Featured Post

NUM-INOUS COMICS PT. 2

This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Thursday, February 22, 2018

MYTHCOMICS: "MIDEAST MADNESS" (TALES OF THE JACKALOPE #3, 1986)

Today R.L. Crabb's TALES OF THE JACKALOPE is a largely forgotten funny-animal comic book. It came out about two years after the debut of TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES, and should probably be seen as a reaction to the Turtles' success in the direct market, though not to their success in the mainstream market, since that was still a little ways down the road. I have a vague memory that JACKALOPE was one of the few independents of the "black-and-white glut" that Gary Groth praised in the JOURNAL, though I don't intend to go looking for the exact quote.

The other six issues of JACKALOPE are enjoyable anthropomorphic amusements, better drawn than the majority of the quickie black-and-whites, and they benefit from a cute idea: centering around the mishaps of a jackalope named Junior, and his squirrel pal Suicide. The first issue relates the folk-history of how jackalopes originated from the interaction of jackrabbits and antelopes. Junior at least favors his rabbit-daddy more than his antelope-mother, since he looks like nothing but a very lanky anthropomorphic rabbit, who happens to have antlers.



"Mideast Madness" presents an interesting sociological myth, one at odds with many of the Islamophobic messages seen in 1980s pop culture. I don't say this to express easy contempt for such messages, since I've stated my agreement with Salman Rushdie that freedom of expression includes the freedom to offend. But one may find interesting forms of expression in push-back against reactionary positions.

The cover-- the only art I can lift from the web-- looks like it ought to be expressing Islamophobic sentiments, as the two starring critters, Junior and Suicide, are surrounded on all sides by evil Moslems, though as it happens the weasel (?) with the knife isn't actually in the story. The bird on the left is Khadafy Duck and the one in the middle is the Ayatollah Khokamamie, and it should be unnecessary to spell out what 1980s figures are being spoofed here. In reality, the two Islamic leaders had nothing to do with one another except for the way they affected American sentiments toward Islam, but here, the two of them are joined in a great super-villain version of Jihad. Junior and Suicide journey to the land of "Ilibystine," where the inhabitants worship the name of "Moolah." The two American anthropomorphs are looking for Junior's cousin One-Eyed Jack, who sent them a postcard about some sort of espionage plot involving a mysterious "capsule."

Arriving in Ilibystine, the travelers' first contact with a native is a benign one. He tells them to get away, because "it is against the law to be a foreigner in this nation." However, the moment he gets a clear look at Junior's antlers, he runs away from the "horned devil." The travelers hike to the nearest city, making an attempt to conceal Junior's horns, but a hostile crowd attacks them. Junior and Suicide are saved, after a fashion, by Khadafy, who acts in the name of the religious leader Khokamami. Khadafy shows his guests his hospitality by hanging them by the arms, because he thinks that Junior must be in league with Jack, who's hidden the mysterious capsule from his "Mooslam" enemies. Khokamami shows up, also wanting info from the captives, and the two villains expatiate on their plans to further division in the world. Khokamami gives the Americans a lecture on the evils of the Crusades and the evils of self-expression. Their Jihad is rooted in a metaphysical manipulation of the "false gods" of the outside world, and the only thing that can stop their plans is a Far Eastern weapon called "the Cosmic Capsule."

Junior and Suicide are in danger of suffering tortures beyond those of super-villain monologues, but two agents of foreign powers intrude on the scene and rescue the squirrel and the mo-- er, jackalope. Both agents have punny names, one being counter-intuitive-- a tough bull-guy who calls himself "T-Bone"-- and the other being totally incorrect, "Ninjun," who is essentially a "ninja Indian." His combination of a black ninja-suit with an Indian-feather-- seen below from the cover of issue #5-- fairly screams "only in the eighties."




After Ninjun and T-Bone spirit Junior and Suicide away, the four of them make common cause and find One-Eyed Jack. Jack gives Ninjun the capsule, and the quintet race to intercept Khokamami and Khadafy as they conjure forth the "false gods." The logic doesn't track too well, but the "gods" seem to be mythic representations of the United States and Russia, respectively a giant eagle and a giant bear. Khokamami wants them to fight and destroy one another-- which I guess would somehow weaken the power of the real Great Powers. Ninjun prevents this by firing the "cosmic capsule" into the sky, and after it explodes, it unleashes a "fallout" consisting not of radioactive particles but of people, whom Ninjun calls "the most powerful force on Earth." The conflict of the giant bear and the giant eagle is averted in a manner that just misses being sappy: the people spell out the word "peace," giving the giants no further excuse to fight, or to intervene in the affairs of Ilibystine or any other Mooslam country.

"Madness" is equal parts silly slapstick and non-interventionist screed, and certainly differs from the Islamophobe narrative by suggesting that American intervention is no more desirable than that of Russian Communism. It's also a dated work-- today, few if any persons even remember "Qaddafi's Line of Death," so that a modern reader won't have any clue as to what Crabb is spoofing when he has Khadafy Duck draw a line in the sand. But though it's not a major myth-comic in terms of popularity, it's noteworthy for taking a slightly off-kilter approach to sociological discourse.


No comments: