Super-Blog Team-Up Expanded Universe The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones

The Super Blog Team Up is back and bigger than ever. A group of like minded Bloggers and Podcasters have banded together to talk and write about pop culture expanded universes. What are expanded universes you ask? Well it all starts with a franchise of some kind, whether it be a movie, TV show, book (or comic book), you name it, that eventually become so popular that the stories branch out to other media or forms of entertainment. It could be a movie that other stories are written in novels, or a toy line that also had a cartoon series and a comic book. I think you get the picture. We’ve all picked different franchises to write and talk about. Please take a look at all the wonderful contributors links at the end of this piece, I’m sure you’ll find some fascinating and wonderful blogs and podcasts.

I’ve chosen Indiana Jones for the universe that I wanted to write about. I’m old enough to have seen Raiders of the Lost Ark in the theaters and still remember the fear and revulsion I felt when Indy and Satipo entered the cave at the beginning of the movie and they had spiders crawling all over them. I have loved the Indiana Jones films my entire life and yet I know very little about the broader Indiana Jones Universe. I’ve never played the role playing game, I’ve never read any of the novels. Heck I’ve never even seen all of the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles! My brother and I had a couple of the toys so we certainly had our own adventures but that is neither here nor there. So what made me choose the swashbuckling pulp hero of eighties cinema?

The blu ray box set cover for the four movies

Well in the past few years I have picked up the Marvel movie adaptations for Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom, and Last Crusade. Most recently I started working on putting together a complete set of The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones, also from Marvel comics. The comic series was released between January 1983 and March 1986. This means that it was released well after the movie Raiders of the Ark – 1981, and well before The Last Crusade – 1989. Temple of Doom was released in 1984 and the movie adaptation came out that summer as well. I do not have the whole Further Adventures series but in the issues I have read there are definitely some incongruities between the events of the comics and the third and *cough* *mutter* fourth movies. 

Marvel Super Special Magazine 30 – cover by Butch Guice

It is actually those incongruities that can make expanded universes so much fun for fans to explore and discuss. We love to compare what is considered canon and then pick apart everything that is “wrong” or “made up” in some other story. We love to look at adaptations of stories and find the differences or extras. In fact, a podcast I really dig, “I Read Movies”, does exactly that. Paxton Holly reads movie novelizations and then discusses the differences between the movie and the book. It’s a great time and I highly recommend checking it out. By the way he’s also joined the SBTU gang for this outing so make sure you check out his piece. Simply put it is a lot of fun to get into the worlds of our favorite characters and find them to be  fleshed out, wonderful places we can repeatedly visit.

Creators
Script and Layout – John Byrne
Finished Art – Terry Austin
Letter – Joe Rosen
Colorist – Bob Sharen
Editor – Louise Jones
EiC – Jim Shooter

That line up reads like Marvel royalty, but what is interesting is that Byrne only wrote the first issue and provided art for the first two. According to Keith Dallas in the “American Comic Book Chronicles – The 1980’s” John Byrne did not like the editorial process imposed by Lucasfilm. After completing the first issue and finishing the plotting the second one Lucasfilm requested changes to the already approved story. John Byrne left the series at that point and the second issue was completed without him.

That is certainly one of the challenges involved with expanded universes, the owners of the property can be very particular about the stories their characters are used in. In the comics industry Byrne is certainly not unique in being challenged by the demands of Lucasfilm. Roy Thomas created the character Jaxxon, a green bunny-like alien, that Han Solo recruits in the first Star Wars comic story after the adaptation of the movie was completed. Lucas apparently did not care for the character and after that initial storyline he was not heard from again until 2018 and has since become the poster child of Star Wars expanded universe eratta. That’s enough about green space bunnies and prickly writers though, let’s get to our hero, Indiana Jones in one of his earliest non-movie adventures.

The story begins at the university where Indy teaches, in his class, where he is practicing his skills with a bullwhip by knocking a cigarette out of one of his student’s mouth. It is quite over the top. Marcus has just come into the room and is horrified but he’s there to bring Indy back to his office to greet a former student Charlie Dunne. As Indy and Charlie exchange pleasantries we see a mysterious figure outside the office window with a very large dagger, that seconds later ends up in Charlie’s back. Charlie had just finished telling Indy he knows where the Ikons of Ikammahen are before he collapses on the desk. Indy doesn’t believe they are real and Charlie never gets the chance to prove him wrong.

Marcus and Indy do not give chase and instead start going through Charlie’s things before they call the police. They find maps and details about what Charlie was working on and right then and there Indy decides he’s off on his next adventure. When Indy arrives in Krikambo (Africa) he meets up with Charlie’s sister Edith. They get back to her hotel room only to find it ransacked and the perpetrators still hanging around. They fiends grab Edith and take off through a window. Indy cold cocks one of the men and then chases the other one who has Edith.

At least it is not snakes

After a couple of panels with Indy following Edith’s kidnapper through the village he ends up in a booby trapped dead end. An Iron door falls in place behind Indy, trapping him, when another door below his feet opens and drops him down a chute into a room crawling with rats. The chase scene is very similar to the one from Raiders where Indy tries to rescue Marion. Indy eventually breaks through a locked wooden door only to find Edith being held prisoner in a throne room filled with gold. In said throne is a very large, well dressed man named Solomon Black. It turns out Mr. Black was expecting Edith’s brother Charlie, not the world renowned adventurer Indiana Jones. He wants the Ikons of Ikammanen that Charlie had discovered. Under the threat of Edith’s life Indy agrees to work with Solomon to find the Ikons.

We cut to a boat with Solomon Black, Indiana Jones, Edith, and a sea captain whose big, bushy, white beard would rival the Gorton Fisherman. They are reviewing the charts and the captain doesn’t believe there is land where Charlie’s maps indicate. Of course he is proven to be incorrect as they eventually reach the location only to find the island packed in dense fog. The island’s coast is littered with wrecked vessels so Indy, Edith and a couple of Solomon’s goons are forced to take a dinghy ashore.

The landing party finds the beach booby trapped with arrows flying at them as soon as they touch the dry ground. One of Black’s henchmen bites it while Indy knocks Edith to the ground. Indy and Edith eventually make it off the beach and into the jungle. Soon afterwards they reach a village in a valley surrounded by mountains. The village appears to be deserted but it is built around a huge structure that to me looks like a giant chimney but is probably a temple.

Indy and Edith explore the village and make their way to the temple and head inside. In the middle of the building is a round room lined with alcoves. In each alcove is a golden figure most of which have looks of extreme anguish and terror on their faces. Indy examines one of the figures pulling it from its resting place. When he does this it breaks at the ankles and human bones fall out. Before Indy even gets the chance to be horrified he is struck from behind. When he wakes up he’s tied to a chain, with Edith, suspended over a hole in the floor. Below them molten gold. In the room are several men dressed in ceremonial garb, waiting to lower their prisoners to their death and turn them into golden Ikons of Ikammahen!

What an ending! This is exactly what I would want in an Indiana Jones Adventure. Indy has to leave his dull, but necessary, work at the university in order to find a mysterious treasure. Throughout his journey he encounters one peril after another. Joining him for the fun is a beautiful woman. As an adventure story is a perfect fit for a comic book. Turning the story into a serial means the author can stretch it out, introduce new challenges along the way and end the first couple of issues with a cliffhanger keeping the reader engaged, wanting to buy the next issue to see how Indy escapes. Is there a better way to sell a comic book?

Even with all that awesomeness, there are a couple of flaws. The art, while excellent, suffers a bit in my mind because all the characters look like typical John Bryne characters. There is not a lot of uniqueness to them. The highlight of the art is once Indy gets into his adventuring gear, i.e. the leather jackets and fedora, he really does shine. The fact that Edith gets kidnapped and needs to be saved two minutes after meeting Indy is a little bit much with the whole female character needing to be rescued by the big, strong man. Overall though it is a really well done, pulp style adventure.

Creators
Plot and Script – David Michelinie
Pencils – Kerry Gammill
Inks – Sam Dela Rosa
Letterer – Joe Rosen
Editor – Louise Jones
EiC – Jim Shooter

I want to talk about this issue for a couple of reasons, only one of which is that I don’t have issue #2 to discuss and finish the previous story. Actually the reason I want to look at this one is that it has a bit more of an Indiana Jones feel to it than the one John Byrne wrote in my opinion.

The story begins with Indiana breaking into a French monastery in order to retrieve an artifact. There is a group of thieves that are posing as monks into order to cover up their operations stealing treasure and smuggling it to parts unknown. Indy gets what he came for but his escape does not go to plan as the gang of the thieves catch him in the act.

Once he is home safe and sound he learns from Marcus that the paper he grabbed to wrap his prize artifact in is actually a map that could lead them to the fabled people of Shintay. Marcus tells Indy that the Shintay are a legend, a tribe of people that left Atlantis and settled in sub Saharan Africa. Their conversation is interrupted by none other than star reporter Marion Ravenwood. After a small lovers spat Marion invites herself on Indy’s quest to see where the map takes them.

Once they are in Africa they are forced to continue their journey into the jungle without guides as all the hired hands joined an expedition that came though just before Indy and Marion arrived. In the depths of the jungle the raft that they are on is attacked by a pissed off hippo. Using his whip Indy is able to get Marion and himself to safety just to end up in a tree with a giant boa constrictor above them and hungry crocodiles below them. They swing away from those monsters but end up in quicksand. They are rescued though by the men from the mysterious expedition that hired all the help from the village.

The rescue is almost too good to be true and in fact is. Indy and Marion are brought back to the camp where they clean up and are offered dinner and a tent to spend the night. Indy is a bit suspicious and snoops around the camp when everyone appears to have gone to bed.

He discovers a tent filled with supplies that after a little poking around are in reality Nazi ammunition and not the medicals supplies the crates are labeled with. Just as Indy figures this out his hosts discover him and bum-bum-ba they are in their full Nazi uniforms. Lousy tricksters. Indy creates a distraction with his lantern, grabs Marion from their tent and gets out of the camp as quickly as possible. The find a small cave to hide in while the Nazi’s search for them. They are not alone in the cave though and the issue closes with a growling beast making its presence known as the Nazi search party passes by.

This story really has quite a few elements that really stand out and make it an excellent tale. First the issue begins with Indy already in the middle of a caper. The reader does not know how he got there or what he’s doing but we sure are along for the ride. It’s an action packed opening that really grabs you right away.

Marion shows up in this issue, but she is not in need of rescue or saving, instead she puts herself in the adventure working as Indy’s equal, a partner. When she’s in danger in the river later in the story Indy is as well. Instead of just Indy saving her and moving on, he is saving both of them and things keep getting worse until they both need help from the Nazi explorers.

Finally the antagonists are Nazis just like the first and third movies. Also like those movies there is a politeness to the adversaries because they are treasure hunters first and foremost and then evil would be world conquerors. All in all the characters in this issue are more dynamic and interesting then the one dimensional ones from the first issue. The story is another good pulp adventure that ends with a cliffhanger that really keeps the reader interested. Both stories are classic Indiana Jones adventures that I really want to find the next issues of so I can see how Indy, Edith and Marion get out of the jams they are in.

That wraps up my entry into the expanded universe of Indiana Jones. I cannot wait to get back out to the dollar bins and comic shows to see if I can track down the remaining issue of the series that I’m missing. Back in 1983 reading these comics off the newsstand would have been a great way for young kids and comic collectors to relive Indiana’s adventures while they waited for the Temple of Doom to be released.

Finally I want to Charlton Hero for leading the charge and the great graphics he provided for all us SBTU-ers. I also want to thank Between the Pages for coming up with the Expanded Universe idea for this event. It was fun writing this piece and working with the SBTU community.

Now, if you enjoyed this look at Indiana Jones beyond the movies I would like to direct your attention to the other entries in the Super Blog Team Up look at expanded universes, just click the links below to go on another amazing adventure!

Super-Hero Satellite: M.A.S.K.: The Road To Revolution
https://charltonhero.wordpress.com/2020/06/22/super-blog-team-up-presents-the-expanded-universe-of-m-a-s-k

Between The Pages Blog: Fantastic Forgotten Star Wars Characters
https://betweenthepagesblog.typepad.com/between-the-pages-blog/2020/06/super-blog-team-up-fantastic-star-wars-characters-that-youve-completely-forgotten.html


Comic Reviews By Walt: SBTU – Expanded Universe: Aliens and Predator

https://comicreviewsbywalt.wordpress.com/?p=17474

Dave’s Comic Heroes Blog: Logan’s Run Marvel Movie Adaptation
https://davescomicheroes.blogspot.com/2020/06/logans-run-marvel-movie-adaptation.html

The Telltale Mind: Archie Andrews – Superstar
http://thetelltalemind.com/2020/06/24/archie-andrews-superstar/

Radulich In Broadcasting: Flash Gordon Universe
https://www.spreaker.com/episode/30676120

The Source Material Comics Podcast: TMNT/Ghostbusters
https://www.spreaker.com/episode/32535480

Unspoken Issues: Mad-Dog (Marvel Comics, 1992)
https://www.spreaker.com/episode/32550135

Bronze Age Babies: Seven Decades of Apes-mania, and We’re Afflicted! https://bronzeagebabies.blogspot.com/2020/06/super-blog-team-up-seven-decades-of.html

Echoes from the Satellite – Tales from the Forbidden Zone – The Pacing Place
https://echoesfromthesatellite.blogspot.com/2020/06/super-blog-team-up-planet-of-apes-tales.html

Black & White and Bronze Comics – Beast on the Planet of the Apes Review https://blackwhitebronzecomics.blogspot.com/2020/06/super-blog-team-up-beast-on-planet-of.html

Pop Culture Retrorama: The Phantom Universe
https://popcultureretrorama.com/2020/06/24/super-blog-team-up-the-phantom-expanded-universe/amp/?__twitter_impression=true

MichaelMay.Online: Treasure Island Universe
http://www.michaelmay.online/2020/06/the-treasure-island-expanded-universe.html

DC In The 80s: The TSR Universe
http://www.dcinthe80s.com/2020/06/when-tsr-imprint-had-its-own-line-of.html

Cavalcade of Awesome – Jumper Universe
https://wp.me/p2NxJ-4aM

COMING SOON

The Daily Rios – Little Shop of Horrors
http://thedailyrios.com/

Lost N Comics Youtube – Expanding the Medium: Motion/Audio Comics
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJXEjtBJ-mkUVVaA5oOFNlA/videos

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For Reggie

Normally on this blog I write about the comic books that I read. I do it mostly as a journal but I also hope that there is the chance that someone else might read it and enjoy it. I’m writing this piece though in an effort to express my feelings of sadness and loss after hearing that Reggie, podcaster extraordinaire, has passed away.

I first discovered Chris and Reggie’s Cosmic Treadmill through the #besteventever “Eclipso: The Darkness Within” article on the Retroist website. I listened to their podcast entry for the event and was hooked from that very first episode. Here were two guys talking about something I loved, comics. They obviously researched everything they talked about and had a great re pore. Their work was tight and kept the listener entertained. That was in June of 2017. Over the course of the next nine months I listened to every episode of their podcast and am still a loyal listener.

Reggie had a great voice for podcasting. It was a voice that was fun to listen to. He sounded confident, smart, and passionate. It wasn’t just his voice though. There was something about the way that he and Chris talked on the show. They cared, and still do care, about whatever the subject was whether it was Fredric Wertham, the Doom Patrol, or Shade the Changing Man. No matter what the topic was you could tell it was something they treasured and wanted to share it with anyone who would listen. That came through in every episode. 

I wrote to them fairly regularly to tell them how much I liked the show. I offered up my own stories about the comics they featured, tried to provide some feedback, but generally I just wanted to reach out to let them know I was listening. The first time that Reggie read one of my email messages on the show I was over the moon. It made me feel like I was now part of the club. It made me feel like if I ever had the chance to meet Reggie or Chris that we could be great friends.

As time passed I developed some kind of relationship with Reggie and Chris, or at least what constitutes a relationship between people who have only communicated over email or messages on Twitter. One day Reggie reached out and asked if I was interested in being on his show where he was examining what it means to be a collector. I jumped at the offer. For me it was an opportunity to actually talk to Reggie and let him know how much I enjoyed his work. When the day finally came I was thrilled and nervous but Reggie made me feel comfortable and walked me through the whole process to put me at ease. He was really great that day and I was fortunate to have someone so skilled walk me through my first podcast.

Today, as I was reading what people were saying on Facebook and Twitter, I learned that my case isn’t so unique. Reggie had tons of fans and friends whose lives he touched, just like mine, in many different ways. He was someone who loved life and the people in it whether they grew up with him or listened to him on his shows. My heart goes out to his wife, family, and friends and my prayers tonight are with them as they work through this. My thoughts are with Chris, his podcasting partner and his friend.

As I was wrapping up work I wanted to hear Reggie’s voice again so I downloaded the Cosmic Treadmill episode where Reggie and Chris talked about Sheldon Mayer and the comic Sugar and Spike. I picked that one because it is one of my favorite episodes of their show. Reggie made a comment once that he didn’t quite understand why I liked that episode so much. Listening to it again today I can tell you why I liked it so much. It is because Chris and Reggie are a little looser than normal, they swear a little (which they don’t normally), and they have a lot of fun with the material. They made all the work they put into the show just seem so easy and effortless in that one set and I loved it.

I’ll miss you Reggie.

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Groo in the Marvel Age

I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I am working on putting together a collection of Groo comics. That collection includes more than just issues of Groo the Wanderer though, I also buy comics and magazines with Groo on the cover. Sergio Aragones is a master of one-page gags and Groo is a perfect character to be the subject of those cartoons. One place that Aragones and Groo were featured fairly regularly was the covers of Marvel Age, the Official Marvel News Magazine.

Groo was on the cover of Marvel Age seven times, and thanks to Mike’s Amazing World I’ve learned that those covers were all released right around Christmas. Issue 49 was released on January 6th, 1987, and issue 96 was released on November 20th, 1990, and all the rest were released in December. That explains why all of the issues except issue 24 are Christmas jokes, something I didn’t notice until I had all my issues together in one spot.

I’m missing two of the covers but since I recently got all the issues I do have together I wanted to take a closer look at them. Issue 24, above, is the first time Groo was on the cover of Marvel Age. The article in the magazine talks about how Groo left Pacific Comics and came to Marvel with a bit of story preview of what Sergio And Mark Evanier have planned for the first couple of issues.

The article claims that Mark and Sergio wanted to see Groo reach a wider audience, which at the time meant newsstand sales along with the direct market. It indicates that they left Pacific because they only did direct sales. Mark Evanier has a slightly different explanation in the Groo Special released by Eclipse that involves Pacific and how they were unable to produce the comics anymore. Either way, Marvel published Groo for 120 issues along with two original graphic novels and a prestige format reprint series, so I suspect the relationship between Marvel and the Groo creative team was a pretty good one.

The cover for issue 49 is the first of many Christmas gags featuring the inept barbarian. Groo looks rather menacing as an intruder comes down the chimney. His katana is drawn and the light reflected from the moon shines through the frosty window. It’s a good joke that gets right to the heart of everything Groo does, that is wreck or destroy everything around him.

The article in this issue is a good piece on how successful Groo has been at Marvel and all the things that Sergio and Mark are working on besides the monthly comic. It also previews the upcoming graphic novel “The Death of Groo”. There are some great scenes from the comic and there is a neat little bit about the secret message that Mark tries to get into each issue.

The holiday cover for issue 61 features a bunch of kids in tears because they have no tree to hang their ornaments on because Groo used the branches for a fire and roasting skewers for his dinner. The best part of the gag is the nonplussed look on Groo’s face as he eats his cooked lizard.  The only bit about Groo in this particular issue is in the last feature of the magazine, an open letter from Santa about the new Marvel graphic novels. Santa is requesting that Marvel send a bunch of copies of the Death of Groo to his workshop because the barbarian’s adventures are a big hit with the elves.

This cover is probably the sweetest of the bunch. There is a huge cast of the characters from Groo, including Sergio Aragones, Mark Evanier, and Stan Sakai in the back row all singing Christmas Carols. Well, all except Groo who cannot read and is holding his carol booklet upside down. My favorite thing about this cover though is Ruferto in the lower-left corner with his “lips” pursed as if he is whistling. It is a cute image and anytime dogs appear to have lips I find it funny.

The Groo news in this issue covers two really cool topics. The first is the reprint collection that is going to be released that will contain the original Pacific comics, the Eclipse special, and lots of other Groo stories. Sergio and Mark also promise lots of extras and seem excited to get Groo into a prestige format book. The other news is that there is going to be a new original graphic novel, The Life of Groo. This will be a follow up to the successful Death of Groo released the previous year.

With this cover we see Groo doing what he does best, wreaking havoc at the most inappropriate time. It is an image that is reminiscent of the margin gags Sergio is famous for doing for years in Mad magazine. This is the last issue of Marvel Age featuring Groo that I have. Hopefully, at some up-coming comic show or dollar bin I’ll be able to track down 96 and 109.

There is no news to announce in this issue, instead there is a two-page piece that gives a nice publishing history of Groo from Pacific all the way up to the Groo graphic novels. It is a nice reminder that Groo is still going strong, in fact, the same month this issue of Marvel Age came out Groo #62 was on the stand, just over halfway through it’s run with Marvel comics!

Groo is the only comic that I collect where I put such effort into collecting the comics and related items. It is a series I have read and enjoyed for most of my life. It is a rare book that has always been creator-owned and has been published by five different publishers. You would think that by now Sergio and Mark would have run out of stories. Maybe they have, the last new stories published by Dark Horse, were released in 2017, but I wouldn’t bet my cheese dip on it.

I’ll close with the house ad promoting the double-sized Groo the Wanderer #50 featured on the back cover of Marvel Age 73.

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Sunday Fun-Day – X-Men #137

Back here I told a story about how I was at the right place at the right time when a dealer said the comics in several boxes were now all a dollar a piece instead of their marked price. The were mostly variant covers of recent Marvel boxes, Batman & Spider-man comics, but also mixed in were various, mostly older comics, seeded in to get the buyer to look through the whole bin and spend more money. I was one of those buyers and I walked away with a big pile of comics I am quite pleased to now own.

The copy of X-Men #137 pictured here was one of those books. This particular comic is in pretty rough shape. The staples are off center hence the poor cropping and visible spin. There is some ink on the advertisement on the back cover. There are plenty of visible creases and tears, but despite all that it is still a very readable copy of X-Men 137. It is still the Death of Jean Grey, the end of the Dark Phoenix story, and above all an excellent issue.

This is Chris Claremont and John Byrne at their best. The Dark Phoenix saga is one of the greatest stories in modern comics. It is something all other X-men stories are compared to. The story has been reprinted dozens of times, heck I own several of them. As a collector though there is something very exciting about coming across this comic in a dollar bin. There is a lot to be said to be able to take this comic out of the bag and reading it. I’m able to feel the old paper, to smell that “old comic smell”. Reading the single issue like this I can reminisce about what it must have been like reading fresh off the newsstand. The whole thing is an experience and I’m glad I was able to do that!

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The Nuclear Family and The Outsiders

I was born in the early seventies and grew up in the eighties during the end of the Cold War. During that time the possibility of nuclear holocaust felt like an ever-present danger. I did not practice duck and cover drills in school or anything but we did have fallout shelter signs showing us how to get to the basements of the old buildings we went to school in. It was also a major topic in pop culture. There were plenty of Sunday night movies dealing with the subject, like “The Day After”, “Special Bulletin” and “Testament”. It was the subject of major motion pictures like “Wargames”, “Damnation Alley”, and “The Manhattan Project”. Finally, it was a topic in the comics we read, in this case, The Adventures of the Outsiders issues 39 and 40.

I should say up front that when I was a kid Batman and The Outsiders, The Outsiders (Baxter series) and Adventures of the Outsiders were comics my brother collected. I may have read an issue here and there but really I’ve only got into the series in recent years. I grabbed these two issues at a convention from the cheapo bins because they are the first stories with the Nuclear family, a team of nuclear powered robots. The robots were created by Dr. Shanner to resemble his own family who had died from radiation poisoning from his own research. They are also designed to appear like the idyllic “nuclear” family of the fifties consisting of a father, mother, two boys, a daughter, and a small dog.

“Do you want to play a game?”

I recently came across the characters in a short story in the 2018 DC Nuclear Winter Special. They are the story “Last Christmas” written by Paul Dini with art by Jerry Ordway. The story is a Firestorm story and is actually my favorite in the anthology. As a side note, the whole anthology was one of the better ones that DC has put out in recent years, I would recommend finding it. While researching this piece I found on Comic Vine that the Nuclear family actually have very few appearances, which include Who’s Who and The DC Comics Encyclopedia. This surprises me because in the right hands they could be foils for lots of DC heroes. Anyway, let’s get to the story.

Creators

Writer / Editor / Co-creator – Mike Barr
Artist / Co-creator – Jim Aparo
Colorist – Helen Vesik

The story opens with a young woman speaking to a sick man hidden by shadows sitting in a wheelchair. He is describing what happens in a nuclear explosion, in graphic detail. He describes what would happen if an atomic device blew up in Los Angeles. First, there would be the nuclear radiation, killing everything in a six-mile radius. Then the electromagnetic pulse, then the thermal pulse, the fireball, the mushroom cloud, and the blast wave, all followed by the radioactive fallout. Honestly, it is pretty heavy stuff.

We learn that the man is Dr. Shanner and he is upset that the world doesn’t realize how dangerous nuclear radiation is. He wrote a book that no one read. He and the young woman believe that everyone needs to know how dangerous nuclear power is, and they have a plan to get their point across. That plan involves introducing the world to the Nuclear Family!

We cut to the Outsiders who are in their new base of operations, an off-shore rig a mile off the coast of Santa Monica. The team is sitting around discussing their split with Batman and celebrating their move to the west coast.  We then see the team members adjusting to their new lives in California. Halo and Katana are unpacking a moving truck, Black Lightning and Metamorpho are having breakfast and Looker is getting a modeling job.

After this nice day-in-the-life bit, we move on to the team working on providing security at the opening of a new Nuclear Power plant. There are protesters outside the plant and the Outsiders have been hired to provide some undercover security in case things get out of hand. Next, we see the young woman, who was working with Dr. Shanner earlier, in the back of a delivery van filled with all kinds of technical equipment. She is recording notes for her book called “Fear”. We learn that she is Professor Andrea Wye and she is fascinated by fear and how it influences the human race. She is also directing a team of terrorists who are headed to the nuclear power plant.

The team of terrorists are foiled by the Outsiders before they can complete their mission. They are not the only ones breaking into the power plant though. Dr. Shanner’s Nuclear Family, who appears to look like a typical American family, easily work their way through the crowds to a hidden backdoor entrance. The family makes their way to the core and the alarms sound. The sounds of the sirens sends the Outsiders into the plant and the dignitaries currently on tour run out screaming the place is going to explode. This sends the crowds outside into a panic.

Meanwhile, the Outsiders have found the Nuclear Family. At first, the Outsiders think they are just a family who need to see a doctor when suddenly they are attacked. The Nuclear family starts firing radioactive blasts from their hands at them. The Outsiders try to defend themselves while the family spout quips about drinking coffee and how cute Geoforce is. They are really written to sound like the Cleaver family from “Leave it to Beaver”.

The battle ends when Halo hits the Nuclear family with a stasis aura. When the family is subdued the Outsiders realize that they are not human and once they get them transported back to their headquarters they find out that they are actually robots! In order to figure out what the robot’s purpose is they need to find their creator. Somehow they need to let the Nuclear family go and then follow them when they return to their maker. They deposit the robots in the hills above the Pacific coast highway and just as the Outsiders had hoped when the family wakes up they don’t know what happened and decide the best course of action is to head home. As they do this we cut back to Outsiders headquarters and see that one of the robots, the mom, is still in the stasis chamber.

Back at Doc Shanner’s house he and Professor Wye are arguing. The professor has realized that Shanner had bigger plans for the nuclear plant than just scaring the public with a fake attack. The family returns and Shanner is very pleased that they were not captured and did not reveal his plans to the authorities. As the family settles in Professor Wye realizes the Nuclear family looks just like the Doctor’s deceased family! She confronts him saying that he told her his family all died of radiation poisoning and that was why he was helping her. He then reveals his true plan that he intends to blow up Los Angeles.

At the end of the last issue Looker accidentally revealed herself by gasping when Dr. Shanner said he was going to use the Nuclear family to destroy Los Angeles and prove how horrible nuclear power can be. Professor Wye uses some kind of tranquilizer on Looker and then heads out to her van telling Shanner she has to add his story to her book. In reality, she realizes she needs to get away from the Doctor, the Nuclear family, and the city as quickly as possible.

Meanwhile, the Outsiders are getting worried that Looker is in trouble. They decide to move things along by taking the mom robot and go to a local golf course. They then hide hoping the radiation emitted from the robot will attract the rest of the family. The plan works but the robots are too much for the Outsiders who are defeated and the family gets away. Time for a new plan.

Using the walkie talkies they took from the fake terrorists the Outsiders are able to track down the communications van Professor Wye is driving. Sure, it’s a bit of a stretch, but they’re out of captured robots and the story isn’t really going to end with Los Angeles getting blown up. Once the team gets ahold of the professor she says she’ll tell them everything if they let her go. Eventually, Wye gives up all the details of Shanner’s plans. The Outsiders decide that they cannot go to the authorities because it will cause panic in the city and that will make it even harder to stop the Nuclear family.

The team heads off to Shanner’s home while Wye gets back in her van trying to get as far away as possible. They confront the doctor demanding to know where the nuclear robots are. Shanner goes off on a tirade about how his family died and how the world needs to learn a lesson the hard way. Halo finds Looker who is just coming too. Since the doctor won’t tell them what they want to know the team decides to head off to the new nuclear power plant hoping that the Nuclear family is there.

Their hunch was right. The Nuclear family is about to destroy the reactor just as the sun is coming up when the Outsiders attack. Since they know the family are just robots they are really able to cut loose now. Katana dismembers the little boy robot. Metamorpho turns into lead and deflects a blast from the mother robot into the dad robot which knocks him out of commission temporarily. The family recovers enough to get everyone back to the reactor so they can complete their mission.

The Outsiders get it together enough to do something to stop them. Honestly, I didn’t understand what happened in this scene. Geoforce and Metamorpho fly up to the family…do something… and there is an explosion. The result is the reactor is intact and there are robot parts littering the ground. The story concludes with Doctor Shanner hearing that his plan was foiled while listening to the news on the radio. We also learn that Metamorpho turned himself into Trinitrotoluene, or TNT, and exploded the Nuclear family robots before they could reach critical mass and blow up the reactor tower. The final image is of a book store featuring the national bestseller book, “How to Survive the Coming Nuclear War”

Wrap up

This story brought back all those memories from growing up when the idea of nuclear bombs destroying all of creation felt like something that really could happen. It reminded me of watching “The Day After” with my mom and understanding that this was something that was possible. I would like to mention that I’ve revisited some of these movies in the past couple of years and they are still quite terrifying. That being said though Wargames is a movie I really do love. As an adult, I have my own thoughts about nuclear power and arms proliferation, but I don’t worry so much about a possible holocaust. There are other horrors in this world and more immediate things to worry about.

I also want to mention that I don’t fully understand how Batman and the Outsiders, The Outsiders (Baxter series), and Adventures of the Outsiders publishing actually worked. The Outsiders #1 and Batman and the Outsiders #27 were both cover-dated Nov 1985. In The Outsiders, the team has split with Batman and moved to the West Coast. The split doesn’t occur in Batman and the Outsiders #32 covered dated April 1986. The following month Adventures of the Outsiders starts with issue #33. Adventures of the Outsiders continues until issue #39 when it starts reprinting The Outsiders #1. I just don’t get how the new series started before the team had broken up in the main book, or how the main book continued for several months afterwards. If you get it, let me know in the comments.

Let’s talk about something more positive now. These stories come from an era when I think comics were at their best. Mike Barr writes a big story across two issues but also manages to do a lot of character building and works in details that make the Outsiders compelling. In the scenes where Halo and Katana are moving into their new home, we get some real insight into the “mother” “daughter” aspects of their relationship that runs throughout the series. When Black Lightning and Metamorpho are having lunch they are not in costume and it is just Jeff and Rex enjoying the start of their day. It is details like this that add life to the story.

My favorite thing about these comics though is the Jim Aparo art. His linework is so tight and clean. The characters are so well defined, they are strong, and their emotions portrayed beautifully. The action sequences are brief but everything is done quickly and clearly in order to keep the story moving. The scenes where Doctor Shanner is describing what would happen if there was a nuclear explosion in the city are appropriately horrifying and intense. It is really enjoyable looking over his work. For that reason, I am going to close with the cover of Outsiders #2, the Baxter comic that the stories were originally published in. While I really like the Adventures #40 cover you simply cannot beat the intensity of the original cover.

Image courtesy of Chris Sheehan because I could not find my copy
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