Sunday, May 12, 2013

It all started with the Big Bang, #1 pt. 1!

Big Bang Comics is one of those things that I like a lot, but can't begin to explain or understand just why. Basically, they're straight pastiches of Silver- and Golden-Age DC comics, with a handful of Marvel influences vaguely scattered in there. I remember Alan Moore, whose Supreme run had a lot of similar themes to this, saying this was one of the few comics he eagerly looked forward to every month, though.

Big Bang Comics was first published by Caliber Press, in a six-issue limited series that was meant to be a larger take on the various "ages" of comics -- gradually, the stories went from Golden Age to Silver Age to Bronze Age to "Dark Age." When the Big Bang ongoing turned up at Image, this was no longer the case, with the focus being solely on aping Golden and Silver age material. After issue #6, the comic was in black-and-white; evidently it wasn't selling enough for colors (!). During and after the ongoing were several one-shots featuring teams from the setting, particularly the Round Table of America. When Big Bang left Image, they started self-publishing Big Bang Presents In any case, I liked it, though VERY few of the names you'll see under the writing and art credits are going to be very familiar, I can promise you that.

The Image series made sporadic use of Image characters; in this issue, Mighty Man shows up in a Captain Marvel-esque story, despite the role of Captain Marvel being ably filled by Thunder Girl, In a later issue, a fake Silver Age Shadowhawk, along with his sidekick Squirrel, teams up with the Knight Watchman and Kid Galahad; Batman and Robin teaming up with Batman and Robin, basically. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, whose comic license Image had at the time, guest star in one issue, with a grown-up Kid Galahad appearing in their book as well. Savage Dragon was involved in the only plot thread that continued from issue to issue, as he traveled through time in the Big Bang universe and met up with almost every BB hero.

I'm doing the Image issues first, because at least those start with colors. Not to sound like a complete moron (too late), but black-and-white isn't my thing if I could have colors.

Anyway, Big Bang's big trademark, so to speak, was how slavish the imitation of SA/GA comics is and was.  I don't doubt that somebody out there read a Knight Watchman story and thought it was a Miracleman-style reprint of Batman. And, as you'll see, a layer of metafiction -- Knight Watchman stories are attributed to "Tom King", a fictionalized version of Tom Kane. This is taken to extremes in the three "History of Big Bang Comics" issues, which are text-based and document the fake history of the fake company and its fake characters.

Okay, before I turn this into an even more didactic lecture, let's just get underway. I'm going to try not to be too exhaustive/summarizing, but we'll see.

After an introduction by Terrence Griep, Jr., we open with Mighty Man as he watches clothed funny animals robbing a bank. The lion in the suit is obviously based on Captain Marvel's old pal Mr. Tawky Tawny. As with a lot of stories from the period this is imitating, this is sort of a "clip" edited together from beats that occur later in the story -- our first stop chronologically is at a radio station, where the young Bobby Berman ends his program and is handed a check by his employer Phil. T Luker (oh do you see what they did there ahaha). Let me just say, kind of disturbed by the blond, blue-clad Billy Batson that is Bobby, my mind is going right to Miracleman, which is pretty much the opposite of this comic.

Anyway, Billy goes to the bank to deposit his check, only to find  that the long-haired gentleman in line in front of him is a talking lion, who holds the place up! Billy taps his wrists together, transforming into Mighty Man in a thunderous explosion. I'm not a huge massive fan of Savage Dragon (though I AM a fan), but is that always how that worked, was there always a dual Captain Marvel reference? Because, you know, Mar-Vell would tap his nega-bands together to switch places with Rick Jones. Incidentally, I can't help but notice that the bank teller saw Bobby turn into Mighty Man (or at least, saw Bobby disappear in an explosion that Mighty Man came out of). Probably one of those "not supposed to think about it" things, I guess.

Mighty Man catches up to the lion and gives him a powerful punch. Afterwards, however, the creature starts acting, you know, like a lion, walking on all fours and trying to get out of the clothes it's wearing. Upon closer inspection, Mighty Man finds a radio receiver around the lion's neck. He decides to head to the zoo to get the whole story.

And, uh, the trip to the zoo isn't shown to us. In fact, it's implied that he ended up going twice, once as Mighty Man and then as Bobby, to ask employees questions and snoop around for clues, fruitlessly. Well, thanks for not showing us the pointless dead end lead, I guess.

In any case, a dejected Bobby bumps into a man while walking down the street. Turns out it's another thief, who stole a priceless painting. Turning into Mighty Man to give chase, he discovers the thief is another animal in clothes, this time a kangaroo. Oddly, the creature seems to recognize him.

As before, one punch renders the animal speechless, and returns it to its natural state. However, Mighty Man sees it also has a radio around its neck. Obviously, these thefts are connected -- though, if you think about it, it would have been a lot more bizarre if they weren't. Mighty Man flies the kangaroo to a veterinarian, who says that the kangaroo's larynx is normal; it couldn't possibly talk!

As Mighty Man flies back into town, he hears a cry for help, and bitterly notes that he may NEVER get to deposit that check. Such a selfish kid. A jewelry store is being robbed by a "big ape", who naturally really is a big ape, the gorilla from the first panel. Once again, the talking animal recognizes Mighty Man, who naturally doesn't understand what that's even about. The gorilla lays it on him, throwing punches and hitting him with furniture, but it's as if he were hitting Mighty Man with feathers!

After one blow from Mighty Man, the gorilla is a regular gorilla again. Mighty Man finally figured it out -- someone is controlling these creatures and doing the talking for them! It turns out to be a tiny "brain sucking leech" on the gorilla's neck

I was kind of curious about how you could alter Mr. Mind's character design, and the answer isn't JUST different eyes, no glasses, and big lips -- obviously making it a psuedo Nazi worm leech whatever was the way to go, replete with pauldrons (for no shoulders) and a gun he couldn't possibly use.

The Wicked Worm escapes Mighty Man's grasp by biting one of his fingers, and hides in a fruit bowl. Mighty Man starts juggling the fruit to scare him out, but the gorilla grabs the exact banana the worm was hiding in and bites him in two as he eats it.

With that, the adventure closes. Mighty Man brings his ape pal back to the zoo, and muses that now they'll never know what the hell was up with that worm. We'll see about that...

Tune in next time, when I check out the second half of Big Bang Comics #1, starring the Knight Watchman! I know Dr. Weird was also on the cover, but his feature's just a text story so whatever man.

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