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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Dollar Comic Super Spectacular: The Saga of U.S. 1, Part One!

Attention, ISB Readers! You may now return from the edge of your seats, for I have finally discovered the single greatest comic book series ever published. Twelve issues so monumentally mind-shattering that it's going to take two days to get through it all, using enough boldface type to bankrupt a small country.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you...

U.S. 1

At this point, you may well be asking yourself whether I've gone completely out of my mind, but I'm going to be totally serious here for a second: In U.S. 1 #3, a trucker who can communicate over CB Radio through a metal plate in his head has a swordfight to the death on a zeppelin full of live chickens.

I defy you to find anything outside of the time Metamorpho shot laser beams out of a guitar at a two-foot tall galactic conqueror that even approaches that level of awesome.

Now then, let's kick it into high gear! Written by Affable Al Milgrom with pencils by Herb Trimpe, Frank Springer, and even Swingin' Steve Ditko, U.S. 1 is a masterpiece of the comics form screaming down the highway from 1983. Released just in time to capitalize on the fame generated by Jerry Reed's tour-de-force in Smokey and the Bandit 3, it only lasted twelve issues, despite storylines that featured such diverse themes as trucking, fighting at truck stops, and alien spacecraft powered by uncooked chicken legs.

Seriously, Milgrom passes "tongue-in-cheek" by page three, and from then on out, the entire series is so ridiculously aware of its own ridiculous premise that there are editor's notes criticizing the puns in the dialogue. It's beautiful.

The story follows the exploits of one Ulysses Solomon Archer, who, in the mighty Marvel style, was orphaned along with his brother (I swear) Jefferson Hercules when their parents--a pair of truckers whom I can only assume were named Belerophon and Ariadne--died in a car crash, leaving them in the care of their godparents, retired drag-racer and truck stop owner Poppa Wheelie, and his heavyset wife who sports Princess Leia's hairstyle and may or may not have been a member of the Howling Commandos, Wide Load Annie.

Yeah, I know. You'd think she'd pick a less insulting handle.

Rounding out the cast, we have Retread, whose name I never fail to read as "Retard," a shady drifter whose defining characteristic is his inability to hold down a job, and a pair of ladies that complete the requisite love triangle for our hero. Betty in this case is portrayed by Mary McGrill, described as (and I quote) "the sweetest little waitress who ever had her bottom pinched by a trucker;" while this evening's Veronica stand-in is Taryn O'Connell, coloquially known as "Taryn Down The Highway" or "The redhead in the halter top."

Anyway, turns out U.S. is an electronics genius who goes to college on a scholarhsip, graduates with honors, played quarterback on the football team, and returns to Poppa and Wide Load's truck stop just in time to be riding shotgun with his brother when Jeff's run off the road and hauled off by demons in the service of the mysterious Highwayman. U.S. manages to escape with a completely crushed skull, which is then rebuilt out of an experimental alloy, giving him the ability to intercept CB Radio signals when he touches one of his fillings with his tongue.

Yes. That actually does qualify as a super-power. Although really, up until the seventh issue or so, he mostly just uses it to headbutt people.

As you might expect by this point, U.S. immediately swears vengeance on the Highwayman and uses his scientific knowledge and the apparently bottomless profits generated by a seedy truck stop to build the most ridiculously tricked out truck since David Hasselhoff's evil twin, David-Hasselhoff-With-A-Moustache, stole the plans to KITT and built Goliath. And thus... U.S. 1 is born!

What follows can only be described as a rip-roaring series of transit-based adventures, featuring villains that are so radical that they threaten to blow your mind.

First up, in U.S. 1 #2...

And Her Hypno-Whip!

Because in the world of U.S. 1, we don't have time for women with whips that don't also take over your mind. Unfortunately, U.S. is able to handily defeat her by chewing on tinfoil, and if you don't think that leads to a joke about Midnight's plans being "foiled," you haven't been paying attention, buster.

The next issue, "The Rhyme of the Ancient Highwayman," focuses on U.S.'s nemesis and the mastermind behind pretty much everything that happens in the entire run, but sadly, it was never turned into an Iron Maiden song. In it, we find out that the Highwayman is rumored to be an old trucker who, in an effort to keep up with the fast-paced world of trucking in the early 80s, traveled the world in search of a way to gain youth and power. After being turned down by The Frigg'n Ancient One, of Dr. Strange fame, he sold his soul to the devil in exchange for sorcerouos abilities and an unbeatable eighteen-wheeler known only as The Blackrig.

It's also revealed that the world of trucking is apparently a lawless and savage one, as evidenced by the fact that the Highwayman sends like six semi-trucks armed with grenade launchers and a fully-armed war-blimp.

Ah yes. The eternal battle of Blimp vs. Truck. There is no more philosophical debate in the history of mankind, and it's not something that Al Milgrom is going to shy away from.

Not when he could introduce a character like Baron Von Blimp, a stout teutonic aviator who challenges U.S. 1 to a race across the country, with the prize being a lucrative contract from "The Great Chicken Colonel" and his "finger-lickin' chickens." Because Ulysses Solomon Archer has got to get paid.

Not surprisingly, it is the most totally sweet Zeppelin/Truck race in the history of mankind, thanks in no small part to the fact that it involves this panel:

Tomorrow on the ISB!

The Terrifying Secret of Midnight and her Hypno-Whip!

The Highwayman Revealed!

Girl-On-Girl Oil Wrestling!

And The Ending You Never Expected!



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfettered awesome.

As it happens, on Beck's album Odelay sits what I think would be the perfect theme song for U.S. 1 (or any bizarre trucker hero, really)--"Novacane":

Keep on talking like a novacane hurricane/Low static on the poor man's short-wave/Stampede's got to dismantle/Code-red: what's your handle?

Mission incredible undercover convoy/Full-tilt chromosome cowboy
X-ray search and destroy
Smoke-stack black-top novacane boy


Crying out loud down the turnpike
Hundred hours on the miracle mic
Grinding the gears eighteen wheels
Pigs and robots riding on their heels


Down the horizon purple gasses
Semi-trucks hauling them asses
Novacane, hit the road expressway

Think you not?

5/24/2006 12:53 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I bought this entire series when it came out and would now purchase the graphic novel, if it were somehow available. What makes US1 even more perfect is that it was based on a toy.

I shed a tear for US1 and my lost youth.

5/24/2006 1:13 AM

Blogger Woody! said...

So, he can listen to CB signals. How useless is that power? He can't even send signals, can he? That would require him to have an actual CB radio. And if he had that, his super power would be redundant, right?

5/24/2006 1:19 AM

Blogger Eric said...

I am overcome with the sheer awesomeness of U.S. 1. The only thing that could make it more awesome would be if there were evil clowns. Please tell me there are evil clowns.

5/24/2006 1:32 AM

Blogger lostinube said...

1) Love the blog

2) I swear to god I had multiple issues of U.S. 1. Did they come in those comic pack sets that you'd buy at the supermarket or something?

3) Team America was much much cooler than U.S. 1. Can you do a full overview of their series next?

5/24/2006 2:33 AM

Blogger joncormier said...

Where do I get a Hypno-Whip? Damn, son you got all the best hypno-gadgetry here.

5/24/2006 8:50 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: Midnight.
It's kind of modest for a dominatrix to wear pants, isn't it?
Anyway, was US1 actually a toy?

5/24/2006 10:20 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just being told about ruining a villain's plans by chewing on tinfoil has provided me with the most visceral comic experience I've had in years. U.S.1 is so good it made my teeth hurt! Thumbs up right back at you, U.S.1! Keep on Truckin'!

5/24/2006 11:28 AM

Blogger David Campbell said...

Wait, in the end does U.S. 1's truck turn into a spaceship and he blasts off for some space-truckin' adventures? Because if that happens, I will FREAK OUT.

5/24/2006 2:30 PM

Blogger Luis K. said...

And to think that I kept ignoring copies of U.S. 1 whenever I saw them in the comics bargain bins! How could I have known they contained such glories?! ACH!

5/24/2006 5:21 PM

Blogger Chris Sims said...


Prepare to freak the fuck out on tonight's ISB.

5/24/2006 8:33 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, Dave, didn't U.S. become a space trucker? I'm relatively sure he was one in the She Hulk series.....so yeah, greatest series ever.

Based on a toy? Really? I never knew that...

5/24/2006 9:33 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I fucking love this site.

5/24/2006 10:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hee hee hee. I have an issue or two of U.S. 1, although I have to say that not all of them are /that/ fun. But Team America is! (Well, ok, not really.)

US 1 is hooked up with Razorback lately, isn't he? (Given as he is, in fact, IN SPACE, and all.)

5/24/2006 11:52 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Somehow this 12-issue maxi-series didn't kill the limited series genre.

Proof that the 80's Marvel era was not all Miller's Daredevil, Claremont/Byrne X-men, etc...

1/18/2007 4:07 PM


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