In the late 70’s and throughout the 80’s, larger than life action stars were box office hits. Names like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Charles Bronson, Jean Claude Van Damme, Dolph Lundgren and many more were flooding the market and being idolized by young males across the world. I was a huge Stallone fan and loved his films like Rocky, First Blood and Cobra, but there was always one action star long before it became “cool” and a “fad” to like that always captured my dad, brother’s and my attention – Chuck Norris! Way before hipsters thought Walker Texas Ranger was funny and before his facts were an internet sensation, Norris was kicking ass in films like Missing in Action, Breaker Breaker, Hero and the Terror, Silent Rage and Lone Wolf McQuade proving that he was one of the best B-movie action stars of the time. I remember as a kid watching Missing in Action 1 & 2 and wanting toys of lead character Colonel James Braddock, and while I understood that being a P.O.W. was a bad thing, years later when I was a teenager I understood the real message in the film. Another funny story about Chuck Norris is when my brother was younger he loved the movie Meatballs and one day my dad was watching Silent Rage on HBO and told him that it was Meatballs II. My brother sat with wonder and watched waiting for the Alien to appear, instead he got a film where Norris was going up against an un-killable killer! This freaked my brother out and added for chuckles many years about Meatballs II. If you want to check out any of Norris’s films you can find them on Beta, VHS, Laserdisc, DVD and Blu-Ray!
In 1986, Chuck Norris also was involved in a cartoon called “Chuck Norris and the Karate Kommandos” in which Chuck Norris plays a government operative in charge of a team of martial arts commandos that battles a organization called VULTURE lead by The Claw and his right hand man Super Ninja. It lasted one season for only 5 episodes and was made by the great Hanna-Barbera company. The cartoon also from time to time airs on Adult Swim on the Cartoon Network. Growing up I never watched the show that much, and while I remember it airing, I never found myself wanting to view the animated adventures when I could just watch the live action films. The Karate Kommandos has been released on VHS and DVD-R and has become a cult classic.
In 1986 Kenner also made action figures to go along with the animated series and much like the toon it was based on, the toy line was also very short lived. Multiple figures based on Chuck Norris were made as well as all the Kommando’s and Super Ninja. Also vehicles were made as well as plastic weapons rounding out the merchandise that was made around the short lasting series. I did however own some of the figures, and all the ones I owned were Chuck Norris. The figures themselves were well made and well sculpted toys for the time. In school I knew a few kids that had some of these figures, and the most popular one I saw the most kids have was the purple Super-Ninja. In fact, I still have my Norris figures, and Game Swap in Kettering, a place I get some of these comics has one in store!
Chuck Norris fever has died down a little and seems to have passed as one of those annoying hip references that made you want to punch the hipster spewing it who clearly never seen a Norris film in their self absorbed life. But this did not stop the wave of Norris-inspired merchandise that included books, t-shirts, mugs, folders, posters, notebooks, key chains, stuff dolls, bobble-heads and so many other products! So if you are a true Norris fan, there is some great stuff out there for you!
Chuck Norris, who as of early 2012 is 71 years old, was in the Air Force as an Air Policeman, and while stationed in South Korea, he decided to learn the art of self-defense in the forum of Tang Soo Do. This started the path of an action superstar, but not before Norris became a karate champion and a teacher of the art of self defense teaching such stars as Steve McQueen, Bob Barker and Donny and Marie Osmond in schools he opened. In 1969 Norris began his acting career in the Dean Martin film The Wrecking Crew and has been making movies since! Some of his best known film work includes Missing in Action, Delta Force, Way of the Dragon, The Expendables 2 and Lone Wolf McQuade. Norris also made it into the TV world, not only known for the 1986 short lived cartoon “Chuck Norris and the Karate Kommandos” but more so for his 1993 series “Walker Texas Ranger,” which ran on CBS for over eight years. Norris also became a spokesman for products like The Total Gym Work Out Machine and the computer game World of Warcraft. Noris is also known for being a diehard Christian and Republican has also written several books on his beliefs. In 2005, Norris also became a internet hit when “Chuck Norris Facts” started to infect everyone’s Myspace page who thought of a funny way to show just how kick ass Norris is in a tongue in cheek kind of way. Norris continues to be an icon in the world of action stars and will always be known as one bad ass dude!
Before I get into my look at the 4 issue run of The Karate Kommandos from Star Comics I would like to share some memories I have of Chuck Norris. I always remember watching Chuck Norris on the then Ted Turner owed station TBS, that seemed to always be showing a Missing in Action film or Breaker, Breaker, and I can’t count how many times I would sit and watch these films over and over. I always remember wanting an action figure of Norris’s character Colonel James Braddock of Missing in Action because of watching those movies on TBS. That’s one thing I miss about TV, now that Turner is no longer in control of TBS and TNT, all the amazing programs those stations delivered to me in my youth. I mean I grew up watching many of the programs they would air from all the old reruns of The Andy Griffith Show, Gilligan’s Island and Little House on the Prairie to hosted programs like Joe Bob Briggs on TNT’s Monstervison, Grandpa Munster hosting Super Scary Saturday and even Dinner and a Movie with hosts Paul Gilmartin, Annabelle Gurwitch and chef Claud Mann. One of the things on TBS in the 80’s my brother and I would look forward to was watching NWA and then later WCW wrestling, and nothing was more epic then the PPV type event that was free to watch called Clash of the Champions where you would be able to watch wrestling legends like Ric Flair, Lex Luger, Sting, The Rock n Roll Express and many more battle in matches that had so much build up. Those truly were the days. I have great memories of watching old NWA shows on winter Saturday evenings at my grandparents’ house as the fire place was warming the room, and my grandpa, dad and brother all sat around and watched the likes of the Four Horsemen and Dusty Rhodes. Also I love how back in the day all shows on TBS started five minutes later like 6:05. Odd, I know but a great gimick. I wish Turner would come back to bring a new station to airwaves and give us back some of this classic shows he once aired. Say what you will about the man, but he knew what he was doing when it came to cable TV. I mean his stations gave you a little of every thing if you wanted to see sports, news, classic shows, movies, horror hosts, wrestling, original programs and much more then look no further then a Turner owned station. So here is to Chuck Norris, Ted Turner, TBS and TNT for some great memories growing up, and here is to hoping Turner will return to doing what he does best, making one hell of a great TV station.
I want to remind everyone that I grade these comics on a standard 1-4 star scale and look for entertainment value, art, story and how true the comic is to its source material. So with that, let’s kick some butt with Chuck Norris and his Karate Komman
Too Much is the youngest member of the Karate Kommandos, and while at school he and his classmates are held hostage by evil ninjas led by Super Ninja, who works for Claw. They are there in order to exchange the kids for a government anti-terrorist vehicle that is packed with state of the art weapons. But things don’t go as the ninjas wanted as Chuck Norris along with his Karate Kommandos that include Kimo a sword expert, Reed a young man Norris has taken under his wing as well as his sister Pepper who is a master of repairing and driving cars, wolf the team pet and Tabe a sumo wrestler who loves to eat, all come to the rescue and clean house of the evil doers and saving Too Much and all his classmates.
This issue was pretty weak to start a series off by and focuses way too much on Too Much who for all accounts is a brat who blows off school work and uses his friendship with Chuck Norris to act popular with his peers. Chuck Norris walks around like a silent badass who only gives one liners when needed and then turns into a walking PSA about working hard in school. The rest of the team for some reason kept reminding me of the gymnastic teens from the Mr. T cartoon mixed with the A-Team but not as nearly bad ass. I think the biggest problem with this issue is the lack of character development, like who are these Karate Kommandos and why is a movie actor like Chuck Norris the head of the team? Who is Super Ninja and why didn’t he come to the school himself if this was such a huge operation? And why is The Claw never shown? Given the fact that the cartoon was bombing on TV and kids weren’t flocking to Children’s Palace or Toys R Us for the figures, you would think that Star would have put a little more background into this issue to help push this comic series to do better then everything else attached to it. Not to mention the storyline in this issue is weak and seems like a back up story for an issue that ran short. The artwork is your typical Star Comic look so I kind of like that, and the cover is pure cheese so it does have that going for it. Over all this issue is not impressive and a very bad way to start off Chuck Norris’ first comic book run.
Chuck Norris Karate Kommandos # 2 **1/2
Released in 1987 Cover Price .75 Star Comics 2 of 4
Chuck Norris and his Karate Kommandos are hired to protect a new super computer that has been targeted by VULTURE, but when it’s Reed and Pepper’s turn to watch the super machine, sibling fighting happens and Reed storms out and meets Margie, a young woman who’s mom is sick and has been hired by The Claw to steal it for cash to help her mom who needs an operation. Meanwhile Ninjas break in and steal the computer and kidnap Pepper. Reed returns at the same time as his team and all get a shock to find they have failed to keep it safe. Meanwhile the ninjas as along with Margie have Pepper and are trying to force her to show them how the computer works, only for Margie to take a stand and help Pepper escape just as Chuck and the Kommandos come in for the save. In the end Chuck gives the reward money to Margie for her mom’s aid.
This is more like it; a comic filled with action, drama and takes the focus away from the youngest member of the Kommandos, Too Much, and showcases the brother and sister team of Reed and Pepper and has them showing real sibling rivalry. The messages are clear in this one: always be there for family and you should never abandon your responsibility. Chuck takes more of a back seat in this one and is only used when needed. As for action, while it’s not every page, the times it’s used it really works! The bad guys in this issue are all the generic ninjas of VULTURE and Super Ninja nor Claw make an appearance. This doesn’t make much sense and adds no major threat to Chuck and his crew. I will say that I also feel that this issue captures more of the cheesy charm of the cartoon. Over all this is a step in the right direction for this series. The art work is same as last issue, and the cover is in your face with Chuck Norris landing a flying kick. Let’s see how issue three goes in this “action” series.
Chuck Norris Karate Kommandos # 3 *1/2
Released in 1987 Cover Price .75 Star Comics 3 of 4
Chuck and Kimo are practicing with swords to see who’s the best in a friendly way as Tabe is in the kitchen making himself a feast. During a break in the spar Kimo hears Tabe giving advice and life lessons to fellow Karate Kommandos. First up is Too Much, who is having an issue that involves his friend and him being forced to have spelling bee against each other in school. So Tabe tells him about the first time he met Chuck that had them sparing with sticks on a log to impress friends. Reed is next and talks about how some friends are going to cheat at a sporting event, and this time Tabe tells a different story about how he met Chuck that pertains to the situation. This continues with Pepper, who is having guy issues. In the end Kimo asks Chuck who has returned to spar how he met Tabe, and none of the stories he told was correct!
Issue three is all about Tabe, the lovable slob sumo wrestler who loves to eat and as this issue exposes, tell lies! This is not a very good message to teach young readers as Tabe lies several times to trusted friends in order to give them guidance that will help them with an issue that is bothering them, but even a white lie is still a lie. The worse thing about this issue is the fact Tabe makes himself out to be this amazing hero in every one of his BS stories. Tabe is my second least favorite character from this comic/toon series, and this issue is all about him, making this one a so-so read. VULTURE and all its members take a backseat in this issue, and at no time during Tabe’s stories do you feel that he or Chuck are in any real danger, making this pretty lackluster in the action department. Issue three is clearly the weakest so far, and while some parts are fun, like the silliness of all the different ways he says he and Norris meet, its all the other fluff that makes it bland. The artwork is as it was in the past two issues, and this kind of holds the charm of the cartoon. The cover makes this issue look way more action packed then it is, and with this let’s move on to the final issue in the series.
Chuck Norris Karate Kommandos # 4 ***
Released in 1987 Cover Price $1.00 Star Comics 4 of 4
Chuck Norris has a visitor at the secret headquarters of the Karate Kommandos, and Its Jack Fredericks, who is taking over the West Coast Office that runs secrets teams like them. While there he is witness to Chuck and gang getting a mission that has them saving the daughter of a snotty Doctor named Johan Belson who has had troubles with Norris in the past. The daughter has been kidnapped by a gang of goons who are working for Claw and want secrets that Belson knows. With a distrust for the man they are helping, Norris and the Kommandos save the daughter and teach Belson what it is to be a man.
This is the final issue in the series, and they seemed to finally get that what they had was Chuck Norris action superstar along with a team of rough and tough Kommandos who were about fighting for freedom much like G.I. Joe. In fact this adventure reminds me of a Marvel Joe comic. Chuck Norris takes control in this issue and uses not only his kicks and punches but his brains and out smarts the baddies and uses his leadership over his crew to get the job 100% done. Normally annoying characters like Too Much and Tabe are far less unlikeable, as members Kimo, Reed and Pepper take a back seat to showcase Norris. Again the Super Ninja and Claw don’t make an appearance, and this time they use not even the ninjas but lame normal guys who try to put up a fight just can’t. This issue should have been the first in the series and all issues after this should have followed this style and formula to have made a good run of comics. The art work is the best it’s been in the series and seems as if someone who worked on Marvels G.I. Joe or Transformers comic lent their talents to this final issue. The cover’s pretty weak but can be compared to other late 80’s action covers from Marvel. All in all I can at least say that Chuck Norris Karate Kommando’s ended on a higher note then it started. I would like to thank Bell Book and Comic & Lone Star Comics for stocking these issues to make this review possible.
Thinking about the comic and cartoon series made me realize that the toon only lasted one more episode then the comic run making one see why this STAR comic run was doomed to being canceled from the start. And this series also got me thinking about pop group the Spice Girls because of the character Too Much having the same name as their 1997 hit song from album Spice World. Then I remember being a teen and thinking how hot those british girls in short skirts and tight cloths were and how damn catchy their songs were. My two favorites to look at were Posh Spice and Baby Spice, and I will not lie, I did have their CDs and also watched Spice World on VHS when it hit video stores. And did anyone else notice Baby Spices love for suckers, and how so wrong yet so right it was? Just take a look at the center picture, and Spice Up Your Life indeed!
Well in this update we looked at the movie and cartoon career of Chuck Norris, took a look back at Ted Turner owned TBS & TNT and even talked a little about the Spice Girls, but in the next update the gloves are off as we look at shock rocker Rob Zombie’s take on a legend we all know…..no, not his remakes of the Halloween series but his take on the crypto creature Bigfoot! So be here for the next shocking update.