I blame the Groovie Goolies. I’m sure the lads from Horrible Hall had the best of intentions when they decided to add bubblegum pop tunes to their laughtracked and light-hearted cartoon take on familiar horror archetypes. So caught up in the poorly animated moment were the Goolies that they failed to comprehend what atrocities their legacy could potentially unleash.
…Scare Tactics, the DC Universe’s own all-monster rock combo and this week’s seasonal Nobody’s Favorites selection.
The Hardest Rocking Band in Crapsylvania made its debut in a short teaser run in Showcase ’96#11 (December 1996) before graduating into its own series a few weeks later. It was all part of DC’s short-lived “Weirdoverse” imprint, which included such other “spooky” properties as Jared Stevens, the Nobody’s Favorites alum called Fate.
In a prime example how crap begets crap, Scare Tactics was actually an indirect spinoff of Fate featuring the knife-toting sorcerer’s pal Burnsteel looking after a group of teenage monsters liberated from a sinister government black-ops program.
Burnsteel is a l33t HaX0r who knows his way around a Hayes SmartModem and as such is privy to the kinds of classified information one could normally only obtain from the stoner dude three dorm rooms down. (“Hey, did you know JFK was an ancient astronaut? It’s true…uh, are you gonna finish that pizza crust, dude?”) Being such a rare genius, he hits upon a most brilliant scheme for concealing his charges from their pursuers.
He has them pose as a flamboyant horror-themed rock band which tours the country in a tricked-out custom van.
So you’ve got “Fang” the illiterate redneck werewolf on lead guitar, “Slither” the dreadlocked lizard-boy on bass, “Grossout” the mutated turd-man on drums, and “Screamqueen” the be-bodiced and fishnetted vampire handling vocals.
Ever notice how the female in these affairs always turns out to be a hawt vampire chick and not a hairy werebeast or walking blob of excrement? Funny that.
(I also can’t figure out why the rest of the characters in the series were drawn in a generic mid-90′s post-Image style while Screamqueen’s facial shots seem have been lifted directly from images of Yuri in the first couple of Adam Warren’s Dirty Pair minseries.)
When the group wasn’t rocking out its signature brand of inane musical cliches across the country, they took part in painfully contrived infodumps of backstory posing as supernatural mysteries. I know that comics creators are given very short make or break period when it comes to establishing a viable audience before editorial pulls the plug. I don’t envy them the job, but I still can’t help thinking there might be a better way of doing it than to speed slalom from one character subplot to another without any attention to logic or coherency.
(It would be nice if real life operated like that, though. You’d walk down the street thinking “I need to pay my dentist bill,” then bump into your dentist at the very moment you discover the exact amount of money you need to pay her has mysteriously appeared in your wallet.)
It’s easy to infer that the creators of Scare Tactics knew they were under the barrel of a high caliber firearm, as there was an unmistakable air of desperation to the proceedings that only increased with each installment of the title’s twelve-issue run. Original art was promised to the writer of the “best” fan letter printed in a given issue, the dread spectre of an imprint-wide crossover event was called to horrifying life, and a series of one-shots teaming up the various cast members with more popular mainstream DC heroes was released to much apathy.
All that was missing was a guest appearance by Batman, and…oh, wait, they did that, too.
Yet neither the Caped Crusader nor the off-model and surprisingly articulate ghost of John Simon Ritchie….
…was enough to save Scare Tactics from its just rewards…or its rightful designation as this week’s Nobody’s Favorite.
Recommended listening: Moslem Birth – Horror Snores (from the 1983 Noise From Nowhere 7″ compilation)
It’s a pretty funny joke, if you’re clever enough to get it.