Ad Nauseam: Bishop #3

When I read comics as a kid, I always wanted fewer ads so I could have more story. I didn’t care about a two page spread for grape soda since it was butting into Hulk’s smashing.

Yet now, as an adult, I thumb through my old back issues exclusively looking for ads. Perhaps to nip a little nostalgic taste to a simpler time. 9-year-old me may have scoffed at a redundant ad for Super Wrestlemania, yet 20 years later I look for details and analyze it far more than anyone should.

Tonight we delve into Marvel’s Bishop #3.

Released February 1995 as part of a X-men Limited Series.

Bishop is a time traveling mutant police officer that joins the X-Men and has a hard time not killing everything. I bought this comic back in February 1995 at JJ Peppers because Bishop seduced me with his lenticular scarf and logo. Such is life.  

Okay. Now let’s look at old advertisements together!

Street Fighter The Movie: Released December 1994

By simply opening the comic you are righteously hadouken’d by a full page ad for the Street Fighter movie. And it’s clear right off the bat that this book desperately wants you to know it’s 1995. If you don’t know anything about Street Fighter this poster makes everything abundantly clear: Jean-Claude Van Damme has to fight Raul Julia on his Dr. Robotnik flying cart all inside of an Alienware computer tower surrounded by onlookers composing of early nineties professional wrestlers.

Though this movie is famously ragged on by both fans of the Street Fighter franchise and people with at least one of their facial extremities, I happen to enjoy this film for what it is. After all, it is based on an arcade game where you can have a flame spitting rubber Gandhi face an anthropomorphic bottle of Gatorade. In what other game can you get bonus points by having a sumo wrestler punch a car into a metal dump heap?

Perhaps I’m being lenient because I simply enjoy images consisting of an overbearing composition of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s face. But when it comes to the Street Fighter movie only one thing is abundantly clear to me: M. Bison’s wardrobe gets an opening credit.

Seriously check that out.

Maximum Carnage For the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis

Oh shoot. Things just got pretty real pretty quick. You’re just a few pages into Bishop’s new flippin’ mutant adventure and you’ve already come face to face with Carnage.

So, for those who don’t know, Carnage is a Spider-man villain. And at this time he was at the height of his popularity (just 3 years after his first appearance).  What’s made him so enticing to comic fans was that he was essentially an NC-17 horror character existing in a PG-13 world. Imagine merging Charles Manson with a Xenomorph. That’s Carnage, baby.

This ad in particular was for a video game based on his first story arc: Maximum Carnage. It was a side scrolling beat ‘em up that directly lifted panels from the comic in 16 bit form to progress the story. The biggest draw of the game was that you had the option to play as Spider-man or Venom(who was Wolverine anti hero levels of popular in the 90s). Not to mention you could unlock superhero assistance from Captain America or Cloak & Dagger to clear the screen of thugs for you.

This game was a pretty big deal. From the print ads such as this to the creepy vague commercial  and bright red game cartridge, it made a point to separate itself from the dregs of previous comic book inspired games. Plus it was really good. I remember renting this game numerous times from my local Blockbuster and playing it until my fingers were raw hot dogs.

Also let’s not confuse Maximum Carnage with Total Carnage when you’re 14 and at the register of a Music Recyclery. Because there’s nothing nearly as disappointing. No hyperbole here.   

I also love the secret tip given in the lower right corner of the page. I miss when gaming was like this.

Wolverine: Adamantium Rage released for the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis, Bub.

I don’t miss when gaming was like this.  

Remember how I mentioned that Maximum Carnage separated itself from the dregs of previous comic book inspired games? Well, hey, here’s one of the dregs I was talking about. Wolverine: Adamantium Rage followed everyone’s favorite uber violent Canuck and not-yet-Hugh-Jackman’ed mutant as he slices and dices his way through monotonous and lackluster gameplay. If I had a dime for every minute spent wandering around some mad laboratory blasting rejected 16 bit covers of Kriss Kross I’d have, like, enough dimes to buy Wolverine: Adamantium Rage.

No, seriously, give this a listen.

The ad itself is eye catching and completely enticing. That (now) classic image of Wolverine in pure berserker mode surrounded by squares showcasing such memorable Wolverine foes like: Soldier-on-fire, Silver Wolfman, little boy and Baraka in sunglasses! Plus check out those screenshot descriptions.

Wolverine battles the demon within.

Wow. Is there a level of self loathing and regret in the Wolverine video game?! Like, totally EXISTENTIAL dudes!

Frank Miller’s run in the early 80’s solidified Wolverine as a true comic celebrity. And for a guy who runs around in bright yellow spandex, he’s quite the brooding tormented soul. Which is why it was such a letdown playing this game. It wasn’t unplayable or even especially bad. It was just so mundane and uninspired, which made it completely undeserving of the Wolverine character at the time.

I always loved how some comics cut the crap and catered to their stereotypical demographic: You’re reading comics instead of doing your homework you pimply little spice weasel you.

Enter Cliffs Notes and Clearasil.

Man, if I ever wrote a book about my high school years that’s the title.

Fun fact: Writing this made me realize it’s “Cliffs Notes” with an “s”. I’ve been calling it “Cliff Notes” forever. I guess reading can pay off. This little ad has an offer for the “Cliffs Edge” to receive free study tips and a free newsletter. So Cliffs Notes to Cliff Notes I suppose. Did you know George Lucas has a large library of these little Cliffs Note books? I don’t know what to make of that exactly.

The clearasil ad is interesting. This particular kid pictured has a giant exclamation point in the place of his head made up of how awful getting acne is. I can’t disagree with that. Acne shoots your confidence right in it’s heart. And you know what? Clearasil does nothing. It makes your face feel sticky and smelly. But you can always stick your face into some Cliffs Notes to hide I guess.

Premiere Edition Fleer Ultra Skeleton Warriors Trading Cards. With a name like that I imagine trading these on a red carpet with a glass of champagne in hand.

Oh my. Skeleton Warriors. Boy, what the heck was this about?

Skeleton Warriors was popular for about a hot second. It had a cartoon, comic series, video game, and a toy line. Compared to the detail and articulation of our current offerings like Ninja Turtles or Power Rangers, Skeleton Warriors were on another level. Another skeletal level. I begged my grandpa for DR. CYBORN one morning during a quick trip to Walgreens. What kid would turn him down? He looked like a Terminator merged with the rotting corpse of Count Dracula! Plus he’s the CYBER SCIENTIST OF THE SKELETON LEGION I JUST LOOKED THAT UP RIGHT NOW!

Judging from the intro of the cartoon show all skeletons are evil (dang) and a group of humans ride neon speeder bikes to battle them. Lightstar is the leader and there’s also a Mr. Sinister looking guy who’s dressed as a skeleton but a good guy? Does he dress as a skeleton to mock them? My favorite aspect has to be the overlaying guitars practically screaming to viewers to please not think of He-Man. Good to hear Dokken’s getting work.

The last line of the title theme is, “They’re bad to the bone!”. You damn right that’s the last line. Because it better be.

The cartoon only lasted 13 episodes. I nor anybody I knew actually watched it. Yet those toys were smuggled in during recess throughout the school year. And Dr. Cyborn got plenty of play throughout my toy career. He went on to battle such greats as Aero Strike Batman and T-Rex hand puppet.

This ad in particular is promoting the “Fleer Ultra Skeleton Warriors Trading Card Line”. And if you can say that ten times fast you are blessed. It pictures Prince Lightstar who is now a prince and wearing a completely unpractical costume. Never did I think “big sharp horns protruding upwards out of your nipples” would be a weapon I would need during the mighty skeleton war. I dig the Skeletor color scheme. Not sure if that was intentional or not. The particular skeleton warrior chosen is named “Dagger” and from what I understand (quickly skimmed wikipedia) he is the clumsy servant that’s comic relief.

The ad claims “Bad To The Bone! January 1995.” Yet just 5 months later the show was boned and buried. Throw me a bone with that last line. I’m sorry.

I don’t know how this show ended. But I can only assume the heroes discovered that if we put our differences aside there is a skeleton deep within us all.

If the Skeleton Warriors ever went on to get as popular as  the Turtles or Power Rangers the marketing could’ve went great with making Milk cool. Drink milk to build strong healthy bones and you can become a Skeleton Warrior!

So that about covers the tantalizing tasty tidbits of what you’d find being advertised in Bishop #3. Thanks for reading about ads found in a 22 year old comic book.


New Blood

Time Spent: About 3.5 hours

A great way to celebrate Friday is by drawing something Friday the 13th inspired.

I guess. I don’t know. It just happened to pan out this way.

Stamp of Greatness

Phantom Friday

Let’s long windedly talk about The Phantom.

I love the classic pulp heroes of the 30’s and 40’s. In the midst of this amazing universe building superhero movie trend, I secretly long for the heroes of old to get a much needed reboot as well. Characters like The Spider, Mandrake the Magician, The Shadow, Doc Savage, The Spirit, Flash Gordon, Green Hornet, Dick Tracy, and my subject of the day: The Phantom.

I’m going to try to give a very brief history on this classic 80 year old character so my revisioning can make more sense.

The Phantom was created by Lee Falk in 1936. Falk modeled the character after Zorro and Tarzan. The Phantom operates out of the fictional jungle of Bangalla in Africa. His homebase is a sweet ancient skullcave. He brands a lot of his gear with tiny skulls. He has a wolf named “Devil” as a sidekick and occasionally a horse named “Hero”. He dual wields pistols and has no superpowers. He was the first crimefighter to don tights. His nicknames include “The Ghost Who Walks” and “The Man Who Cannot Die”.

The Phantom, in his stories, was built up to be a mythic legend of the jungle that’s existed for hundreds of years. The truth being that the mantle of The Phantom is passed down generation to generation making it only seem as if he was one immortal man.

When diving into the pulp heroes of yesteryear The Phantom stands out in many ways. Many heroes back then were self made millionaire playboys that took on crime in the seedy city nights using gadgets and/or mystic powers (usually learned mysteriously in the eastern culture). The Phantom was simply a highly trained and intelligent Tarzan with badass guns who was in the jungle. So it was a little breath of fresh air.

My handwriting may not be readable with the way this website displays pictures BUT I have elaborated below 

We live in a culture that loves our “gritty realism” when it comes to superheroes but not all characters need that to be considered entertaining. The Phantom already received the gritty realistic (and devolved) take in 2009 for a SyFy miniseries. Taking The Phantom out of the jungle and throwing him in a city suited up in a rejected paintball uniform does nothing for the character. Neither does throwing him in a futuristic city of 2040.

I want to reimagine the character, yes, but more importantly I want people to realize you can take the man out of the jungle but you can’t take the jungle out of the man.  

So here’s my vision of The Phantom.

I believe less is more with a lot of characterization. And I love showing it through the eyes of the people. I imagine the intrigue and mystery of King Kong meets the silent terror of Dracula and characterization of The Undertaker.

We’re deep in the dark and dangerous jungles of Bangalla. Crime runs through Africa with poaching, drug and arms smuggling, murder, and human trafficking. But the locals know that any criminals that comes through these parts do not get very far. When criminals find themselves dizzied in the humid jungle maze and it gets eerily quiet, The Phantom draws near. They realize in their final moments that they should’ve listened to the natives. That maybe the talk about the “Ancient One” or “The Ghost Who Walks Among Us” wasn’t some archaic psycho babble. Maybe they should’ve turned back when they seen the hundreds of crude skull carvings etched into the tree trunks while entering the jungle. This was the Phantom’s realm now and they shouldn’t have come here. In the distance through the fog approaches the glowing red eyes of a large wolf. It growls and salivates at their mere presence. That’s when it lands inches in front of them making a thud on the soft fertile ground. And slowly rises looming over them. They shouldn’t have come here.

So The Phantom himself. You have to keep the major elements there. He’s the peak of human condition and abilities. He has a wolf named “Devil”. He operates out of a skull cave in the Bangalla jungle.

He’s part of a generational line of Phantoms. We don’t know which. We don’t know his name. All we know is he’s been doing this for a very long time and his lineage has done it even longer. His skull cave is filled with hundreds of books on subjects from language to fighting to cooking to popular fiction. And even though this Phantom is nearly silent he knows many languages and is highly intelligent.

Now here’s where I get weird. The Phantom wears his iconic generational skull ring. But instead of it being this arlum that’s been passed down…every Phantom carves a ring from the deceased bones of the previous Phantom. A reminder of heritage and the sacrifice made both literally and figuratively. Plus we’re reminded of the crudeness of the jungle. It’s revealed that the skullcave was chosen by the first Phantom because of a mysterious purple liquid that flows through it. This purple liquid has been tapped and flows through a fountain in the shape of a skull. This elixir of sorts has special rejuvenating powers. It heals wounds and mends broken bones much faster than any sort of medicine or doctor. It also increases lifespan as we learn most Phantoms have operated for nearly 80 or 90 years. It can essentially be seen as a “fountain of youth” in lore. And the Phantom will occasionally use it to help others in need as well adding to his “supernatural” abilities. Devil will essentially help hunt and track the guilty. He’s an enormous terrifying wolf with blood red eyes.

This leads into the costume. The purple tights? Gone. Similar to samoan culture, the Phantoms take this purple liquid and tattoo intricate patterns and designs over their body as training goes on. When they are ready their body is completely covered in these purple tattoos. The liquid being “part” of them now gives The Phantom the almost inhuman physical ability and the iconic purple look. His hands and feet are “taped” or wrapped in black like a martial artist/boxer/kickboxer. Black ashes are used to paint around his eyes as a “mask”. Also his eyes are pure white like the comic to give off an eery Undertaker supernatural vibe. The human skull that adorns his belt is earned by “sentencing” his first criminal.

This Phantom also does not use guns. Though most pulp heroes were armed I thought it would set The Phantom apart even more to disarm him. The explanation being that guns are a modern weapon and someone with his skills and abilities does not need to rely on them. Do not confuse this with the fact that the Phantom does not kill…he most certainly does. He is not bloodthirsty but if a dangerous threat he will put you down. He is a predator of the jungle not a savage.  

One interesting aspect about the 1996 film was that Kit Walker was actually haunted by his father (the previous Phantom) throughout the adventure. It was done in a comedic tone with Kit often seen by a bystander bickering to himself or his ghost dad having punchlines that only Kit could hear. But I liked the idea of the Phantom being haunted by his ancestors. Afterall, the character is all about ghost mythology.

In this version, The Phantom will sacrifice certain diabolical criminals for his ancestors. And he’ll even bring select criminals to his skullcave for “judgement”. Essentially imagine being in an ancient aztec looking sacrificial plot surrounded by skeletons. Where the spirits of the previous Phantoms judge your fate. The Phantom sits in the middle in his iconic stone throne surrounded in a circle by his ancestors tombs.  

Well that’s all I got. There you have it. That’s pretty long winded, no? I mean, I can go on and on and on and on. This was an idea conjured up for my love of the character and me wanting him to be relevant again. I love to reimagine characters. If I was America it would be my national pastime.

I do not have the rights to this character nor I’m a in no way affiliated with it. But I can dream.


A Symbol Of Greatness