You learn something new everyday – Skateman (registered TM)

Cover of Skateman #1 from Pacific Comics

I was originally going to do a long-form piece on Skateman #1 but after doing a little research on the interwebs I decided to change the focus of my discussion for this comic, but I’ll get to that in a bit. I found a copy of Skateman #1 from Pacific in a dollar bin at the Baltimore Comic-Con and pulled it because it was Pacific Comics. It was Neal Adams and the titular hero was wearing roller skates for crying out loud. I’d never heard of the comic and thought it looked like the kind of fun stuff that I love to find in cheapo bins. The fact that it was a Pacific comic and had Neal Adams name on it were added bonuses.

The title and cover alone are so silly that I was intrigued and eagerly showed off my find to my brother and friends that evening. We all got a kick out of it and it even came up in the Oddity Prodigy podcast we did discussing the convention, which can be found here. One of the most curious things is that Skateman is a registered trademark of Neil Adams and this is prominently displayed on the cover. Now it is widely known that the creators who published their stories with Pacific Comics owned their characters and stories, they do not usually have the trademark right on the cover. To me, this comic was a curious artifact.

This style of action imagery was a way Adams could do a fight sequence and quickly get back to the story.

After finally reading the comic I learned a couple of things. The first is that this comic is bat-sh*t crazy. The story involves a Vietnam war veteran driven to vigilantism on roller skates due to tragic events in his life. Something else I learned is that even Neil Adams can be a lazy writer when he punishes the main male character by having his girlfriend murdered, the event that drives him to become the hero Skateman. The final thing I learned, and the reason I changed the focus of this discussion, is that this comic is infamous as being considered one of the worst comics ever written.

One of the things I’ve always enjoyed about Neil Adams art is how he blends different images into one panel.

When I finished reading the story I did some poking around the internet and found this comic has been discussed time and time again on blogs, comic history sites, and even Reddit. The critical opinion of Skateman is that it is an awful comic. The Wikipedia entry alone contains several references to articles where it makes some all-time worst comics lists. I was blown away by how notorious the story was. This comic was all that I thought it would be and quite a bit more.

Skateman was silly and goofy but it was also more violent than I expected and there are a couple of racist phrases that wouldn’t feel out of place in a mature comic but come off as inappropriate in this screw-ball story. The use of the death of the main character’s girlfriend as the impetus for him to become a vigilante is a worn-out trope that wasn’t necessary, even in 1983. Finally the ending is very abrupt and there is no real closer to the story.

Once you get through all the negative aspects of the comic there are a couple of positive things to examine. The art is action-packed and energetic, signature aspects of Adams works when he was at his best. Skateman gives the reader a lot of story in nineteen pages including a detailed origin. Finally I love that the dude on skates takes out several bad guys with nunchucks, my favorite martial arts weapon. Overall I am very happy to own a comic that has such a place in comics history and even better I got it for a buck.

This is the opening splash page. It is the cover image duplicated with word balloons added. Kind of odd for a splash page to be duplicated in such a way.

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