The Hits Keep Coming
Back in the seventies, DC had this peculiar fascination with the world of sports that would later move to Marvel and evolve into things like Kickers, Inc, Fastball Express, and--of course--NFL Superpro. But as odd as a series revolving around a washed up football star in power armor was, the stories from back in the day were usually even weirder.
Mostly, the assorted weirdness came from the unfortunately short-lived Strange Sports Stories, the comic that dared to ask questions that were ridiculous even by Silver-Age Standards. Questions like: "Why did a Karate match start on Earth--and shift to the MOON?!" There may have been a more awesome question asked some time before recorded history, but I seriously doubt it. And that's the sort of thing that was on every issue. It's great.
Unfortunately, Champion Sports didn't quite live up. Released at roughly the same time as Strange Sports Stories, I'm pretty sure that Champion Sports was a sister title designed to focus on more realistic tales, which had the added bonus of being terrible. It ended up having an even shorter run than Strange Sports did, with only three issues.
Today, since I had nothing better to do at work than, you know, work, I ended up reading #2, and that's ten minutes I'll never get back. Considering that I'm only a fan of the kind of sports you catch on The Ocho, it's a wonder that I picked it up at all. See, I was enticed by the cover, which promised a story called "STREET FIGHTER," a title that's often attatched to something I love. So how'd it work out for me? Find out in this exciting three-part novel, complete in this blog!
The first of three Joe Simon/Jerry Grandenetti classics is erroneously titled "The Enchanted Bat," and was probably knocked out in fifteen minutes when Simon was taking a break between issues of Prez. It's a baseball tale, naturally, about this kid who's an absolutely phenomenal outfielder, but with one small problem: He can't hit at all. Except for his game-winning plays in center field, though, his team's pretty mediocre, and so they lay the blame for losing square on his shoulders instead of being glad they've got a guy who makes spectacular catches every game.
Cue the arrival of a magician, who barges into the locker room touting his supernatural powers. The coach cracks a few jokes at his expense, so David Copperfield threatens to turn him into a chicken and makes him spit out a mouthful of feathers before stomping off to sulk in a trailer conveniently located behind the baseball diamond. The Kid follows, begging the magician to use his powers to make him a better hitter. So, for the cost of one (1) immortal soul, Dumbledore here conjures up the ghost of Babe Ruth, who gives the Kid his bat, which leads to him hammering home runs every time he gets up to the plate.
Soon, it's the night of The Big Game™, and anyone who has ever watched a sitcom, seen a movie, or read a children's book knows what's coming next. One of the Kid's teammates borrows the bat in an attempt to get a piece of the Bambino's mojo, and ends up cracking it on a foul ball. The Kid gets pretty upset, and rightfully so considering he traded his immortal soul for it, but then the coach steps in and reveals that the bat was never magical... The real power was inside him all along!
The Kid asks how they pulled their bizarre sham off, and they respond by saying they conjured the Ghost of Babe Ruth with "movie camers and mirrors," thus upholding the Scooby Doo principle that with a candle, some string, and a bit of papier-mache, you too can create fully corporeal and convincing spectres at home. What really sums it up for me, though, is that it's a story called "The Enchanted Bat" that does not actually contain an enchanted bat. What a rip.
The second story is a tale of the Gridiron, involving Dan, the Quarterback, and Chuck, also known as the Animal, who brutally runs interference for Dan's plays. Dan gets all the credit, naturally, and even though he's a swell guy who makes sure to give credit to Chuck even while nubile coeds are throwing themselves at him, Chuck starts to resent the attention and demands to be made quarterback. Dan, in a show of sportsmanship, agrees, and as it turns out, Chuck's really good at that side, too. Unfortunately, the rest of the team couldn't block a troop of girl scouts, and the coach begs Chuck to go back to his old position. Chuck agrees, saying that he wants to be the Animal again, and goes out to the field to rend hamstrings and snap legs--LT style!
The team wins, of course, and when he's getting interviewed by a TV crew, Dan says that he couldn't have done it without Chuck. Then--and I swear this is true--it cuts to Dan, now middle-aged and balding, sitting in his armchair while his homely wife cooks dinner, watching The Animal play pro on TV, and wondering what that must be like. He now sells insurance.
The moral of the story? I have no idea.
Finally, we reach the last installment of this triptych, The Street Fighter. YOU ARE Packy East and you're in the fight for the title! But how, exactly, did you get here? Allow me to translate:
Bad Sign 1: Second-person narration.
Bad Sign 2: The majority of the story will be an extended flashback.
Philip Eastman--heir to the Eastman fortune--is out one day for a stroll through the ghetto when he gets mugged by three guys who want a dollar to buy cigarettes. The cops chase him off, call him stupid, and send him home to his dad, who also calls him stupid for sticking to the principle of the matter. I was half expecting him to get sent off to live with his auntie and uncle in Bel Air, but Philip's dad just hires a bodyguard for him, who turns out to be a former boxer.
Philip siezes the chance to learn how to fight, and devotes himself to the sweet science, driven by his feelings of powerlessness in the face of violent crime. He does well on his college boxing team, and--now known as Packy East, allegedly "a name with some respect to it"--decides not to go into the family company, but take a turn as a pro boxer.
He wins the title, and the very next day is out walking the streets of New York when the very same mugger rolls up, demanding cigarette money. But this time, Packy's having none of it, and slugs the guy...
...Who then gets right back up and kicks the shit out of him because he never learned to fight on the streets.
Wow. And to make the story just a bit more soul-crushing, Packy decides that fighting is way too hard and that running his dad's company is the way to go.
Joe Simon, everybody. Making sure kids hand over the dollar and nobody gets hurt since 1940.