God Hates Comics [I love toys edition]: Marvel’s “Team America” (pt. II)

As Michael Jackson always said, “You can get the drop on a kid once, but only once. So if you’re the white, windowless van driving type, you better pour the Jesus Juice liberally, and swing for the rafters, because it’s your only shot at completely destroying a child’s trust – especially if you want to get away with it.” The same goes for comic book publishers and toy manufacturers. I’m Rob Bradfield, and I take four-color bullets so you don’t have to.

Team America!!! FUCK NO!!! (Part two)

Knockin' out runaways, then blowing them up on a roller coaster. Just one example of the fine storytelling found in "Team America"

Last week, I did my best Brother Voodoo impression and revived the fetid corpse of Team America – a Marvel comic from the early 80’s based on a line of motorcycle toys that, like its predecessor, the Evel Knievel Stuntcycle, took advantage of America’s masturbatory jingoi… I mean noble patriotism. For Evel and his stable of awesome stuntmobiles, (to say nothing of a truly bitchin’ camper) it was the America’s Bi-Centennial. For Team America, many Americans were basking in the afterglow of President Reagan coming on their tits, multiple times, and in the morning – still hard as a petrified tree, and all set to move onto buggering – told them that he loved them, to boot. Some people like their self-flagellation nice and kinky. If it wasn’t for the “Stockholm Syndrome” that is the capitalistic, narcissistic bullshit that calls itself patriotism, people like Dee Snider and Toby Keith would never sell records and would be bussing my fucking table like God intend… Where was I?

So far, our team of spunky all-American outsiders… with a never say die attitude… who don’t like each other… who are a team only because they showed up to the race track on the same day… after being attacked by the pyramid marketing wing of HYDRA… Fuck me! It really sounds bad enough already, doesn’t it? Oh yeah, so they team up with Captain America to fight The Mad Thinker (which, when you think about it, throwing motorcycle morons at the brainier super-villains is the kind of out-of-the-box thinking that makes Captain America such a brilliant strategist) and thwart HYDRA’s master plan: Operation Daytona, which was world domination via the acquisition of a really sweet bike. Who knew competitive motocross people were so interesting? Carey Hart just sits around and talks about Pink all the time.

All right, my fellow masochistic Reagan-babies, let’s continue the descent…

The “color” issues

The next five issues were all about character development. Only one problem – there’s six members in Team America. These pinups are posted in the order they appear. From the look on his face, things don't look good for Wrench.

Issues 3 – 7 are what happen when you run out of ideas two issues into a series. They’re little asides that are supposed to give you insight into what the character is like when he’s not with the team. Except for Georgianna – being a woman and an African-American, I’m sure that Mantlo really didn’t know what the fuck to do with her. (Or did he?) Ordinarily, these would be fill-in issues between major story arcs – Bill Mantlo’s bread and butter. However, I think five back-to-back issues of what would ultimately be considered uninspired padding bodes badly for the rest of the series.

Let’s talk about Wrench, baby

I was a little hasty in saying that “each” member of the team gets a solo issue. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, despite being the tech guy, and having a cool name, Wrench is given virtually nothing to do, except convincing his belligerent teammates to stay together, and crying a lot because [Spoiler Alert] to make matters worse, he eventually has to suffer the indignity of a white man, named fuckin’ Cowboy, taking his woman!

This is what it sounds like when doves cry...

If Team America is any indication of how Bill Mantlo felt about non-Caucasian people, he cared less about black people than George W. Bush, and knew less about black people than Ronald Reagan. His feelings toward Latin folks wasn’t much better, but we’ll get to The Wolf in a minute.

After the pinups in each issue, they started a side feature called, "Honcho's Hints." Is Honcho explaining a combustion engine to the reader??? NO! Look on the bright side - he finally gets a team uniform!

Marauder

Even if the artist IS aping Jim Steranko, this page is pretty cool, no?

Issue #3 is one of a couple issues in the entire run that actually feels like a comic book. It’s Marauder vs. The Mayhem Organization. The Mayhem Organization has been contracted by HYDRA to kill Marauder, thus destabilizing Team America so HYDRA can take over planet Earth through motocross. So complex, yet so simple…

Ostensibly, Marauder’s solo ish comes first because of the more superhero-y look of the character. The Mystery man, deus ex machina, guardian angel, The Man in Black on a black horse, 11th hour save, etc. Where other members of Team America have a specialty, Marauder can do it all. Due to an inexplicable bond with the members of TA – Marauder sends them cryptic notes, encouraging them to stay together. Marauder shows up when the chips are down, and everyone on the team has been knocked out, eventually leading each of them to their own conclusions regarding Marauder’s identity. They are all wrong. Especially anybody who thinks that Wrench, after being repeatedly screwed as if he were an extra on Oz, might get a bone and end up being the coolest character in the book.

You really just don’t see alliteration of this caliber in comics anymore.

I had to sit down and think about the name “Mayhem Organization” for a while. Aren’t those two words antithetical? I came to the conclusion that the confusion surrounding the name was probably part of their nefarious plan. The quartet of baddies had alliterative names too: Mister Mayhem, Mister Mind, Mister Magic, and Mister Muscle. So I guess my question is, instead of killing/trapping the Marauder, why not just invite him to join your team as Mister Marauder?

Wolf

In the grand tradition of culturally accurate Latino characters like The Frito Bandito, Jose Jalapeño, and Edward James Olmos, Wolf speaks as if he were the fruit of an unholy union between Che Guevara and Speedy Gonzales. Actually, wasn’t there a President of Mexico named “Wolf?”

BROWN RAGE!!! Well, they didn't really color him brown at all, did they?

Wolf is my favorite character. I plan to write a series about him one day. He calls his teammates “gringo” and “pig.” I’m not saying he doesn’t have the right to. Actually, he slings racial barbs at all the Caucasians in the book, including the blonde teenager he deflowers before taking to a carnival and dumping her. But it’s still not the right time to introduce Mary Michelle. 

He repeatedly threatens to quit the team, but again, I don’t blame him. As the only Latino in the entire series – and one of about six Latinos total in all mainstream comics at the time – he was subjected to a lot of indignities. For example, there are a couple points in the series at which the other characters call him “wetback,” supposedly all in good fun. I don’t think I’ll test this idea in real life…

Hey Mantlo! You forgot "beaner," asshole!

He also has to call a white guy “Honcho” [I ask you, why not “Hefe”?] while the white guys call him the Anglicized version of his name. I mean, sure, Honcho isn’t a Spanish (nor Spanglish) word, it’s actually Japanese. But that’s not the fucking point. To counteract this, or perhaps state his preference to his dense-as-a-goddam-adamantium-cube teammates, he calls himself “El Lobo.” La Raza, homes. La Raza!!! But a lot of that is inner dialog. Man, I didn’t know biker gang guys were so complex.

His solo adventure involves breaking up an operation which uses children’s brainwaves to power the best video games in the world. They stick colanders on the kids’ heads, and shove them into the back of a video game. You did not read that wrong! Finally! Now you know how they made Dragon’s Lair!

"OLD MAN FEAR VIDEO GAMES SO OLD MAN HATE VIDEO GAMES!!! AAAAAARGH!!!

Three scoops of vanilla – Honcho, Cowboy, and R.U. Reddy

For a guy named "Honcho," he's pretty easily swayed...

Honcho. Wanna take a guess at what he does? He’s the boss. He’s ex-CIA. He’s leader of the team that has neither reason nor desire to be together. His spotlight issue is more or less a low rent James Bond kind of thing in which an old partner from “the agency” recruits him for a special mission. Turns out his old pal has gone rogue and is setting him up to take the fall. It’s pretty boring actually. Very garden variety. Slightly less edifying and entertaining than an episode of Matt Houston.

When you stop and say, "No! That could never happen!" in an action piece, somebody's really dropped the ball.

R.U. Reddy is named so because he has red hair. Clever, eh? His real name is Winthrop Roan III. He’s racing for the most noble of reasons: to pay his industrialist father back for spending half his fortune on coke and whores. And he’s a bigot, or just “a really funny and smart guy” (in the frat boy context) who knows that he can get Wolf’s goat by goading him with racist barbs. I don’t know, man. White people are crazy. Especially the Irish. In his issue, he visits an ex-girlfriend in a small Louisianna town where industrial waste is threatening the lives of the local populous. It’s not so much a commentary on pollution as it is a predecessor to the lake monster sequence from Creepshow 2.

It's a good thing he has a motorcycle! If they tried to escape in a car, they'd be fucked!

Hm. Wanna take a couple guesses at where Cowboy’s comes from? Commenting on it would imbue this character with a dignity he doesn’t deserve. His adventure involves a luxury car salesman who kidnaps heiresses by trapping them with the cars he sells to them. One of these heiresses just happens to be an ex-girlfriend. [Did you ever think that, without ex-girlfriends getting in trouble, shows like BJ and The Bear might not have lasted beyond season one? I sure don’t!] In addition to building a “harem” of WASPs, the car salesman, who dresses like Julius Ceasar, somehow has a nuke, and threatens to detonate it unless the state of Texas declares him Emperor.

Texas: come for the steak, stay for the secessionist wackos!

Frankly, if I were Wrench and Lobo, I would have cut a few brake lines, and got three new white boys – obedient ones who knew how to play ball. The audience would be none the wiser.

That’s all for now! As the Paramount executive told Coppola, “I’m going back down this river once more, and only once! We’re wrapping this shit up next week!”

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About Bradfield

Bradfield is a millionaire. He owns a mansion and a yacht. He likes the chili spaghetti at Bob's Big Boy.
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