Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Kid's Stuff, Part XXIII: C.O.P.S. #5

Doggone it! It's hard to dislike this one.

While I was midway through college, Hasbro repurposed a toy that I'd played with almost my entire childhood. What am I speaking of?


More specifically, capgun ammo really. If you are as old as I am, that picture is sure to twinge some distant memory of the smoky smell of a freshly popped cap. Remember the little flicker of spark as whatever you were using applied the hammer action necessary to explode the cap? And that loud crackling bang?

No? Well HERE is a toy commercial of the COPS in action to help jog your brain.

So Hasbro was basically repurposing something old in the packaging of something new, specifically a line of figures in the mold of their popular G.I. Joe franchise married to a tiny capgun. And even though that wedded bliss was short-lived, there are still some die-hard fans out there. 

COPS came along six years after Joe's shrunken reintroduction, well before popularity in that brand flagged in 1994. As for the COPS, it appears they only lasted out a year or two before they were retired.

Perhaps they were all let go by Omni Consumer Products?

It's easy to tell how I could make that mistake, since both Robocop and COPS come from the future. However their future was a much less dystopian one than Officer Murphy's.

COPS stood for Central Organization of Police Specialists, "specialist" meaning they were just like G.I. Joes except they fought crime instead of terrorism. Each one had special abilities. There was the one from Texas, and the one who worked the with the robot K-9 unit, and the one that knew how to turn on a computer, and the one that drove the flying jet cycle, and the one with the permanent flak suit wielded to his torso and the always present token black cop and token female cop. Okay, so true fans would call that a gross overstatement as the series tried hard to parallel the different types of real life police jobs might exist such as Police Detective, Beat Cop, K-9, Texas Ranger, Hostage Negotiator, Riot Control, SWAT, Vice Officer…wait! This thing was a cartoon for kids?

The story of their assembly…er, not the toys but the characters in the comic, is that a Special Agent Vess is sent to take down Empire City's crime boss, a guy by the name of Brandon "Big Boss" Babel. He is injured in a car wreck caused by Big Boss's henchmen so badly that he is forced to wear a cybernetic bulletproof torso so he can walk.

Thus he rounds up a motley band of Joe-types to take down BBBB and his motley assortment of Cobra-like CROOKS. When the bad guys were about to do something devious they would shout "Crime's a-wasting" and when the po-po were about to solve a case they would holler out "It's Crime Fighting Time!"

You might term this a complete repackaging of the G.I. Joe formula and I don't think you'd be too far off. JUST CHECK OUT THE EPISODE INTRO AND CREDIT ROLL ABOVE. At least you stood a chance to name all these guys. I'm still working my way through all the first 150 pokemons and I gave up on the Joe's a long time ago.

And if you want more, It looks like MANY OF THE EPISODES FROM THE FIRST SEASON are available on youtube as well.

There is as a couple sites dedicated to the action figures, episodes and comic books. And by couple, I mean I found exactly two and a great Wiki:

As for the TV series, it surrendered after two seasons with a total of 65 episodes. A fair run given that the Joes only lasted for 95 episodes over 8 years in its first run. However the COPS comic book barely spat out 15 issues, in contrast to Joe's ongoing over at Marvel lasting 155 before shuttling off to yet a different comic company.

Which is a shame, as writer Doug Moench and the rotating talents of Pat Broderick, Pablo Marcos, Alan Kupperberg and Robert Campanella pulled off a fair degree of maturity out of material that could easily have been just as juvenile as the toys that spawned it.

Instead we get something close to what Bill Mantlo was able to pull off with Rom and Micronauts. Moench has worked on so many books that they would astound you. What might be relevant was his period as the scribe for Batman and Detective Comics for four years and he perhaps leveraged some of those crime fighting muscles in crafting these crime fighting tales. For this issue he teamed up with Pat Broderick, his co-conspirator on the Lords of the Ultrarealm miniseries. We'll get to that one later.

But this issue starts off with what feels like a very standard cartoonish beginning. In this case, K-9 unit Blitz and his human companion Bowser on patrol when bad guy Rock Krusher does a smash and grab in the area. 

Using future tech, the good guy and robo-dog track the bad guy to a warehouse.

Bowser tells Blitz to stay behind…

….but the robot dog decides otherwise…

…which is a shame, as the Krusher arms his exploding spiked mace and…

…Blitz, the heroic robot dog blocks the blast from hurting its master, while simultaneously getting blown to bits in the process.

Kind of a shocking start but one you figure won't take too long in coming to a resolution. However, Moench uses the injury of a trusted colleague to craft a more than decent tale that digs into the background of Bowser as well as his relationship with his fellow officers.

I was impressed with the mature manner in which all this was handled. Bowser returns to COPS headquarters with the broken pieces of Blitz and techs begin working on the K-9. However, the prognosis is not good. Again we start off kind of cartoonishly silly, with his fellow officers sharing tales of Blitz's exploits.

These are classic Broderick panels, and I recognized his hand in them almost immediately. I read all his Captain Atom work done after the character was introduced into the DCU and became a fan of his pencils. He doesn't create flashy or glitzy layouts and relies heavily on shading to produce the depth of his character's facial features. It is a much more realistic tone than a straight transfer of character art from the TV show. By way of example, notice how much more effort is put into the art above than say something Marvel threw into their He Man or other Star comics line.

As for who these guys are: that first panel is Bulletproof, the special agent who formed the COPS. The second is Long Arm, the beat cop with the handcuff grappling hook thing, Then we have Highway, the Motocycle Officer and Mace, the powerhouse SWAT guy both in one panel. Next is Hardtop, the Patrol and Pursuit Officer. Coming in last is Sundown, the Texas Ranger stand in.

There's some planning going into differentiating the characters here, but I don't detect a lot of minorities. I mean, sure the leader Bulletproof is a black guy, but where are all the Asians and Latinos? Seems a bit too white and that's coming from a white guy. Let's just go with it for now.

And this is where the book veers into territory that will make every animal lover crushed and is clearly not made with a pre-teen in mind. The gist here is that Blitz might not make it, with the clear understanding of how hard it will hit Bowser. I think the only one playing to the under twelve set is Sundown, because we don't use puns when we are being serious young man.

And while the techs survey the extensive damage done to the 'bot, Bowser looks on in horror. It is kind of striking that this seems kind of true to life even if it were a real dog in the real world. We envision vets as being methodical and not getting personally involved, remaining a bit professionally detached. Here we have that summed up perfectly.
But Bowser. Bowser is plenty affected. We veer into his flashback to determine why and uncover a heart wrenching story of his first pet.

It starts with Mainframe (the blonde female) covering up how bad the techs findings are to spare Bowser the bad news. And that news, by the way, is pretty dire. Blitz's chance of survival is less than ten percent.

Mainframe doesn't let on and attempts to give comfort to Bowser, encouraging him to unload his feelings. Bowser responds by telling her of his first real dog. Get out your tissues, folks.

Broderick gets a chance to shine here, as Moench weaves a boy-and-his-pooch tale that fills the emotional bases…

And then knocks one all the way out of the park.

We all know where this is going and yet we are hoping against hope that we are wrong.

But we aren't. And the rug gets pulled out from under us in that all too familiar way that life has of unexpectedly breaking our hearts.

It is handled extremely well and while reading this I forgot about the toy tie-ins and the animated series with all the silly catch phrases and really began to invest in this character as a person. I don't have more issues of these, but if I see them, I'm snatching them up. There's great plotting and story going on here. This isn't just throwing bad guys at good guys to earn a paycheck. There is an emotional core to this that elevates the material above its intended genre.

With that emotional weight tugging at our insides we have an investiture in this struggle now that goes beyond wanting to see two guys punch each other. Now Moench picks that thread and pulls us into Bowser's head a little more. He tricks Mainframe into leaving and accesses the computer. Once the truth is revealed, Bowser knows he has to do something to take this threat off the street for good.

As Mainframe comes back to find that she might have been duped, Bowser has departed in search of the hideout of Krusher's weapons supplier.

While Bowser walks the meaner streets of Empire City, the techs put the final pieces of Blitz together…

…and Doctor Percival Cranial (A/K/A Doctor Badvibes), Big Boss's ever present deranged mad scientist, has recreated Krusher's exploding mace. The henchman is just taking delivery as Bowser approaches their hideout and we can sense a showdown in the making.

Bowser id's Krusher's voice and bursts in on the two.

Krusher gets the drop on him from behind the door, however and a chaotic melee ensues.

Bowser is at a disadvantage as far as power, but has speed on his side. At least he does until Krusher drops a bookcase on him, pinning him to the floor.

Meanwhile the docs are astounded at Blitz's recovery. However they are more astonished as the robo-dog goes into immediate alert mode and leaves the facility. He is missing crucial component though, his battery pack.

Highway encounters the runaway pup and the tech who is pursuing him while patrolling on his jet cycle. He picks up the scientist and they chase after the determined Blitz.

In the lair of Doctor Badvibes things have gone from bad to worse with Krusher mercilessly attempting to kill the pinned Bowser. A bit of luck and Bowser pins Krusher's new mace, however and in his grief threatens both of them with destruction. If Krusher releases the chain from his wrist, Bowser pulls the pin. This leads to a heavy stand-off just as Blitz with Highway hot on is tail are making their way to the lab.

But it appears they will arrive too late, as a suicidal Bowser is determined to avenge the seeming death of his partner, by any means necessary. Krusher calls his bluff and Bowser pulls the pin.

And that's when Blitz makes his entrance…

He solo takes down Krusher and then works on freeing his partner. 

Sadly there just isn't time. So Blitz does the only thing he can: he flings the explosive away while shielding Bowser from the blast. Again.

I was ready for a suckerpunch here. I was ready for Blitz to be a goner. For him to take that big sleep. This book got me. It got me right in the place where I live. But in an odd twist, Blitz turned out to be okay. His battery just ran out at the end.

And with that as our wrap up, the issue ends.

So the COPS tv show didn't last more than two seasons and the toys are long gone with no chance of returning anytime soon. There's not a huge call for a revival of any sort and I don't expect to see one. But these issues still float around used bookstores and discount bins, and I think you'll find that the insides are much better than you'd expect. I encourage you to buy any you come across.

1 comment:

  1. I agree Micheal...there really was something there with C.O.P.S. It was well done on screen..on the page as well as in the toybox! Sad this one didnt have great legs to stand on..given the right exposure this one had a chance.


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