Welcome back to my little trip down the road of my youth. When I was younger, musclebound heroes ruled supreme. We had Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Hulk Hogan, Jean Claude Van Damn, Marc Singer, Lou Ferrigno and many more to look up to, but one man seemed to be especially fascinating to kids: Mr. T! Every kid knew the gold chain wearing badass who was not only a TV star but also a movie star and a cartoon icon. His over the top persona seemed to draw kids in, and when he spoke we all seemed to listen. He had the same effect on kids as Hulk Hogan did, and it made sense when the two teamed up at the original WWF Wrestlemania. I mean just look at this badass poster for the event:
But I am not here to talk about pro-wrestling; I am here to explain my connection to the A-Team. Mr. T not only played the good guy, he could also play a very mean bad guy like in his first major role in Rocky III playing Clubber Lang, a streetwise boxer who beats Rocky for the world title when the Italian Stallone lost the eye of the tiger. This film was amazing and showed a side of Mr. T that we all were amazed by. The film also sparked a toy line featuring the first Mr. T action figure I ever owned. When I got this as a gift so did my Brother and many other of my cousins because Mr. T had become that big of a character. See just how badass this toy was:
After his Rocky role, Mr. T went on to do many other projects that included the popular TV show The A-Team in which he played the loveable brute B.A. Baracus, the muscle of the group who was afraid to fly. This sparked T eventually getting his own cartoon simply called “Mr. T” in which he and a group of gymnastic kids solved crimes in between competitions. I enjoyed the cartoon and loved catching it on USA’s Cartoon Express in reruns. The cartoon opened the door to a cereal line that was a rival to Cap’n Crunch. The cereal was okay but at the time I preferred Count Chocula and Cocoa Pebbles. Mr. T’s star power in full force: action figures, lunch boxes, books, stickers and so much more merchandise. He was everywhere.
But enough on just Mr. T lets talk The A-Team now! When the show first started airing in 1983 I was way too young to watch it in fact I was only four, but man when I was a few years older I watched he reruns all the time, and liked the mix of action and comedy. The A-Team consists of the following members John “Hannibal” Smith who is the brains of the group and while his means over the top they always seem to work, Templeton “Face” Peck was the smooth talking con man of the group, H.M “Howling Mad” Murdock was a crazy asylum patient who also happens to be the teams pilot and lastly is Bosco Albert “B.A.” Baracus who is not only the muscle but also the teams mechanic. While at times they would feud amongst themselves they always managed to pull off the job they were hired to do, you see they were mercenaries for hire and were wanted by the government for crimes they did not commit. Each episode the team would take on a case that had the odds against them and would manage to always solve it, the show also was known for its over the top explosions and the fact many guns were fired but no one ever got hit! The TV show was a hit for the male population and the over the top characters won the hearts of young and old, and sparked the show to get its own line of toys, comics, lunch boxes and toy cars.
The most common of the toys to find based on the show was the 3 ¾” G.I. Joe style that came in a four pack and had lots of cheap weapons thrown in. The figures were sold very cheap and were found at many discounted department stores and flooded the shelves to not only cash in on the popular show but also on the rise of G.I. Joe. They looked terrible as well as the all wore a solid color body suit and all but B.A had a stupid looking grin, and worst of all they were so cheaply made they broke in no time and I am not only talking the band that kept them together but literally arms and legs would fall of, these things were as cheap as they come. Plus the paint jobs on the figures face were always very poorly done and eyes always seemed to be crossed or of center. I can not tell you how many of these my older Brother Bryan and I went through, but I sure can say it was one hell of a lot. Every 4th of July our friend Mike Cessna who lived down the street and was my brothers age would get fire crackers (mostly Black Cats) and we would blow up toys, many of times the broken A-Team toys would be blown sky high for our amusement. One toy that seemed to always be there almost as if he was calling the shots was one name “Major Bones” a skeleton with an army hat, and he even seemed to be around when we set a Murdock figure on fire melting its face to a black chard mess. Oh the good old times of being young and silly and just having a little fun. Most of the time after the toys were good and broke they would get buried in a field by our house or Mike’s backyard.
In 1984 there was to be a game for the Atari 2600 based on the A-Team were you played as a floating B.A head! Sadly the game that was near completed was cancelled and never seen the light of day. This bums me out cause from early on I loved video games and I am sure I would have played this game a lot. So gamers never did get to live out the action via their joystick. However if you know were to look you can find a reproduction cart of the game or even play the game on a rom via your computer.
Oh what the hell why not one more Mr. T story! This is kind of a urban legend around these parts but some swear that its true and the tale lives on in Public Access folklore. William Pace was a star of a talk show that aired on public TV around here and would interview local celebrities and people of interest, one of the best things about the show was that he would always give his guests a box of Ester Price Chocolates. Mr. T was in town at a local comic shop to promote his new comic series and William showed up for an interview, the story goes that Mr. Pace kept asking what Mr. T’s real name was and T kept sayings its Mr. T, when Pace kept the question up Mr. T got mad hit his table and screamed “It’s T You Fool”, the story then goes that Mr. Pace started to cry and ran from the comic shop and destroyed the tape of the incident. Not sure if the story is true but I always found it funny, if you have ever seen the soft spoken William Pace show then you would as well see the humor in it!
So with all things that were popular Marvel Comics pounced on doing a series of issues based on the show. The three issue mini series came out in 1984 a year after the show debut, and thanks to the folks at Game Swap Kettering who had the full run out on their shelves in a bundle for only $1.99 I am able to read these issues and share my thoughts on them. Plus just for those who care and remember the character of Amy Allen is used in the comic, who is she you ask? Well she was a reporter who joined the A-Team from season one to mid season two. Remember I grade these on a standard 1-4 star rating and am looking at how well the comic keeps to the source material, its entertainment value, its art and story. So with this said lets take a look at this three issue mini series and see just how well the show
transferred to comics.
The A-Team # 1 ***
Released in 1984 Cover Price .60 Marvel Comics #1 of 3
Issue ones story is “Diamonds are a Thief’s Best Friend!”. B.A. Baracus has returned to his old ghetto home and runs into a long time friend Mario Ronda and the two catch up. Meanwhile Hannibal gets a job for the A-Team from Roger Townshed a diamond mine owner who has a thief working for him who is stealing his diamonds and selling them to the Lopez brothers. The A-Team along with Miss Priss (a worker for Townshed) head out to find who the rotten apple of the company really is. But B.A gets mad when its reveled that his close friend Ronda is involved with the Lopez brothers and acts as the delivery boy for the scumbags.Things get worse when it looks as if Townshed’s own son is the one stealing the Diamonds! Miss Priss leaves town due to stress as B.A after a fist fight finds that his friend Ronda is really a agent for the F.B.I.! In the end Hannibal figures out who the real thief is and the son is cleared and Priss is exposed.
This is a fun story that holds the charm of the TV show with its over done one liners and cheesy plot. I will say the issue is lacking in action and while some fights do happen there is no explosions, gun fights or dangerous moments and the brief fight between B.A and Ronda being the most exciting is sad in its own self due to the fact it don’t last long. The art work is fair and while its clear Marvel did not put its own A-Team onto the project they at least got the B-Team to do the art and they do a fine job. The films plot of who is the thief in the company and disguises reminds me also of an old Scooby-Doo episode and I like that feeling mixed with the over done characters of the A-Team. I like they way they capture the craziness of Murdock who rambles on with one liners and makes faces at others.I feel like Face was not given much and almost seems like a background character. Hannibal is well done and shows he really is the mastermind of the group.B.A is the tough guy but seems to be used as the guy who speaks positive messages to any baddie that listens. Amy Allen comes off as filler who seems to be in the background yet is the piece of the puzzle that solves the case with out knowing. Over all this is a nice issue to start this short series with and its clear that even in the comic world the main focus is on B.A, showing that from the start he was the most popular character. Lets see if issue two holds that charm as well.
The A-Team # 2 ***
Released in 1984 Cover Price .60 Marvel Comics #2 of 3
This second adventure is called “Who Kidnapped Kuramoto?” The A-Team has been hired by the Kuramoto brothers, who are video game makers whos father has been kidnapped by a cult called The Sons of the Desert. The plan to get the father back has Amy and Face acting as reporters for Spy Magazine looking at the unfair treatment cults get. B.A and Hannibal show up as telephone repair men and Murdock stays in the chopper ready to swoop in for the save. But when they get there, they find out that this rescue might be harder then they thought as Face puts the move on Nancy, the cult’s P.R person and Hannibal and B.A must fight for their lives in the Arena of Death against trained warriors. B.A and Hannibal win their fights as Face and Amy are also discovered to be spies. When the gig is blown, it’s shown that Old Man Kuramoto has a secret of his own. Not all is what it seems when we learn that he is in fact the owner of the the temple and is the head of The Sons of the Desert. The A-Team leave with the knowledge that the old man is happy in his own world and doesn’t want to live in modern society.
This second issue is slightly bit better than issue one. The storyline is now more comic book than TV show, and I am okay with that. The plot of video game makers hiring the A-Team to find their father whom they think has been kidnapped by a cult is so over the top and silly how can one not have a good time reading. Plus this issue has a little more action and has more hand to hand combat to satisfy those like me who felt issue one was lacking in. This time around the highlight fight has B.A fight a fat Sumo wrestler in the Arena of Death, and B.A uses his mind to beat this tub of goo at his own game. This time around its Murdock who takes a backseat and has very little panel time. B.A and Hannibal are also more toned down and are used when needed, to fill in there part in the plan. This issues main focus seems to be Face and Amy who seem to be the ones who set the main part of the story in motion. Amy in this one also makes the dumbest moves and spoils her and Faces cover as she gets mad when he continues to flirt with their hostess. The art in this one looks very close to issue ones with some slight improvements making this series very much on the right track for fans of the show. The ending also is well thought out and shows that no harm was ever to fall on the missing elderly man. Over all issue two is a solid one and is sure to please fans of the adventures of the A-Team. Oh and I think one of the best aspects of this issue is in fact the A-Team don’t get to finish there mission and there for don’t get their pay!
The A-Team # 3 ***
Released in 1984 Cover Price .60 Marvel Comics #3 of 3
This third and final adventure is called “The Flight of the Redbird!”. Old cowboy movie star Wild Jack Monroe has hired the A-Team to get a new spy plane called The Red Bird from a foreign threat. The plane is so state of the art that it cannot be detected by any radar. Hannibal and his team take a raft to the spies’ island and come up with a way to steal the plane. But instead of turning it over to the old cowboy, they blow up the plane and expose Monroe’s true intentions.
This final issue was a lot of fun just like the other two in this very limited series. As with The Smurds, I wonder why this only lasted three issues. The comic series was a fun way to add to the over all legacy of the show and for once kept the mood and vibe of its source material. However I did notice that this issue’s plot while good is kind of just a throw away, and the end pay out kind of seems rushed, which to me makes me believe that Marvel and the makers knew this was the final issue and only put minimal creativity into it. The main cast of The A-Team all seem to be equally important in this issue, and this time it’s Amy Allen that takes the back seat and is hardly used. There is no real bad guy unless you count the spy plane, and the issue has no major action no fights. The extra large panels seemed to be there to fill up the pages. While this third issue is flawed and is the weakest link in the series, it still was a fun read that was an okay way to end the series.
This comic series really worked. Unlike the Smurfs, I found The A-Team to be a comic book made for fans by people who understood the TV show and found good ways to bring it into the comic book world. Marvel seemed to really like finding properties that they could license in hopes of spawning hits like their G.I Joe and Transformer lines. The A-Team TV show lasted five seasons and was remade into a film in 2010 that tried to recapture the magic of the show but was just okay. In 2010 IDW Comics also made a comic book series based around the movie, keeping the A-Team alive. Who knows what the fate of The A-Team is and if the remaining original actors will ever reunite, but much like every thing in this blog, they will forever live in my memories. Next update we will look at Star comics’ “AniMax,” a short series based on a failed toyline.