Friday, September 23, 2016

Sonic Disruptors #1 (1987)


Sonic Disruptors #1 (December, 1987)
"Are You Ready to Rock?"
Writer - Mike Baron
Penciller - Barry Crain
Inker - John Nyberg
Letterer - Steve Haynie
Colorist - LoVern Kindzierski
Editor - Mike Gold
Cover Price: $1.75

Here's a weird one.  I think many comics enthusiasts of my generation remember the curious ads that ran in DC Comics touting a war... A war between The United States Army, and get this... The United States of Rock!  Sounds just crazy enough to work, right?  Well, spoiler alert... this 12-issue maxi-series only ran 7 issues, so I guess not.


Anyhoo, figured it would be fun to take a gander at this oddity and see how the war starts off.

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We open in the year 2030 where a man named Sheik hangs in something of an isolation chamber.  He is awakened by a Mr. C. who informs him that it's time for his shift on the air.  Our man hosts the Sheik Rattle Enroll radio show for the pirate station based on the "Little Bopper" satellite.  During his introduction he lists the names of those detained or arrested by a fascistic national security bureau.


On the ground, we watch as a young person is beaten up by some security staffers.  I'm assuming this was the lookout for the building below.  We shift a bit to that building, which is a warehouse of sorts where radios are being built, serviced and repaired.  There is a woman named Kate who learns that the the U.S. government is planning on pulling the Little Bopper out of orbit with a tractor station.  She laments that she cannot get a hold of one called "Fuzzbuster", however cannot do so for long as the feds kick in their door.


Kate and her informant Len race up the stairs, where the latter is riddled full of bullets.  Kate turns and squeezes off a shot right between their pursuer's eyes.  She is able to narrowly escape in her souped up rocket car.  The remaining agents turn their attention to the radios, and start blowing them away... in the shadow of inflatable tube-men, apparently.


We shift to National Security Headquarters where we get some intel on what's shakin'.  We meet a geeky doctor with a ridiculously thick (nigh indecipherable) accent who gives us the skinny on the Little Bopper.  Ya see, it was at one time a nuclear waste dump site... so, the Feds won't dare shoot it out of orbit.  Also, this Fuzzbuster character is somehow able to send and receive radio transmissions without a radio, hmm...


Shortly, we watch as Kate Straight is abducted at an airport terminal.  They take her to a makeshift interrogation room, and threaten her with mind-altering drugs.  Before they can do so, our buddy Mr. C. bursts in and hits the baddies with some tranqs.  He and Kate flee to the French Spaceport in Guiana, and beam up to the Little Dipper.


So far, so good... right?  Well, now we meet The General.  He's as unsubtle as they come... ya see, he hates dem libruls, dem gays, and dem hippies... he's really a hateful piece of crap.  He thinks the country has dun goofed when they elected Lucille Ball as President.  This dude is such a pathetic strawman... like, it's obvious what Baron's trying to do here... it's just so poorly done.  I'm almost embarrassed to be reading this bit.  He shoots the television set when the Happy the Wonder Clown show begins, and thankfully we shift scenes.


Back on the Dipper, Kate and Mr. C. arrive.  Sheiky baby convinces Kate that she's always wanted to be a DJ, so she's cool with sticking around.  She shares the news of the "tractor" deal, Project: John Deere, to push their satellite out of orbit.  We now meet Mr. Kong, a Chinese radical who has a killer secret handshake.


Sheik and Kong retire to quarters to discuss how the Chinese Government may aid in halting the John Deere project.  Sheik suggests having China grant the Little Dipper official recognition, complete with an onboard ambassador.  Kong's cool with it, but he doesn't trust his government at all... and he doesn't care who knows it.  Psst, Kong... the walls got ears, brudda.


Back on Earth... crud, we rejoin the General.  He's hosting a soiree to celebrate the Dipper going offline.  He's got the radios tuned to their station to be able to hear the exact moment they're launched into orbit.  He shoots another TV while spouting the same hateful nonsense as earlier.


Up on the satellite, our jolly crew is boarded by American astronauts.  Project: John Deere is about to begin... and they are offering the Little Dips one last chance to pull out.  Before Captain Rourke (of NASA?) can finish his thought, Commander Chin from the People's Air Force interjects that the "Ritter" Dipper has been given the "thumbs up" by the Chinese.


The General realizes it isn't in the United States government's best interests to risk a nuclear incident... and so, they pull out.  Oh, and the General shoots a radio.  Ya get it, yet?  He's a really not good dude!  I know it's really subtle... so I figure I may as well help y'all out.


We wrap up on the Dipper where Sheik talks to their new Ambassador, Lau Lo Fang.  He asks what happened to Kong... and we learn that the Chinese government isn't a fan of dissent.  Kong has been sent for "reeducation".


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Yikes...

This issue started out pretty good.  I like the idea of pirate radio, always thought that was a cool concept to explore.  A futuristic pirate radio station on an orbiting satellite... hell yeah, sign me up.  The characters were... ehhh... Ya know, let me insert an anecdote here.

One of my close friends is a radio DJ here in Phoenix.  He's been on the air for something like 30 years.  He's done contemporary rock, but is mostly known around here for deejaying classic rock.  He's got a radio voice, and a vocal radio swagger... but, when you talk to him off the air... he sounds like a normal dude.  I've been around some of his peers, and... they talk like normal folks as well! 

These geeks on the satellite don't seem to have off-air voices!  Everything's "hey cats and kittens" all the damn time... it's really off-putting, and makes the assumed protagonists of this story come off as really rather obnoxious.  It's a shame, because the character motivations (appear to be) sound, and have the potential to be interesting.

Now... for the satire.  I know satire doesn't need to be subtle... but, ya know... I like a bit of subtlety with my "everybody who doesn't agree with me is an ignorant monster" storytelling.  Our blustery villain is an absolute caricature... a shallow strawman who only serves to be the embodiment for everything the creators disagree with.  There is no subtlety here, he's hateful and uses hateful language (as is illustrated above)... he may as well have "BAD GUY" tattooed across his forehead... probably misspelled to boot.

In crafting such a baddie, Baron doesn't help folks on either side.  It's done so poorly... that even if you agree with Baron's (probable) point of view... this story does you absolutely no service.  It's cartoony to the point of being easily dismissed as a rant given four-color flesh.  Even the ART suffers during these scenes... which, I'll concede may be intentional... and I'm just missing something.  Like I've been saying, there's no subtlety in the storytelling, there's no reason for me to assume there's any in the art.

Overall... ya know... I can't outright say to avoid this.  It's weird comics... which is a soft-spot for me.  There is a certain novelty value to this, so maybe give it a flip-thru if you find it on the (very) cheap.  If not, you're not missing a whole lot.

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