laws. Suddenly a group of “freedom fighting” rebels springs up with designs to overthrow the government. It appears the company will stop at nothing to keep its profits secure. Frances begins covering the story by tagging along with a group of government troops. This ends up being a bad idea.

That’s one heck of a blow-out. Any troops that survive are surrounded by rebels lead by T. C. “Spike” Karson, the guy Frances will be accused of killing. Frances is led back to their camp while the troops get a one way ticket to the bottom of a ditch. This of course is courtesy of their captors and a bullet to the back of their skull. Karson’s guys may be ruthless, but they are too small in number to pull off a coup. When Frances points this out, Karson shows her his backup plan.

 
That kind of backup is sure to leave plenty of civilian causalities. But our government wouldn’t kill innocent women and children without some kind of clear threat to its own existence, would it? 


Corporate dictated overthow by U.S. military operatives of third-world governments leading to the slaughter of thousands of innocents hiding behind alleged weapons of mass destruction charges all to uphold profits…why does all this seem so familiar? Being that the book was written in 1987, Snyder seems like a modern-day Nostradamus. Frances tries to leave their camp at this point but she’s prevented by all those guys holding guns. She’s locked up in a secure hut and force to listen to Karson prattle on. I think that’s outlawed by the Geneva Convention under “cruel and unusual punishment.”

 
Then the Ghudana Air Forces show up playing the theme from Apocalypse Now. They blow up his camp and forces real good, although missing him, his radio, and only blowing up Frances’s shack, freeing her. As Karson struggles to make it to the radio and call in his air strike, Frances begins beating him to death with a handy stick. Karson takes umbrage to this and pulls a knife on the poor girl. She blacks out as Karson starts working her over. How does it all end up?


That’s a nice tidy wrapper there. We learn how Frances lost her eye, saw Karson get what was coming to him and now have proof that Frances wasn’t Karson’s killer. Except she sort of was. The photo was faked using Karson’s dead body by grateful government troops. Frances had already shot him when he first made for the radio. Only FiA member Kelly knows this story and she doesn’t tell anyone until after Mark leaves. Great ending, now what about that other pesky story concerning Dr. Cruel?

So skipping back to the present we find Frances in the care of a sympathetic henchman while rocketing away to Dr. Cruel’s hideout. Seems Frances killed Dr. Cruel’s love interest in FiA Summer Special. Said love interest being an insane young lady by the name of Roxanne. Frances’s driver wasn’t too crazy about Roxanne either.

I’m really holding back on singing The Police right now. I know everyone is glad for my restraint. Roxanne looks like a red version of the Riddler’s costume mixed with equal parts Joker, Electra and Typhoid Mary. If there was some kind of runway-off between her and Frances, I know who I’d place my money on.

It also becomes apparent that Roxanne was suicidal and lost the battle with Frances on purpose. Dr. Cruel can’t accept that and has decided to resurrect Roxanne using magics from the ancient Egyptians. It’s also clear that he needs something from Frances to complete the concoction. I wonder if he’s a practicing doctor? Cause that knife looks awful sharp.

His potion obviously doesn’t smell like pine scented air freshener. Notice Roxanne’s “eww” face here. And she’s been dead for several months. Whatever that green cloud is, it smells worse than months of dead woman B.O.

Roxanne bursts out of the glass coffin-type-thingie and starts strangling nearby henchmen. Dr. Cruel tries to kindly rekindle her memories, but no dice. Talk about ingratitude! You’d think Roxanne would be happy to be alive again. That’s what you get for thinking.

No, Roxanne wanted to remain dead. That’s kind of why suicides kill themselves in the first place. And fighting Frances was all part of her plan to leave this Earth without having to pull the trigger herself, so to speak.

Roxanne picks up Dr. Cruel and tosses him into this giant Erlenmeyer flask holding the rejuvenation formula. This releases more fumes that end up melting Roxanne like a dime-store candle.


No way! I’m not holding anyone that can’t hold themselves together. It’s like that dude that gets sprayed with toxic chemicals at the end of Robocop. Yuck and good riddance. Frances then strong arms Dr. Cruel, who is completely busted up from his fall. She leaves the bad doctor alive, heartbroken and crying on the floor while the temple burns down around him.

We end as we begin, with Frances and FiA reunited and Mark taking his story back to his editor. Appears even Mark recognized the picture for what it was. However, he keeps this information to himself. The issue is kind of old-school goodness. A nior-ish take on a future that hasn't happened. I like the characters and the story. Sadly that title probably kept it from becoming an ongoing. The title or that paper doll on the back cover.