Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Rabid Rachel #1

The absolute worst book in the Crapbox!

I am so tempted to post every panel from this undersized comic. By undersized, I mean that it is printed on stock that’s not quite as tall or wide as a standard book. Looks like it was made on a copy machine or something. In terms of art, Rabid Rachel makes Radical Dreamer and Of Myths and Men look like understated masterpieces of depth and passion. Various pages make me think the artist of this book would have failed those “Draw Skippy” ads in the back of the TV Guide. Even if he was tracing it. The story throws in hamfisted clich├ęs on one page and then takes itself so seriously on the next that it devolves into unfunny self-parody. It is, without a doubt, the worst comic I’ve ever read.

The scary part really hit me when I noticed who published this mess. Rabid Rachel is a product of Miller Publishing Co. My first thought was that maybe it was a extension of Miller Brewery, and drunken brewery owners seemed likely to produce a work such as this. A second glance provided me with the writer’s name and I fell out of my chair. I was holding in my hand a story written by Bill W. Miller. The Miller in Miller Publishing had the exact same name as the guy that did all of THIS.

Now this could be just a coincidence, but I’m betting not.

Regardless of who the author might be, our artist/inker is Robert Zailo. I’m really hoping he used a pseudonym, because I would hate to have Rabid Rachel hanging over my head the rest of my life. How bad is the art you may ask. You’ll see in a minute.

First I want to totally dispense with the story because I don’t want anything getting in the way of the commentary. Rachel works for a shady animal research lab. They hired P.I. Kilburgh to capture a werewolf for them. Rachel forms a psychic bond with the creature and frees it. She then comes down with a strange form of rabies and must take experimental drugs the research lab gives her to keep it under control. Also the bond still exists and she can see what the werewolf sees and occasionally gives in to its will. The first time this happens she acquires a goofy wolf costume and becomes hunted by P.I. Kilburgh and a local drug dealer/pimp. The costume becomes her link to the were-creature and she uses it when she blows up the pimp at his place of business. Unfortunately she is then taken captive and used in a mind control experiment by her own company. In an unbelievable hackneyed sequence, the CEO’s niece is used as a guinea pig and takes on Rachel’s personality, which leads to the niece’s death. The P.I. uncovers the origin of the werewolf and then discovers Rachel’s imprisonment. He rushes to save her and ends up capping the evil CEO. As Rachel decides to chase after the werewolf, the ending credits roll.

I make that sound pretty good. It’s not an Oscar-caliber tale by any means, but it has a story arc with characters who have understandable motivations. Maybe I’m making this out to be worse than it really is. Let’s take a look at page one.

No, I’m spot on with how bad this book is. Where do I begin? I guess with the art. I remember stating that the art in Red Fox looked like something a middle school child would draw on his book cover. At least the art in Red Fox was drawn by a talented middle schooler. This artist clearly believes that proportion is something for other people to worry about. Also, shadow can come from anywhere and whole buildings can glow with their own eerie light. Also if you squint down near the bottom, you'll note that this book has a colorist. I’m pretty sure that’s a first for a black and white comic.

By about page two something about the lettering started nagging at me. I so rarely notice lettering that I knew immediately something must be up. Each page’s lettering was all the same Times New Roman script that was too straight, too perfectly horizontal when compared to the word balloons on the same page. Then it hit me: the lettering was done on a typewriter! Can you imagine the pain of rolling pages of pre-drawn art into an old Smith-Corona and lining up each panel to create the lettering? Far-fetched? Take a look at few more panels and then respond to this post if you think I’m right or wrong.

Anyway, let’s move on from Mr. Freaky black blob face and his mismatched eyes. Page two has our title character doing needless thought balloon exposition while impersonating a hunchback.

Meet our title character, Rachel. This scene is leading up to a big flashback. Rachel examines herself in the mirror. If you woke up next to her after a night of drunken sex, you’d be forced to commit suicide. I mean, just look at this:

"Those eyes!" Her eyes!?! Screw her eyes, what about MY EYES!! Good gravy, what is wrong with this guy and drawing facial characteristics. It's like she's getting punched off screen between each panel.

Now he’s given her a black eye for no apparent reason. I was serious when I said this guy couldn’t trace “skippy”. Now a quick flashback to her releasing the werewolf.

Things you can learn from Rabid Rachel: 1.) blood will spray from a wound in straight, well defined lines, like the hair does in the Playdoh barbershop, 2.) many people’s heads are either too big for the rest of their body (see guard, bottom left) or have faces that are as flat as a plate (see CEO in inset circle), 
3.) spit will also spray forth in nice orderly lines, 4.) watching a werewolf tear apart your partner may give you a stiffy in your pants.

Note the guy in the far right panel. He’s not really pointing the way the werewolf went. He’s trying to tell you to escape the comic while you still can. It’s too late for him, with his “shadow that occurs from no visible light source”, but there may be a chance that you can still get out. Run! Run!

I love the guy in the foreground’s expression as he picks up that monkey. Looks kinda pissed at the little fella. I bet someone’s not getting a full ration of bananas tonight. Back to Rachel in the present.

Notice that the glass is suppose to be full in one panel and then empty in the next because of the refraction of the clock image changes from one panel to the other. Yet in neither panel is any actual LIQUID shown being in the glass. There’s nary a mark on the inside of the glass to show where the wet ends and the dry begins. Also watch as Rachel has some kind of epileptic fit because she’s BEEN SITTING IN THE SAME CHAIR FOR 12 HOURS. You can tell by the AM – PM indicator on the clock. In the space of one panel change she has drank one glass of magical liquid and spent 12 hours sitting in one place. She’s not possessed, she’s just a very bored moron.

She leaps out a window, runs to the seedy strip side of town and, at the direction of the mental commands of the werewolf, locates a crate left in an alley. Using a burst of superhuman strength, she rips it open.

It looks to me like she is also using a burst of superhuman contortion on her lower body. Note the placement of her feet in respect to her legs being behind the corner of the crate and at a very awkward angle with her upper body. Ack, I’m not asking for photo-realism here, just try to make the humans look human, please! What’s in the crate? Drugs that the cops planted there to catch some crooks, a stick of dynamite (I don’t know why that’s there, it’s needed in the plot later) and …

…an ugly ass wolf costume. Which Rachel proceeds to put on while running away from the cops. Note that she doesn’t just put it on over her clothes, but actually strips naked in the space of these few panels, David Copperfield’s her real clothes and still manages to evade her pursuers. Her rationale? She needs to strip and put on a funky costume so the cops won’t catch her. Because wolf costumes automatically cause you to blend in with the crowd. Think about that for a minute and if it makes sense then you get back with me.

Our P.I. picks up Rachel’s apartment key which has both here building and apartment number written on it. Sure hope she isn’t staying in the Slattenhasenborguer Building, Apartment 2044B or else he ain’t going to be able to fit it in his pocket. Why he doesn’t just follow the chick in the wolf costume is beyond me. Rachel meanwhile is out strutting the strip.

I have to say that the costume makes her very inconspicuous. Too late though, because blending in that well is sure to attract the local pimp/drug dealer.

Look at all those lines! You’d think that would indicate a mortal blow or something. In story terms he is barely even scratched and has one his underlings follow her. Rachel awakes the next morning looking like a potato and tries the costume on so she can reconnect with the werewolf.

Look at how dark the lines surrounding her head and hand are. Why would anyone draw like that? The P.I. takes this opportunity to use the key he found.

Look at how screwed up his upper body is drawn in that first panel. It’s like he’s twisted all up. And see how the lettering in the middle panel is “angled” to fit, yet still all the text is lined up straight and neat, even if it’s cockeyed across the panel. Totally proves my point about the typewriter. A real letterer would have broken that stuff up better and stuck it in at the bottom of the panel.

Rachel jumps him as he comes in, but he backhands her across the room. Then two of the pimp's thugs show up only to be knocked off by Kilburgh as he executes one of the most stunning moves I’ve ever seen.

At least the most stunning move I’ve seen in this particular comic. I think that move is actually within the range of human motion. Good job, Robert Zailo. One panel out of the book looks like an actual human being. And then the next is all over the place again.

In the next page and a half of pictures, Kilburgh can’t seem to close his mouth. Every panel he’s making his “oh face”, like he’s doing here. That stick in Rachel’s hand is suppose to be a pipebomb of some kind that was wedged into the costume she’s wearing when she found it. You know, in the crate with the planted drugs. Does any of that make sense? She’s off to use it to blow up the drug dealer/pimp guy.

Rachel scratches her claws together to make a spark and lights the pipebomb with it. Which is a talent I’ve seen real wolves use to make campfires. Then she throws the oversized firecracker through the window of the diner where the pimp is hanging out. I’m assuming two things here: 1.) she doesn’t care how many innocents she kills doing this and 2.) This diner has the most immense tables I’ve ever seen. It looks like a conference room table from a law firm. The bomb kills many people which you can tell by the amount of straight blood lines that come flying out of the window in the bottom picture. Either that or there is a tremendous number of people spitting all at the same time. Somehow Rachel gets captured (the book doesn’t linger on the details) and her employer has Kilburgh searching for the werewolf. His finely honed detective skills notices that something is amiss.

Kilburgh should get a better shampoo and conditioner, his hair looks like brittle straw.

The Christ-on-the-cross imagery is not what I find most disturbing about this picture. I’m most disturbed by the fact that the spiky haired male scientist is holding a gun in a hand that, given the location and angle, can only be attached to an arm jutting up from either his chest or his crotch. From the look on his face, he seems as shocked and surprised by it as I am.

Professor Gerald is wrong about who they are going to perform the Zombie Proto-type test on. It’s not going to be a lab animal, but we’ll see who it is in the next panel. Other things that are wrong: Male guy’s eraserhead hair style, Female’s foot positions, Male still has a shirt hanger in is overcoat making his shoulders and arms ridged and Male is missing his left ear. Let’s get on with it. Bring on our test subject.

His niece! What a slime bucket. Also she’s just a kid. Not only that, she’s a human kid! Not like a…what?...goat kidd? This is just shocking. Wait, she gave her consent. Why would she do that?

So she had an abortion and you’re covering up for her so she can be a guinea pig. Seems fair. I’m not sure how an abortion can by both “orderly” and “very messy”, but I’ll take the docs word on it. But surely the other scientists will not go along with this. The sanctity of life and all that stuff. Plus she’s just a kid. A human kid!

Heh! She was asking for it. Let that be a lesson to you teenagers in the audience. If you have unprotected sex, get pregnant, and then have to get an orderly but very messy abortion, then you are just asking to be made a test subject for your uncle’s mind control experiments. I think they should do a PSA after this comic to reveal this hidden danger to today’s oversexed youths.

Marcia gets mind swapped, giving the werewolf complete control over her. She breaks free and attacks the scientists. The spike-hair man threatens her with a gun. Marcia knocks it out of his hand and it misfires, striking the woman in the leg.

The look on that woman’s face is priceless. Bullets don’t make that much blood, either. Notice the very small lines coming out of her knee. I’d insert a Brady Bunch joke here, but every time I look at the last panel I get caught on the guy’s facial expression. It causes short circuits in my brain pan and I find wit leaving me.

Despite the CEO’s best efforts…

…Marcia escapes, prompting him to rethink his options.

“Yeah, Dave? It’s Marty, your brother. Look, I’ve got some bad news. Marcia was at the lab, asking a lot of questions, pestering the workers. And you know that mind control experiment-thing I’m working on for the government. Well, the strangest thing happened. Completely on her own, with on one around, she hooked herself up the machine and it reverted her to a beast-like animal that can gut a man with its bare hands. Strangest thing, huh.”

Marcia is killed by the werewolf in front of Kilburgh. With her last dying gasp, she tells him Rachel is being held captive. Meanwhile Rachel comes to and goes after the CEO who is packing in a frenzy of contorted arms.

Rachel catches him and threatens his life. Also she should learn how to use a napkin. This artist has never met a perspective he couldn’t screw up.

Kilburgh arrives just in time to kill the bad CEO before Rachel can. Yay! As she trots off into the night, their budding romance is capped off by her telling him to “mind his own business”. *sigh*

I don’t know how many of these were made. None of my standard resources can pull up any info on the title, artist, author, publishing company or colorist. It’s like the book was so bad that the Earth open up and swallowed all of them whole. All of them except the copy I hold in my hand.

And I have to ask myself “Why?”

“Why couldn’t this one have been destroyed too?”

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Nomad #1

More like hitchhiking from the pages of Captain America.
The background to this title is very convoluted. Jack Monroe volunteered to try out a stolen Nazi super-solider serum decades after Steve Rogers became the first Captain America. Jack’s serum didn’t quite work, i.e. he got the super-abilities but he was also off his rocker for quite a bit of time. Originally he’s suppose to replace Bucky, but is too unstable. He is cryogenically frozen along with a replacement Captain America. When they awaken, they attempt to kill the original Cap, fail, are refrozen, and then unfrozen once again by a villain which leads to the fake Cap dying. Finally Bucky is cured by SHEILD of his psychosis. Steve Rogers takes pity on the poor guy (who wouldn’t?) and gives him his old Nomad identity.

So here’s the 1992 Nomad series’s concept: Nomad in a prior 4-issue mini has abducted an infant girl from her crack-addicted mother. Now the two of them are roaming the country doing odd jobs, good deeds and avoiding the law while surrounding themselves with large breasted women. The law in this case is in the form of the Commission on Super-human Activities and our old friend Henry Peter Gyrich. Also, social commentary and stuff happens regulary.

I think I saw this on TV in the early 80’s but without the topical issues.

Yes, Nomad is BJ and The Bear done over as a superhero comic book. Just substitute Bucky in place of the Bear, odd jobs in place of jobs hauling something and this lady:

in place of Judy Landers and you’ll see the basic premise is the same.

And speaking of the 80’s, this book almost seems like it was created during that decade. First off there’s Nomad’s hair style.

Next up we have the buxom beauties that fill in for women on each panel. I’m pretty sure the only place this much hot woman action occurred was outside the casting director’s office of “Miami Vice”.

Heck, we even have Bill Bixby-ese “The Incredible Hulk” walking-away-while-sad-music-plays type end credits.

There is one concept in the book that I feel is so out of place that I have to mention it. During a majority of Nomad’s battles, he goes in fighting with Bucky strapped to his back. You heard that right: He’s fighting with an 8-10 month-old on his back. While getting shot at, stabbed, judo chopped and thrown around, Bucky makes like a living backpack.

You know, I’m willing to suspend a lot of disbelief when it comes to comic book stories. I’ll believe that an alien could get superpowers from sunlight. I’ll believe that surviving a high-radiation bomb blast will turn you into a modern-day Jekyll and Hyde instead of a terminal cancer patient. I’ll even give you that exposure to outer space rays could turn someone into a giant rubber band or a pile of orange rocks. But one thing that I will not start believing is that someone can karate kick effectively while packing 20 pounds of mewling infant.

No lie pal? She’s less than a year old. Bet she likes playing with lit matches as well.

To sum up this issue: Nomad goes to Seattle. He takes an odd job helping out a woman being blackmailed for inside company info. When he can’t beat the blackmailer, he ends up stealing the information for her. Then he leaves town. I get the feeling we’re going to be in for a lot of “wash, rinse, repeat” stories, but Fabian Nicieza is doing the writing chores, so maybe not. Only time and the other 12+ issues in the crapbox will tell.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Demon Hunter #2

A supernatural horror comic with nary a hint of either.
The brainchild of creator/writer/illustrator Barry Blair, Demon Hunter is a slow-moving B&W comic. Blair would be best known for his creation of the series Elflord. No, I’ve never heard of it either. Elflord came about after Blair sent in some fan art pages to the book Elfquest and was encouraged by Wendy and Richard Pini. Blair then took his ideas to the owner of a failing insulation company and convinced him to create the publishing house Aircel, with the Elflord books as one of its tentpoles. The Elflord books had to have been popular with someone, as they lasted through several spin-off series under different publishers. All told, I counted over 50 individual Elflord issues, which should indicate the title was a moderate success. Again, I never heard of it. But the Elfquest people were always a bit odd in my book and perhaps this book appealed to that demographic.

Just as Demon Hunter should have appealed to mine. There are two things that prevented it. First the storyline moved far too slowly for my taste. It was 25 pages, yet it was all build-up with no payoff. Secondly, the art did nothing for me. Blair isn’t doing a rip of Pini for this series. In fact the figures have a vague resemblance to Richard Corbin drawings. Unfortunately Blair doesn’t have Corbin’s sense of layout or composition. Nor is he able to convey the mastery of gore that Corbin does to make his horror stuff really stand out. Put all these complaints together and I find that while this series isn’t a stinker, it doesn’t have anything to recommend it, either. Demon Hunter got all the way up to issue 4 before it gave up the hunt and went home.

Let’s begin setting up the story: Zak Hunter is an international supernatural troubleshooter. He is sneaking over the Russian border into Mongolia to look into a mysterious “Demon wind” that is plaguing several villages. Why is it when they mention demon wind I picture Satan farting? Anyway, here’s Zak and the soviet sergeant who is taking him over the boarder. The sergeant is a bit like the Russian version of Barney Fife as you’ll see a bit later.

Zak has them stop the two jeeps for a child standing in the middle of the road. The sergeant seems ready to just run the kid over, thinking he might be with rebels in the area. When Hunter talks with the kid, it seems he’s going to be his new guide. Caucasian supernatural adventurer with fedora and Chinese kid…where have I seen that before?

Note that the Devil’s farts are mighty powerful, capable of destroying whole villages. The sergeant repeats that he thinks the boys with local bandits and shouldn’t be trusted. Hunter decides to side with the boy. Right about then “peanut”, as Hunter nicknames him, faints dead away from hunger.

See why I’m not too taken with the art? The boy’s posture in this panel make it look like there are boards up his sleeves. Hunter’s left-hand ring finger is not rendered very well nor is his whole right hand. I’m all for artistic license, but panels like these make some part of me cringe. It’s not horrible art, but there’s just something “unfinished” about it all. Anyway, bandits find the two jeep convoy and start shelling them which prompts the sergeant to decide the boy set them up. His solution? Shoot him.

Zak doesn’t let sarge pop a cap in the prone boy’s noggin. We end up with our heroes scrambling behind some oddly drawn boulders for cover, Zak making the scramble while carrying the napping kiddo. The child sleeps like he’s got rigor mortis. I’m not sure that he isn’t a puppet. Also check out the striations on those boulders. It’s a wonder that the characters aren’t dizzy from just looking at them. Those swirl patterns are enough to make anyone see demons. Anyone but the reader of this magazine, that is because here we are more than halfway through the book and no demons. Suddenly the shooting/shelling stops. Hunter and Sarge go for a look see.

Yay! Demon victims. I was afraid we’d go the whole issue without nary a hint of the supernatural occurrence. Now we have an honest to goodness demon attack. Not that we got to see anything. Also I’m really miffed that this Baird isn’t a better artist. Corbin would have had entrails and blood splattered everywhere. Instead we get a black gash on one guy, some blood dripping out of a guy’s mouth and the impression that one guy’s head was opened up like a Tupperware container. But no real gore. It’s like the demons had maids with them to 409 the blood off the rocks and bag up all the unsightly innards. Lame.

The only survivor of the attack is this lone young girl. Of course the sergeant has the perfect way to handle here: shoot her. This guy wants to blow away unarmed women and children, folks. Ok, so maybe she is armed, but Zak seems to have her well in hand. Sarge has got to be in line for the next humanitarian award somewhere. Needless to say all this is too much for him, so he packs his men in the other Jeep and leaves Zak to carry on to the deserted village with the woman and “Peanut”. 

The village is no surprise. Same kind of “toss bloodless mannequin bodies around to indicate demon attack” scene. The characters decide to camp there for the night before continuing on to see the monks that are suppose to be behind the demon attacks. 

*Gasp* Was that a demon? I think I feel faint from all that excitement. Yes, folks a demon’s shadow shows up on the moon on the very last page of the comic. Or maybe it was the bat-signal? At this pace they might actually see a demon sometime around issue 12. I ain’t waiting that long, are you?