Spoof #2, November 1972, Marvel Comics
Blogger's note: Check out my review of Unique #1 at Geek in the City!
Spoof #2 is the last of the comics I purchased at the San Diego Comic Con to read for the A Comic A Day challenge. Yes, I've been holding on to this one for that long. I'd intended to read it during my slew of reviews for Black History Month but simply couldn't squeeze it in, so, with its tellingly humorous title, coupled with the byline "The Lunatic Side of Life," I thought I'd save it for today, April Fool's Day. With its satirical All in the Family cover story (one of my favorite sitcoms of all time), I've been anxious to read this one. I'd anticipated an issue that incorporating those racial themes I explored back in February, not to mention the ongoing analysis of celebrity appearances in comics . . .
Turns out, the joke was on me.
Spoof #2 contains three stories, the first of which is absolutely forgettable. I can only assume "Tales from the Creep" is a riff on "Tales from the Crypt," but even the Crypt Keeper would recoil in horror at this one. In a nutshell, "Creep" is about three strangers lost in a haunted house, where some mysterious monk explores their demented pasts: the woman, a hot dog-poisoning hubby killer; the millionaire, whose monkey's paw blessed him only to curse him (monkey's paws do that), and some Hitler wanna-be whose students assault him with rock and roll. This story's punchlines are often inexplicable and flat, and although the artist tries to infuse some sight gags in the background, ultimately this contribution is a failed attempt to mimic the style and success of Mad Magazine. Heck, it isn't even Cracked . . . although that's what Marv Wolfman might've been on when he wrote it. Marv Wolfman? I glad you got better before you got worse, man.
The second story shows some promise, as it actually has a method to its madness. When Tarz (not Tarzan, but close enough) is duped by Jane into signing over complete ownership of his estate, the King of the Apes returns to "dark Africa" (his words, before you go all Gloria Allred on me) only to find it just as urbanized as the concrete jungle from which he just fled. I did chuckle when Tarz grasped a power line and tried to cut it like a vine, to get electrocuted. See, that sight gag has some parallel to reality, something that it was actually spoofing, rather than just spoofing for spoofing's sake. Writer Roy Thomas used both the elements of the unexpected and contrast to tell a relatively amusing tale. Then again, I wonder if this yarn seemed more funny than it really was because of the bad taste that first story left in my mouth.
The last story, "Archie Bunkum in Brawl in the Family," was the feature I've been waiting for, and fortunately, it did not disappoint. When Archie is forced to attend "Mikey and Glorier's" multi-racial party, he retreats into the newspaper's comics pages and daydreams how he would act in the worlds of Charlie Brown and Peanuts, Dick Tracy, and others. Unlike the other writers in this issue, Henry Scarpelli was smart to play out a concept rather than story, quickly introducing what we're going to see, then showing it off succinctly. "Hey, readers, what would your favorite classic comic strips be like if Archie Bunker was in 'em?" Then, boom, we see it, then we're out. I appreciated that, and, further, the timing was more effective in cooperation with the visual comedy. Even more so, the true genius of this installment is, while it spoofs All in the Family, the creative teams manages to sucker punch a few of their comic strip peers, as well. It's a spoof in a spoof . . . in Spoof!
Make no mistake, I completely understand that it is incredibly difficult to write comedy, and in comics, artists have the added challenge of drawing it, too. I wonder what the laugh-to-joke ratio is in comics like these -- something we discussed with Treehouse of Horror #12. Still, if you're going to put so much effort into setting up a joke, the punchline needs to hit hard. Archie Bunker was hilarious despite his shortcomings, so if you stick to the essence of the character you really can't fail. Tales from the Crypt and Tarzan have their vulnerabilities to satire, too, but using them in a failed attempt to make folks laugh isn't the same as merely exploiting them for a hearty chuckle. Obviously, I'd prefer the latter.
You know what? The disappointment that this issue evoked, after such a long wait to read it, has finally broken my spirit. With just three months left, I'm throwing in the towel on this A Comic A Day business. I've heard less than 40% of Americans read blogs anyway, and so how many in that minority are actually reading this one? What's the point of feeding my inner geek anymore than I already do, what with my weekly trips to the comic store and nearly daily jaunts to the Target toy aisle. Yeah, that's it. I'm finished. Done. This is KaraokeFanboy, signing off.