A vending machine. That sells comics?
If you’re like me, you’re always on the lookout for comics, whether in their natural habitat of comic and book stores or in more out-of-the-way venues like convenience stores and supermarkets. But what about a vending machine?
Yes, a vending machine! I know, I was just as surprised as you are. One chilly winter morning, while dropping my son off at baseball practice, it appeared before me. So out of place, for a moment I thought I had come upon a mirage. There, amongst the batting cages, the video games, the soda machines and Pop-A-Shot, it stood. A brightly colored anomaly – a comic book vending machine!
Comic Man Comics And Books blared brightly on each side of the machine, above a picture of a caped man on one side and a masked woman on the other. I stood there, dumbfounded, actually rubbing my eyes to make sure they were truly processing what I was seeing. As my amazement abated, my curiosity began to rise. I started to scan the comics contained within this wonderful machine, a hodgepodge of different publishers from various years and a multitude of characters. What random comic would it deliver to me if I offered up the $2.00 it demanded? Some titles I recognized, some covers showcased characters I knew but had never read, while others still were total mysteries. My curiosity mutated into an idea – an idea for this article. *Editor’s note: Speaking of mutations, check out Jairin Ervin’s TMNT: Mutant Mayhem Trailer review.
What if, every week, I fed this machine $2.00 and read whichever comic it spit out? What strange and wonderful mysteries would I be unlocking?
First up…a little Batman action
This week, I paid my hard earned $2.00 and bought my first comic from a vending machine. Turns out, secrets and mysteries will have to wait.
Batman: Shadow of the Bat #42 is cover dated September 1995, with an on-sale date of July 27th, 1995. Published by DC Comics, the cover price was $1.95. July of 1995 was the summer of Batman Forever, but you’d never be able to tell from this particular comic. Written by longtime Shadow scribe Alan Grant, the issue is standard fare for the mid-nighties, with no ties to the Joel Schumacher-directed third Bat flick. Titled “Feedback: The Day The Music Died,” we open with the shooting death of a roadie for the heavy metal band Missing Lynx. The sniper, looking very much like a cross between Lobo and hook era Aquaman, evades two rent-a-cops and makes his escape.
Liam Sharp handles the layouts in this issue, while Joe Staton is credited with finished pencils. Bill Oakley is the letterer, Sherilyn Van Valkenburgh is the colorist, and the trio of McCarthy/Boyd/Hanna are listed as the inkers. I may be biased because when I think of Shadow of the Bat, my mind immediately conjures images rendered by the late, great Norm Breyfogle, but unfortunately, the art in this issue disappoints. Its dark colors and thick ink lines, along with exaggerated physical features, create an unappealing Tom Mandrake/Kelly Jones mishmash.
As I stated above, with this issue, secrets and mysteries would have to wait. What I meant by that was, when I had this idea, I was excited to explore comics that I’d never read or revisit some beloved characters. I found myself far more interested in the ad touting a Darkseid vs. Galactus one-shot written and drawn by John Byrne and a Sam Goody sale making sure I knew they stocked LaserDiscs, than anything going on in the story. I knew who the murderer was by the end of page 3, and the art wasn’t enjoyable enough to keep me interested.
A subplot involving Jim Gordon resigning from the GCPD and contemplating a mayoral campaign while seeking Bruce Wayne’s backing, is a story I would have liked to explore. But instead we follow Batman and Robin as they careen toward a confrontation with the villain of our story, the former lead singer of the Missing Lynx, Johnny Lynx. Sorry, no spoiler warning, especially because if you’ve ever read a comic before this one, you’ll know he’s the culprit.
Thought to be in a coma, Johnny is out for revenge against the bandmates he believes betrayed him by moving on and becoming successful. Surprisingly, he succeeds, commandeering the band’s limo and driving it over a cliff, dooming the Missing Lynx to a watery fate. I do like that Batman is too late to save the band and that the bad guy gets away, but only after the requisite fistfight where Batman discovers Johnny is a cyborg. Hey, it was the 90’s.
Batman is one of my favorite characters, and Shadow of the Bat was a title I remember enjoying, but Grant isn’t exploring anything new with this story, and the art is garish, a large step down from the brilliance of Breyfogle. All in all, an inauspicious beginning to my journey through the vending machine.
What will next week bring?