The 10 Comics No Kid Ever Wanted

pope-500x800.jpgBy Teague Bohlen

When you?re a kid that likes comic books, it seems like it would be simple enough for people to buy you something you like. Worst case scenario, you get a comic that you already have, and even in that case, you can trade it away to one of your friends for something you don?t. Right?

Wrong. There are tons of books out there that well-meaning grandparents, aunts and uncles, and geriatric family friends might buy for you that are not only something that you?d never read, but also something so worthless that you couldn?t swap it for anything good either. (This does not include the value that irony sometimes demands on the eBay back-market.)

10) One Way!
Yes, that?s Archie, riding in his jalopy with the rest of the gang?and Betty, who?s celebrating old-time religion like only cheesy religious publications can. This is just one of a series of Christian-themed Archie Comics, which were produced with other non-Archie (though clearly done by the same artists) like the classics ?God?s Smuggler? and ?The Cross and the Switchblade?. They were available mainly in Christian bookstores, and very quickly from any thrift store. A few things to notice on this particular cover, though?for one, just how much lipstick does Veronica have on exactly? That combined with that glazed straight-ahead stare makes her look more like an inflatable Veronica doll. And then there?s Betty, who?s not only proselytizing, but managing to seem like she?s either a little dim or very, very high. At least Jughead has the decency to look uncomfortable and a little sad about the whole sordid sell-out.

9) The Life of Matthew Henson
Okay, so Matthew Henson is actually a pretty interesting guy, being an African-American explorer who was reportedly the first to reach the geographic North Pole. And yes, I got all that from Wikipedia, because seriously, who?s ever heard of Matthew Henson? Well, Golden Legacy Comics set out to change that, and while they did do a good job spotlighting some great Americans?many of them black Americans?this isn?t the sort of book that?s really going to excite a kid when he?s thinking of Superman or the Avengers. And then once you get past that initial disappointment, there?s the realization that yeah, this isn?t about Muppets, either.

8) Dark Dungeons
Ah, Jack Chick. One could make the argument that this doesn?t really count as a comic, since it?s irregularly-sized and not something available for purchase (unless you count tithing). But Jack Chick called these mini-comics, and that?s good enough for me. Dark Dungeons is the seminal ridiculous attack against Dungeons & Dragons (and the extent of its ridiculousness is something that has to be read to be believed), but this was by far not the only example of an ill-informed religious attack on something that was clearly not fully understood by Chick and his fellow creators. Still, it?s had a long and healthy life since its inception, so even if your churchy aunt didn?t succeed in saving your soul from stuff like elves and magic missiles and dice and Mountain Dew? At least she gave you a good laugh.

7) The Life of Pope John Paul II
So your grandma learned her lesson?she bought you a sad little non-comic, saw the look in your eyes, knew you were disappointed, and asked what you would have liked better. ?Anything by Marvel or DC, grandma,? you may have said. And then, lo and behold, you get this. Marvel comics takes on Pope John Paul II! Seriously, don?t blame grandma?blame Marvel. Sadly, the Pope didn?t rise to power after he was splashed with irradiated holy water. He doesn?t turn into the Pope when he gets holy (?you wouldn?t like me when I?m holy!?). Nor does he join the Avengers, more?s the pity. Though to be fair, this was only issue one?maybe they were saving his big show-down with the Rhino for issue two?

6) The United Nations
Classics Illustrated actually did some cool stuff?but this wasn?t among them. The adaptations that CI did over the years started out pretty cool?The Three Musketeers, Ivanhoe, Last of the Mohicans, Frankenstein, and many literary greats. Even those could be a tough sell to kids wanting spandex and punching, but hey, a lot of it had swordfights and stuff. But sometimes, the series had to dip into more educational stuff rather than kick-butt classics. So, the story of the UN. Wha-hoo! Diplomacy rocks!


5) Whiz Kids
Okay, most of the other stuff on this list at least has an excuse?they?ve usually got the best interests of your intelligence or your mortal soul in mind, misguided as they might be. But this series is just nothing but commercialism. Radio Shack put these babies out, and they were really just long (very looooong) ads for their awesome new Tandy Computers. Each issue dealt with a different application for which home computers could in some way save the day. One issue was even about ?the computer that said NO to drugs!? Which is totally ’80s and very Nancy Reagan and all, but really, if you think about it? Not that hard for a TRS-80 to turn down a toke, you know? Makes you wonder about the guy offering the bong, though.

4) Is This Tomorrow
As one of oldest entries on this list?this book from the Catechetical Guild Educational Society came out in 1947?this comic is notable not only for its pretty arresting cover art (hey, I?d read it!), but also for its foresight. It beats the 1950s Red Scare to the punch by nearly a decade, predicting that Communism will bring to America lots of fire, random strangling, and apparently the abolition of question marks. It was originally marketed for a dime, but was soon given away to Catholic schools to distribute freely?a comics primer of sorts. Sort of like Spidey Super Stories, only pushing fear instead of literacy, and featuring the spirit that would become McCarthyism instead of Easy Reader.

3) Real Fact Comics
Yeah, this is why we read comics. For ?real facts?. Here?s a real fact for you, Mom. This comic book sucks. The interesting thing about Real Facts Comics is that even the producers realized this after the first few issues. While the premiere ish featured ?real? stories like ?Raffles?the Bird that Thinks!? (as opposed to all those dumb-ass birds that don?t, I guess), by the sixth they were featuring ?forecast? stories like the first man to Mars. Yeah, here?s another real fact for you?this comic is also bullshit.

2) Spider-Man & Power Pack
Peter Parker has had a pretty rough life. He was orphaned, and then sort of responsible for his uncle?s murder, and then he became a super-hero, but that only complicated things more, and got his hot girlfriend thrown off a bridge. And, apparently, you can add to that litany of sorrows that he was apparently sexually abused by an older teen named Skip (who already had white hair, but whatever). Reaching out to kids to let them know how to protect themselves against sexual abuse is a good thing, and it?s actually pretty cool of Marvel to lend their flagship character to such a cause (and in such a direct way). What?s not nearly as cool is that the cover of this book is pretty unclear about what it?s about?this isn?t about getting to ?Meet the Sensational Power Pack!? This is about seeing your friendly neighborhood web-slinger in a very uncomfortable situation. And Skip doesn?t even get punched out in the end.

1) I Was Sick
This has to be the worst comic book cover ever. It?s just a nun at the sickbed of an old man, who?s apparently sleeping in a room full of straw. The only thing that?s curious about it is that the nun is holding a monkey. (This sounds like some sort of espionage code, I know, like something you?d whisper to a guy in a train station. ?The nun is holding a monkey, and the crow flies at midnight to find the mice in the corn.?) It?s possible that the nun is actually holding a monkey puppet (which explains where her right hand is), but I don?t see how that makes much of a difference here. Puppet or no, it?s still a monkey that?s delighting that old man who apparently is or was sick. Fascinating. The Treasure Chest of Fun & Fact was a fairly predictable and long-running religious series that sometimes stretched itself to add some fun stories along with the Biblical parables. But seriously, ?I Was Sick?? Then maybe you ought to stop sleeping in piles of monkey-ridden straw, old man.