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NOW! Comics Astro Boy - Issue Fifteen

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Issue fifteen...it's one of the original issues I bought as a kid, back when I had no idea of the deep braid of insanity within NOW! Comics' series. This issue in particular is bad, not just because it thinks dinosaurs from space is cool. It's one of the key items I used for going "hey guys, look at this crap" back when I was the only person who knew these existed.
 
So, this issue starts off with a letter from a reader printed on the inside jacket, in three parts...in 1964, a guy - Curtis - describes in script form his victory in convincing his mom to let him eat dinner in front of the TV while watching Astro Boy. Then in July 1988, thirty-something Curtis tells his son about how Astro Boy was his favourite cartoon, but it's not on anymore. (Unless you count the 1980's series, but I've learned every American in the eighties hated it.) Later that month, Curtis, his son and his nephews find a copy of NOW! Comics' series, and "a smile of satisfaction" appears on his face.
 
July 1988? There wasn't an issue put out that month, but issue ten was in circulation then, right? Wow, Curtis must have been mad as hell when he actually read the whole thing.
 
 
 
General Hawkins with a tiny miniskirt is something we never needed, Steacy.
 
We open with General Hawkins flipping into a brand-new dimension of rage over the Ministry of Science's new budget cut, which takes away from its military R&D division to pay for the dinosaurs. After Ken Steacy misspells "national" as "nationial", Tas offers to show her the prototype of a new multi-purpose weapon...
 
 
It's John E. Seven, One Man Army. Yes, he's a pun based on the name of a toy gun from 1964. That's very nice, Ken Steacy. I'm thrilled you think you can make a valuable antagonist out of a gimmicky concept attached to a now-obscure toy you had as a kid. Why don't I just make the next Hyperspace Bunny chapter all about references to Melanie's Mall and Star Castles?
 
And also, this is the third instance of extreme beefcake...hell, it's four if you count Hunk Studley. This is seriously starting to get to me, and it's coming together with Boynton's fluctuating femininity...the fact that all the women toddle around uselessly, awkwardly being paired with the men...Tas Tamil avoiding his wife all the time to hang out with an extremely butch woman and the male researchers. Call me a vengeful psychopathic internet writer, but this comic is getting a little homoerotic.
 
This is the second time a new scene has
started with a tilted extreme close-up.
 
In the Astro-House, everybody is eating breakfast despite being robots, when Astro Girl hears the ice cream man and runs outside. Astro follows, but stops when he sees he's gotten a letter. He gets very, very serious and goes to his room. Why, it's from Dr. Boynton! Take a look at it here, and note the fact that there's visible tape adhering the type-written letter and Boynton's signature to the page. The best part...
 
I SUPPOSE I WENT MAD,
 
I suppose you did, you bipolar, son-beating, Power Loader-wearing trainwreck of a human being.
 
 
What the hell just happened here? This is Astro's reaction to the letter, all without speech, and then it cuts to Astro Girl chasing the ice cream truck up the street and having four eyes. Astro doesn't at all seem to realize Boynton is trying to brush him off with a letter; he looks like he's triggered some explosive in his head cavity.
 
Ah, yes, Astro Girl and the ice cream truck. She follows it into an old construction site and sees the following...
 
Is it Draw Crap That Makes No Sense Day?
 
In case you can't read it, she proclaims, "Wow!! This is totally awesome!! Wait'll I tell Astro!!"(sic) Look, if I were eight years old again and had just stumbled upon an ice cream truck turning trees into dinosaurs, I wouldn't react to it as if I'd won a crapload of Barbies and chocolate. I'd run.
 
Astro Girl, instead, chooses to do this.
 
Astro Girl somehow falls into the ravine and lands on the dinosaur's tail, and barely avoids being attacked when the Phantom of the Institute (it's bloody Boynton) pulls her into a culvert pipe and runs away.
 
McClaw was Irish in the 1964 dub, right? Why doesn't the comic give him a terrible stereotypical accent like Cacciatore's?
 
At the police station, Chief McLaw and Gumshoe are busy being Herpadurp Cops, when a delivery man shows up with a giant box. Upon opening it, they discover Lance Lumiere gagged and bound, with a little tag reading "From A Friend" on his butt. I could read really far into that, considering last issue's events, but I realize that Boynton's the one person tying up all the stupid plotholes in the background. Quoting a certain curse-laden viral video, "Boynton is helpin' everybody right now. If they didn't have that guy, you'd be done, all right?"
 
Third time.
 
The police, in the meantime, have discovered the dinosaur quarry and are swarming the area. Astro picks up on their radio conversions, realizes Astro Girl is gone, pulls off all his clothes in front of his parents and flies out the window. Nice one, son.
 
I only used this panel because
of the misspelling of "weird".
 
Astro arrives at the same time John E. does, and he intervenes with John E's plan to shoot the triceratops in the face. John E. continues trying to assault the dinosaur with all seven of his weapon modes, but Astro either stops them with his body or shoots the bullets. Ken Steacy has clearly forgotten the absolute power of Astro's systems...the boy can see in the dark, speak sixty languages and tunnel through solid rock. Throughout this comic, he's only picked up heavy things and demonstrated such physical immortality that Kenji Murasame would be jealous.
 
And then the crap hits the fan. In celebration, Steacy chooses not to use his light peach skintone paint for one panel: 
 
 
Yes, some purple scaly aliens that look like Alphagettis show up, and they're from...ugh...Planet Zilch. The lack of effort in everything about this twist is so pathetic that I could cry.
 
The aliens explain to Astro and John E., the latter of whom is curled up in fear, that millions of years ago they took living specimens from Earth and placed them in suspended animation. Then, they "reduced them to an atomic matrix", brought them to Earth and regenerated the dinosaurs with existing plant material. Astro gets mad at the aliens, and then they just leave in their ice cream truck rocket ship. For God's sake...
 
It's gonna take a lot not to call Steacy out on tracing that first panel.
 
Astro takes the remaining dinosaur to the zoo, where Zookeeper McGrew has chosen not to look like crap for all two panels he's in. And then, Astro goes home at what seems to be no later than eleven in the morning, and reads Astro Girl her "bedtime story"...
 
 
We get a reprint from Vortex #4, featuring Ken Steacy's late-seventies story Street Noise. Set in a desert-like science fiction world that is totally not based on Star Wars: A New Hope, a Jedi with a mustache is playing an electronic keyboard for coins outside a mechanic's place. The mechanic inside, a huge burly guy with E.T.'s face, gets irritated and goes out to fight with the guy. Suddenly, a huge robot appears, shooting houses, and the Jedi lookalike goes up to it and presses one key, causing a frequency that makes the robot's head explode. The Jedi goes up to Burly E.T. and hands him back the screwdriver he dropped, then goes on his way.
 
The only really noteable moment in this reprint is this panel. Which of us is the bigger nerd...me, for identifying the Dalek and being thrilled, or Ken Steacy, for putting it in there?
 
While Astro Girl sits there and goes on about how wonderful Ken Steacy is a writer-artist, Astro gets a call on the videophone which has suddenly changed designs. It's Elefun, and he's here with a clue as to what the next story is about...
 
Why did he draw the sweat like that? Not only is that one flying, but it looks like a sperm cell.
 
Spoiler Alert: You don't actually see the Cybots until an issue after this next one, which happens to have Brian Thomas illustrating it. Also, next issue, Osamu Tezuka dies of stomach cancer. To enhance the horror of it all, these comics require me to get into the mindset of the exact date they were released. I feel like I'm in January 1989, looking at this art that could have been ballpoint pen and watercolour on looseleaf paper, knowing that my hero dies in less than twenty days. Tezuka, stop working! Get some sleep! Go to the doctor, you have freaking stomach cancer! Tezuka, please!
 
But he's gonna die next issue. He's going to go, and all Ken Steacy knows is that he doesn't have to do a good job on the art anyway, since another guy takes over next month. We'll miss you, Dr. Tezuka...
 
Also, we get a free crossword puzzle at the end of this comic, but you have to wonder if it was written on the fly by irritated, chainsmoking editors, or written for Autistic children.
19 ACROSS: INSPECTOR ___SHOE (3 SPACES)
Hey guys, I think that may totally be "gum", but I don't know.
 
 
 
OBLIGATORY REACTION SHOT!
 
 
This comic doesn't make me mad anymore; it just fills me with an empty sadness that comes with realizing we could have had Brian Thomas, and how much sheer apathy Steacy is putting into this comic. All I can do is stare at it with a mix of confusion, shame and indignation. Back when I was 14, I dreamed of opening the issues I had yet to find at the time, and discovering a clone of Skunk Kusai shooting things. Instead, we have purple noodle aliens and references to Johnny Seven guns.
 
So, that takes me to the above image of Murasame. This comic has affected me in insane ways. I've actually had nightmares about Tetsujin 28/Gigantor becoming a NOW! Comic. We're precisely 75% done these reviews, and all I have until Brian takes over is wishing that things could have been different.
 
 

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