The last time I did one of these (rather recently, actually) I dropped the “synopsis/analysis” format because it was easier to do the review that way. (Hunt down Thundercats/Battle of the Planets. My review, I mean, the comic was bad.) I kind of liked it better that way, and I could analyze as I review. While that’s how Linkara got his start, I don’t have to snarkly review bad comics to do that route. Check out the Transformers comics reviews at Disciple of Boltax. So I think I’ll stick with that style. It’ll be fun to see which works better on movie reviews. (I swear the next SMC isn’t going to be a comic! Maybe.)
This round I’m doing another PSA comic. In 1989, Allen & Hansburys, a pharmaceutical maker absorbed by Glaxo, Inc, made a sequel to an asthma awareness comic called Captain America Meets the Asthma Monster. (Which by the way goes for more than I’d think at Mile High Comics.) The best I could find on this comic was at Ye Olde Longbox. It’s not very complementary. Luckily, the first page of the sequel will get us all caught up. I never had this one, but when it comes Return of the Asthma Monster, I was lucky enough to visit my mom while she was at work (a pharmacy at the time) at the same time a distributor was there. (I guess something was going to happen there where the comics would be given out.)
I’m always up for a free comic (seriously, anyone want to give me free comics?), provided it’s not some devil spawn or porn or something. Granted, PSA comics are hardly storytelling gold (as you’ll see when Linkara posts his review of Spider-Man, Power Man and Storm Meet Smokescreen, which I plan to post here as well if allowed–so I don’t have to review it ), but they can still be fun and the primary purpose is to bring awareness to cause X. In this case, as if it wasn’t obvious, it was asthma and how to take care of yourself if you suffer from it. So let’s give this comic a look.
Captain America: Return of the Asthma Monster
Marvel Comics (1989)
WRITER: Howard Mackie
PENCILER: Mark Bagley
INKER: Kim DeMulder
LETTERER: Janice Chiang
COLORIST: Paul Becton
EDITOR: Gregory Wright
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Tom DeFalco
As I said, the inside cover has a quick “getting caught up” segment.
The Midville Google brings up on the first page is in Georgia, and since Marvel only used real world places like New York and Latveria, we’ll assume that’s where they are. Sure, they don’t have a “George Washington School” (I can find one in Virginia and one in New Jersey), but who cares. Cut to I don’t know how long later, and the Asthma Monster breaks out of jail with the help of his “Allergen Gang”. We’ll be seeing more of them later. Back with his “Aller-Gun teleporter”, which allows him to both hit shoot people with concentrated allergens to give them asthma symptoms (like my sinuses need that, either) and to teleport. And his big plan is to make everyone sick with asthma and get revenge on John, Ruth, and Captain America.
Flash to “another part of the city” where John and Ruth’s classmate, Davey, is experiencing asthma symptoms. That’s three kids with asthma in one school. Either they have a big school or mine was just smaller than I realize, because we only had one that I know of. Davey doesn’t want to go to the doctor, because he’s worried that if he’s sick he won’t be able to try out for basketball. He’s also surprised that John and Ruth have asthma because they’re on the swim team. Enter Captain America, who tells everyone as soon as he shows up that he had asthma as a kid. After a little PSA-style chat (all we’re missing is “Knowing is Half The Battle“), Davey and his mom meet with Doctor Franklin, who says everything will be OK.
The oddest part is how fast they got to see the doctor (I suppose it either a slow day or Cap had something to do with it.) John and Ruth came along as well (despite being still school time), and Cap tells them that the Allergen Monster is loose again. They head for John’s house, where his parents are supposed to be waiting for them. Instead, John’s parents have been taken by the Allergen Gang, and our heroes have to go through the house to find them.
Now this is just an excuse to show off where asthma-triggering allergens can hide, but outside of Cap lampshading it, that’s ignored. The first of the “Allergen Gang” to attack is “Rugburn”, a cigar smoking fuzzy imp on roller skates. His super power? Super Smokin’ Stogies. John uses a “Dust Basher” (knockoff “Dustbuster”, a popular hand-held vacuum cleaner at the time) to toss him…someplace. This is when Cap realizes all the allergen-spewing supervillains are going to be hiding where ever asthma triggers are usually found.
Yeah, for the rest of this story, nitpickers are going to be in a frenzy. We get no idea of where any of the Allergen Gang comes from, how they got their powers, or why they are all based on asthma triggers. This is contrast to everything shy of the Asthma Monster’s plans making sense thus far, except how John and Ruth got to tag along with Davey…you know what, forget what I said. It really just makes more sense than some other stories I could bring up that don’t even have the PSA banner to hide behind.
The next Allergen the team face is Dust Dragon (or Dusssssst Dragon), who pops out of a vent on the stairway. (We all know how bad dust can be when you don’t have asthma.) Cap slams him into the wall with his shield. It’s kind of funny. Even John can be seen laughing at it.
In the parents’ bedroom, Cap is attacked by Feather Boa, part fashion piece and part serpent. He represents feathered pillows. I don’t know how feathers trigger asthma when they’re inside a pillow, but all I know about medicine is how to apply a bandage. Ruth takes a lamp to Feather Boa, the kids make some puns that would make Spider-Man happy, and then they come across Furball.
No, not Speedball’s cat from Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers. This is walking ball of fur that jumps on the kids, covering their heads in fur. Cap just kicks him down the stairs. I’ll break that out for tomorrow’s Friday Night Fight because I’m lazy like that.
In John’s room there are all sorts of flowers, which isn’t normal because he’s a boy and boys don’t usually like a lot of “pretty flowers” pollen can trigger asthma. That’s when the “Mold Patrol” attack with their spore-shooting gun. They’re so cute, for evil pixie monsters. Since all the heroes have already fought bad guys, they start to lose, making the Mold Patrol the most effective villains in this comic. In any other comic, this would be both sad and hilarious at the same time. So since we need a new hero, enter Doctor Franklin and his little black bag. He smacks one of the Patrol away from Ruth with the bag, telling them not worry since he brought plenty of medicine. The patrol runs off with dialog that is just so darn cute. Paul Tobin, put these guys in a Marvel Adventures story ASAP!
And now we come to the most powerful of them all: Allergen Al!
Sorry, I meant to write “pathetic”, not “powerful”. Anyway, the team return to the living room and find the Asthma Monster, his new “Super-Aller-Gun”, and John’s parents. The math is easy here, but the Doctor distracts AM long enough for Captain America to throw his mighty shield. And the Allergen Monster does indeed yield for daring to oppose his shield. Unfortunately, Cap’s fist breaks his helmet and AM’s own asthma comes into play because the costume helps him breathe. Dr. Franklin speaks for the nitpickers in asking why AM wanted to make everyone sick, and the answer is that AM didn’t want to be different from anyone else. I can imagine him hanging out with Superboy Prime in those panels. However, the doctor promises to help him control his asthma and live a normal life, which AM agrees to. Yeah, I think we know the obvious questions here, but let’s move on to three months later, where me meet the ex-Allergen Monster, Daniel Tyler.
After only three months, the parole board is so happy with Danny’s recovery that he’s even allowed to coach a children’s swim team. (Wait, aren’t John and Ruth on a children’s swim team? Dun, dun, dun!) Then we get this.
As PSA comics go, this one isn’t all that heavy-handed. As PSA comics go. It’s still a leg up on Captain Planet and the Planeteers, but that’s a subject for another time. The art is pretty good, and while you ask yourselves questions about the Allergen Gang’s origins (and what they’re doing now that their boss has reformed), if you can put that aside, it’s not a bad comic. It does what it’s supposed to do and still gives you an entertaining story.
The real disappointment is the end. DC’s PSA comics usually end with a bunch of puzzles and morality quizzes (which the kids grade themselves, so that could be counter-productive) based on the topic in question. All this comic has is an asthma-based crossword puzzle on the back cover (with the answers on the inside back cover), and a Marvel Comics subscription form that cuts off the puzzle. Lame move, Marvel.
Best Scene of the Comic
So if you’re going to be working on a PSA comic and you want a guide, Captain America: Return of the Asthma Monster isn’t a bad one to take a look at.