McGruff Takes A Bite Out Of Comics!

Welcome back to Rotten Ink.  One thing we all know is that crime doesn’t pay.  Sooner or later if you lie, cheat, steal or kill you’re going to be caught and punished for your crime…well most the time…I mean the original Night Stalker, Zodiac Killer, The Phantom Killer Of Texarkana and many other baddies have never seen justice, but times have changed and so have crime stopping technics and some of the times people get caught. Okay I’ll say it, growing up I really did think that the police and FBI would solve almost every crime and that bad people would get what’s coming to them. Now, as an adult, I believe that not every crime gets solved but many of them do thanks to the hard work of law enforcement. Some of the leading factors for me to think that criminals always get what’s coming to them were characters like Dick Tracy, Batman, Robocop, Officer Carey Mahoney, Inspector Gadget and McGruff The Crime Dog who would all tell me about crime on TV, Radio, Comics, Movies and even in person when talking about McGruff! So for this update we are going to have a Rotten Ink Neighborhood Watch And Read as we take a look at a promo comic featuring McGruff as well as quickly look at this crime dog’s history and connections to my life. So get your peepers peeping and your jaw working as we take a Bite Out Of Crime and flip the pages of a comic.

McGruff The Crime Dog was created by Dancer Fitzgerald Sample via the Ad Council for the government in 1980 to help educate kids about the dangers of crime and drugs. His name was created by New Orleans police officer John Isbell who won a contest, and with this McGruff and his saying “Take A Bite Out Of Crime” were unleashed on the public via billboards, radio and TV ads. The response to this cartoon dog in a trench coat was overwhelmingly positive with his anti crime messages helping kids learn that crime is not cool and to trust their local police as well as no to do drugs. His impact was felt as many of Americans had seen and took action via his PSA’s and with most people polled McGruff was a favored mascot at the early stages of his appearances with only a very small amount not liking him as they thought he was too cartoonish. Over the years McGruff was used to make people aware of such things as the dangers of drugs, stranger danger and how to take steps to make your house safe from burglars. In the late 90’s his young nephew Scruff was added to the PSAs in order to add a more kid appeal to the messages and to make him more modern in his surroundings. Also during his spotlight time, actors in McGruff costumes would visit schools with law enforcement officers as well as lots of cool items were made with McGruff’s image like comics, stuffed dolls, t-shirts, posters, jackets, bags, buttons and more. While in 2018, McGruff has slowly been pushed to the back of the mainstream attention, his appearance and messages are still being taught to this day. So here is to you McGruff, for all your years teaching kids and people that crime don’t pay and how to be safe and live your life right.

Growing up during the 80’s and 90’s was a great time, and Saturday’s meant cartoons, Horror Hosts, wrestling and Horror Movies as the TV airwaves were flooded with amazing broadcasts. And while watching cartoons I can remember seeing lots and lots of PSA’s from McGruff, and I can remember him telling me to stay away from drugs and JUST SAY NO. I can remember him trying to warn me not to talk to strangers. And then in the late 90’s when I was a late teen, I can remember them also adding McGruff’s nephew Scruff to have the youngster to tell us about stopping crime and to do the right thing. It’s funny that PSA’s that were sandwiched between toy commercials and breakfast cereal ads are things that I fondly remember about my cartoon watching on Saturdays. Again I have to ask, why are CBS, NBC and FOX out of the Saturday Morning Cartoon business? I understand that Cartoon Network, Disney and Nickelodeon run cartoon and youngster programing all day but the basic networks could step up and deliver quality cartoons that are just for their station that could draw in young viewers. But I will move on from my dislike for the end of Saturday Morning cartoons and say that while the PSAs would be very dated in 2018, I for one grew up and listened to what McGruff had to tell me.

When I was a kid growing up in Waynesville, our school did lots of cool field trips and had lots of cool guest speakers to teach and educate my fellow classmates and myself about all types of topics from the joys of reading to listening to actor Robert V. Barron (or so we were told) dressed as Abraham Lincoln telling us about the life of our 16th President…not to mention that we also got to meet Miss Ohio and Ronald McDonald at a field trip and both were super cool and nice people and bless them for putting up with a bunch of bratty kids running wild at a park. But one of the coolest guests was McGruff The Crime Dog who came in with an officer to talk to us all about Stranger Danger.  It was all standard stuff about not getting into cars with strangers and not taking candy from them as well. Of course the officer did all the talking, as McGruff was a man in a walk-around costume who would do all his talking with body actions. They showed us some videos that had PSA’s and such, and after it was all over, they gave out plastic police badges that had McGruff on it! All of us guys took our plastic badges and wore them during the day, and I could not wait to get it home and show my brother who also thought it was pretty cool. Sadly I don’t have the plastic badge anymore, and I could not tell you what happened to it, but if I had to guess I sold it at a garage sale or gave it to my cousins. Below is a picture of one of the McGruff badges that looked kind of like the one I had as a kid. Oh yeah and I can also remember one year using a Halloween trick or treat bag that had McGruff on it that was green!

I love classic mascots, and I really do think that one of the best from my generation is McGruff as he was such a great character back then and is still used to this day showing that he is a true icon of pop culture and Americana. And while they have slowed down using him and his last major TV push was to push car insurance for GEICO, he still is a great tool to let people know that they need to stop crime. I want to thank Bell, Book And Comic for having this comic in stock, and I want to remind all you readers that I grade these on a star scale of 1 to 4 and am looking for how well the comic stays to the source material, its entertainment value and its art and story. So lets take to the streets and see what McGruff has in store for us and what kind of crime he is going to warn us about in this comic book adventure.

McGruff’s Surprise Party # 1   **1/2
Released in 1989     Cover Price FREE     U.S. Government     # 1 of 1

McGruff The Crime Dog is hanging out with a group of kids and asks them to help throw a surprise party for a friend as he wants to teach them to say no to drugs! As the kids run off to get board games and popcorn, Sarah, one of youngsters, asks McGruff why should people say No To Drugs. He calls back the rest of her peers, and they share facts about drugs and this is all Sarah has to hear and she now understands. The boys split off from the girls and go to the park to blow up balloons and chat about how beer is bad and that kids should not drink while the girls go to a house and make popcorn and talk about drugs and how one of the kids is no longer friends with her old pals as they tried to push her to do drugs with them! Back at the park one of the boys saves another boy from a drug dealer who was trying to push for him to try it. After all the balloons are blown up and the popcorn made, the kids go back to McGruff’s house as we learn that this surprise party is for us the readers!

This is one silly and overly kid friendly PSA comics as it breaks down the horrors of drug and alcohol abuse down so simply as saying…they are bad! This comic’s plot is super simple: McGruff wants to throw a surprise party and his friends the kids get the stuff needed to bring to the party.  All the while, they talk to each other about how drugs are bad, when the stuff is ready the return to McGruff and we find out this whole party was for the reader. This was a fun read and took me back to being a kid when McGruff really did rule when it comes to crime prevention, but this also was a little bit of a letdown as McGruff takes a backseat and the kids are the main stars of the comic as they are the ones who mostly do the talking and eat up pages with their appearance. McGruff is very thoughtful as he wants to throw a party for whoever is reading the comic and he makes sure that he gets his friends to help make it special, and while he is the spokes person for people not to do drugs, he also does not get to preachy with his message…he leaves that to the kids. The kids are all good kids who have a Charlie Brown aura around them and for the most part goofs who like popcorn and balloons. One of my favorite creepy characters from this comic is the weird drug pusher who looks like he should be a bad guy in a Fat Albert cartoon.  He is so 80’s fantastic goofy looking with a mix of late 70’s attitude. This 16 page comic also has a few activities and sports a very generic free comic looking cover, you know like comics that were free at Big Boy and Captain D’s. The interior art is done by an unknown artist and is really good and holds a classic 80’s kid comic look. Over all this is a simple comic with a simple message and that’s Drugs Are Bad! Check out some artwork below to see what this comic has to offer to young readers and the young at heart.

Man it’s weird as their just is not a lot of mascots being used in promotion any more like back in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s and now everything just seems so cold and to the point. I can say I really do miss seeing them around. I should also just once more bring up that one of my founding memories of Dayton, Ohio Horror Host Dr. Creep was the old picture my brother Bryan was in that was taken at the old Kettering Theater that had him standing with Creep as well as McGruff The Crime Dog…so this mascot was even in my earliest memories of one of the greatest Horror Hosts ever. And this brings us to what we will be looking at for out next update.  I think we will stay with the theme of crime fighter and let’s also stay with the Horror Host vibe as we will travel to Cleveland, Ohio and take a look at the icon of afternoon fights and laughs the one and only Superhost! So until next time read a comic or three, watch a crime movie or two and as always support your local Horror Host. See you next update as Supe’s On!

The DC Detective Superhero Jonni Thunder Cracks The Case!

Here at Rotten Ink I really enjoy taking a look at all types of heroes, villains and characters from all types of comic companies, and one that I really do enjoy showcasing when it comes to underrated and misused heroes are those of DC Comics. In the past we have taken a look at characters like Red Tornado, Hawkman and STEEL, all topnotch superheroes that seem to be afterthoughts in the world of the DC Universe. For this update I have chosen a character who took over the role of superhero from her father, and I am talking about Jonni Thunder aka Thunderbolt a private detective who also has the power to turn into a powerhouse electric hero! So if you’re ready to solve a mini series with a super powered gumshoe, let’s take a quick case with Jonni Thunder!

Jonni Thunder and her father Jim Thunder came together in California and opened “J. Thunder Detective Agency” after Jim was fired from the police force but still felt he could help people. For years father and daughter try and help people with their skills and have lots of great success. But over the years her father Jim Thunder is slowly killing himself with hard liquor and cigarettes and dies from his bad vices leaving Jonni to have to run the agency on her own. While on a case of murder she is offered money by one of her father’s friends for a statue that turns out to hold the power of Thunderbolt, and once free the creature bonds with Jonni and she is able to control it and hence a superhero is born. The downside for her is that while she takes control of Thunderbolt, Jonni herself passes out and is left open to attacks and dangers. Jonni would later, as Thunderbolt, get involved in the Crisis On Infinite Earths and took on Knodar and also would later become romantic with superhero Skyman and would join the team Infinity Inc, that is until she would lose her power and gain it back only to find that the Thunderbolt that attached itself to her was in fact a alien who had bad attentions. Once she lost her powers and Skyman passed away, Jonni Thunder left Infinity Inc. and faded way back to normal life. So while her time as Thunderbolt and a superhero might have been short, Jonni still was a cool and interesting character that once more DC dropped the ball with and misused over the years.

So as you can see Jonni Thunder by all accounts is a normal strong willed woman who owns and runs her own business that by luck gets the power of a superhero. But like many of the characters created by DC, she was not given the chance to become a mainstream character as it has always been clear that if they were not Batman, Superman or Wonder Woman they just don’t have much for you at the time. With comic characters now being used in other forms of media like video games, novels, TV shows and movies the folks at DC seem to be more open to using the none A-List characters. But we are now at the time of this update were we will do the review for the Jonni Thunder mini series, and I want to thank Bell Book And Comic for having them in stock. I also want to remind all you readers that I grade these on a star scale of 1 to 4 and am looking for how well the comic stays to the source material, its entertainment value and its art and story. So if you’re ready, lets see what Jonni Thunder is all about and if Thunderbolt can save the day.

Jonni Thunder # 1   ***
Released in 1985       Cover Price .75       DC Comics     # 1 of 4

It’s a stormy night in California as Private Investigator Jonni Thunder returns to town after her father’s funeral. Once back at her office she finds a body of a would-be client dead with gun shot wounds, and after the cops question her, she gets a weird phone call that says if she seeks answers to why the man was murdered in her office she must meet them at the tar pits. Jonni jumps into her 1957 Thunderbird and in the pouring rain finds that her mystery caller was a no show. When returning to her office she finds a weird metal insect waiting to try and kill her and with lots of luck and after escaping her office via the window in the ally she is able to make the machine blow up with a well places umbrella to the metal machines eye. After the attack the cops once more give Jonni guff and act as if her story of a killer robot is fake and takes the word of a drunk who claims he was in the ally and seen and heard nothing. Jonni storms off and heads to the office were she finds a note to meet one time western actor and singer turned TV mogul Slim Chances who makes her an offer to buy an old statue of her fathers that has a story of power around it. Jonni knows that the statue was turned into a lamp at the office and when bringing it to the set up meeting spot she is attacked by the old bum who has a high powered laser gun and he as well wants the statue and even tells her he is the one who sent the metal bug assassin! As he tries his best to kill her with his laser gun the statues starts to glow and a being of energy comes out of it and Jonni passes out and is now controlling it and chases the old man who falls off a cliff and dies! The flying energy being returns to Jonni who awakens and is confused on what just happened.

This first issue in the mini series is fantastic and a great way to kick it off and bring readers in. The thing that works the best for this comic is the nice mix of classic detective comic with a touch of superhero comic by the end. This issue’s plot has Jonni Thunder after the funeral of her father being the target of a hit that by the end of out story all revolves around a statue that was sent to her father when she was young that was stolen from a foreign country that has stories of powers. Jonni Thunder is a good detective, who is skilled at her job as she is always looking for clues and always paying attention to things going on around her and best of all she is sharp witted with good survival skills. Jonni also is very skilled at combat and is a strong willed character who does what she can to get the job done, plus she does not take any guff from anyone…she is a really cool basic detective character. Thunderbolt is a female being of energy that can fly and shoot energy blasts from her hands, she has the mind of Jonni and at this point Thunderbolt does not speak nor do we really know much about her yet. The main villain of this issue is the old man who clearly wants the statue and will kill in order to get it.  At this point we don’t know who he is, but I am thinking he might be the man who originally stole the statue decades past. I also don’t trust Slim Chances as this old time western actor seems a little too interested in buying the statue and even never showed up at the meeting spot, making me wonder if he hired the old man to kill the daughter of his one time friend. This far the story is well done, and I am looking forward to seeing how this all plays out as well as I hope to get the answer of who the old man is and who hired him. The cover is pretty eye catching and is very 80’s DC Comics.  The interior art is well done and is done by Dick Goirdano. To sum this issue up, it’s a great first issue and introduction to a character that had/has lots of potential, and I am looking forward to seeing what issue two has in store for us.

Jonni Thunder # 2   **1/2
Released in 1985      Cover Price .75      DC Comics     # 2 of 4

The police have shown up to the crime scene and find the dead body of the old man at the bottom on the cliff, they of course have it in their mind the Jonni Thunder is the killer but they have no proof and seem to get joy in given her a hard time. Once she leaves the crime scene she goes home and tries to figure out what this statue is and why it has given her powers in times of need. She goes home and thinks about her next move when she finds a private detective like herself named Harrison Trump digging through her mail, the two get into a struggle and Harrison gets away before she can figure out why he was snooping. Jonni goes to the office and finds Slim Chances and his bodyguard Roadblock waiting for her and they are not their as friends as they search her purse for the statue and leave when they think the cops are on their way. Jonni who has hidden the statue finds the Harrison has stolen it and she travels to San Francisco to get it back. She soon finds that Harrison was working for night club owner and dancer Red Nails who has turned on Harrison and is trying to figure out the power of the statue when Jonni breaks in and confronts her. The two women share some words and Red throws the statue at Jonni knocking her out but also allowing her to turn into Thunderbolt who chases Red around but should have taken her out fast as Red picks up a gun and is about to shoot the knocked out Jonni in the head!

The second issue has Jonni Thunder at odds with many people all who want the statue minus the cops who think she might be covering murders that are happing by not giving them all he details. The poor detective is also having to deal with the fact that a statue has given her powers that turn her into a living raw energy power superhero! Plus she gets attacked and bullied all through the issue as Slim Chances and his bodyguard try and rob her, sleazy private detective Harrison Trump snoops around her house and does rob her and club owner beauty Red Nails knocks her upside her head and also tries to rob her!! Jonni Thunder in this issue is tough and also confused as after the death of her father her life is becoming stranger and stranger and she herself is trying to solve her own case of what’s the deal with the statue and why the world wants it and why does it have weird powers. The cops are no real help, and they keep just blaming and investigating Jonni instead of listing to her statements. The old western actor Slim Chances and his former NFL player bodyguard Roadblock are scum and are greedy for the statue and try to bully their way into getting it and even try and use money as means to get it. Harrison Trump is a P.I from San Francisco who is not a good one as he is willing to steal for his clients and even is willing to fight against a woman in order to get his case closed, funny thing is he is a fool and becomes a hostage of his own client! Red Nails is a pretty red head woman who owns a dance club and is clearly cold blooded and willing to kill in order to get the statue as she wants it’s power for herself. The cliffhanger ending of this issue is really well done as it’s clear that Thunderbolt has to be fast in order to save her own life! The cover for this issue is great again and is classic 80’s DC Comic stuff and the interior art by Dick Goirdano is great once more and is great classic art stuff. To sum it up, this is a great DC Comic for a female hero they sadly seem to have forgotten for the most part. So lets see what issue three has in store for me!

Jonni Thunder # 3   **1/2
Released in 1985      Cover Price .75      DC Comics     # 3 of 4

Red Nails forces Thunderbolt to retreat back into Jonni Thunder’s body as if the hero don’t she threatens to shoot the host body in the head! Once awake Jonni and the still captive Harrison Trump are handcuffed and forced by Red and her henchwomen to sewer tunnels where they are shown a giant electric machine that was built by Red who besides being a stripper is also a whiz of electricity machinery and has designed a massive laser gun that she plans on powering with the power of Thunderbolt, but first she wants to use it on Jonni and Harrison! But when the statue doesn’t power the laser gun, Red Nails sends her goons to kill Jonni and Harrison instead who end up escaping right after Jonni is able to grab the statue. The pair find themselves on the run and end up being kidnapped by Slim Chances whose limo is now being chased by Red’s lady goons on motorcycles! Jonni and Harrison leap from the limo just in time and find themselves having to work together to really get out of harms way. But their escape is cut short when Red Lips starts to use a lightning machine try and stop them forcing Jonni to become Thunderbolt and for Harrison to try and control the run away car that the body of Jonni is passed out at behind the wheel! With some luck and power Thunderbolt is able to electrocute Red Nails ending her reign of terror, and return to her body and she hopes this is the end.

The third issue once more is a solid read and shows that Jonni Thunder when pushed can take care of business and truly has the will to live when faced with odds that are stacked against her. In this issue Jonni is kidnapped and set to be murdered by a laser cannon, but is able to escape and stop her enemy who is using the cities electric power to try and kill her and gain back that statue. Red Nails is one mean woman as she is unfazed by the chaos she is creating and the lives she might be taking, she also clearly only really wants power and money…too bad she gets none and finds herself fried like a piece of chicken. Slim Chances the one time movie cowboy turned TV tycoon is also a true scumbag as in this issue he even turns to kidnapping in order to get the statue and it’s power. Harrison Trump who is the goofy private investigator who really help start this drama shows that he is not a fully bad guy as he risks his neck to not only try and save his own hide but that of Jonni’s as well. Thunderbolt is shown that she does have a weakness as all the electric power of the city really zaps and hurts her, but she also shows that with the mind of Jonni she is smart and quick to come up with answers to major problems. This issue helps build up the story really well as it once more shows you that this statue is something special and has bonded with Jonni who cant get a moments peace in order to figure out what and why! The cover for this issue is very eye catching and good use of the colors yellow and red with interior art once more being handled by Dick Goirdano who once more captures the feel of DC Comics in the 80’s. Over all this is another solid issue that makes me look forward to the fourth and final issue to see how our story plays out.

Jonni Thunder # 4   **1/2
Released in 1985      Cover Price .75      DC Comics     # 4 of 4

Jonni Thunder and Harrison Trump are driving back home when they are pulled over by the cops and as Jonni is taken to the station as Harrison steals her car! After being questioned by the cops a call comes in from the higher ups to leave Jonni alone who leaves only to be once more taken by Roadblock to meet with Slim Chances. Once at the mansion Jonni beats up and kills Roadblock and soon finds that Slim is the man who hired the laser gun madman who tried to kill her at the meeting spot and that he also is the one who shot the man who died in her office! Slim also tells her that the statue came from space and that he and Red Nails had nothing to do with each other, but he goes too far when he is about to kill Jonni with his laser gun and Jonni turns into Thunderbolt and electrocutes Slim killing him before in a daze back as Jonni she leaves the mansion with two dead bodies left behind and lots of thinking to do as she returns to her office. Once back she finds her friend beat up bad on the floor and a note left behind by Harrison for her to meet him alone, Jonni is in a rage as she thinks he has beaten her friend near death and rushes to bring down Harrison who she quickly learns is innocent and that Red Nails is still alive and she and her goons are the ones who beat up her friend. After tricking the goons Jonni targets Red who she lets in on the secret that the statue no longer has power, as she is now the source of the energy.  Red in a rage tries to shoot Jonni and a struggle ensues that leaves Red shot thanks the cops that have been called. In the end Jonni has cleared her name, she has the power of Thunderbolt living inside her and she now has friends in the police department as well as Harrison Trump a fellow P.I.

This is a mini series that does a great job of bring the world of comics and cheesy detective pulp style novels together to deliver a very entreating adventure. In this issue Jonni Thunder learns that she truly has the power of Thunderbolt and is able to clear her name as well as deal with all those filled with greedy wants and needs that all breaks down to the statue. Jonni Thunder is good at her job and knows how to find the information she needs to close a case as well as survive any and all bad situations that come her way. But while Jonni is smart and tough as nails, she still has a soft side as it’s clear she loved her dad and cares about her friends old and new. When as Thunderbolt she has massive raw power and energy and will do what she has to do to save her hide and others, also as Thunderbolt her power could easily kill a human. Whats weird is the power of Thunderbolt lived in the statue for awhile but once bonding with Jonni the power makes it’s home inside her. Harrison Trump is a sleazy dude who was willing to steal to make money and only after being saved and almost killed does he really come around to be a decent guy.  Plus I think once he started to having romantic feelings for Jonni his attitude and look out on life changed. Slim Chances and his ex-football player Roadblock were slimy rich people who wanted the power of the statue and looked at human life as disposable! Plus for their greed and power hungry mindset both Roadblock and Slim meet their deaths by the hands of Thunderbolt/Jonni. Red Nails and her goons as well are terrible and greedy people who meet their ends as well trying to get power. Plus the cops while a thorn in the side of Jonni finally turn out to be heroes when one of them shoots and kills Red Nails before she could end the life of Jonni. Over all this is a nice action packed detective romp mini series that does a great job of blending noir and superheroes to make me as a reader wondering what turn was next for our characters. The cover for issue # 4 is ok and by far is the weakest one in the series.  The interior art is still great and done by Dick Goirdano again. Over all if you enjoy detective comics that have a hint of superhero this mini series is for you! Check out the art below to see the style of Goirdano.

DC Comics has a bad history of really back burning many of their characters in favor of just focusing on the same main A-List heroes. I think they dropped the ball on Jonni Thunder as I think she could even have been a great side character in one of their mainstream books like they could have had her move her office to Gotham and enter the world of Batman! But sadly I just don’t see this changing at DC as they will always be the comic company that Superman and Batman built, and they will always only focus on them and a handful of other heroes. For our next update we will be walking away from DC Comics and one of their many forgotten heroes and take a journey with another detective, but this one is like none other as he is a talking dog named McGruff The Crime Dog! So until next time, read a comic or three, remember an old superhero or two and as always support your local Horror Host. See you next update as we take a bite out of crime!