I was in middle school shop class when I found a copy of Whiz Kids near the teacher's desk. I believe I was hiding from the nut with the saw, so I had time to read the entire thing. Boy was I stupid---I should have taken the saw instead. If Whiz Kids isn't THE worst comic ever made, it's certainly a strong contender. They're not just Whiz Kids though....they're Tandy Computer Whiz Kids, distinguished as so by the fact that they have frequent access to the brand of computers Radio Shack was exclusively selling at the time, and can name it all with ease: "I know! I'll use my Tandy-Brand P-1 80.00 Trans-Reciever Hookup!" That's so Whizzy.
So Whiz Kids was a commercial at heart, available for free near the checkstand of any Radio Shack next to the actual print ads. But it was also educational, so it found its way into schools across the country as a free handout-slash-loophole. I suspect most of those copies were turned into paper airplanes and spitballs, but the one I found in Shop was near-mint.
From 1984 until 1992, Radio Shack produced one Whiz Kids comic book every year. You can read them all here, but most of my comments are going to be directed at the original one I read.
That one happened to be #2, "Fit to Win!" The original Whiz Kids, "The Computer Trap," is somewhat better because Alec and Shanna act a little more like human beings. "The Computer Trap" mostly focused on the history of computers and how to use Tandy products, but just when I really started to nod off, terrorists in masks burst into the room and held a gun to the teacher's head. At least it had that going for it.
In future issues, Alec and Shanna weren't going to take those kind of risks. Anytime something close to the definition of action was about to take place, Shanna would grab Alec's arm and say, "This is too dangerous! Let's get out of here!" "Good idea!" Alec would agree, and the scene would switch back to their house where they would be using their Tandy computers again....the series was for kids, but it treated them terribly. It was much more concerned with pleasing teachers and getting its Tandy-branded foot into school doors--entertaining children never factored into it.
They wanted to make Alec and Shanna good role models, and are they ever! Alec and Shanna are absolutely perfect in every way, and never have a single evil thought. For a hint on just how far that went, check out the opening scene....if you can already see those zombified children, you know what you're in for.
Did you notice how much space that kid in the wheelchair took up? About 1/4 the page. This goes beyond trying to be representative...this is just "don't panic, you're speeeeeecial! See how much attention I gave you?" It's just shameless pandering and it's almost insulting, and how many kids in wheelchairs did you see in your elementary school anyway? My favorite class member is Napoleon Dynamite Before He Needed Glasses, who appears to the far left of the panel.
Anyway, wait'll you hear what Alec did with his summer vacation. He got together with a bunch of friends, and they all decided....
And can you guess what the class reaction to THIS was? No, they didn't beat him up...
This is the moment that stuck with me until now, when I tried to find the comic again. I laughed so hard I almost gave away my hiding spot. Not only has the writer never been to a real school, he appears to think all kids are soulless robots. I doubt anybody took something this forced to heart, or worse....suddenly jumped up with their hands in the air and shouted "YEEEAH!! THAT IS COOL!!"
More joyous screaming....because Shanna and those two others have been ordered by the teacher to set up a physical fitness booth at the state fair this year, and stay at it until the fair's over. "I love school so much, I wish I could marry it!"
Meanwhile, in between cheers, we're every-so-often taken back to a fishing dock where some villainous-looking people are cackling to themselves about the boat they're expecting that's going to reel in some "fish." Some "really expensive fish, HA HA HA HAAA!!" I guess this would be a mystery, if the copyright date on this comic book didn't read 1988. What was the education system trying to slam down our throats at this point in history, more than anything else? Say no to......no to something....wait, it'll come to me.......
HA HA HAAAA!!
Back to the squeaky-clean class....Ms. Wilson has another surprise; Alec is going to run in the state fair marathon! If he had any other plans made for that day, tough doody!
Uhh, Ms. Wilson? .....WHAT hall?
NOW it's time for the shilling. You might be wondering if the computers this rag is trying to pawn off are just as bad as the comic book itself. You're right, and I'm not just saying that. My very first computer was one of these, and I could not do squat with it. If I had been able to grasp the workings of BASIC, I might have been able to write programs at least....but I was years away from learning any algebra and didn't understand how BASIC worked. This is an actual early program I attempted in third grade.
10: STEREO GRAPHIC SOUND!
20: PRINT "AWESOME JUMP!"
30: PRINT "IN THIS GAME YOU MUST SURVIVE A DEATH-DEFYING LEAP ACROSS THE CANYON ON YOUR SKATEBOARD! IF YOU DO NOT, YOU WILL BE VAPORIZED!!!"
40: PRINT GUY! PRINT CANYON!
50: INPUT A$: IF A$="JOYSTICK" THEN MOTION!
60: IF A$="CRASH" THEN PRINT "BOGUS DUDE! YOU WIPED OUT BIG TIME!!"
70: IF A$=OTHER SIDE OF CANYON THEN GOTO 40: INPUT RAD MOVES!
It didn't work.
It's even better if you imagine Shanna's voice chirp "THAT seems ODD to ME!" Chuck has said "Right on!" at least 5 times by now and we're not even halfway done. The detective gets the report, but he makes an immediate U-turn away from the donut house when he hears it's from SHANNA. No....that's not another error; Shanna met Detective Shaw in Issue #1, though he didn't appear as Magnum P.I. there. Shaw gets Shanna's message, no sooner than seeing a red sports car blast down the highway at ninety miles an hour.
They should have driven faster, so they wouldn't look too suspicious. Nevertheless, it's too late now...Magnum is going to USE his PHONE!
Oddly, he doesn't chase the car
down. He just follows long enough to get the license plate
number, then slows down and drives back to the station. Like I
said, any Whiz Kids issue after #1 took the safer way
out. If there HAD been a car chase, it would have been too true
to life for tender young minds.
It was a good thing that inept detective wasn't chasing after the bus, then he would have REALLY goofed up. The bus had the drugs, but they drove it off the highway, into a rural area and hid it behind a barn, where it will remain until the heat dies down. "We got it MADE in the SHADE, HA HA HA HAAA!"
The younglings give the latest batch of plot exposition, then deliver a sales pitch as subtle as a semi-truck. Even less subtle is what happens after.....Alec begins his race, but the focus immediately shifts to Shanna and stays there for several pages. Shanna isn't doing anything but standing there in her Substance Abuse Awareness Booth of Fun and Thrills, but it's what she and her partners are saying that's the important thing....but man, they just go on and on without a drink of water.
Chuck's idea of "brief" is no less than nine paragraphs. It was only supposed to be about abuses of substances, but the amount of warnings and safety statements packed into this conversation is completely off the charts--Chuck covers everything from licking downed power lines to cockfighting, just because he cares. "Drivers high on dangerous substances caused 47,900 car accidents in 1986....which brings me to seat belts; BUCKLE UP FOR SAFETY!!"
Too late, Shanna....Alec is DEAD!!
|Okay, maybe not really. But when I was a kid, it really bugged me the way a lot of adults assumed I was stupid. Fox used to run PSAs on its Saturday Morning programming that were dull as drywall, but they assumed we would watch them if they put a big, flashing message in front that yelled, "THIS MESSAGE IS TOW-TALLY FOR KIDS!!! DA DAH, DAAAA!!!" Saying something is cool does not automatically make it cool.|
Guess what Alec's marathon is passing through? An old dirt farm road. Guess what Alec notices? A barn with an old bus behind it. I've seen a lot of barns with old buses sitting behind them, but Alec immediately thinks, "That's suspicious!" and tells Shanna to call Shaw again.
You know why those guys had to
turn to drugs? Their mothers never bought them walkie-talkies.
WITH VOICE ACTIVATION!
That's not the final plug, though. At the last minute, Shanna decided to give everybody blood pressure checks, because she cares SO much. I'm going to assume those guys were caught....
That's just what I need for my leaky microwave!
....Saturday. The writer ran out of room in that word balloon. (Really....what she says continues on the next page.) It's odd that Alec didn't get anything, and they gave some "Alex" guy the award.
They DID tie up one loose end,
though....the winner of the race.
It was a wholesome, non-divisive, everybody-wins tie. I guess it could have been worse....Alec could have lost, then given a speech about how happy he is anyway because winning isn't important, and that getting all that exercise was better. He WOULD have done it, you know. Wow, I didn't notice how buffed-up Alec was until this panel. For a kid his age, that's impossible without steroids.
RETURN TO THE WORST COMIX EVER!