Mort the Dead Teenager #1 (December, 1993)
“2 Young 2 Die 4-Ever!” ~or~ “Death on the Babylon Express”
Writer – Larry Hama
Art/Letters/Colors – Gary Hallgren
Edits – Bobbie Chase & Rob Tokar
Chief – Tom DeFalco
Cover Price: $1.75
It’s Saturday morning… so, let’s keep things light… by, uh… talking about a dead kid?
Now, I never refer to myself as anything other than a “fakeass” comics historian… but, I gotta say, it’s not often I happen across something in the bins that causes me to do a double-take… especially when it’s something from my comics collecting “wheelhouse”.
A few months back I was flipping through the cheapo’s at a Half-Price Books, when I came across… this. Mort the Dead Teenager? Is this real? Oh yes, it’s all too real. I swore I’d heard the name before… though, I probably just dismissed it as some sort of an online forum gag… sort of like Street Poet Ray (which also actually exists… and is something I’ve spoken a great deal about elsewhere!) I grabbed it simply for the novelty of owning something called “Mort the Dead Teenager“, and without ever thinking I’d be discussing it here. Welp, Marvel May delivers again!
Let’s do it.
We open with one’a those old-fashioned Silver-Agey spoilery splash pages… and it’s sort of in the modern-day meme format of “record-scratch: yes, that’s me… you’re probably wondering how I got into this mess”. Mort is being thrown from the wreckage of a crash with a train. The embodiment of (teen) Death is driving the choo-choo. So, how did he get into this mess? Well, it all started ten minutes ago at the nearby Konvenience Korner. Mort Graves (oy), pulls up in his father’s nearly-nearly restored Studebaker to show off, and hopefully impress a girl named Kimberley. His loser friends saunter up to admire the ride, but are interrupted by a big bully named… Maureen, who pulls up on her hog.
As Mort’s friends drool over Maureen, Kimberley finally arrives in the back of a convertible full’a cool girls. Mort begins to sweat, and decides it’s now time to make his move. And so, he absolutely douses himself with like a half gallon of aftershave.
Just then, Todd from Beavis and Butthead swings into to the lot, and more or less scoops up dear sweet Kimberley. Mort, as you might imagine, ain’t happy… and so, he challenges Todd to a race… a “contest of speed”, even!
Mort watches in utter disappointment as Kimberley makes a meal outta Todd’s lower lip… and, I’ll admit, this is wildly unpleasant to observe.
Before we know it, the flag’s dropped… and we’re off to the races. Todd zips through a railroad crossing… and, well… Mort’s not quite so lucky. He’d have jammed on the brakes… if only he remembered that the brakes were one of the things his father hadn’t yet restored. Whoops.
Next thing we know, Mort’s in Hell… well, the Netherworld, but it looks pretty Hellish. Anyhoo, Mort doesn’t know what just happened, and so, Teen-Death has been tasked with filling him in.
He also introduces our boy to “real” Death… who, despite this story actually happening on Marvel Earth-616… isn’t that gal that Thanos is obsessed with. Instead, it’s just some generic skeleton… who, in the name of “progress” has upgraded his reaping methodology by using a big ol’ thresher rather than the ol’ sickle.
Mort then asks if he’s going to the “Bad Place” or the “Good Place”. Hmm… I didn’t know people actually referred to Heaven and Hell like that. Teen Death informs our lad that “The Good Place” is closed for repairs… and so, he has no other choice but to suspend Mort in Limbo. So, he’ll either be reincarnated as a roach, or be sent back home… to haunt! He hopes for the latter…
… and, the latter is what he gets! With a “Pop”, Mort Graves arrives on the stoop of his Mistake Beach, Long Island, New York home. He wanders inside, and… his family home is quite the sight. I try not to judge, and my idea of “home decor” is a wall of longboxes… but, this place is pretty gross. He peeps himself out in a (beer-branded) mirror… and notices he’s looking pretty pale. Upon spying a line around his neck he investigates… only to find that his head is no longer permanently attached to his body! His Sister, Cyndi enters the scene… and, get this: she can see him. Also, get this: she doesn’t really care!
We learn that the rest of Mort’s family are at the boy’s “No Frills Funeral”… and she’s headed out to make time with some dude to help grope… er, “cope” with her grief.
She boots Mort outta the house, and he winds up face down in the mud. From the Earth, he hears a voice… it’s Teen-Death. Mort gets dragged underground, and gets a bit of the skinny n the “Haunting Business”. Seems if he holds his (non-existent?) breath, he can turn invisible. Well, that’s a pain in the ass, innit?
From here, we arrive at Mort’s funeral… and, it’s a sorry little affair. The poor teen is being buried in a cardboard casket… and, making matters worse, it’s raining. Mort notices that neither of his loser friends bothered to show up to pay their final respects.
Here we meet the rest of Mort’s family… and, they’re kind of the worst. None of them seem all that bothered by the death of Mort… and, seem to be thanking their lucky stars that it was Mort who bit it, and not the daughter, Cyndi. Mort’s sopping wet cardboard casket is “lowered” into the ground with a “splat”.
Just then… Kimberley shows up, tossing a single rose into the plot… and revealing that she loves Mort, and wishes she could’ve felt his warmth.
She doesn’t get to finish this thought, however, as Maureen the Motor-bully zips in to toss a six-pack into the plot, before tearfully riding away.
Back home, Mort decides to “haunt” his family… basically by letting them know he’s still sorta-kinda there. Get this… the Graves family… don’t really care! They’re more worried about whether or not they’re going to have to feed and clean up after Mort. Dude would’a probably been better off had be been brought back as a roach.
Mort also learns here that he’d signed all of his Earthly possessions over to his shyster brother, Kyle… as collateral for some butt-rock concert tickets. Well, since Mort’s dead, it stands to reason he won’t be able to pay down his debt… and so, everything he owned now belongs to Kyle. On the plus side, this jogs Mort’s memory a bit, and he realizes the butt-rock concert is tonight… which is why neither of his loser friends bothered to show up at his funeral.
And so, he head to the butt-rock show… where Mort’s loser friends are leaving the venue, headed to the parking lot to meet with two “outrageous babes” they’d talked into making time with them. I tell ya what, this panel might be a bit too big, because… it’s like I’m there with them, and it stinks in here.
Mort follows his friends to their car… and overhears them chatting about their dead pal. They’re… duh… happy he’s gone, and even happier that they got his tickets to the butt-rock show. The two “outrageous babes” show up… and, woof.
One’a them mentions that it feels like she’s sitting on a bowling ball… but, it’s actually Mort’s head.
The “babes” run away, leaving Mort with his cold-shower needing (well, any sort of shower would probably benefit these two) loser friends.
So… this sure was something, wasn’t it?
I’m… actually not all that sure how I feel about it. I didn’t love it… but, it also wasn’t bad or anything. It was just kind of “there”. Felt sort of in the vein of, I dunno… Ren and Stimpy? The art kinda felt like it was trying to walk the line of cartoon and… ugly cartoon? Like that “90’s ugly”, ya know? Really not a style I’m overly fond of… but, it fits the tone of the story well enough.
The story… it’s, alright, I guess. It reminds me a bit of Haunting: Starring Polterguy for the Sega Genesis. Which also struck me as “90’s ugly” back in the long ago… and also starred a dead kid with ‘tude.
As for the characters. Well, you ever walk passed someone in the aisle of a store (pre-pandemic) and instinctively hold your breath so you don’t unwittingly inhale any of their funk? Is it just me who does that?! Either way, that’s every character in this book. Everybody here is gross… and you wouldn’t want ’em near ya. Even just flipping through the thing, I’ve got the stink of casino carpet stuck in my nose.
Overall… I don’t know where this is headed, and… ya know what? I’m okay with that. I’m not going to break my back tracking down the latter 3/4ths of this mini-series, and wouldn’t tell you to either. It’s neat as a novelty… but, that’s about it.