So it finally happened: Linkara (he is a man, PUNCH, wears a purty hat) reviewed Tandy Computer Whiz Kids. More specifically, the very issue I reviewed, and so far, the worst comic I've ever read.
Funny coincidence, right? I wasn't so sure. Linkara has posted at Toonzone before, and at one point I gave him a link to my own article, suggesting he might like it.
I confronted Lewis about it and he said that while he had read my piece on Whiz Kids prior to writing his own review, it was months before, and it hadn't been in his mind when he was looking for a fast replacement for a review that wasn't going so well. He found Whiz Kids in a stack of donations then. So while a couple of jokes overlapped, it wasn't a conscious effort to steal my thunder, he confessed.
Fair enough. Now that he's taken Whiz Kids, though, and people will forever think I ripped off HIS review, I need a new exclusive. And I might just have the perfect candidate. You may have found Whiz Kids, Linkara, but have you ever seen....THIS?
The Action Files Part One, produced by Modern Curriculum Press in 1999, is the first comic I've seen for school distribution that isn't meant to teach anything. Nobody inside lectures people about drugs or child abuse or expired milk. Its goal is simply to get more kids to read comic books. But it operates under the assumption that anybody reading is even stupider than the intended audience for Whiz Kids. The difference between the former and the latter is that the former didn't think it necessary to explain to you what a comic book was.
Are they serious? They're serious. I read my first comic book at age four and it wasn't too difficult to discern how they operated. If you have this much trouble with a comic book, then you probably also need instructions on how to make a peanut butter sandwich.
Here's our typically diverse cast, with one exception: this is the first time I've seen the white male left out entirely. They hang out in a rec center, sport early 90's hairstyles and have cool nicknames like "Jazz" and "Twig." And "Squat." You can really relate to them.
Except for bowl-cut Jazz, because except for this appearance, he's not in the book. They must have been saving him for Part Two, if that ever came out.
We open with an overhead shot of a neighborhood basketball game. "Twig" singlehandedly wins it easily, and looks inhumanly happy about it, but unbeknownst to her, she and her friends are being watched by an old woman and her cat. The old woman talks to the cat, which usually means she's crazy, except in cases where the cat is a superintelligent magical being. It must be the second case, because the cat is named "Merlin."
They enter the rec center, where two geeks are sitting at a table drawing candy canes and laughing. Twig picks up a newspaper and is horrified to find out the rec center is in danger of being bulldozed by Fred Savage's mother! But her reaction reads as lethargic, because whoever made these balloons used exclamation points very sparingly.
"Oh no, man, where are all us kids supposed to HANG OUT??" This scenario shows up a lot in teen cinema of the 70's and 80's. It was run into the ground and most avenues of entertainment had retired it by 1999. Except for Modern Curriculum, who somehow never got the memo.
Thanks for, uh, letting us know that, Chris. You can stop doing that dance now.
Because she's evil, doi. Didn't you see her eyebrows?
WHOA! I don't even want to know what kind of sick idea Chris is getting right now. It's probably not SFW enough for this site.
I don't blame "Squat" for anything; anyone would go crazy if they saw a cat that looked like that. This is actually "Merlin" from earlier; one of his powers is the ability to grow uglier. I think.
The balloon placement is all
wrong in several places, and this is one of them. Most people
will read the right panel this way:
"Wow, look at all this stuff! What is this place?"
"That's all right, young man."
What she's saying is a reply to Darryl's apology in the previous panel, which means it should have been arranged as the first line of text the reader's eye will see. The positions should have been swapped. Come on, this isn't hard. You're adults.
The mysterious old woman claims she might have something that would be of interest to the three kids. Darryl is skeptical, insisting that he's into MODERN STUFF. Old lady gets cryptic about it, and then offers Darryl a box with a lens sticking out.
The artist went too old. They haven't made cameras that look like this since the 1920's. The reason they were so big and boxy was because the actual paper the photo would go on was inside. After taking the pic, you had to immediately run off to a darkroom and get it developed before you could take another, as there was only room for one. Also, the flash bulb area should be a mini-sattelite dish as big as the camera. There's no flash bulb on this camera at all; instead the flash comes out of the lens itself, which makes no sense.
Actually (spoilers for next scan) the camera is magic, so never mind. First Law of Joe Quesada applies here.
Darryl takes a picture to test the camera out, but instead of showing Chris, it shows two trucks colliding. "How odd," they think, right before two trucks collide in front of them! Are you thinking what they're thinking? The camera can take pictures of the future! Wait'll they show mom and pop!
But Darryl's parents just see Chris in the picture. The true photos are only revealed to the kids! This means if they ever pre-take a photo of a crime, their value as evidence is worthless, and they'll be the only ones who can stop it. I'm sure this flaw will be exploited for great thrills later. Or not, actually.
So many comments at this point, I just can't hold 'em back.
(1) Chris: "This is a website about Sharon Savage. How did that happen?" Somebody took JPEGs of Sharon, wrote some text, maybe threw it together in a WYSIWYG editor, and hit "Publish." That's how it happened. Some detective she is.
(2) Sharon actually destroys teenage hangouts for a living, she's just that badass.
(3) Why does Chris look so happy when she finds that out?
(4) What the heck is going on behind them?
It's Darryl's brother, the one that Chris hates so much, and now I understand why. That nut's got some serious screws loose.
Darryl and Chris think if they take a picture of the rec center, they can see if it's destroyed in the future or not. If not, they can just forget about this whole thing and play some Playstation One. But d'oh -- Darryl left the camera at his house! They can't go back there or their psycho brother will growl at them again!
No, wait, the magic camera has reappeared in Darryl's backpack, and not only that, it took a picture by itself. A picture warning of DANGER!
Oh NOES! "Snapped like a twig" is about to have a whole different meaning! Can our adolescent heroes make it in time??
Do they? I don't know, that's where the comic ends.
Still no mention of "Jazz." I wonder what happened to him.
That's not the end; there are also some bonus vocabulary definitions for the confused!
Reaaaaaally, MC? You think kids are so dumb that they don't know what a photograph is? Who doesn't know words like "accident" or "future" or "weird"?
I think this goes without saying, but if you're trying to get children interested in comics, it would be far better (and cheaper) to find some of the best family-rated examples of the medium and buy them copies of that. A lousy, 16-page, badly-scripted book with an unfinished story inside isn't going to convert anyone, especially when it's written under the assumption that kids are this stupid.
RETURN TO THE WORST COMIX EVER