Armagideon Time

After kicking off the Silver Age of Funnybooks with an updated incarnation of the Flash in 1956, vitamin DC’s Showcase “try-out” series (alongside the pre-team up run of Brave and the Bold) followed upon that success with other Jet Age revisions of Golden Age mystery men (Green Lantern, information pills the Atom), read new superhero franchises (the Metal Men, the Creeper), a host of space opera and high adventure concepts (Challengers of the Unknown, Adam Strange, Rip Hunter), and a handful of offbeat gems (Bat Lash, Angel & The Ape).

A respectable percentage of Showcase alums managed to attain some degree of resonance (if only as familiar supporting characters or cult favorites) with funnybook readers, but there were more than a few whose arrival was met with resounding displays of indifference. This was especially true toward the end of the series’s run, by which time the wellspring of the Silver Age’s creative exuberance had given way to a muddle trickle of half-realized ideas.

While the cyclical dredging of the continuity sump has since restored forgotten footnotes such as Dolphin and Nightmaster to a modest level of prominience…

…the same cannot be said for Jason’s Quest, which parlayed its three issue trial run (staring in February 1970’s Showcase #88) into a one way voyage down the memory hole.

The titular quest began when the titular hero discovered that his fatally wounded (and excessively bandaged) father was — GASP — not actually his biological parent! He was actually a friend of the family who spirited the lad away when his real father was — GASP — killed by international criminals in search of some murder-worthy MacGuffin! Furthermore — GASP — Jason had a twin sister whose upbringing was outsourced to some folks in — GASP — England!

Armed with a grainy photo, a guitar and a second-hand import motorbike, Jason set off for Ol’ Blighty in search of his sister, who — GASP — unknowingly holds the evidence (which has apparently been…uh…”secreted” on her person) needed to smash the criminal empire of the dreaded Tuborg

…the Ed Asnerian, backrub-loving sybarite responsible for the death of twins’ real father.

The story then devolves into the classic narrative formula of boy seeks girl, boy finds girl but she’s wearing a wig and doesn’t recognize her, boy fights Carnaby Street’s Most Wanted…

…boy catches a ferry across the channel, boy is sexed up by an pistol-packing aggressively Southern belle…

…boy plays guitar with a Parisian rock band (I’d say “shitty Parisian rock band,” but that would be redundant), boy finds girl again, boy exploits a student revolt for his own purposes, boy and girl separate before any revelations can be made, harried editor begs pathetically for readers to demand an ongoing series.

Pretty straightforward stuff, all told.

There’s a part of me that feels a little guilty for ragging on Jason’s Quest. At a time when comics were becoming increasingly associated with the superhero genre, it presented a capes-and-spandex free action-adventure story which attempted to combine tropes from young adult fiction with a G-rated rendition of the late 1960s counterculture. It’s failure to gain any real traction outside a couple of terminal slangulitis cases…

…may have been preordained by shifts in the marketplace and readership demographics, but the fact that the try-out arc was a nonsensical mess of plot holes twined together by a series of increasingly far-fetched coincidences didn’t help things, either.

“I’m your long lost brother. The guys who killed our dad are hunting you.” How long does it take you to recite those two sentences? Ten seconds? Maybe fifteen, tops?

Certainly within the space of time it takes to roam the length and breadth or Paris, participate in a riot, and hatch up a scheme involving mannequin decoys tied to the back of motorcycles, but somehow Jason — who had the brains of a Ringo-haired turnip and a personality to match — never managed to get around to uttering that information to his sister. That plot point driven stupidity makes me wonder how an ongoing Jason’s Quest series would have played out over the long (read “twelve issues, tops”) haul, where the need to sustain the serialized narrative would have come up against decisive and logical story resolutions.

Putting aside idle speculation about what could have been, what remains is an unresolved bundle of forgettable silliness to be releagted to the brutal-savage-crazy-swave Happening of the Damned known as Nobody’s Favorites.

7 Responses to “Nobody’s Favorites: A groovey batch out”

  1. Zack Smith

    The second issue of the latest BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD series had a panel with a boy and a girl on a bike, and the boy goes, “Thanks for helping me find my MISSING SISTER, Batman!” And Batman goes, “No problem, Jason. Families should be together for the holidays.”

    So Jason finally got a happy ending. Good thing, too. Last we saw him, he was riding around in comic book Limbo in Morrison’s ANIMAL MAN.

  2. bitterandrew

    That is pretty beautiful.

    NOW WHERE IS MY DATE WITH DEBBI REVIVAL?

  3. Rockie Bee

    I found the first two issues of this in a quarter bin and got really hooked — corny, out-of-date, but what dude just out of college, saddled with debt and underemployed, doesn’t look at ‘Jason’ and say ‘That guy’s got it made. Riding some bike (not even getting involved with beefy, middle-aged Harley dorks), playing guitar (implied) and having women throw themselves at him.”

    Searched for ten years for the issue of Showcase that concluded the story, was underwhelmed when I got it.

    Enjoyed the character following ‘Jason’s Quest’ in Showcase — ‘Manhunter 2070 A.D.’ Banacek in SPAAAAAAAAAAAAACE!

  4. Brimstone

    He looks awesome, but then I’m one of those people who sometimes wishes he lived in the 60s.

  5. rnrk

    If Tuborg had turned out to really be Jason’s biological father, this’d sound suspiciously like the inspiration for the main Star Wars plotline.

    And about as logically written, to boot.

  6. Doc Arkham

    On a sort of random note: I can’t attest to it 100%, but flipping through the new comics as I was getting them onto the shelves tonight, I think Nobody’s Favorites may have gotten a shout-out in Aquaman #1…

  7. Monzo

    Kurt Busiek has stated (somewhere) that he longs to do a Jason’s Quest revival. I’m not sure why.

    Also, that assassin with Sonny Bono looks more like Mickey Dolenz to me.

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