Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Spiral Zone #1 (1988)


Spiral Zone #1 (February, 1988)
"Colossus of Doom"
Writer - Michael Fleisher
Layouts - Carmine Infantino
Pencils - Pablo Marcos
Inks - Dick Giordano
Letters - John Costanza
Colors - Helen Vesik
Editor - Joey Cavalieri
Executive Editor - Joe Orlando
Cover Price: $1.00

Today we're going to take a look at a cartoon/toy tie-in... but, it's for one of those toys that I somehow didn't even realize existed!  I mean, I would've been around six-years old when they came out... so, I'd have been right in that "sweet spot"... but, gotta say, I never hoid of 'em.  Never saw the cartoon either!

Actually, all I knew of Spiral Zone, were the somewhat creepy ads that appeared in DC Comics (including, oddly enough, this very issue!):


I never knew what it was... and must have just assumed that it was just some sci-fi comic aimed toward kids... like Planet Terry, only blotchier.

But, turns out.. it actually was a cartoon... 


... and a toy line!


Though, it appears to have been a bit more popular in Japan.


Pretty wild stuff, eh?  Well, moderately wild, I suppose.  Anyhoo, this discussion was a long time coming, so let's get right to it!

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We open in the far-flung future of 2007... we're in a world where, earlier that year, the evil Overlord created things called... Spiral Zones.  Ya see, they're these machines that generate "spiral" waves of force which render everyone within them to be docile and without will.  The Spiral Zones currently cover over one-half of the planet Earth.  There is a war between good and evil, in the form of "The Evil Black Widows"... who, I mean, they're the bad guys, clearly... the word "evil" is in their name, right?  Those stood against the baddies are "The Zone Riders", and we'll be meeting (a couple of) them in a little bit... though, one looks like she might be Arisia.


During this present skirmish (in Paris, France), we hop into the head of Zone Rider, Sgt. Tank Schmidt.  His mind wanders, he begins thinking about his young Son who had been trapped inside a Spiral Zone in their native Germany.  He vows to move Heaven and Earth in order to save his boy.


Unfortunately, his daydream winds up getting him shot by one of the Widows!  Whoops.  Gotta keep your head in the game there, Tank.  Lucky for him though, Commander Dirk Courage is nearby to lend a hand.  When the Widow sees this, they beat a hasty retreat... ain't nobody wantin' to go one-on-one with the almighty Dirk Courage!


We jump ahead a bit, and rejoin Tank as he's being looked at by some Rider-Doctors.  He swears that he feels fine, and that he ought to let go.  Dirk pops his head in to give a bit of a pep-talk, and impress upon Tank that it's best for him to remain under observation for the next little while.


We shift scenes to the Arctic, where Black Widow second-in-command, Bandit is leading a troop of baddies to do... something with a group of Eskimo Villagers.  The civilians run away, because even they, in the frozen northland know of the Overlord's evil.  Gotta wonder who his P.R. guy is!  Bandit ain't worried, however, as he knows they won't get far...


... because he's packin' a Zone Effect Cannon on his back!  With only a zap, the Villagers lose their will to run... and become will-less slaves.


Bandit calls into Overlord to give a sit-rep, which leads into Overlord sharing his entire secret origin story with us!  Ya see, he was once Dr. James Bent, the youngest NASA Military Science Commander (or some such).  He had an idea which he felt would result in world peace.  Sounds like a pretty good guy, don't he?  Well, his idea was to... destroy everyone's free will.  NASA, unsurprisingly, turned him down.  He then took his idea to the Soviet Union, who also turned him down.  And so, he and his buddies decided to steal a page from the Reed Richard playbook, and sneak a rocket into space.  Instead of being bombarded with Cosmic Rays, however, they just dropped a bunch of the "Zone Effect" machines!  Ever since then, the Widows have been in control.


Back at Rider-Base, Dirk Courage (which sounds dumber every time I type it) is informed that there's something going on in the Arctic.  He finds it odd, considering how far out of the Spiral Zone that region is, but decides to take a look anyway, just in case.  As he loads into his jet "The Eagle" (sold separately) he reminisces to the formation of the elite Zone Riders.  They're kind of like the Planeteers, just older (except Arisia, naturally...).  Their armored suits (of which, there are only five) protect them from the Spiral Effect.


With Dirk away, Tank'll play.  He decides to use his enforced "down time" to infiltrate the Spiral Zone and, hopefully, rescue his Son.  Ya see, while people lose their will while in the Zone... once they're removed from it, their senses come back pretty quickly.  Tank busts out of his bindings and hops out a window.


Over the next several pages, Dirk Courage engages in a dogfight with a bunch of unmanned Widow-drone jets, all the while snapping photos of the Arctic area he was sent to investigate.  Believe it or not, it's somehow even less interesting than I just described it to be.


We rejoin Tank... in Germany?  Wow, how fast do those bikes go?  I wonder if they come with "all you see here"?  Anyhoo, he's looking for his Son, and is disgusted that the Widows have enslaved children.  Just then, Tank's Son, Joey wanders into the scene!


Before Tank can act, he is spotted by the Widows!  He grabs Joey, and they attempt to flee... unfortunately they run right into the Overlord!  Ya see, he knew Tank was on his way... and realizing there's only one reason he'd come, planted a homing device on young Joey.  Tank is disarmed... and Joey promises that it ain't so bad being a "Zoner".  Yeah, that was kinda spoiled on the cover, wasn't it?


We wrap up back in the Arctic, where we finally see what the Eskimos have been enslaved to do... they're building a colossal statue... probably of the Overlord... probably just for his vanity... all we see is the lower-half, so, your guess is as good as mine!  Though, c'mon... it's totally going to be the Overlord.


--

Ehh, ya know what?  For a toy tie-in, this really wasn't all that bad.  I wouldn't call it a "must read" or anything like that, but, this probably won't make ya mad.

I feel like, for a comic book story, maybe a few too many pages were spent showcasing vehicles, armors, and assorted doo-dads, but... they are trying to sell toys here!  It's just too bad Tonka cancelled the 1988 line (which I'm assuming this mini-series was timed for).  Poor Anastasia never got her figure... though, if you read this issue, you'd barely have an idea of who Anastasia is (she's the Arisia-lookalike).

That is kinda weird.  This is a four-issue series, and so far, we've only really "met" two out of the five Zone Riders.  Outside of that little bio-blurb, we don't get a whole lot out of the... well, characters that aren't white dudes.  Whoops.  Not saying there's anything sinister about that, that ain't how I play, but... whattayagonnado?

The most interesting part of this issue is probably the Tank/Joey bit.  Leaving the fact that the "reveal" was spoiled on the cover, I thought that was pretty neat.  In checking out the cartoon's opening, it looks like they included the rescue attempt as part of it!  Here, I GIFed it for ya:


The art here was pretty good.  I feel like Infantino as a "layout" guy during the 80's is a lot less severe than Infantino as a penciller.  As I've said before, I really didn't like his pre-Crisis Flash.  Looking at the design... the cover here is evocative of that 1970 Hot Wheels comic we discussed here back in the long ago.  Wonder if that's just one of DC's go-to "house styles" for licensed properties?  Here, you be the judge:


Overall, a decent enough issue... though, probably not a series I'll revisit.  In fact, this was an issue I wanted to discuss very early on in the blog... like, within the first few weeks!  Still trying to find my "niche", I wanted to drop in some "obscure" stuff early.  To be honest, I didn't make it more than a handful of pages before dropping it back into the longbox.  I'm glad I stuck with it today though.

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(Not the) Letters Page:


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Interesting Ads:


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