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I Love Ya But You’re Strange – That Time Gen13 Met Betty, Veronica, Archie, Katchoo, Shi, Wolverine, Hellboy, Madman…

Every week, I will spotlight strange but ultimately endearing comic stories (basically, we’re talking lots and lots of Silver Age comic books). Here is the archive of all the installments of this feature. Feel free to e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com if you have a suggestion for a future installment!

Today we look at 1996′s Gen13 #13 (which was split into three comics, an A, a B and a C) which sends Grunge on a magical journey through the land of Sequential Art as he learns a moral about the dangers of a speculation comic book market.

First off, Gen13 #1 had thirteen different covers just a year or so earlier, so they certainly are not trying to say that they were not part of the problem. That said, we can’t begrudge writers Brandon Choi, Jim Lee and J. Scott Campbell for accepting that they were part of the problem and make their commentary about the dangers of a speculation-driven comic book market.

The book opens with the Gen13 kids visiting a comic book store where Grunge is obsessed with a “rare” “chromium” comic book cover that sells for $79.95! At one point, his teammate Fairchild points out all the cool alternative comic books Grunge could buy and he laughs at her, he just wants that Chromium comic, dammit!

Well, after having a bad hamburger, Grunge goes to the bathroom where he meets a mysterious stranger who offers him the Chromium comic in exchange for his SOUL! Grunge quickly accepts, and thus, the story kicks in…

When he awakes, he meets his guide, a Tinkerbell version of his friend Roxy (who is romantically interested in Grunge but he seems to be oblivious to it).

First off, Grunge meets the kids from Riverdale, in what I think was J. Scott Campbell’s best series of pages, which is why I’m including them all (Alex Garner inked Campbell on the issue)…

On his journey through the land of S.A. (Sequential Art) on his way to help the Wizard (who, oddly enough, I don’t think actually represents anyone in particular) defeat the Frenzy Beast (representing a collector-driven market as opposed to a “just enjoying comic books” market), Grunge meets a number of allies, including Fone Bone (who warns Grunge that he just ate some Beanworld folks)…

Here, the writers take a bit of a shot at Rob Liefeld, whose Extreme Studios had just left Image recently…

Then the “bad girls” that Archie was worrying about attack. Lady Death, Witchblade and I think Avengelyne represent the said “bad girls,” while Shi and Francine and Katchoo show up to save Grunge…

(Other guest stars from independent comic books that I didn’t show were Hellboy, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Savage Dragon, Spawn, Madman, Monkeyman and O’Brien, Jungle Princess and The Maxx. Oh, and Tony Robbins also shows up, because, well, why not?)

The Frenzy Beast then creates some zombies (“Marvel zombies,” I presume) to stop Grunge but a big guest star shows up to save him (the amulet was given to Grunge earlier in the story by “Leegor,” Jim Lee mixed with Igor, who mentions that it helped him in one of his old gigs…

And finally, Grunge has to decide whether collecting a “super-rare” chromium cover is worth the destructive effects of a speculative market (which were being felt dramatically in the world of comics back in 1996)…

Grunge wakes up from his dream and has a new attitude towards comic books and, of course, of Roxy, who he kisses, giving the book a happy ending.

26 Comments

Wow, is this collected anywhere? I love how Campbell draws all the different styles on the same page like that.

I don’t believe so, no. I bet all of the permissions they received for the story would make it next to impossible to reprint. It’s one thing for Marvel to let them use Wolverine for one issue, but for a book that would stay in print possibly in perpetuity? That’d be a much different story.

Not a real surprise since he nails the style of everything else…but the Liefeld stuff is so spot-on that I’m still cracking up about it. The non-existent feet, the insanely puffed out chests, the face pillows…HA! Nice one Brian – I’d never heard about this one.

There was a Gen13 b/w “phone book” reprint edition that had these in it. I have it, but have not seen it for sale in years. It was like a Marvel “Essentials” or DC “Showcase”.

There are actually several reprints of this, including a couple versions of the “Gen 13 #13ABC” prestige-format book.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/GEN-13-13ABC-Wizard-Special-Edition-Jim-Lee-Tribute-Wizard-Image-1996-NM-MT-/150955593899?pt=US_Comic_Books&hash=item2325a790ab

Thanks for the head’s up, guys! I didn’t know they reprinted it. I wonder if DC can still reprint them?

I’d say that the character use is probably covered under parody exemption.

I’m amazed they actually got the permissions for all those guest appearances. But if Grunge is such a comics nerd, it’s odd he never heard of Wolverine.
And yes, the art was remarkable.

I’d say that the character use is probably covered under parody exemption.

They wouldn’t be covered. They are not being parodied. Lady Mortem (for Lady Death), sure, but not Wolverine and the rest. That’s why they specifically got permission for them all (each issue notes it in the indica).

They also used Bone lettering for Fone Bone’s speech.

So is that an official Archie appearance for Comic Book Six Degrees purposes? The characters are referred to by name an everything.

Yeah, each of the respective appearances of the characters are official, except for Lady Death (and I guess Avengelyne, if it is even intended to be her). However, the rub is that they are each independent issues. So Gen13 #13A is different from Gen13 #13B is different from Gen13 #13C, so the characters have to share the precise issue to be considered appearing in the same story (so you can’t connect Archie to Hellboy directly).

The Crazed Spruce

November 30, 2012 at 3:50 pm

On his journey through the land of S.A. (Sequential Art) on his way to help the Wizard (who, oddly enough, I don’t think actually represents anyone in particular)

Yeah, I have absolutely no idea whatsoever who the Wizard could possibly represent.

In 1996.

In a comic parodying the speculator market.

No idea whatsoever…. [/sarcasm]

That page with the shot at Liefeld also seems to be taking a shot at Silvestri too. You can see the faded logo on the barn with the “spilt milk” in front of it.

Yeah, I have absolutely no idea whatsoever who the Wizard could possibly represent.

In 1996.

In a comic parodying the speculator market.

No idea whatsoever…. [/sarcasm]

I understand what you’re sarcastically saying, but the Wizard in the comic is FIGHTING the Frenzy Beast, which represents the speculator’s market, so what you’re suggesting really doesn’t work.

THE best shot at Liefeld is the sword handle being almost not attached.

Gen13 has long been a guilty pleasure of mine, hilarious in how totally 1990s the whole thing is. But this is meant as intentionally funny (not just looking at it from 20 years later), and actually looks quite successful at it.

Re: what T is saying about Top Cow’s logo, iirc, Top Cow also left Image for awhile around this time. I believe that once Liefeld was kicked out, Silvestri and Co came back. Coincidentally, I’m sure.

As to the Wizard thing, it almost sounds like it is a shot at the mag. The Liefeld guys say something about “the Wizard is at the Wildstorm Keep, he’s always there” — Wizard definitely covered Image a lot, and more specifically, in thinking about it, were covering the Wildstorm guys more (although the shot could be at Liefeld for claiming that, crying over split milk. It’s not like they didn’t cover the EXTREME stuff).

Given that this was an A/B/C issue of a comic, and was an issue of a comic that had 13 covers for its #1 issue, it’s kind of a pot-kettle-black situation in taking shots at the speculator market.

I actually have my copy of 13A signed by J Scott, and I said to him when he signed it that it must have been fun drawing the Archie characters. I believe he agreed. Yes, my story IS that exciting.

Given that this was an A/B/C issue of a comic

How would an A,B and C of a comic be a speculator thing? It is not like any of them were rarer than the other ones. They were each all also cheaper than a normal comic book (since they each had less pages than a normal comic book).

Travis, I was thinking maybe the joke was that the owners of the barn, Top Cow, left over spilt milk. But I’m not sure what that would be referring to.

Perhaps more of an “excesses of the ’90s” thing than speculator, per se. To get the whole story of “issue 13″, you still had to buy 3 comics.

I assume that part of the splitting of the issue into 3 had to do with some sort of licensing fee/payment in order to use characters. That is, iirc, the Archie characters are the only guests in the A issue, and I’m guessing that Archie didn’t ok use of their characters for free. If it was a payment based on sales, I’m guessing that the A issue was still the best selling of the 3 (maybe not by much, but still…), so

Ok, this stuff all sounds much better in my head. I’ll stop digging this hole now.

Beanworld!

This is awesome. I can’t believe Marvel let them use Wolverine, even if for only panel. Thanks for making me aware of this!

I think you might have missed a key detail, Brian. Lee, Liefeld and Silvestri were the three Image founders involved in the disastrous “Deathmate” crossover with Valiant. (Whilce Portacio did some art for it, but none of his characters were included.) Deathmate was sold as a prologue, epilogue and issues Blue, Yellow, Black and Red, which “A, B and C” are parodying. Black and Red were sold about six months after the rest of the events, but since they were presold, they had a ruinous effect on the collector’s market. This entire story might be Lee’s apology for Deathmate.

I don’t agree with everything Doug is saying about Deathmate, but it is another example of the excesses of the ’90s I was talking about — the notion of comics being referred to by colors rather than issue numbers is something that only could have happened in the ’90s. Dude.

Oh, if I only had a nickel for every story I’ve heard that started with the magical words “Some dude in the bathroom gave it to me.” Evidently Grunge is familiar with the Faust legend but he doesn’t think selling his soul will turn out to be a bad move. This guy is a walking Darwin Award.

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