Friday, August 05, 2005

Rarely Reviewed Comics - Fast Willie Jackson #4

There are a lot of comics out there.

There are a lot of comic blogs out there.

And yet, there are still a lot of comics that do not get looked at on comic blogs. With this recurring feature, I plan to look at some books that I do not see featured a lot.

The first such book?

Fitzgerald Periodicals' short-lived 1976-1977 series, Fast Willie Jackson!

Written by noted black culural maven Bertram Fitzgerald (hence the Fitzgerald part of Fitzgerald Periodicals. The Periodicals part came from the books being periodicals...hehe), and drawn in the Archie Comics' house style by Gus Lemoine, Fast Willie Jackson was basically the black Archie.

Only the book took a slightly edgier turn than simply that.

Take the cover of #4, as seen here...

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Yes, Fast Willie Jackson had a "black militant" character named Jabar.

So this was not just Archie comics.

Fitzgerald had some ideas that he wanted to get across, along with the fun.

Lemoine does a good job aping the Archie House style, but he occasionally has some trouble with the character designs. Fast Willie looks like a girl more than a few times in the comic.

Fast Willie is the star, and he's the typical, average teen. Jo-Jo is his wacky best friend. Frankie is the rich, good-looking, vain kid in the group. Dee-Dee is the knockout that Willie is enamored with.

The first story is basically just Willie wishing he had a car so that he could impress Dee-Dee. The story really does not go anywhere.

Then there is a story about a beauty contest Willie founds, with the prizes being dates with Willie!

The girls, of course, can't pass up winning a beauty contest, but come up with a way out of dating Willie. It involves Hannibal, this big muscle-bound guy who looks like he is 35 years old. I do not really understand his role in the comic.

There is a story with Jo-Jo just making lots and lots of jokes in class. The jokes are decent enough, I suppose.

There is a story where Frankie tries on a lot of fancy clothes for a date, and he finally picks the perfect outfit - to go to a dark move in. That was probably the best gag.

There are a lot of references to black pop culture in the comic.

The most striking stories in the book, though, are

1. The story set in a Spanish restaraunt. It is pretty edgy for a kid comic, as it basically expresses frustration at those lazy Spanish people. Weird stereotype-filled bit.

2. A really hard-hitting anti-smoking story. The sort of story you'd expect to read TODAY, that's how hard-hitting it was. It involved "The Man" pooling the wool over our eyes about the evils of smoking.

All in all, this comic had a lot of story in it, but while it certainly deserves a lot of credit for trying to expose kid comics to a different cast of characters, it really could have used some improved writing. I have read plenty of Archie comics from the period, and there were some good issues back then, so it is not just a matter of good writing not being expected in kid comics.

Fitzgerald had some good ideas, but I think he probably would have been better off hiring someone ELSE to execute them.

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Blogger Tegan O'Neil said...

Rock! Here I thought I was the only person who remembered this gem...

8/05/2005 08:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

8/05/2005 08:59:00 AM  
Blogger T. said...

It's too bad the interior of the comic sounds so average, because that cover is VERY sharp and funny!

8/05/2005 02:30:00 PM  
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