Saturday, September 2, 2017

Comic Review: 'Evil Ernie vs. The Movie Monsters!' (1997)

You want "random ass Halloween-themed nonsense," you've got it! Presenting a sucky one-shot comic from the late 1990s starring a whole host of unlicensed cinematic creatures getting done in by a ripoff of the Iron Maiden mascot!

By: Jimbo X

By the time 1997 rolled around, I was pretty much through with comics. I was an avid collector (but not really an avid reader) of all the hot titles of the polybagged era, but once I was in middle school I just stopped giving a damn. Oh, I would pick up the occasional issue of Wizard and maybe scoop up an old back issue or two of The Untold Tales of Spider-Man, but my adolescent love affair with funny books was rapidly nearing its terminus - primarily, because I required more time to focus on other geeky (but slightly less culturally-maligned) bullshit, like pro rasslin' and PlayStation 1 games. Besides, next to being seen wandering the action figure aisle at the local Walmart, there was no quicker way to lose your coolness at my school than being caught reading a comic book, even if it was some weird, indie goth shit like Johnny the Homicidal Maniac; sorry, but eschewing the old four panel adventures was a necessary undertaking if I ever wanted to catch a whiff of what high school was like (which, yeah, involved way less sex and way more vomiting than the movies had led me to believe.) 

But with stuff like Evil Ernie representing the bulk of what was going out there in the world of comics at the time, maybe I picked the best time possible to exit the hobby. EVERYBODY these days likes to shit all over 1990s comics as being nothing but grimdark, convoluted, hyper-gimmicky bullshit with everything looking like Rob Liefeld drew it and everything reading like Todd McFarland wrote it, but there was certainly plenty of good stuff out there, pending you knew where to look. Even Marvel and D.C., at quite possibly their respective nadirs as publishers, were still pushing out relatively fantastic stuff like Major Bummer, The Infinity Gauntlet, Hitman and Skull Kill Krew, and of course you had all the indies out there flooding the market with top tier tomfoolery a'la Milk and Cheese and Give Me Liberty, so - for the most part - the ceaseless comic book nerd antipathy of the decade remains largely displaced and unwarranted.

But then you remember just how popular shit like the Chaos! Comics oeuvre was back then, and you just want to ball up your fist and punch the nearest windowpane right off its fuckin' frame. For those of you in need of some exposition, Chaos! was one of those fly-by-night comic imprints that (momentarily) hit it back during the "bad girl" era with its flagship wank-rag Lady Death. Alas, they just HAD to expand their universe beyond sordid tales of some white haired chick with humongous boobs fighting the devil, and lo and behold Evil Ernie was born (and yes, before you autists start sending me angry letters, I know Evil Ernie debuted before Lady Death, so go on ahead and just cram it.)

Next to Orbitz soda and NAFTA, nothing reeks of desperate 1990s-ness more than Evil Ernie. I mean, goddamn, that character was such a creation of its times - a zombified psycho killer with a haircut like Howard Stern who talked like Bart Simpson and was apparently modeled after the iconic Iron Maiden mascot Eddie. This thing was tailor-made for the 14-year-old, aspiring school-shooter set that listened to White Zombie but couldn't buy their CDs at Tower Records because that meant making eye contact with the 16-year-old blonde behind the cash register while simultaneously holding in their chubs. Evil Ernie is pretty much the comic book equivalent of Saved By the Bell: The College Years - hokey, cheesy, and so utterly cemented in its own cultural zeitgeist that today it's virtually impossible to ingest it as anything other than an unintentional self-parody. Some relics of yesteryear produce nostalgia, but Evil Ernie produces what I like to call nost-nausea ... the sudden recollection of just how vapid, empty and utterly pointless most bygone things actually where. And if you thought the mainline Evil Ernie series was nost-nauseous, just wait until you get a hold of its 1997 Halloween special!

Eh ... I still like it better than just calling him The Gill Man.

The title Evil Ernie vs. the Movie Monsters pretty much tells you everything you need to know, don't it? It's a one-shot special guest starring a whole bunch of parodies of classic horror stock characters, all of whom are given high-larious roman a clef names like Teddy Leugar and Jensen Vorhead. So basically it's nothing more than a gigantic unlicensed monster movie bash, so how in the world could it possibly suck, right? Well ... you'll see, and I'll just leave it at that. 

OK, so the Evil Ernie backstory. He was this one kid who was constantly abused by his uptight parents so one day he started killing people and he got caught and these scientists hooked him up to some sort of experimental dream-monitoring device and somehow he got astral projected to the netherworld and he made a pact with the living embodiment of death (who, naturally, had Dolly Parton-sized jugs) and he died in the real world only to come back as an unkillable lord of the dead who can resurrect corpses and command them to do his bidding. Oh, and he's trying to literally kill everybody on the planet because when he does, he can finally have sex with Lady Death. Wait, did I leave the part out about Smiley, his talking jacket lapel button? Well, he has one of those, too, and it's annoying as fuck.

So with that out of the way, I suppose the coast is clear to hop smackdab into the middle of this 'un. We begin the comic with Ernie playing golf at Cosmic Studios in Florida, where he recounts his abusive childhood while knocking balls into the hollowed out eye sockets of severed heads. After awhile Ernie gets bored, even though Smiley tries to motivate him to keep playing by telling him Iggy Pop is an avid golfer.

So he walks around the theme park, making fun of the rides based on the My Lai Massacre and Dirty Harry, then he thinks about the time his parents wouldn't let him go see "Exterminator 2"(*) because it was too violent and eroded their Quayle-ian family values (cue flashbacks to his parents making him watch National Velvet and The Sound of Music while taped in a chair with his eyeball lids pried open, A Clockwork Orange-style, and lamenting never getting to see all the old Hammer horror movies until he was institutionalized ... long story.) 

(*) Oddly enough, there is indeed a real movie called Exterminator 2, but methinks the writers were trying to make an oblique homage to T2 here. [THNX, MGMT.]

So, uh, I take it the writer had no idea two REAL Saturday the 14th movies actually got made?

Ernie takes a ride on the Ghost Train attraction and he's attacked by Dracula and the Wolfman (with Smiley, naturally, taking a chunk out of the Wolfman's hide.) Then a Jason wannabe whacks the head off Evil Ernie's cameraman (just like a reality TV star, he has a big entourage running around filming all of his nefarious activities) and then Ernie gets attacked by a mummy that apparently has Robocop's chassis underneath all that gauze.

Meanwhile, one of Ernie's zombie chums is captured by a rotund (and, presumably, mad) scientist. Ernie's fisticuffs with Dracula resume and the former tosses a giant candle holder through the latter's heart. Then Ernie throws Frankenstein into an electrical grid (ironic - that's what gave him life, and that's what gave him death) and encounters the Creature from the Black Lagoon ... who, for copyright reasons, is referred to as "the Gill Beast from the Haunted Lagoon." It isn't long before old Gill turns on Dracula, allowing Ernie to slam a giant tree through Drac's sternum, presumably killing him. 

Then the cast of Them! attacks and Ernie kills the oversized ants by blow torching 'em with hairspray (that was one of his favorite pastimes as a kid, you see.) Then a turd-shaped alien called What the Unconquerable (I have no idea what this guy is supposed to be a parody of - readers, do send me a line if I'm missing something here) shows up and puts Ernie to sleep with some kinda' mind control ray. He wakes up in the mad scientist's lair and he tells Ernie he needs his "green energy" - I guess it's an offhanded reference to the elixir in Re-Animator, maybe? - to turn his pet lizard into a giant Godzilla pastiche. Smiley the button escapes (complete with a "to infinity and beyond" quip), and frees Ernie, who immediately kills the scientist by tossing acid in his face. 

Speaking of acid-spewing no good-niks, some hive creatures (coughCOUGHthexenomorphsfromAliencoughCOUGH) arive and Ernie picks up a pulse rifle that was conveniently just laying there and blows them all to kingdom come. And that's a segue to our all-slasher donnybrook, as expies of Freddy, Jason and Micheal (this one, not this one) rear their collective ugly heads. "Buncha' losers," Smiley comments as Ernie easily dispatches (and dismembers) them, "shoulda' stayed in the '80s!" An aside, but I love how in a comic featuring insane amounts of hardcore, NC-17 level graphic violence, they still elected to replace all the fucks and shits with random, self-censoring symbols a'la #$!%

Somehow, that lizard from earlier has indeed grown into a full-sized Godzilla pastiche. Jason - err, Jensen - returns and the Godzilla-wannabe immediately squashed him underneath his toes. Ernie and Smiley shoot the shit for a while and then Ernie suddenly realizes that since all of these monsters are officially dead now, he can resurrect and control them, effectively making him the true "king of the monsters." Then the fine folks at Chaos! let us know the proceeding was a non-canonical Elseworlds/What If style affair and if you want to read a real Evil Ernie comic, they've got this new one out called Destroyer you can pick up. And barely 30 pages in, we are over and out, kids!

That is easily the best non-licensed appearance by Godzilla in anything other than an early Sega Genesis game.

Well, folks, there ain't much to say after that, is there? There just ain't a whole lot of meat to this one, and even as a one-off larf it leaves much to be desired. Nobody really went into an Evil Ernie comic expecting much beyond the usual juvenile instant gratification, but with a premise that at least had the potential for something interesting, I reckon it's safe to say Chaos! royally screwed the pooch here. 

I'd like to say there's some kind of halfway decent Evil Ernie or Lady Death book out there you can pick up for some light seasonal reading, but like fuck I know anything about the Chaos! bibliography (except that they made a couple of comics based on The Undertaker, which in hindsight, I prolly shoulda reviewed instead.) Wait a minute, I just checked out their Wikipedia page - did you know these motherfuckers did comics about Halloween and the Insane Clown Posse, too? Goddamn, those people got around.

So, as much as I hate to say it, this Evil Ernie one-shot (even as brief as it is) probably isn't worth your time or effort. If you're looking for some solid Halloween comic readin' fun, there's a ton of stuff out there - the whole Marvel Zombies line, that one mini-series where Ash, Jason and Freddy K. all fight one another, etc. - that are vastly superior to this totally irrelevant slice of late '90s nos-nausea. Hell, I think you'd be better off sticking with those old Kool-Aid Man comics from the 1980s - after all, unlike this Evil Ernie dud, at least those things had some pretty amusing activity pages.


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