Plumbing the Depths.

As it was foretold in the comments section, today we get a commissioned sideways comic cover. And whadda ya know? The Subterranean looks like if you ripped the spikes off of Doomsday. Or dipped The Hulk in concrete. Or shaved Solomon Grundy and had him running around nude.

Past comments by numerous commenters have been harsh on the Atomik Komix lineup.

There’s not a single AK title that would have sparked my interest back when I was reading comic books. Not a thing. Back then they would have bored me just as much as they do now.

“No new comics to read? Just these Atomix Komix things? Sheesh, I think I’ll go home and do schoolwork.”

Beckoning Chasm

And I would agree. Though I thought the concept and first cover of Stardusters did show some promise with a cast of differentiated characters, a Star Wars-esque grungy space look, and an action heavy tableau. So props to Rick Burchett and Rob Ro on that tip of the Funky Felttip.

But for the rest, all we have is a dumb name, a dumb costume, and maybe a gimmick or a gimmicky backstory. They have to be terrible, right?

Well, yes; because they’re being written by Funky Winkerbean characters, who–in turn–were written by Tom Batiuk. A man who seems stuck in the era of “Why is Superman Forcing Jimmy Olsen to Marry a Gorilla! Twice!”

But if we’re just going off the names, the gimmicks, and facts, the covers…

As we exit this weirdly awful comics arc, and brace ourselves for the blandly awful Les arc that will follow, let me tell you a little story.

Two of my best friends were at a local comic shop picking up Batman, Nightwing, and Transformers comics, when one of my friends saw this.

And I mean LOOK at this! Some kind of smarmy, cocky, swaggering douchebro with a giant star on his chest and a MONEY SIGN in his name.

My friend said. “Who the f**k is Booster Gold?!” And became very offended, (mostly facetiously,) that a character like this: some kind of boring-looking, stupid character, would be worthy of his own DC omnibus collection.

So it was a running joke for us for months that Booster Gold was our friend’s arch nemesis. And to further the joke, I bought her a copy of the first issue of the 2007 relaunch of Booster Gold’s solo title for her birthday.

And we read it. And then the next. And then the series. And you know what? It was great.

Written by Geoff Johns, Jeff Katz, and drawn by Dan Jurgens, it told the story of a time travelling superhero who wasn’t respected by other superheroes. Because for most of his career he’d tried to use his super-heroics to accumulate fame and fortune . But Booster Gold now was a superhero who had recently gone through the most traumatic experience of his life. An experience that spurred growth in him. The death of his best friend, Blue Beetle.

The first major arc involved Booster Gold going back in time to try to prevent his friend’s murder, only for the new future they create to be a terrible dystopia. Eventually Ted Kord (Blue Beetle) decides that the only way to put things right is to go back in time to die again.

The Bromance is real guys.

Look at Blue Beetle, that’s a weird looking costume if I’d ever seen one! And the thing was packed with a million references to old nonsense that we hardly understood, and a dozen weird characters with wacky gimmicks. But that didn’t matter, because the book was funny, the characters were crisp and distinct, and the story was heartfelt, and we ate it up. And then we went back, and read Booster Gold and Blue Beetle’s old adventures in the Justice League International. We started reading ANYTHING with these two. Because their friendship was one of the best things ever in a universe that included BATMAN. One of my friends and I went to a convention dressed as them.

And all because my friend thought that a cover looked stupid.

What I’m saying is that, in the right hands, ANYTHING can work, any name, any costume, any gimmick, any backstory. That fact is born out in comics history again and again and again. Some of the most critically acclaimed books were made up of D-list characters cobbled together from the Scrappy Doo heap. The New Suicide Squad movie is hoping to make a billion dollars on this premise.

But in the wrong hands the tearful reunion of two elderly men and former friends after literal decades apart can be as emotionally thrilling and meaningful as watching paint dry.

It’s called writing.

47 Comments

Filed under Son of Stuck Funky

47 responses to “Plumbing the Depths.

  1. Epicus Doomus

    So yeah. THE SUBTERRANEAN is a lazy Hulk/Thing knock-off. He’s some sort of mutant being who dwells underground…and that’s it. Totally worth the sixty year wait. Nicely done, TomBan, that’s some “imagination” you have there. Sigh.

  2. Imagine this: It’s 1988, and you’re a small indie comics publisher. You’ve somehow managed to get Stan Lee and Jack Kirby to collaborate on an old concept that they had concocted togther. They’ve created the first issue, and you’re going to publish it.

    –and, because comics, you’re not going to feature either of their names on your first issue cover.

    Because comics.

    In the real world, you’d be fired.

    You see, a crass publisher would have put their names in enornous type on the cover, because it’s an awesome event that would drive SALES.

    –But no, people, TRUE comics fans, will buy comics because it’s a fifth rate Hulk rip-off.

    I’d honestly be interested in Batiuk’s perpective on this sort of thing…though I’m pretty sure I’ve seen it.

    • Hitorque

      That’s what happens when you’re an amateur-hour five-man operation that only distributes in northeast Ohio…

      I’m pretty sure those soulless corporate suits over at Mega (Marvel) Comics would have had the basic sense to let the whole world know this was a “Freeman/Holt Production”

    • Suicide Squirrel

      Perhaps Atomix Komix believes that everyone will instantly recognize the artwork has been rendered in the inimitable Phil Holt style. Even though he hasn’t produced anything of note in over fifty years.

      Too bad Chester never thought to hire a person with marketing knowledge. No salespeople either. No accounts receivable or payable personnel. No legal department. Not even a secretary/office manager to keep people from waltzing in off the street. We’ve seen no evidence of printing facilities either but I guess that function could be outsourced.

  3. William Thompson

    If the Subterranean came from the bowels of the Earth, then it must have emerged in Westview. I say we stick an enema nozzle in that town and be done with it.

  4. J.J. O'Malley

    “From the bowels…”

    Who says there’s no truth in advertising anymore?

  5. Banana Jr. 6000

    There’s one good thing about the Sunday sideways comic book cover: it means the arc is over. This is the money shot, folks. This is what five weeks of story led up to. Yet another uninspired silver age superhero clone that will never be seen again, or even get its own story. It’s a #1 issue, but everything Atomik Komix prints is either a #1 or a crossover. They’re basically a 1990s baseball card company, inundating the market with one worthless special edition after another. Good riddance to bad rubbish. And yet I’d still rather watch another week of Phil Holt than Les goddam Moore.

  6. J.J. O'Malley

    To continue your train of thought, Harriet, I think more than the spikes were ripped off of Superman’s erstwhile killer. If you look at the cover for 1992’s Superman: The Man of Steel #18, it sure seems like they simply flipped the pose of the debuting Doomsday for today’s artwork. Also, to me Subby here bears a slight resemblance to Marvel bad guy Crusher “Absorbing Man” Creel, after he’s taken on the make-up of iron or steel or maybe bauxite.

    And yes, when DC brought out Booster Gold in the mid-’80s he was meant to be an examination of the “superhero as celebrity,” from his many commercial endorsements to the money-making schemes he and Justice League comrade Blue Beetle (whose costume came courtesy of Sturdy Steve Ditko in the ’60s) hatched during the JL’s comedic period.

    Booster also got to take center stage in an entertaining episode of the Justice League Unlimited animated series, “The Greatest Story Never Told.” It just goes to show that, in the right hands, a seemingly goofy or unlikeable character can be redeemed…except, of course, for the Subterranean. I had really hoped he was going to look like Quake from the old cereal commercials.

    • ComicBookHarriet

      Booster also showed up in a number of Batman: The Brave and the Bold episodes. Those were interesting because Ted Kord was dead in that universe, and so episodes like Menace of the Madniks! dealt with the grieving for that character.

    • Anonymous Sparrow

      Ah, the Blue and the Gold! Their antics in the relaunched (1987) *Justice League* title were always delightful, especially when they became a sort of latter-day “Three Musketeers” with a third hero.

      Who was he?

      Why, Mister Miracle, the creation of someone named Jacob Kurtzberg, though he worked professionally under another name…Jack Kirby!

    • Anonymous Sparrow

      Booster and Beetle sometimes formed what I called “the Three Musketeers” with a third hero:

      Jack Kirby’s Mister Miracle..

      The *Subterranean* cover reminds me a bit of another cover, that of Mark Evanier’s Kirby biography.

  7. Epicus Doomus

    I wonder who his arch-nemesis is? The Auger? Jack Hammer? Dr. Erosion? The mind reels at the possibilities.

    • Charles

      The Overterranean!

      Mopey and Darin are creaming themselves in the background as we hear this revelation.

      • Epicus Doomus

        Mobster Guy: “Let’s dispose of this corpse in that old stone quarry where we illegally dump that nuclear waste.”

        Mobster Guy 2: “But what if the radiation reacts with the body and the stone somehow?”

        Mobster Guy: (Smack) “Don’t be ridiculous! Now throw him in!”

      • gleeb

        The Mediterranean, whose weird powers are largely olive oil-based.

    • Suicide Squirrel

      If the Subterranean is made of stone like a statue I imagine his kryptonite is bird poop.

    • Charles

      On the other hand, if The Auger was a SuperVillainess, wore form-fitting clothes everywhere and looked like this:

      I could get behind it, really.

      • Anonymous Sparrow

        Your take on the Auger reminds me of Joan Collins’s appearance on the 1966 “Batman” TV series as the Siren.

        Let’s sing three octaves above high C, shall we?

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      The Superterranean.

  8. Sourbelly

    So decades of Phil Holt’s mindless bitterness and isolation all led to…this. And weeks of us reading incoherent, improbable, too-stupid-to-believe dogshit led us readers to…also this.

    Awful as all this was, I’m sure it will seem like the good ol’ days compared to the Les Moore nightmare we’re in for next.

    • Rusty Shackleford

      I’m actually looking forward to a return of Les. Never thought I would ever say that but this arc was so bad and boring that I’ll take anything at this point.

  9. billytheskink

    Oh look, it’s Miles the Monster!

    Cease and desist from Dover International Speedway in 3… 2…

    “Wait!” you say. “This is a fictional comic book and that’s a roadside attraction that was created to help sell NASCAR tickets. It has nothing to do with comic bo…”

    *AHEM*

    “Oh…”

    Cease and desist from Dover International Speedway in 3… 2… 1…

  10. Charles

    Hey, remember that strip four years ago when Phil said that the stuff he created back in the day was junk?

    He’s still right.

  11. Mr. A

    My eyes were drawn to the floating head in the throwaway/title panel. Does the Subterranean not have teeth?

  12. Suicide Squirrel

    Who is Rob Ro and why he is involved with all of these Atomik Komix covers? A web search shows Rob Ro is a colorist and cover artist who has been retired since 2009. Is he a friend of Batyuk? Did Batyuk save his life or something? Is Rob performing some kind of community service in lieu of jail time?

    Has James Pascoe been involved with any other of these sideways Sunday AK covers?

    Does Batyuk pay them with unsold copied of his books?
    Batyuk: “Help yourself to a case or two of my books.”
    James Pascoe: “Cool! I need something to repair the foundation of my rear steps.”

    Does Chester have them on the payroll too?

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      It’s probably just semi-retirement freelance work for him. Makes sense really. And I don’t think Tom Batiuk has any difficulty paying people to draw his comic book fantasies.

  13. erdmann

    Seriously, Tom? A nondescript, gray rock guy doing the standard Kirby “coming at the reader fist first” pose? That’s the best you could come up with for a book that “could’ve made history”? At least you could’ve thrown some classic old school comic book hype in there: ” From the minds of living legends PHIL HOLT and FLASH FREEMAN comes a comic SIXTY YEARS in the making!”
    At least the cover is a fitting capstone to this arc; both were underwhelming.

    And I still want my giant star-nosed mole, darn it!

  14. Banana Jr. 6000

    Every “Sunday comic book cover” inset ever:

  15. Professor Fate

    Well that was under whelming for sure.
    But sadly we all expected to end in a comic cover and the two former foes now basking the fellowship of comics.
    Still The cover stinks – as noted it’s a standard Kirby coming at you attempt but the right arm just doesn’t work, there is no way this arm is connected to the rest of that body. Really they were trying to ape Kirby and ended up aping Liefeld instead. (the Left arm is no great shakes either but let us let that go)
    Two – the head on the logo doesn’t look anything the head in the cover – the head on the cover reminds one of a pinhead from a Ramones album. Can we have just a little consistency here? And what is the expression? Angry? Smug? Kind of blank to me.
    And I don’t think those are spikes, I think they are supposed to be wrinkles in the skin caused by movement but the art is so sloppy that you could see them as spikes.
    And lastly of course how was this supposed to be the ground breaking character it was said to be? . Hell even 50 years ago this would have been a Meh. Now it would be greeted with a collective wha?
    A fitting anti-climax to a arc consisting of nothing but anti-climaxes.
    Thank you for the Booster Gold Blue Beetle side bar – BB was always a guilty pleasure of mine. even have an Eaglmoss figure oh him up on my desk (but i like Hawkman as well so you can safely assume my taste is trash).
    Next week — Les Moore continues to blame his students rather than admit that he is a lousy teacher (among his many other failings) that or an arc about pizza.

    • Charles

      Seriously. It’s absurd to claim that this character was what Phil was literally willing to throw his entire career away for. The colors are dull and pedestrian. The character is monstrous, so he doesn’t have any sympathetic appeal. It’s from Batiuk’s beloved Silver Age, so he doesn’t have hidden depths to his personality that Flash is going to bring out. He’s not visually appealing in the least. When a person has a bunch of potential new reads, they’re not going to look at that and think “THAT! That’s what I want to know more about! I want to read about THAT guy!”

      He’s as dull and featureless as the smooth gray stone he’s no doubt composed of.

  16. William Thompson

    At least we’ve been spared a scene where Dolt and Freekman are cheered at the climax of the Hall of Fame induction ceremony (Rubella has given up her place to Dolt and gone away; she knows not to expect a climax when those boys are around)

    • Banana Jr. 6000

      Remember when we thought this story was going to be about Ruby and Flash getting married?

      • erdmann

        Maybe Flash and Phil will get married instead. Only they will stand behind something when they do it so we won’t know it’s them.

      • Professor Fate

        And one longs to return to those happy and innocent days.

  17. Rick Brooks

    In the early 1980s, Jack Kirby was a guest at a comic book convention I attended. It was when he was in the middle of a fight with Marvel comics about the return of his original art, so I was a little nervous about asking him to autograph my copy of FANTASTIC FOUR # 44. The fan press of the day made it seem as if he was bitter and resentful about his Marvel work, and I didn’t want to piss him off. Well, as CBH and others have mentioned on this site, nothing could have been further from the truth. Kirby was gracious and friendly. He commented about how much fun he had drawing that issue and creating the character Gorgon. About a decade later, I saw Stan Lee at a convention. There was a huge line of fans getting him to autograph anything with the name Marvel on it, most of which Stan had nothing to do with. He seemed to genuinely appreciate it when I handed him my FF to sign, paging through ti before seeing Kirby’s signature and commenting, “Jack didn’t leave me much room, but let’s see if I can fit my name in. I did it! Excelsior!” The point being, they were big enough men to set aside any animosity or grievances they might have had.

    Sorry that I’m not smart enough to show a photo of the comic with their autographs.

  18. be ware of eve hill

    The Subterranean’s head is way too proportionally small, isn’t it? He reminds me of ‘Harry the Reduced Head Hunter’ who was featured in the Neitherworld Waiting Room scene in Beetlejuice. I get the impression this character moves and thinks slowly.
    Subterranean: I am so massive, blood never reaches my brain.

    He doesn’t really fight his adversaries. He falls on them. Does he transform like the hulk? Is this his only form? Is there a Mrs. Subterranean? Little subterraneans?

  19. erdmann

    The criticisms of the cover are spot on. The head is too small and the arm doesn’t appear to be attached to the body. Also, notice the knuckles stick out into the white space, white space that is NOT part of the cover.
    And compare it to the smaller image in the inset. The logos do not match… and the smaller one appears to be missing the final A in Subterranean.

    Yeah, I’m just being a beady-eyed nitpicker at this point, but I’m feeling grumpy today.

    • Gerard Plourde

      You’re not alone. Hopefully this entry from TomBa marks the last time we see these two (but I definitely wouldn’t take bets on that).

  20. Anonymous Sparrow

    Think how excited Batton Thomas must be!

    Oh, but wait! Batton wouldn’t know who the character was, so he’d probably pass it over for something else.

    As Bugs Bunny said in rejecting *Life with Father,* “this’ll never be a hit.”

  21. Banana Jr. 6000

    According to the Funkyblog, James Pascoe had a better design for the character, but Batiuk rejected it in favor of what ended up on the cover instead.

    https://funkywinkerbean.com/wpblog/the-subterranean-1/