Tuesday, February 13, 2018

New Kids on the Block: Valentine Girl



Valentine’s Day
New Kids on the Block: Valentine Girl





Hang tough while we take it step by step to determine if this book has the right stuff

September 1990

It began with Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, Ronnie DeVoe, Ralph Tresvant and Bobby Brown. I’m certain some part of my audience is scratching their heads right now. Because those five singers, all African-Americans, were never members of New Kids on the Block.



In fact, those fellows mentioned above were five guys from the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts that formed a group called New Edition and soon after were discovered by promoter Maurice Starr. Starr was unsuccessful at forming his own R&B band and a bid for solo stardom soured after two unimpressive album releases. Instead, he decided to find a band to perform the songs he composed. His first pick up was the aforementioned New Edition, for whom he co-wrote and co-produced their debut album.

Then they had a falling out. Starr and New Edition went their separate ways.

But the brief taste of success made Starr sure of the idea of producing a band was his ticket to fame. For his next foray into the music industry he created the band New Kids on the Block, consisting of five male teenagers, two of them brothers. This time all the band members were Caucasians.


It is no secret that Starr was trying to create a white version of New Edition. His casting call went out for “white boys that could sing and dance” when Donnie Wahlberg could only wrestle up four of the group’s magic number five performers. ''Given the demographics of the country and the history of the music business, I figured that five white kids could be very big,'' said Mr. Starr. ''If New Edition was as big as they were, I could imagine what would happen if white kids were doing the same thing.'' I mean it worked for Elvis, right?

So this isn’t really cultural appropriation so much as carefully organized selling to a specific target market. And the New Kids made lots of money for everyone. 


Those first five members included two guys that would never make it on the album, including actor Mark Wahlberg and Jamie Kelly. By the time the self-titled first album rolled around the group was Donny Wahlberg, brothers Jonathan and Jordan Knight, Danny Wood and late-comer Joey McIntyre. The second album dropped in 1988, and Hangin’ Tough finally got songs that charted nationwide, leading to five singles in the top ten and an eight-time platinum-selling album. 



They had arrived.

I was a huge New Edition and Troop fan, so the videos by the New Kids looked like bad parodies. Please tell me that people don’t think this is how white boys play basketball. That’s not the “right stuff” there guys!

But if you want maximum overload of “white guys doing R&B music,” I’m only too proud bring you an American Music Awards show performance from 2010 showcasing both NKotB and Backstreet Boys on one stage.

I even watched the Behind the Music story. They don’t pay me enough for doing this.

And like most groups, after their second album failed to chart as many hits they declined almost immediately. But by this time they had the strength of 200,000 fans behind them. And I guess a lot of those fans were comic buyers. Because LOOK at this:


That’s four titles there on the subscription order form. I’m going to tell you that the main NKotB title lasted 8 issues exactly, the others all lasted 7. However, that is sill 29 issues and it doesn’t count the team-ups with Wendy the good little witch and Richie Rich books, clocking in at three books each. Nor does it take into account the Hi-C special comic, the Magic Summer Tour 1990 issue, The Step by Step issue, the Hangin’ Tough issue or THIS issue subtitled Valentine Girl.


That’s 41 New Kids on the Block comics in print. Oh! And there were five digests made from those various issues that we should credit to them too.

That’s a heck of a lot of New Kids stuff, is what I’m saying. How does a New Kids book read? Well, much like the other Harvey books they are family friendly. The artwork and story are all uncredited except for the last story with no listed editors, but lots of advertising people mentioned in the banner. I have my thoughts that Ernie Colon did all the stories and the cover, but as it stands, uncredited is uncredited.

Let’s take this one step by…you know what? I’m not doing that for this one. Let’s just read the damn thing, ‘kay? We start with the first of four stories:

Valentine Girl
Writer – Unknown
Artist – Unknown

We open with the New Kids being chased by a snow monster like we’ve opened up a Scooby Doo comic by mistake. That’s Joe driving the sled…and poorly as this was all a scripted scene and he caused a wreck that ruined the take. Way to go, Joe!


And then suddenly some strange white man runs up and says he’s their manager…which we all know is wrong because Maurice Starr is a black dude. Did they let a blind guy color this?

Anyway, he’s here to bring out the winner of their Valentine Girl contest. 

Who is a total psychopath and who runs out screaming “I won!” to herself over and over instead of staying for the video shoot.

Which leads the boys to ask their black bodyguard to go pick a replacement from the dozens of girls waiting outside. He doesn’t want the honor because of the hassle of dealing with the sore losers that will create. While he disguises himself in the yeti suit, these three young ladies are explaining to one’s little sister why they are waiting for the New Kids to make an appearance.


Of course, all three are obsessive, annoying super-fans and the young girl’s face in the last panel is mine too. You chicks are cray-cray!


Gina decides to cut out on her older sibling and her friends and that’s when the bodyguard pounces on her while wearing the monster costume. Almost like he’s done this before.


Too late they are noticed by the fans and have to hot foot it back to the singers. Once there, the manager upsets the girl by saying she’s too young. The New Kids plead her case because they want this shoot over with and that’s when the youngster has a brilliant idea!



“Yo! That’s hype!”

Did we really talk like this, 80’s? I mean, seriously? Because I don’t remember it, so I believe the 90’s grunge acts and the 00’s rave “energy drinks” washed the taste of this out of my brain.

And the kicker is that after they tell the crowd, the older sister and her friends notice that Gina is on the balcony with the New Kids and they are upset by it. Their screaming gets them noticed by the band, they are so overcome. 


Hmm, I get the generic appeal of this tale. It’s simple, non-offensive and you could swap the NKotB with any popular band and have the same story play out.


Hush, you! Maybe not them, but you know what I’m saying.

I come upon the first advertisement next and it reminds me that I should mention that those two pages showcasing other NKotB comics were from this book too. 



In fact, all but two pages are ads for New Kids stuff and those are just typical Harvey house ads. The entire book is filled with stuff like the album promotions above or the New Kids Saturday morning cartoon…

 


…1-900 number where you can call and listen to one of the New Kids say a prerecorded message. Or you can get them to give you a wake up call. Or call to join their fan club (and pay to sit on hold while you do)…



Or just cut out the back of the comic and mail off $20 to join the Offical Fan Club.




Which brings up an odd thought: are there fan clubs for stars anymore? I mean you can just follow them on Twitter and speak directly to them, get their daily thoughts, etc. What more does a fan club offer? Proof that you aren’t the only one with an overly unhealthy fixation? Hmm?...

Enough of this speculation, let’s get this one over with. On to story number two:

Spaced Out
Writer – Unknown
Artist - Unknown

Joey wakes up Danny and Donnie to inform them that their tour bus is now hurling through space.


After watching a comet pass by the bus’s window, the boys receive a message from the television. It appears they’ve been New Kidnapped on the Block by a pair of nasty green aliens.


The reason for this foul deed?


I’ve got news for the aliens, even with ALL five of the New Kids on your planet, you still wouldn’t have any rock & roll. You want rock on your planet, kidnap Def Leppard or the Rolling Stones.

The trio heads for the exit…but decide against jumping into the vacuum of space (which I must admit, at this point I was kind of rooting for. There’s some tired jokes at play in these things.)


While all that is going on, this slinky alien pops out of a locker on the bus and I’ve gotten this idea in my head about someone Jim Kirking her. 


She has Danny try to drive the bus through space, while the Janites on the TV tell them they will be killed for resisting them. 



They send fighter ships out after them causing Quark to cozy up to Joey…



When Joey figures it all out…


Which explains nothing about how all those other special effects worked, which made it look like they were floating in space, surrounded by comets and spaceships. I mean that set looks so lame it wouldn’t fool my five-year-old granddaughter.

I’ll admit to having hopes this was real and we’d get some odd Josie and the Pussycats in space action going here. Instead we get another in a line of lame jokes. Let’s move on shall we?

Oh, but we CAN’T! Not without first checking on these three pinup pages and a some New NEWS on the Block from Hollywood Mark-E, boyee! (who is that exactly?)





Oh, that’s just some horrid merch pandering there. I can’t take much more of this. Seriously.

The Game of Love
Writer – Unknown*
Artist – Unknown*
*Maritano/Sherwood/Anthony listed but credit not attributed to

This is where I finally started to think that someone in the organization that made the comics was favoring Joey a little bit. Because we start with a Match Game type setup, with each boy acting like a jerk EXCEPT Joey.


Joey thinks love it to serious to take some kind of weird date gamble on it, which is totally the wrong kind of thinking. You should date a bunch of others and see what traits you really want in a person. But speaking of dates, the lady this evening happens to be a New Kids fan, but she is blindfolded and doesn’t know she’s talking to the actual New Kids.

Which is great because each of these boys have been watching girls at concerts throw themselves at them for so long, that they act like cocksure jerkwads when it is there turn to speak.


Which is great, when you think about it. Because whomever wrote this story got to pick out a “good” New Kid and make the others come off as assholes. That might be intentional. They might all be jerks except Joey. Who really knows?


After Donnie gets shut down, Joey takes the humble route and wins both the audience’s support and the girl. Way to go!


And Joe takes her on one date and then dumps her.


Ha! Okay, so I don’t know what to make of this other than I want to know how Joey got selected out of all the NKotB.

5 of a Kind
Writer – Bryce Maritano
Penciler – Ernie Colon
Inker – Jackie Roettcher

Last one up and I finally have some full names to figure out how to attribute things. Still no colorist, so how that gets applied is a mystery. Just like the ones the New Kids have when they find out they are all dating the same girl. That Kay Green, she sure gets around!


After five of these types of scenes where Kay appears to be both a thing and then the exact opposite of that thing…


…We end up with Kay Green just walking in on the Blockheads. 


Who promptly curse her out for being a…well the w-word isn’t mentioned explicitly, but Donnie could be saying anything in his word balloon.


But there’s a rational explanation for all this…


…and that’s the Blockheads didn’t know any of their date’s real names. Just the first initial of her name. Which I don’t think any quadruplet would do as it would quickly get confusing for them among themselves.

And speaking of which, I should have trusted my initial reaction and put this book back in the discount bin. I mean, I can’t remember liking one of their songs growing up.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying all the New Kids songs are all bad. Those first songs were certainly pedestrian and reliant on overused chorus arrangements without much bridgework between. As an apology to those Blockettes out there, I do like the later song Remix (I Like The) and the accompanying video, which shows the act did get some better song writing or song picking skills later on.

But is it just me or does even that seem to be a little calculated when the band’s fanbase is an aging (and potentially beyond middle-age spread) populace of women who are (as we all are) discovering that with age comes a beauty that isn’t about your body, but comes from something inside you. Just a spare thought there.

If anyone still is a fan of these “kids,” you now know what to expect from the comics. Go in forewarned while I turn up some 70's album rock to drowned out this experience.

4 comments:

  1. Damn. . .you're digging deep into the crapbox for this one. Proper recognition is due. . .I don't even think I'd admit owning this comic at all, so kudos for your outstanding dedication to a chosen theme!

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    1. It's a thankless job, but apparently I have to do it. I can't drown out Step by Step, Atom. No matter how much Led Zeppelin I play. When that silent pause comes in When the Levee Breaks...the New Kids jump right in. Help, I may be damaged for life.

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  2. Yo, this is the freshest, deffest slice of homeskillet hypeness you've ever worded up! Looking at this comic, I see that NKotB didn't so much appropriate black culture, as much as they sidled up to a black culture trough and gorged themselves silly, then reconstituted it and served it back to the American mainstream as poop logs.

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    1. Word to your Mother, Reggie. You know I'm slinging the dopeist, most real comics that you have ever seen. Boyeeeeeeeee! Mmmm-Hmmmm. (Typing this hurt. This whole article hurt.) And I've successfully avoided those poop logs for 30 odd years only for the Crapbox to send one of them my way.

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