Monday, January 15, 2007

Mr. T and the T-Force #3

Mr. T and the T-Force #3, October 1993, NOW Comics
writer: Mike Baron
artist: Norm Breyfogle
colorists: Suzanne DeChnik, Holly Sanfelippo, Todd S. Turtle
letterer: Andrea Albert
editor: Joan Weiss
creative director: Mr. T

Happy Martin Luther King Day. Although, honestly, I'm wondering if "happy" is the best term to honor today. Today may celebrate Dr. King's life, but we cannot do so without remembering his abrupt death -- how this holiday, the only one on our calendar that warrants government closure to honor an individual that wasn't a president or old world saint (I'm looking at you, St. Patrick), may not even exist had Dr. King not been so tragically and suddenly assassinated. Perhaps "Remember Martin Luther King Day" better captures the true reason for this season. So, how can A Comic A Day remember Dr. King's legacy? By reviewing comics featuring prominent black heroes of the medium, of course! At the Comic Con last July, I picked up several comics starring black characters and have kept them in reserve to review between today and the end of February, which is Black History Month, with a few additional, well-rounded purchases since. One such purchase shall be the first in my weekly "Black History Review" series, Mr. T and the T-Force.

Long time readers, I know what you're thinking. "Haven't you already reviewed a Mr. T comic book?" you ask. Yes, in September, to recognize the new TV Land reality show I Pity the Fool, I reviewed Mr. T #1 by AP Comics, a relatively recent issue depicting "the Baraccan one" (as Murdock called him in The A-Team) as a reclusive ex-con, imprisoned for a crime he didn't commit and torn between apathy and do-gooding, for all the good it obviously did for him. It was a dark issue, particularly for a celebrity that has embraced the spotlight as an outspoken beacon of tough love. Mr. T and the T-Force is more like the Mr. T we know and love from his heyday, when his strength and bravado preceded him in the fictional realm, when his animated caricature was a brash and passionate as we always hoped the T would be. Mr. T was the proverbial Dark Knight Returns for Mr. T fans; Mr. T and the T-Force is Batman: The Animated Series Mr. T, capturing the spirit of all of his previous incarnations to create a product that anyone can embrace.

From Mr. T, AP Comics

Of course, Mr. T and the T-Force is corny; in fact, aside from the kid Mr. T summons to gather some information on a car theft ring, I don't know who or what is the "T-Force," unless the title refers to the sheer superhuman strength Mr. T summons throughout this adventure. In a mere twenty pages, T bends a gun out of shape, tosses a few fools around like ragdolls (including the token swirling of a punk over his head, He-Man style), and throws a diesel tire at an oncoming gun-toter, nearly all while handling a massive video camera, huge even by early '90s standards. The prop offers the most interesting insight into Mr. T's methods, though, as he uses a Trojan horse method and hides in the trunk of Rolls Royce to infiltrate the car thieves' HQ and capture their likenesses on tape, inarguable evidence to assure their guilt -- a plan worthy of Hannibal Smith himself. Remember my analysis of tough guys using their brains and brawn in concert? Thank you, Mr. T.

From Mr. T and the T-Force, Now Comics

I'd be remiss not to mention that this issue is illustrated by Norm Breyfogle, who illustrated last Monday's Of Bitter Souls (again, who says I don't have a method to my madness here), and who has been the subject of my praise here on more than one occasion. To my recollection, I've never beheld Breyfogle work in which he's captured the visage of a real person, and to add another notch to my fanboyish banter, he does an excellent job recreating Mr. T in comic book form. Many comic caricatures of celebrities appear too rigid to be realistic, or too fluid to adhere consistently to the original person, but Mr. T is so virtually a cartoon in real life that one would really have to try to botch him up. (AP Comics' Neil Edwards did a good job, too.) I don't think there's anything Breyfogle could do wrong in my book -- and don't look at me like I'm the only fan that has thought that of a comic book creator. How many issues of All-Star Batman and Robin has DC cranked out since its launch two years ago, with two of the biggest fan faves at the helm? If Miller and/or Lee can still do no wrong, so can Breyfogle, okay?

If the two Mr. T comics that I've read have anything in common, it's the gold-chained one's inability to ignore a plea for help; in both issues, Mr. T mixes it up with the baddies at a friend's or acquaintance's humble request. (Like Luke Cage, sans paycheck -- another hero we'll observe in the coming weeks.) If he is in a position to help, he cannot resist getting involved. I think Dr. King would've approved of Mr. T's celebrity, particularly as this theme of responsibility infuses all of his work. The interview at the end of Mr. T and the T-Force reinforces these concepts, as T credits his mother, father, and self-taught determination for his overcoming "the urban trap." Interestingly, Mr. T is rarely classified as a black hero, and in his cartoons and comics, he's a role model for every child, regardless of race. This was Dr. King's dream, to eradicate those presuppositions of ethnic identity and to create a world where everyone's strengths, mental or physical, contribute to a society that helps everyone succeed. And I pity the fool that doesn't share that dream.

1 comment:

Matte said...

All I want is to read a line of Mr. T saying "I pity the fool", that's all I need to make my day. Well that will make my day and Generic Viagra will make my night but that is a whole different story

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