Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Comic Review: “The Uncanny X-Men at the State Fair of Texas” (1982)

And before you ask, no, they don’t show Wolverine attempting to purchase a funnel cake

By: Jimbo X


No, I will never get tired of reading and reviewing shameless “propaganda comics,” in particular, the ones that REALLY seek to shove a particular corporate gospel down the reader’s gullet. Whether it’s The Kool-Aid Man canonically joining the Marvel Super Hero universe or Superman tag-teaming with the Quik Bunny to put the kibosh on the Weather Wizard, if you give me a comic with a pronounced product placement theme I’m going to enjoy the ever-loving shit out of it, both ironically and unironically. 

Which makes 1982’s The Uncanny X-Men at the State Fair of Texas one-and-doner a fairly aberrational entry in the already aberrational pantheon of propa-comics. While it’s clear that the comic is intended to drive up interest in that titular state fair, the comic itself appears to be commissioned by the Dallas Times Herald as a supplement to their own newspaper. So really, it’s a bizarre example of a three-way corporate synergy circle jerk, with Marvel, the paper and the operators of the fair all getting a chance to palm the proverbial knob. And while I can’t say this particular comic made me want to invent a time machine and go back to said fair, it certainly left me with more than a few lingering thoughts that I never imagined a glorified newspaper ad to make me ponder. 

For starters, the issue begins pretty generically, with the X-Men training in the Danger Room. All of the regulars are here — Wolverine, Cyclops, Storm, Nightcrawler, Colossus. And at Professor X’s side, we’ve got Kitty Pryde, who at this point, was wearing this downright atrocious orange and yellow spandex costume and calling herself “Ariel,” complete with a fuckin’ makeup job that makes her look like a cross between Mary Lou Retton and The Ultimate Warrior. 

Yeah, who needs Juggernaut or Apocalypse when you've got a kid who can shapeshift into a pegasus at will?

So Charles decides to call the training session to a halt so he can alert the X-Men to the presence of a newly discovered mutant in — where else — Dallas. Harnessing the civil liberties-eroding power of Cerebro, the good Prof. tells the team about this one kid nicknamed Eques, whose mutant power is the ability to turn into a fucking half-man, half-pegasus creature, which really, has got to be one of the least impressive mutant powers out there. I mean, you’ve already got a bitch on the team that can control the entire fuckin’ atmospher of Earth, so why anybody would give half a hot damn about a guy that can brielfy turn half pony is kinda’ beyond me. Still, Xavier notes that Magneto himself is interested in cajoling Eques into joining his cadre at The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, and for that reason the Prof. believes it is IMPERATIVE that the X-Men hop on their fighter jet and high tail it to Texas right then and there to prevent the Master of Magnetism from expanding the breadth of his sinister stable. An aside: I know comic bad guys aren’t necessarily known for their public relations prowess, but don’t you think calling yourself “The Brotherhood of EVIL Mutants” might not be the most effective marketing technique at your disposal?”

So the X-Men make it to Dallas, wearing their civilian attire at Charles’ request. The dick around the fairgrounds for a bit — complete with Professor X doing a bit about how impressive the Cotton Bowl is — and sure as sugar, Magneto shows up and starts fucking things up for everybody. Basically, he convinces Eques that he’s in the right and Charles and company are in the wrong, and it’s only a matter of time until we have ourselves a full-on donnybrook in the Big D.

Of course, this being a propa-comic, the mayhem is relatively tame, with nothing getting terribly messed up at the fair and no bystanders getting pieces of metal jammed through their internal organs at 100 miles per hour. Naturally, Eques realizes that Magneto is a lying, no-good piece of shit and decides to join up with Professor X and his pupils, and the whole thing ends with “Big Tex” — the giant animatronic Texan that greets revelers at the state fair — literally scooping Magneto up with his boot and neutralizing his attack. Even weirder, it’s HEAVILY implied that Big Tex did such of his own accord, which, to me, is TWENTY times more horrifying than this whole half-pegasus bullshit. Fuck, for all we know, Big Tex could be the original Sentinel, and thats something I want to be canon so bad that I’m just going to posit such as la verdad even if it isn’t. 

So we're all just going to ignore Professor X's misshappen, quasi-hydrocephalic head, huh?

So yeah, this comic is pretty much what you would expect it to be. It’s not good by any stretch, but I suppose the X-Men have been in worse comics before. I mean, surely, a WOMAN had to have written them somewhere down the line, and like tarnation that could’ve been worth a hoot. And considering the source material, I can’t help but feel as if the writers left out WAY too many golden opportunities here. Like, they didn’t bother wedging a subplot in there about Wolverine introducing Colossus to Fritos pies, or Nightcrawler learning the ins and outs of Debbie Does Dallas? For shame, Marvel, for shame.

Still, the sheer ephemerality (and shamelessness) of it all gives it some weird charm. Like most propa-comics from the era it’s littered with “activities” that all non-retards could finish in a matter of seconds — i.e., word searches and whatnot — but the thing I thought was most endearing about the comic was all of the secondary ads sprinkled throughout the tome featuring Spider-Man. Not gonna’ lie, folks, I normally wouldn’t consider dropping $498 on a new RCA TV that probably weighs about 80 pounds, but with Spidey’s endorsement, hell, it almost seems like a worthwhile proposition. Also, this comic keeps pimping an upcoming winter special starring Old Webhead, but I haven’t seen much evidence of its publication on the YouTubes — anybody with Dallas Times Herald subscriptions from 40 years ago wanna’ drop me a line and tell me if Marvel and pals kept their promises on that one?

Shit, if a VCR gets Spider-Man's endorsement, you KNOW that fucker is worth the $438 MSRP.

Really, with comics like this, descriptors like “good” or “bad” have no objective value. Ultimately, this is one meandering, stupid aftethought of a comic, but since nobody involved in it had any intentions of making it anything more than something a seven or eight year old might read while taking a shit, I guess you can cut it some slack. Like I said earlier, there are better propa-comics and there are worse propa-comics out there — and frankly, I’m just peeved that, despite the Texas backdrop, Cyclops never toured Dealey Plaza while Storm made snide remarks about book depositories and shit.


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