Biting satire, inspired lampoons, and an irreverent, witty take on pop culture icons are what you might find in some of the great humor comics like Mad, Plop, or Crazy. Unfortunately today's comic isn't inspired or biting or irreverent. It's just kinda stupid.
Now I know what you're saying. You're saying "Finally, somebody made a comic book out of that great 1984 Activision game "H.E.R.O." that we remember playing!" Well, that's just wishful thinking. This has nothing to do with Activision, other than some sternly worded letters their legal team sent out. No, this is a parody spy adventure comic book published in the epicenter of the black and white comics disaster-quake, where the bad writing and art are only surpassed by the bad production values. Seriously, look at the right edge of that comic book, what's known in the biz as the "face trim". Notice that it seems to be at an angle.
The top edge of the comic is a full half inch shorter than the bottom edge, which means whoever was operating the cutter at (checks) Associated Printers in Grafton, North Dakota, was not doing his or her best work that day. Well, don't sweat it, cutter operator, you aren't alone.
There's nothing like those editorial comments in these black and white books, full of enthusiasm and hope and comics that are either desperate bandwagon-jumping ripoffs or pet projects of the publisher that a more objective eye might realize aren't quite ready for the public. Or both. Looking forward to the next ten issues of "Samurai Squirrel!"
But let's get moving with our adventure of L.T. Caper, Agent For H.E.R.O. It's not going to make fun of itself!
Page one, panel one, and we are given fair warning that this is one of those humor comics where the "humor" is nothing but references. Because referencing, say, "The Night Before Christmas" in a spy spoof comic that has nothing to do with Christmas, well, that's funny, right? Sure it is, in the "funny" sense of how meat smells when it's left lying on the kitchen counter for three or four days, that's the kind of "funny" we're talking about.
Confronted with a silhouette of the image from the cover of L.T. Caper Agent For H.E.R.O., our villains here do what anyone would do - they open fire.
Do you remember that old spy show "Man From U.N.C.L.E." and how every episode opened with bad guys shooting at what they thought was Robert Vaughn? Wouldn't it be hilarious to see that scene replicated across two poorly-trimmed pages in a black and white comic book? Sure it would.
I have to admit that as shoddy as some aspects of this comic book are, the lettering and sound effects are top-notch. Really professional stuff here.
And right when I give this comic book a compliment, look how it repays me.
The great part about L.T. Caper -I guess those are his initials and he isn't a lieutenant as previously assumed - the great part about this character is that if you give him a tommy gun he could be the mascot for a local pizza restaurant, if you gave him dark glasses and a mustache he's the mascot for "Low Rider Magazine", and if you drew him constantly in your math notebooks all through high school you might think he'd be a great character to build a comic book around.
When paleontologists unearth fossilized strata of failed proto-comedy writing, the very earliest layer is always filled with references to "Wizard Of Oz."
Hey, if you are wondering who those two guys in the background are supposed to be, well, they're "Man From U.N.C.L.E." characters. You know, "Man From U.N.C.L.E.," that popular pop culture touchstone nobody actually likes that was the basis for that wildly unsuccessful 2015 feature film remake that nobody actually saw. Be prepared to avoid another tired "Man From U.N.C.L.E." reboot, sometime in late 2026.
Here minor Hanna-Barbera character Secret Squirrel does his impression of one of those medieval paintings where all the characters are pointing and gesturing at objects of religious or cultural significance. Here, he's pointing at both edges of the comic book, indicating that at any time we could close this comic book and hurl it away from us, into the trash.
And if you thought Man From U.N.C.L.E. references were a little too mainstream, well "L.T. Caper" here taxes our overheated memory cells further by getting to their main wellspring of 1960s references, represented here by the suspiciously well-proportioned figure of "Steel Maiden."
L.T. Caper's mission is fairly straightforward, it's to get out of this comic without any overt James Bond referenc... too late.
And here we go with this comic's primary source of 60s super hero spoof or lampoon or shameless swiping or whatever you want to call it, it's a T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents parody. I can hear you asking now. What the heck is a "T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agent?" Well, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents is what happens when a smut paperback publisher gets into the comics game, hires Wally Wood away from Marvel and Samm Schwarz away from Archie, and gives Wood and a host of top notch comic book talent free license to create some surprisingly boring combination superhero/spy comics.
You aren't rocked with laughter at the spectacle of Dynamo and the rest of the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents bursting through the wall, singing the Mighty Mouse theme? Isn't this what comedy is all about, references aimed squarely at mid 80s comic nerds nostalgic for mid 60s comics? No. It isn't, and you aren't.
See, it's funny because he's old now. Still has great pecs, though.
Hey, remember all those hilarous Warner Brothers Road Runner cartoons where the coyote would use some sort of crazy contraption that was always somehow built by Acme? Here it's a mirror and it doesn't do anything outlandish, but L.T. Caper is hoping you'll find it amusing anyway.
If you thought the fake T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents singing the Mighty Mouse theme song was funny, get a load of this scene where they sing the Air Force song!
And everybody dies, the end! Hooray.
You'd think that this comic book would have the common sense to reach for the low-hanging comedy fruit and draw a 'tractor beam' machine that looks like a John Deere, but I guess that's too much to ask.
Fake Dynamo is bamboozled into matrimony by the fake Iron Maiden, because that's what women do, hypnotize men into getting married. Look out men! Avert your gaze!
Finally the artist gets to really cut loose on some over-wrought Wally Wood inks! This is what it's all about right here! Why didn't the whole comic look like this, instead of being about a Easy Rider Magazine mascot come to life?
Weren't expecting this obscure black and white parody comic to be the first time comics really delivered that full-on taint action? Nobody was.
Finally on page 23, our ostensible hero L.T. Caper actually.... wait for it... does something!
Fall DOWN and grab a jet pack that's flying UP or at least AWAY, sure, why not. We wouldn't want L.T. Caper to get out of this deadly situation by using some kind of special spy gadget of his own, that might actually be interesting.
He didn't capture Dr. Phoenix, and he didn't get the Brain Machine, and in fact we never got to see the Brain Machine at all, and everybody else on his team was blown to bits. In short, a complete failure for L.T. Caper, H.E.R.O., Spotlight Comics, the comic book readers and retailers of America, and Western Civilization in general.
Don't miss the exciting next issue of L.T. Caper! THIS ripoff parody character is from the 1940s!
Here's a handy tip for fledgling comic book companies and their advertising copywriting team - actually try *reading* the comic book before writing the promotional copy.
On second thought, considering the comic book in question, I withdraw my suggestion. Reading this thing is not advised under any circumstances.
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