Friday, April 14, 2017

Race Warrior #4

More product placement than a NASCAR event,
BUT at least it's not about a white supremacist

"I've Got a Secret"
Writer – Terry Collins
Vehicle Designer – Harald Belker
Penciler – Gordon Purcell
Inker – Chris Ivy
Graphic Branding – Drew Patterson
Letters – Steve Hayne
Color Guides – Erin Fox
Colorist – TFX Color
Editorial Review – Benny Parsons
Real Life Editorial Writer – Claire B. Lange
CEO/Creator – John A. Powell, III
March 2000

With Fate of the Furious opening today I thought it would be a good time to look at car racing comics that have wandered my way. True, the Furious movies have "drifted" away from the actual street races as being any part of the plots, instead relying on crazy, impossible car stunts that require stuff like runways the size of Europe and parachuting cars out of a plane so they land on a dime, but whatever.

The unbelievable stuff is what makes these movies fun. We can laugh and be amazed at the same time as our inner logic circuits are shaking their heads saying "No F'ing way."

One thing we can't laugh our way through is product placement. The Fast & Furious movies have LOTS. However, the Race Warrior comic books have MORE. More than any book or movie I've seen outside of Adam Sandler's last POS. It's that bad.

So much so that the characters begin to resemble that other racing car franchise that also has all the characters wearing logos. You know, THIS one:

The only way it would more closely resemble that is if the logos in the Cars franchise were for real products. I mean just look at this opening splash page:

This is the first page of the story. There are several more of these type pages through-out the book but they are the ads – all full page and all for Dr. Pepper products. I feel a bit…pushed toward drinking sodas by all this. 

Produced by Custom Comics, makers of books that stretch back to the 1950's, these screamed at the readers to purchase Dr. Pepper's also-ran cola brands from every page. None of Custom Comics prior work looked quite so ambition, given that most of they were kid-oriented educational works around the founding of our nation or electricity and you! Race Warrior was definitely a step in a different direction. A very consumer oriented direction, if you know what I mean.

But you know this is all okay as long as the STORY in the book is good. Peel away the gloss and what is underneath all of this huckster salesmanship? Is it a decent tale of race car drivers?

I'll let you be the judge. We are four issues into the series and this particular 22 pages of cola product billboards concerns Ty Rod Roberts, who at first seems like the "bad guy" in the series. I'll show you why in just a moment.

But first! The bottom of each page has what can only be called "a word from our sponsor."

Don't try that web address. I can tell you from looking myself that it is a dead link. I might have also gotten myself listed as a white nationalist by even looking for it. Who thought that "Race Warrior" was a good name for a book?

Anyway back to Ty, who acts pretty much a cad. I say this given how he treats the cameramen,…

…the writers,…

…and his fellow "Team UP" driver, Thrasher.

Should we take a moment and talk about the "cutesy" names for everyone? Oh, there will be time for that later? Okay then. I guess there is worse stuff to come. Back to Ty, for now who adds being full of himself and littering to his list of character flaws.

Right now I'm not sure why 7Up, Chevy and Valvoline would WANT their names associated with this butt goblin-in-a-goatee, but I will admit that at least he has a personality. He also appears to cover up his "rough spots" when around the ladies.

This ends up being his new publicity coordinator, Mawashi, who brings her own special wheels as incentive to speak with Ty about how he doesn't have enough logos on his chest (seriously). As they drive off, Ty gives one parting shot at his two employees, making sure they know they work for him.

Okay, so the art is decent and we have a person to root against. Where do we go from here? My thought would be to find our protagonist to root FOR and if that is where we are going next…well, he's in no shape to race anytime soon.

Meet Zax Hammer from Team Sunkist. He appears a bit banged up from a wreck last issue. That's okay though because Team Sunkist's Doctor Racsan will have him put back together in no time. There's something very "Frankenstein's Monster" going on with all the Race Warriors. You'll see why I think that a bit later.

Augusta is the second driver from Team Sunkist. She makes a phone call after this against Dr. Racsan's wishes. A woman picks up and Augusta doesn't say anything, just hangs up upon hearing her voice. The phone is being tapped by some evil looking guy from Team (Hawaiian) Punch. I think the guy, who looks like a Snidely clone, is that team's doctor.

OH! Also Augusta's last name? Wind. She's Augusta Wind. No, No, NO! We aren't talking about this yet.

Ty Rod courts the owner of Apollo anti-acids while all this is going on. He does so first with words…

…and secondly by placing him on the track in his race car for a test drive. Doesn't seem like the safe bet to get the guy to sign, since he's downing anti-acids just sitting at his desk.

Yet Ty is so cocky, he takes the executive around something only a comic book racetrack would have: some extension at the center of the track that makes it a "superlooper". The route is called The Drainpipe and I have no clue who would put this in a race, but apparently it's some kind of double-loop route around the track that racers can use in a single-file manner to…get ahead of the competition? I have no idea how this works. Seems like it would cause tons of accidents as racers exited the superloop and tried to merge back in with the traffic flow of the other racers who are jockeying for position at full speed around the track.

But there it stands. Something only possible in comics.

Also something only possible in comics: This…

…leads to This:

Unbelievable…and the books strays that much closer to being a Cars movie with real-life people. I mean if major hunks of the story are devoted to getting endorsements…

…and interviews in between very brief racing segments, then yeah it's exactly like Cars. What isn't like Cars, however is the backstory for Ty.

And this is where I get the feeling all of these "Race Warriors" have been augmented in some weird way. Each of them has a team doctor and I find that strange. Maybe in the racing world they DO have team doctors that work with drivers, but I find that a little hard to believe.

Anyway, Ty and his doctor had a falling out and that's why Racsan now works for Team Sunkist. When the host starts to pry into this breakup, Ty gets a bit feisty, which leads the book to throw in this bit of self-aware criticism. 

Yeah, we've all noticed since page one. Maybe the writer is the one getting a bit feisty? Okay, I kinda love this turnabout and biting the hand that feeds you approach. Where we going next? Are we going to bring up the story of that lady that found a dead rat in her soda can?

We have a "Spridle and Chim-Chim" moment with these two kids uncovering some big secret and then on to…RACING!

Team 7Up looks to quench (sorry, after all these pages it's starting to get to me)…er, CLINCH two of the top three spots. Ty Rod taking the lead over rival soft drink endorsed Team SunDrop (which is *surprise* a Dr Pepper owned brand) with Thrasher Jones not far behind.

And FIVE PANELS after it begins, it's all over, folks…not a lot of racing for a comic book supposedly ABOUT racing.

For all his personal interaction flaws, Ty is driven to succeed. After the race he isn't partying with his Team Up crew, but instead reviewing the playback of his race, looking for flaws. That's when Mawashi finds him…

Ugh. NO! I am not bringing up the names thing. I am just letting this one drop. They've been doing this kind of stuff since Speed Racer and we can all just ignore it and move on.

"Lube Jobb"…Sheesh. That guy had a hard childhood, is all I'm saying.

One other thing the book does to humanize Ty is this final page. This part gets under my skin a bit. I'm all setup to dislike the character and then it pulls this noise.

Ty doesn't seem like a horrible person. I mean he IS technically not a "good" guy. However his passion for an honest challenge is, pardon me, REFRESHING. It's good to finally have someone to root against that isn't a cypher for every bad thing and of NO MORAL standing. Ty is just, again pardon me, DRIVEN to win. But that win isn't an at-all-costs kind of thing. It is a deeply personal struggle to be the best using the skills he has been given.
I would read more of these. I won't seek them out, but if they fall in my lap, sure. It would be nice to see Zax vs Ty, if the racing is done in a bit longer fashion anyway. So the book has that going for it.

With that, I'm out. Going to kick my feet up and have a soda. Woah. Looks like all that subliminal messaging got to me after all.

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