COMICS ON THE CAN
Writer – (Christopher Priest,) Illustration – Jorge (not “I ruined my legacy with 3 shitty movies”) Lucas
Tarnation, whut you got there sonny? Iz dat one of dem “funny books” Jethro was sayin he saw when he went to Oklahoma city that one time? Shoot, I ain’t never done seen sumthin like no words and pictures put together! T’aint natural I tells ya! Jus this last day o’ our Lord, yew know; the day God rests fer makin tha whole world and we bother him with singin hymns and the like? Anyway the good reverend Cecil H. Abernathey dun got talkin on the pulpit about these here funny books! He wuz sayin “Corruption of the innocent” and that good god fearin christian boys should be doin their chores instead! He said if they had time for frivolity young boys should be havin crabapple fights down by widow Johnson’s watern hole… only in their underwear.
Ya’know, come to think of it, kinda strange that the reverend made a big point about boys being in their underwear. I don’t know what “lithe” or “supple” mean ina context of young boys in their clingy, water soaked underwear meant either… or why when he said that he seemed to drift off into a personal fantasy or sumtin. I’m sure the good reverend wuz jus usin fancy words for god fearin and right thinkin christian.
Anyway these funny books put wrong thought in yer head son; look here there fellas dressed up like circus performers doin flips and whatnot fightn fellers dressed even weirder’n them. We got enuff adventure here in the ole’ west killin injuns, high noon gun fights, the railroad comin thru Snake piss gulch, ghost riders in the sky, and thinin out giant herds o’ buffalo wit’ out thinkin about time travelers comin back here and upsetting our lifestyle wit different lookin folk and ray guns. Your mama would be gittin the vapors again if’n she saw this picture of a giant purple cowpoke tryin to kill half the universe!
No good will come O’ this and it certainly won’t replace current popular forms of ener’tainment liken starin at clouds, poems about yer horse and singin hymns in church! Wrong thoughts I tell ya! Lemme see this… coure I kin read sum! School marm dun taught me the three Rs jus like the rest of the townsfolk! Now leesee here… that feller there is in a iron suit like the knights of yore? He’s fightin some dude from another planet that’s fixin ta kill us all? How bout this feller? He’s dressed in the ‘merican flag? He’s punchin a german feller named Adolf? The proprietor of the feed store is named Adolf he’s a pleasant enough feller. Should be punchin an irishman but ok. Cool, interdimensional travel! So this here funnybook prefigures multiverse theory?
Hmmm, look, sonny, I’m gonna answer nature’s call. I’m gonna take this with me into the privvy and read the whole thing… jus’ to make sure there taint nuttin that can lead you away from the righteous path… I’ll let you know my thoughts later… COURSE I kin write! That’s one o’ dem three Rs i wuz taught!
Rev. Abernathey is having some get together; he invited all the young boys to his house. He has one of those newfangled cameras or sumtin.
Before Black Panther was a box office juggernaut he was just the king of Wakanda. Sure he had the cool suit, heightened abilities and all that sweet sweet vibranium like in the movies but he was just another superhero in Marvel’s line up. Which meant he had all the trappings of comic book superheroes; a hot headed sidekick, convoluted plot lines which included arch enemies, evil twins and time travel. It is one such classic trope that the king of Wakanda finds himself embroiled in with issue #46 of this particular run of Black Panther. Panther and his… entourage… team… posse (in both the old west use and the vernacular of late 90’s hip hop) appear in hickstown Texas in 1875. Now time travel usually comes front loaded with its own group of tropes, which are exploited to a fun degree, but this story has the added wrinkle of four people of color suddenly appearing in a backwater Texas town in the late 1800’s.
Panther’s posse consists of himself, his ex-fiance (to complicate things emotionally) his hot headed sidekick Queen Divine Justice (who’s dressed like TLC from the mid-nineties), what seems to be the embodiment of his personal 6 yr old (referred to as “Loony Tunes Panther”), Everett Ross and that late nineties/early aughts goto gov’t man in black wonk Peter Gyrich. How they got there is pretty inconsequential. Ok, Gyrich accidentally activated some magical frog totems… because, comic books.
See, I told you it wasn’t important.
Ross is a bit freaked out by appearing in the ole’ west, especially considering the circumstance. When Monica suggest they keep a low profile Everett points to Black Panther in his vibranium Panther suit and says “Low profile? May I present exhibit ‘A’…” The situation becomes weirder when the sheriff shows up calling him “Sundance” and totally ignoring the other members of the posse.
Oh wait, that’s because the rest of T’Challa’s group do the only sensible thing when white police officers show up with weapons drawn; they hide. The story makes no mention of how the townsfolk that saw the whole group moments before failed to notice that they all ran, oh sorry… flew via Vibranium boots… into a nearby barn because… comic books.
Ross has fallen prey to a standard comic book trope here; the evil twin, kinda. Ross is apparently the spittin image of someone called Sundance who cheated the sheriff in cards and banged his wife… in a bed, I guess (but i’m not ruling out a couch). Due process being what it is in the time romanticised by “Well regulated militia” members of today, Ross gets tossed in the hoosegow! The rest of the posse get to play the fish out of water plotline to reasonably fun effect. Gyrich gets contemporary clothes because simple townsfolk in 1875 aren’t ready for people dressing like human panthers or cast members of “Living single” yet. T’Challa, Looney Tunes T’Challa (because, comic books) and the ladies debate on how the hell to get back to good ole’ 2002 where Creed, Nickleback and Puddle of Mudd are topping the charts, “Star Wars Episode II – Attack of the clones” is doing boffo box office and find out if Kelly Clarkson or Justin Guarini was going to win the top spot in American Idol. Not much is resolved, Looney Tunes Panther sneaks off and sends a telegram, Ross gets busted outta jail by Sundance and Gyrich makes himself a federal agent by crafting a gold star and a lot of people keep mentioning a guy on a white horse.
Ross, because he is keenly aware of how a universe that has super versatile elements from space, sassy sidekicks that wear colorful spandex gym shorts and frog totem based time travel works, realizes that Sundance is his great grandpappy. Therefore making the “evil twin” plot a misdirection! Instead we got the classic “Time paradox” plot. For some reason, instead of hiding out in the badlands or whatever, him and Sundance get a room at the saloon. Presumably they talk about painted Jezebels showing their ankles or something.The sheriff would never look in the one hotel in town because… comic books.
T’Challa and his posse, now in inconspicuous cowboy duds go have breakfast. They find out Ross got busted outta the hoosegow the night before and that the sheriff is getting a posse together for a necktie party (my words). Looney Tunes T’Challa, with irony being his weakness, is delighted to no end about such a thing and decides to join the posse. He enters a saloon completely populated by Asgardians… because, comic boo… WAIT WHAT?
During breakfast T’Challa, ex love and Moesha in da club are mugged by racists and he soundly kicks their asses (attempted mugging, really). He then comes across another great comic book trope; the out of time team-up! Rawhide Kid (pre-flaming version), Kid Colt and the Two-Gun Kid (better known as The Kids! Kinda lame I know but The Defenders and The Regulators were taken) show up responding to Looney Tunes T’Challa’s late night request for help.
Ross wakes up from sleep sensing an ambush and runs into Thor; apparently the guy on the white horse everyone has been talking about. Thor doesn’t recognize Ross because this is 1800’s Thor. Of course where Thor is, Loki and his mischief is never far behind. 1800’s Loki telepathically gets knowledge of the future from Looney Tunes Panther thus tapping into another great Time Travel paradox trope “Bad guy knows shit, future in jeopardy”!
Sadly, it is only recently I’ve become aware of Christopher Priest and his role in comic book history. All writing about his run on Black Panther anoints his as THE definitive one. This particular story has a lighter touch that I would not have expected from the firebrand writer but looking at some of his other work (Powerman and Iron Fist, Quantum and Woody) I see a wicked sense of humor and a great head for action. So putting T’Challa in the ole’ west makes more sense considering. It might seem like I’m bagging on the story but it is actually hella fun; the brisk pace bounces you over the plot holes and there is a sense of fun running through the story. The twist of 1800’s Loki and Thor make sense in a forehead slapping “why didn’t I think of that” obvious kinda way. Tropes are tropes because they work and you can’t escape them, really. When the story, characters and overall vibe of the book is hitting a stride tropes lose their cliche and open up for tinkering and subversion. Which is what this issue did at every satisfying turn. T’Challa, at the time of this book’s printing, may have just been a superhero but that also means Black Panther was doing what comics are supposed to do despite or because of the tropes; make for fun reading.
OTHER THOUGHTS TANGENTIAL TO THE MAIN BODY OF THE COLUMN BUT I COULDN’T FIT IN ORGANICALLY…
There, after almost two years of promising Black Panther (I started hyping it back in late May 2016) I finally did it. Hope it was worth the wait.
Rick, my sometimes roommate, whom I share a bathroom with, begged me to do this issue. Not because he is a Black Panther fan, but because he has been looking at this book sitting on top of the box pile for a really long time. He was sick of it.
In fact he took it out of the box and put it on top of my new comics pile above the box… just to drive home the point.
OK, Rick! You happy now! Sheesh!
I meant to do this book to coincide with the movie coming out but my coverage of the 2018 AVN Awards went long. So I guess dropping it just before the home video release (and the zealous request of my roommate) will have to do.
I don’t think Queen Divine Justice will make an appearance in Black Panther 2: Electric boogaloo (working title). At least not dressed as one of the Fly Girls from “In living color”
Wasn’t Gyrich in some of the X-Men movies? He’d be a great character to stand around and get yelled at by Secretary of State Thunderbolt Ross in the MCU.
As always I’m pretty amused by the ads in such dated books. This one we got adverts for Crash Bandicoot 2: Wrath of cortex, Marvel Recharge 2 Collectable card game and Corn Nuts.
God, Corn Nuts are fucking disgusting.
I have Crash Bandicoot 2 for my PS4. It frustrates the crap outta me. I used to be good at it but that was many years, 30 lbs and one marriage ago.
Nickleback? WTF were we thinking?
This will never not be the defining skit about that era of disposable “rock” …
I don’t read Cracked.com anymore because the owners fired all of these great funny writers and went total freelance contributions.
Nelly, Pink and Eminem all were big on the charts in 2002 also. I still love Pink. I ran into Nelly at the 7-11 last week: he was fixing the slurpee machine. Em… yeah he’s still ‘round I hear.
Uuuummm, I did, actually.
I kinda see Queen Divine Justice kicking the shit outta Mr Cheeks just on principle.
SPOILERS: Kelly Clarkson won American Idol.
2002 also kicked off the golden age of superhero movies with Sam Raimi’s “Spider Man”.
Then almost killed it with “Spider Man 3” in 2007.
DC has their own Cowboy who’s no stranger to time travel with Jonah Hex. So familiar that in both the Justice League Unlimited and Legends of Tomorrow he’s utterly indifferent about it.
Priest has had a storied career this article titled “The man who made Black Panther cool” is a decent cliff notes version.
I enjoyed the hell out of that Quantum and Woody run btw.
I did read some of Hudlin’s run on Black Panther, mostly the X-Men crossover stuff.
There was a talking communist gorilla if I recall. Because… Comic books.
NEXT: Well, I can’t promise Black Panther anymore… shit!
LATER: Not that I was running out but I grabbed some weird interesting stuff on free comic book day from the 10 for a dollar bin. I’m gonna shuffle those into the remaining box books and let the cards fall where they may.