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Saturday, January 21, 2006

Beatlemania, What Hast Thou Wrought?

In the aftermath of Infinite Crisis #4, the Comics Blogger Internet has been abuzz with Geoff Johns's penchant for bringing back lost characters for big punchout moments, no doubt fueled by the return of a certain high-collared speedster. Or maybe it was Risk, the guy from the Dan Jurgens Teen Titans that had, if memory serves, "five times the strength, five times the speed, and five times the ability to get into trouble!"

But really, the whole thing's got me wondering why we haven't seen more forgotten DC properties showing up lately, especially one that I've been hoping for for a few years now. I mean, if Johns could put a Captain Carrot story in the pages of Teen Titans, there's no reason why he couldn't knock out a four-issue miniseries for Swing With Scooter.

Originally slated to appear in Showcase, Scooter hit the stands with his own title in 1966, owing to DC's faith that teenage Beatles fans would "flip" over the wacky misadventures of a mop-topped British teen pop star who retired to a Riverdale-esque American town. In practice, it wasn't exactly the screaming success we all hoped. It did run for 36 issues, although the majority of those came after what you could charitably call an "Archie-inspired" Henry Scarpelli redesign--complete with a new logo--that replaced Joe Orlando's slick, mod character designs.

The plot, such as it is, revolves around Scooter, who quits his band to get away from the hectic life of an international music star, but ends up being chased wherever he goes by throngs of adoring chicks and your occasional swamp monster, all the while hanging out with a group of friends who talk so much jive even Metamorpho would need a translator. Seriously, they use the word "frug" an alarming amount, and I don't even know if that's actually a word.

Running down the cast, you've got Sylvester, also known as "Tubby Greenbacks," who engages in McDuckian skinflintery despite the fact that his grandfather "invented money," and a few others that might seem familiar. There's dark-haired jealous rival Reggie Kenny, ludicrously rich brunette love interest Veronica Penny, blonde and good-hearted love interest Betty Cookie, and the bizarrely fascinating Malibu. More on him later.

Making matters even more strange is the fact that each issue includes two text pieces that seem utterly out of place. There's "Scooter's Scoops," a strange celebrity gossip column that pops out in the middle of the issue just in case you have nowhere else to go for information on the Lovin' Spoonful. Then at the end of each issue, you've got "Cookie's Tiger Bait," wherein Cookie explains, via text piece, how to land yourself a swingin' tiger of a boyfriend. When she starts explaining how you can make your eyes more attractive by smearing white makeup under your eyebrows, it gets downright surreal, but I imagine it's the precursor to that time in Love Stories 100-Page Spectacular when they got Today Show Stylist Ted Long to explain How To Look Fabulous!:

[Sigh] Oh Ted Long! Truly you are the most handsome man to appear in DC Comics in 1971.

And of course, because it was 1966, each issue has a whole-page public service announcement on topics like Bob Hope telling kids not to trip each other or taking a trip to your local public library, a bizarre nine-panel adventure that involves an old sea captain and mention of space travel:

WARNING: If a Salty Old Sea Cap'n offers to show you a ship that'll take you to adventure, DO NOT GO WITH HIM. He is not a real captain.

There's also one about how The Policeman Is Your Friend, wherein a friendly neighborhood cop helps a kid find his lost puppy, even though it's not strictly an emergency. It's nice, but I imagine it'd be a lot more convincing if it wasn't slapped in the middle of a story that featured the inexplicably vampiric EVILCOP pictured at right. Terrifying.

So with all that going for it, you might ask why Scooter and his pals have never been brought back, or reprinted, or ever talked about by someone that isn't me. The answer?

It is not very good.

But maybe that's a little harsh, especially considering that it's entirely possible that these characters have been brought back before, just not in ways that we immediately recognize. Me, I've become thoroughly convinced that Swing With Scooter may actually be the basis for DC's entire Vertigo line of comics. I mean, Cynthia's a dead ringer for Dream of the Endless's ex-girlfriend Thessaly, what with the big round glasses and forbidden eldritch knowledge, but that's only secondrary. What it really hinges on is Scooter's weird pal Malibu.

For a start, we can assume that's not his real name. But what we know about him from the story is this: He's a blond, trenchcoat-wearing misanthrope who occasionally runs afoul of the supernatural and sometimes pals around a swamp monster. Sound like anyone else we know?


Mixed in among the public service announcements and shills for AMT model kits was the following, taking up the back cover of Swing With Scooter #18 (click to marauder-size it!):

Aside from the fact that it looks like a totally awesome recruitment poster for the Burmese guerilla group led by chainsmoking ten year-olds Johnny and Luther Htoo, I just get a huge kick out of the fact that the word "realistic" was used as a selling point for a toy gun. An M16. During Vietnam. Ah, the good ol' days.


Blogger Earth-2 Leigh said...

It was Risk, wasn't it? I guess I won't feel so silly if Slobo returns in one of the remaining issues and my fanboy-erection punches out a window.

Brilliant post, anyway.

1/22/2006 6:34 AM

Blogger Dorian said...

Malibu is great, isn't he? I've only got a few Scooter reprints and I only know I must have more, simply for more of the mysterious Malibu.

1/22/2006 1:08 PM

Blogger Keith P. Stieneke said...

I have been a fan of DC Comics since about 1969 when I was 10 years old but I don't remember the character Scooter or the comics.

Anyway I now collect and read the mini and maxi series such as Infinite Crisis and have left a review at my comics blog the Unofficial DC Comics Review

1/22/2006 3:07 PM

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1/22/2006 5:09 PM

Blogger Kevin Church said...

Not for nothing, but maybe I have a Swing With Scooter script on my hard drive somewhere. Done Vertigo style. Then I remembered that Dead Enders had already bombed.


1/22/2006 9:42 PM

Blogger Jules S said...

Cool...I have collected many back issues of comics from the mid 60's, "Scooter" is certainly new to me.Back in the mid to late 80's, I was heavily involved in the SF-LA west coast Mod Revival, both as a musician and a scooterist (Vespa Rally 200)...funny that the "Scooter" shown in these comics looks more like a Moped or a modern Japanese made scooter, rather than the Italian made Vespas or Lambrettas that were popular at the time.

1/26/2006 12:30 AM

Blogger Johnny B said...

The Frug was one of those crazy 60's dances, by the way.

Scooter's no Super-Hip, but I'd love to get some of those (many of which I read YEARS ago) someday.

I used to have one of those M-16 Marauders when I was a kid...!

1/29/2006 12:47 AM


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