Friday, October 27, 2017

Comic Review: 'Jason vs. Leatherface' (1995)

In the mid-1990s, there was a comic book series in which the stars of Friday the 13th and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre became friends. Nope - for real, and here's the demonstrable evidence.


By: Jimbo X
JimboXAmerican@gmail.com
@JimboX

Nearly ten years before Freddy vs. Jason hit multiplexes, Topps Comics (yep, published by the same people who make all those baseball cards) released a three-issue limited series that gave us an entirely different crossover slasher throwdown - one that pitted the Crystal Lake boogeyman against none other than the entire hillbilly cannibal clan from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies. 

And here's the really weird part - the whole thing was written by a woman. Yep, the scribe behind the three ish run was a chick named Nancy A. Collins, who in addition to penning a few Swamp Thing and Vampirella stories, also churned out a whole hell of a lot of vampire novels, so I guess you could call her a poor woman's Anne Rice. Even weirder, the primary artist was a guy named Jeff Butler, who did a whole buncha' movie tie-ins like Godzilla and Jurassic Park, although he's most famous for his Dungeons & Dragons artwork. He also co-created The Badger, but yeah - maybe you can see why he left that off his official resume. And rounding out the trifecta of weirdness, the cover art was drawn up by Simon Bisley, the guy who is most regarded for his work on Lobo and ABC Warriors. And you can tell from the very first issue - which features weird, abstract depictions of Jason and Leatherface as musclebound reptilian zombies fightin' in the swamp on the cover, with the tagline "the next Texas Chainsaw Massacre is on Friday the 13th!" posited in the corner - that this thing's going to be wackier than fuck.

Issue one, obviously, gives us all the key background stuff. Crystal Lake's been shut down and replaced by this thing called the Linhart Amalgamated factory. The splash page shows Jason stuck in the bottom of the polluted lake, with the narrator letting us know "has has his hate to keep him warm." Apparently, the EPA is clamping down hard on Linhart, so the CEO proposes moving the factory to Mexico, dredging Crystal Lake and building a new corporate headquarters right atop Jason's old stomping grounds. So the suits strike a deal with this dude to illegally dump some toxic waste, and naturally, this old coot shows up at the dock and says Jason's going to kill them all and they all laugh at him and call him crazy.

So Jason hops aboard a train and hacks off a hobo's hand and head, then he bifurcates his pet dog for biting his leg (which, as we all know, is something Kane Hodder would never allow HIS Jason to do.) I mean, killing harmless old dudes is one thing, but puppy murdering is taking it TOO FAR. Jason, of course, makes his way to the front of the train, literally slaps a dude's head 180 degrees around and machetes a motherfucker. This leads to a massive derailment and explosion, so who knows how many people just got killed. By the way, the design for Jason in this thing is weird as hell. He has this huge, pronounced, ultra-bumpy, chewed bubble gum head, which makes him look like one of those big-brained aliens from This Island Earth.

No, I can't explain why Jason looks like he's from Mars
Attacks!
either.
Sure enough, Jason emerges from the wreckage without a scratch and now he's in Sawyerville, Texas, where he immediately runs into a guy being chased down by the Leatherface clan. Oddly enough, Leatherface's compatriots are all original characters, with one of them sorta' working as a composite of Chop Top from Part 2 and the psycho hitchhiker from the original movie (although he ultimately looks more like Tom Petty's character from King of the Hill on mescaline than anything else.) Anyhoo, he goads Leatherface into battling Jason by saying "git that sumbitch!" and there's a one page fight where Jason knocks the saw out of Leatherface's hand and machetes up the guy they were going to eat real good. Then Jason - going completely against type - gives Leathface his chainsaw back and the clan INVITES Jason to dinner because they reckon he's their kind of people

The narrator lets us know why Jason isn't killing everything that moves. "He could have killed them both. But he didn't. The emotions that fill Jason right now are alien to him as they are not hate or anger. He is uncertain how he should act." So he goes back the Sawyer farmhouse and we're introduced to a quasi father-figure named "The Cook" who is impressed by Jason's head severing abilities. Then Leatherface's aforementioned brother (who is simply called "The Hitchhiker") makes fun of him so he goes up stairs and cries in his bedroom, which is filled with all sorts of weird horror knickknacks, like Frankenstein heads, everywhere. Then the narrator lets us know Jason actually feels an AFFINITY toward Leatherface 'cause he reminds him so much of himself and he marches up stairs and tells him to come down with him (well, more like he just points at the door, but you get the idea) and we meet the rest of the cast. There's Grandpa, and Aunt Amelia, a zombie retard with a Barney the Dinosaur mug. They ask Jason what his name is so he dips his finger in Kool-Aid and writes "Jason" on the wall and that's what they figured was good enough for a cliffhanger heading into issue two. But before that, the comic concludes with an essay on slasher movies written by C. Dean Andersson titled "Halloween Chainsaw Hockey" that somehow connects the 1958 Richard Fleischer movie The Vikings to Halloween and Friday the 13th and ends with a recommendation that everybody read Robin Morgan's The Demon Lover when they get the freetime. You kn0w, this C. Dean Andersson guy seems like just my kinda' company

Alright, and now we segue to issue two, which begins with Jason having a nightmare about drowning. He's invited downstairs for breakfast (it's fried brains, in case you were wondering) but since he won't touch his plate, one of the Sawyer goons ask him if he's a vegetarian. Watching Leatherface's brothers bully him triggers a flashback for Jason, in which he recollects his father(?) abusing him as a youngster. The Cook shows Jason the deep freeze and tells him about his dream of opening a haute cuisine restaurant in Austin or Shreveport so he can buy a nice double wide trailer and watch Wheel of Fortune all day.

Some lost travelers go to the Sawyer-owned gas station and Hitchhiker fucks up their car so he and Jason can lay a trap for 'em down the road. All the while, Hitchhiker extols the joys of making his female victims "squawk" - especially the pregnant ones.

Shit, now we need to find a way to wedge in Sardu and
Ralphus from Bloodsucking Freaks and Henry and Ottis
from Portrait of a Serial Killer, don't we?
Hitchhiker shows Jason his Ed Gein-inspired workshop, complete with a stuffed Santa corpse and rocking chairs made out of human bones. Naturally, Leatherface shows up shortly thereafter and fucks up his sibling's latest project so he starts beating the shit out of him. This makes Jason think back to his daddy beating the hell out of him as a kid and how his mama - now named Doris, for whatever reason - put a stop to all that by greasing his brain with a meat cleaver. This sparks a near fight between Jason and Hitchhiker, but Leatherface stops right before Mr. Voorhees can drive a sharp bone through his bro's skull. Jason goes up stairs and the narrator lets us know he has conflicting thoughts. He never hesitates to kill anybody at Crystal Lake, but here in Texas, something is making him a little more wishy-washy. And before we formally wrap up the ish, we get another essay, this 'un penned by a guy named Ric Meyers who talks about Frankenstein being emblematic of the fear of death and Dracula being emblematic of the fear of sex. Then he talks about everybody in the 1950s living in an age of atomic bomb paranoia and communists taking over the government, before saying Psycho ushered in the age of "the human being as monster," which he suggests could be a metaphor for our fear of truly living. Aye, deep thoughts, Senor Meyers. Deep thoughts, indeed. 

And now we come to the third and final installment of the saga. They've been building up the big dinner scene for three issues now and we're finally getting it. The cook says he he hopes "everybody's ready for soul food, he's making some cooter pie," tonight, which I REALLY hope isn't what I THINK it is, so it probably is. So Hitchhiker gets into a fight with Leatherface for getting thumbprints all over his comics and he stabs Jason with a dinner knife and then it's an all out donnybrook. Jason decapitates the zombie retard aunt and the Cook buries a meat cleaver in Jason's back, but of course, he no sells it (and LOL at the Sawyers repeatedly calling Jason "a Yankee.") The clan hides out in the freezer and Jason bursts in. Now here comes Leatherface with his baby buzz saw to make the save. The narrator explains how Jason is jealous of Leatherface for having a family, even a fucked up one, and this makes him go psycho. Eventually the cook bashes Jason's brains out (literally) with a mallet and the gang wonders if they should eat him, but they decide not because they figure he'd taste too gamy.

So they bury him in a nearby lake instead. Of course, Jason is revived by the sense of deja vu, but instead of going back to the house and killing everybody, he decides to return home. And the final page shows him walking back to Camp Crystal Lake - which a billboards says is in Vermont, not New Jersey. Well, that's some weird ass shit, for sure.

And to think - a one-off comic series from 1995 would
give us the best explanation for Jason's bloodlust to date.

Well, not that you really need me to tell you this, but that thing was strange as shit. I suppose there aren't really any logical reasons why Jason and Leatherface would ever hypothetically go toe-to-toe, but the folks who drew this one up were really grasping for straws. It's kinda' weird how that whole Crystal Lake chemical plant thing got dropped - I mean, you'd at least figure Jason would want to show up at the tail end of the series and lay siege to the factory or something. Indeed, that whole plot dynamic was just iffy as hell. Is it supposed to be some sort of pro environmental metaphor, with Jason representing a symbolic ecological champion? And why were rich ass businessmen reduced to taking Amtrak, anyway? Mutant hillbilly cannibals and zombie retard mass murderers making friends, I can sorta believe, but that C-level industrial tycoons wouldn't have better personal transportation options demands I suspend my disbelief way too high.

Speaking of which, so Jason's on a train to kill some mofos that accidentally resurrected him from the dead, but he takes, what, 10 or 12 hours to do it? New Jersey to Texas takes fucking forever, so what did he do off-panel to kill the time? I know, I know, that's the kind of stuff that makes me half retarded for even wondering, but still - plot holes like that really gets my goose. 

Of course, the characterization of Jason as a more HESITANT psycho killer in this book might miff some fans, but shit, that's pretty much the only way you could've gotten more than three pages out of the concept, let alone a full three issues. If anything, the depiction of Leatherface ought to be what irks hardcore horror fans the most - I mean, the dude is reduced to a crying little pussy for half the series. We're supposed to think this blubbering baby is a credible threat to Jason friggin' Voorhees, even if he is going through his slightly emo phase? Get out of here with that noise. 

That said, I really liked the supporting cast, and the weird rockabilly-like aesthetics were a hoot and a half. There's practically no plot getting in the way of the  story here, and there's absolutely nothing political or socially-cognizant about the book you have to cogitate on. It's pretty much a trashy, pulpy, read-once-and-discard series, but it nonetheless makes for an entertaining seasonally appropriate read. And in my humble opinion, it's vastly superior to those Freddy vs. Ash vs. Jason comics that came down the line a few years back - which, I know, ain't exactly winning Olympic gold, but you know what I'm trying to get at here.

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