Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Colossal No

Much of the moldy old dregs of comicdom I spotlight here is of the "so bad it's actually good" school, like this or this. Lest you think I am a completely undiscerning dolt who would rather read Li'l Jinx than Optic Nerve (which of, course, I am), let's examine a comic that really, really, really, really sucks. One that I can't find a damn thing nice to say about.

How about The Colossal Show #1, released by Gold Key comics in 1969? Not only did the comic only survive for one issue, it's a TV tie-in with a Saturday morning cartoon that never aired, and whose pilot episode is now lost. And thank God for that, because if the show was anything like this wretched comic book, it would have been a short-lived stinkeroo of Where's Huddles? proportions.

The high concept: our protagonist is Mr. Colossal, who is a talent agent for the Roman coliseum. His assistant is named Festus and together, they dodge imperial entanglements with the Roman Emperor and his wife (neither of whom bear any resemblance to any actual Emperor). The comic's setting is filled with strangely anachronistic items like credit cards and computers - which seems intended to be the same sort of humor as when The Flintstones had primitive stone-age versions. Except the Flintstones was funny and this isn't. Another running gag - using Roman numerals as often as possible in the word balloons - "meet me at V o'clock" - isn't exactly the knee-slapper someone seemed sure it was.

But even a miserably bad comic book can tell us something about ourselves, and for that could be said to have sort of merit, however malodorous. Me, what I learned about myself from reading The Colossal Show is just how much I hate "ancient Rome" shtick. Orgies, gladiators and Caligula aside, the Roman Empire was not a very interesting time period in mankind's history - at least not to me. I don't really dig togas, scrolls, and vomitoriums. When I read this comic that treats the Colisseum as something humorous (countless people, including the early founders of Christianity, were thrown to the lions and killed here as a sick spectator sport) for kids, I get a sort of vertiginous nausea.

(The entire idea was ripped off a couple years later for Hanna-Barbara's show Roman Holidays, right down to the Scooby Doo-ish anthropomorphic pet lion and the jokes about sundials. It didn't last long.)

Between the haphazard art, the anemic plotting, and the powerfully unfunny gags, this would be in my estimation one of the absolute worst comic books I have ever read in my life. Worse than the dryest Classics Illustrated. Puerile as a Spire Archie comic. Read it and I promise you, Richie Rich will suddenly seem like Shakespeare by comparion.

- - JSH

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