Friday, November 18, 2011

Tales from the Long Box: Boris the Bear Slaughters the Teenage Radioactive Black Belt Mutant Ninja Critters #1

Every week Seth goes into his back issue bins, picks out a single issue, story arc, or creative run, pours through it and then writes about it. He calls it Tales from the Long Box. Though old and now either retconned out of existence or made irrelevant by the latest event, these books still share something in common... they're bagged, boarded, and a part of comics history.

Boris the Bear Slaughters the Teenage Radioactive Black Belt Mutant Ninja Critters #1

Sometimes I stumble across comics that I have no idea where they've come from. Such is the case with this one about an anthropomorphic teddy bear who sets out on a heinous killing spree. I have no recollection of buy this title, and no memory of ever reading it before. However, after finding it tossed haphazardly in a drawer I knew I had to not only read but write about it as well.

The first thing to know about Boris the Bear is that this is a really awful book. It also perfectly exemplifies late 80's/early 90's comics culture and pop culture in general. As such, it was obviously meant as a direct stab at the prevailing trend at the time, which apparently was stories featuring animals that solve crimes, perform kung-fu and carry a variety of weapons. It is the comics equivalent of those late-night tv movie Twilight parodies and just as awkwardly not-funny.

One of the more bizarre things about this title is that it features a "story by" credit (Mike Richardson) as well as two scripting credits (Randy Stradley and James Dean Smith) which means the non-existent plot, and horrendous jokes are the blame of not just one lazy writer, but three. Three people concocted lines like "eat yer heart out Stallone" and hilarious concepts such as the moronic, thinly veiled character spoofs.

The story revolves around our "hero" Boris, (from what I can tell, who had starred in more comics before this particular one came along) getting fed up with the plethora of talking-animal characters prevalent in his comics. He makes the decision the cure to this is to go murder them all. There's no explanation as to how the fictional characters in his comics also exist within his world as flesh-and-blood creatures. But that is okay because the writers seem to be telling us "hey you guys want to see a teddy bear gun down all those annoying mutant turtle-like characters, right?!? right?!?".

The plot finds our lead character bumping into "hilarious" parodies of characters like Cerebus (called Slobberus here), a Yosagi Yojimbo take-off, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and, eventually, nearly every anthropomorphic character you've ever seen in any medium. Yosagi is the first to bite it, as he's shot to pieces for no real reason. I guess at this point we were supposed to be laughing hysterically and pumping our fists in solidarity with Boris. This was the late 80's after all. Dark was cool.

Slobberus is the second to meet his end, as he is shot multiple times with an UZI, and eventually has his brains blasted out as he sits slumped against a brick wall. It's strangely cold-blooded and unfunny. There is this weirdly dark side to this book that never achieves what could be classified as laugh-worthy or even mildly humorous. It's as if all the gags and jokes were written by 13 year old boys who were sick of their younger brothers watching TMNT cartoons during wrestlemania.

For a good example of this look no further than Slobberus who speaks in stilted dialogue that comes with "slobber" effects in between sentences. Hilarious.

When we finally get around to Boris' showdown with the real targets of the creators vitriol it's downright stupid. The TMNT characters are essentially their comic and cartoon counterparts down to three of their names. A fourth is named "Bob". One of the turtles gets kicked in the stomach so hard that his eyeballs pop out of his head. While he begins rummaging around on the ground for eyes, one of his amphibious brethren gets his head punched through, Punisher: War Zone-style. The eye-less one eventually is beheaded. The last is dispatched by being torn from his shell before he's smashed on the ground repeatedly as a fount of blood erupts into the air in a scene that would put the makers of Saw to shame. After all this, Boris adds insult to injury by preparing a giant pot of turtle soup.

I could go on but there's no point in recounting this plot any further. The whole story reaches it's climax in a room full of nearly every animal character you've ever seen in any book, film of television show, and features an epilogue where Boris kills some Care Bears. Yes, even those magical, friendly little bears are in Boris' cross hairs.

Now, I can see how all of this may actually sound clever, or possibly even funny. Unfortunately it isn't. 20 plus years after it's release this book is still as awful as I imagine I thought it was upon it's release. I'm still torn as to whether or not to believe the makers of this book were just trying to create a comical skewering of the TMNT and their ilk or if, perhaps, they weren't just jealous of that franchises success. I'm leaning more toward the latter.

On the other hand the book is drawn well, and hey, it was released in 1988 and here I am writing about it well over twenty years after it's release. That has as much to do with the fact that I needed a book from my long boxes to write about as it does with the merits of the book itself but hey, Boris the Bear is a comic that exists. Not much else can be said for it...

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