Hot Wheels #4 (September-October, 1970)
"Eye of the Storm"
"The Powderpuff Run"
Writer - Len Wein
Artists - Alex Toth & Ric Estrada
Editor - Dick Giordano
Cover Price: $0.15
We've got a strange one today... an issue of the short-lived Hot Wheels comic! It's also a very early story penned by the great Len Wein.
Now, just how in the world can there be a Hot Wheels comic book? Great question... let's find out!
We open up at Metro City's Weather Bureau just as they are receiving the news of an incoming torrential storm. While this is happening, Jack Wheeler of the Hot Wheels (which is a racing team) is in the midst of a big coastal buggy race. Jack Wheeler, eh? I guess before he was a Quad City Bulldog, Wild Dog was a part of the tie toy-in racing circuit! Okay, probably not... but still neat to consider. Anyhoo, another racer is Hank Jeffries, who, if the exposition is to be believed is something of a rival to Jack. He is currently in the lead.
The Weather Bureau concludes that the storm will pummel the coastline within a half hour. News gets back to the racetrack, and the race is called off. Hank is devastated, as he is leading the pack... perhaps for the first time ever! He's so psyched that he refuses to pull over with the rest of the racers...
This rash decision does not pan out well for young Hank.
He is loaded into an ambulance while the Hot Wheels look on. Luckily, he survives... only suffering a broken wing. Otherwise, he is... in his words, "groovy". While there, Dr. Wall pulls Jack and his father off to the side... he's got a job that only the Hot Wheels can handle!
It turns out the old meteorologist, Benjamin Moss received the wrong prescription medication... and if an antidote isn't brought to him, he will die within five hours! What did the druggist give, rat poison? Anyhoo. Moss lives way up atop Oak Mountain at the observatory, and the inclement weather would make it impossible for any vehicle besides the Hot Wheels' dune buggy to make it up to him.
Two hours later, the dune buggy is all decked out for the trek. Before Jack can hop into the driver's seat, he is informed by teammate Tank that he will be tagging along.
The Hot Wheels head out into the rain-soaked roads. At this point Tank reveals to Jack that he has a personal stake in this mission, as Benjamin Moss is... dun dun dun... his grandfather! They had a bit of a falling out when Tank decided not to go into the family business of "grooving as a weather man", and instead choosing to get his hands dirty working on some mean machines.
Along the way, the weather and conditions go from bad to worse when the boys narrowly avoid a rockslide. From there, they unfortunately round a blind curve too quickly to appropriately react to a fallen tree... which they careen into!
Luckily, there is very little damage. Jack and Tank hop out and attach a line to the lumber so they might pull it out of the way. The art in these panels is very impressive!
With the tree out of their way, the boys approach their final obstacle... a rickety wooden bridge. They stop to brainstorm, and decide to pop the car into gear and slowly walk it across... so if the bridge begins to give, the fellas will have a chance of survival. Can't argue with logic like that!
The fellas cross the bridge... which gives way just as they reach the other side. Shortly, they arrive at the weather station... however, there is no answer at the door. Doors are little more than a speed bump for Tank, and so he busts in. The pair find Old Ben... alive! We also learn that Tank's real name is "Thaddeus", which I'm guessing is supposed to be funny.
The antidote is administered and the day is saved. What's more, Thad and Ben hash out their differences, and all is right with the world once more. We wrap up with Jack razzing Tank for his wacky real name. Wonk wonk wonkkkk.
Our second story concerns the Daisy Derby, which is a race for... get this... girls?! I can hardly believe it... and from the looks of it, neither can the Hot Wheels. Funnin' aside... team member Ardeth really wants to represent the team for this rally. Before we go on... Ardeth? I mean, I just couldn't imagine giving a baby a name with "deth" in it. Seems kind of morbid, no?
As she pleads her case, a mysterious racer dazzles the gang with their driving prowess. They are all shocked to find that this driver is a g-g-g-girl! What's worse, she's Alexandra Carter, the cousin of Dexter Carter... who is apparently the arch-nemesis of the Hot Wheels gang! After some trash talk, our man Jack agrees to let Ardeth race.
The gang heads into the garage to soup-up the best lookin' bucket of bolts they can find. Once it's all in one piece, the gals evict the boys to put their finishing touches on it. And, well... it's quite a scene.
Days pass, and it's time for the Daisy Derby. The cars take off, and believe it or not, our Ardeth has got some great racing chops! Nobody's more surprised than Alexandra, who proceeds to get dirty. She cuts Ardeth off, and squirts her windshield with an "ebony fluid". This costs Ardeth precious seconds, as she needs to pull over to wipe up the mess.
Ardeth then further proves that she's actually a very talented driver. It isn't long before she's neck-and-neck with Alexandra. Fellow Hot Wheel Janet decides to fight fire with fire by... holding up a sign to inform Alexandra that her lipstick is smeared. Whoops. A distracted Lexie spins out... hits a wall, and bursts into flames! Was it worth it, Janet? Was it worth it? Okay, none of that happened... well, the lipstick sign did, but it just distracted Ms. Carter long enough for Ardeth to pass her and cross the finish line.
We wrap up with the Hot Wheels celebrating, while the Carters... well, do the opposite of celebrating.
If you were to tell me that I'd enjoy my time reading a Hot Wheels comic, I'd probably have said "There was a Hot Wheels comic?"
All kidding aside, this book was a lot of fun. Had a much better time with it than I ever expected. I mean, it's a toy tie-in book... however, the focus is most definitely on the characters. That's something I can get behind. We don't get a good look at the entire Hot Wheels team, but the members we do get a chance to meet were pretty decent. Archetypal, to be sure... but, not at all bad.
What we have here are a pair of pretty disposable stories. The plots were pretty thin... but, I really wasn't expecting much in the way of depth. The closest we get is learning that Tank's real name is Thaddeus, and he thought his grandfather was disappointed in him for not being a weather man.
I suppose I should at least touch on the anachronistic tone of the Powderpuff Run back-up. I mean, this isn't a story that could/would be told today... but to opine on that is sorta like complaining that those old floppy disks only held so little data and VHS tapes need to be rewound. Things were different... times have changed. That having been said... it was a cute little story, and it ended with the "good guys" winning.
I gotta mention the art. I found myself really enjoying the look of this book! Both Alex Toth and Ric Estrada's contributed some amazing, clean, and dynamic artwork. I also gotta say... the sound effects were a ton of fun here, particularly in the Toth story. Entire panels were overcome with crazy effects... really appreciated that!
Overall... I'd recommend nabbing any issue of Hot Wheels should you come across it in the wild for... I dunno, a couple of bucks (or less), simply for the novelty of the thing. Even if I thought this issue was terrible, I'd say snag it. Thankfully, I thought this was a lot of fun... so, it comes doubly recommended. Not surprisingly, this bugger ain't available digitally... nor, to my knowledge, has it been collected. This is a single-issues dealie, folks.
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