Tandy Computer Whiz Kids “#4”
Archie Comics Publications (1998; first printing March, second printing August)
I have the first printing, though the previous owner loved drawing beards on random people. I never understand that. The second printing is available on the Internet Archive.
“Fit To Win!”
WRITER/EDITORIAL DIRECTOR: William Palmer
ARTISTS: Dick Ayers & Chic Stone
COLORIST: Barry Grossman
LETTERER: Bill Yoshida
Alec and Shanna are both taking part in a local fitness event, with Shanna and some other kids working a booth on fitness and Alec competing in a marathon race. On the way, Shanna notices a trawler loading something into a bus, which she finds suspicious and contacts Detective Shaw. It turns out it’s tied to a band of drug smugglers that got their drugs past a police submarine (eh, it’s a coastal city in a comic book; I’ll accept it). During the race Alec sees the bus and alerts Shanna through the
product placement headset walkie-talkies, and she alerts Shaw so the police can nab them. Of course the kids get another reward.
What they got right: There is little positive about this comic but I did find a few things. The product placement mostly works in the story outside of the occasional bit of dialog that’s obviously selling Detective Shaw’s mobile phone and Alec & Shanna’s headset walkie-talkies. The history of computers is in a different section of the comic while the “here’s the PSA part of the story” breaks previous formula and comes from Shanna and the others working the booth. Alec ties with a girl from Palm City rather than outright wins, breaking that cliché.
What they got wrong: Outside of a reused panel from a previous comic of the kids running to use the school computers nothing about being Computer Whiz Kids factors into this story. It’s just our kid heroes happening to see something strange at the right time. The reuse of panels gets worse as they reuse a panel from this comic as well. The kids usually have blank expressions while some poses are at MY level of art. One or both artists really phoned it in this issue.
What else is there?: This is the last of this version of Tandy Computer Whiz Kids. Starting the next issue it undergoes a huge overhaul and while that’s good in some ways I kind of liked the early issues (including the lone TRS-80 issue). Yeah, it has elementary school students who look more like middle school students (maybe it’s just our school system at the time) that solve crimes on their computer and tackle the occasional terrorist but they were fun stories of kids where they get to pretend they’re the heroes without superpowers and gadgets. The name became useless as computers factored less and less in their contribution and it’s sad to see something with potential by PSA/promo comics standards get worse, like the creators didn’t care to craft a good story just because it’s meant to sell Radio Shack’s wares.
What do I think overall: This version of Alec and Shanna’s adventures ends on a low note. This comic isn’t very good and that’s from someone who mostly enjoyed the series in the early and DC issues.