Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Kobra Week! KOBRA #4 DC Comics, 1976

Yes, believe it or not, Kobra once had his own comic book!

During the 70's DC had an editorial philosophy that pretty much amounted to: "Throw a bunch of crap at the wall and see what sticks." Unfortunately, DC's crap was coated in teflon, and nothing stuck to the wall. But for a brief, glorious period - the DC Explosion! - the reading public was treated to such comic book oddities as Kobra.

In this series, the unspeakably evil Kobra, the King of Evil, does battle with his twin brother, Jason Burr, who is an idiot, yet somehow always manages to foil Kobra's schemes, if only temporarily. For reasons best left unexplained, the two brothers share an empathic bond and can feel each other's pain. For instance, if Jason Burr gets hit in the nuts with a lacrosse stick, somewhere in an evil temple Kobra doubles over, clutching his boys. As you might imagine, this complicates things and makes Jason Burr the one enemy Kobra cannot kill!!!

Can I point out the boss Joe Kubert cover (above)? Kubert's one of those guys whose work is instantly recognizable and instantly boss! He rules, end of story. He rules so much that he founded Joe Kubert's School of Being Boss. Anyway, the Kubert cover classes up the comic, if you ask me. I don't know why there's an inset panel of Jason Burr on the toilet - that scene isn't in the book...

Kobra, in typical Kobra fashion, is striking a dramatic pose and screaming at his brain-washed underlings. Here, click on this splash page and it will get you up to speed:

I like his outfit in this comic; it looks like he's wearing comfy terry-cloth pajamas. You know, he should do a line of men and underling's clothing called Kobra Seperates. I'd buy them.

Kobra is one cat who appreciates the importance of brand management. He's always got a new outfit that is built on the timeless Kobra theme of orange and green scales. And talk about accesorizing! He even pimped out all his excavator and heavy machinery, Kobra-style, by um, putting cobra heads on bulldozers and shit. The Kobra Vibe is always in effect.

Much like Dr. Doom, Kobra was always trying to get an edge in his never-ending struggle for Global Chaos by screwing around with powers beyond human understanding, . In Kobra #4, our man tries to harness the power of a giant alien robot, the Servitor. Things go wrong:

The Servitor - that was my nickname in college. I swung with a different crowd, baby.

Anyway, check out the panel where The Servitor's face explodes - that's a pretty cool sound effect, no? "Choom!" Nice effect.

Kobra and his much-abused minions take care of The Servitor, and then we move on to the monthly fight between Jason Burr and his evil twin brother. Every month they fight, and every month they forget that the two of them are linked empathically:

More great sound effects: "FUNT!" That's what getting kicked in the gut sounds like when you're wearing comfortable terry-cloth armor from Kobra's fall collection. Speaking of fashion, Jason is wearing a Superman T-shirt in order to confuse young readers, I guess. He looks stupid. He is stupid.

The Kobra series didn't survive the "DC Implosion" and Jason Burr met his destiny in the pages of a Batman comic book. It's a pity that Kobra is (supposedly) dead, because I think a new Kobra series would rule. If there's one thing that kids love, it's fanatical merchants of global terror in eye-catching outfits.

That, and ponies. Kids love ponies.

(Krap! I never mentioned that Kobra was kreated by Jack "King" Kirby. You kan see some of Kirby's kraziness in this issue's art - like the "Kirby dots" in the panel above. Kirby + Kobra = Kool.)


Prof. Fury said...

I. LOVE. Kobra Week! If memory serves me right, Kobra was once bested in the pages of Action Comics by none other than...Ambush Bug! PLEEZ tell me that's going to be part of Kobra week!

Anonymous said...

I think in the original Kirby Kobra(tm) he got all of his crazy technology (including the robot) by reverse-engineering a crashed UFO he found.

Just so nobody thinks he has an R&D team somewhere making invisible flying arks and antigravity beams for him.

SW said...

Y'know, times were tough for ol' King K in the 90's. At one point, he sub-contracted for Captain Atom's arch-villain, The Ghost. It was a big crazy scheme to throw Cap off the Ghost's trail, and I guess Kobra was hard-up enough to do it.

I know you dislike all-things-Captain-Atom, Dave, but don't be too hard on Kobra. Sure, taking over the world is cool and all, but a brother's gotta eat...

Matt said...

So, was the letterer a Candid Camera fan or what?

Anonymous said...

How empathic are the twins? If Jason Burr decides to eat Mexican for lunch does Kobra reach for the Beano? When Kobra has an "erotic experience" (assuming his base is not a complete sausagefest or assuming that it is) does Jason Burr get the sloppy seconds? What if Kobra's mattress is a little lumpy? What if Jason Burr gets a splinter?

Does Grant Morrison know this character is available?

Dan Coyle said...

Wow, Martin Pasko really sucks.

kelvingreen said...

The bloke who says "As it pleases you Lord Kobra" on that first page doesn't look too happy about it, does he? Perhaps he's just a temp who wasn't expecting so much heavy lifting and costumery on his first day.

I like Kobra's personalised digger, although it makes him rather conspicuous; I mean, it wouldn't take Batman to track him down: "Yes, I notice that you produced some purple diggers with a snake motif. Do you mid telling me where you delivered them to?"

And just so I can make my weekly 2000ad-related posting, "Funt" is also the kid-friendly swear word of choice for that title's futuristic hitmen Sinister and Dexter. "What the funt?" "Funt this!" etc.

John DiBello said...

Two comments:

1. Wow, the word "damn" in a code-approved DC comic back in '76? I'm surprised.
2. More logos should be made from typefaces of snakes.

Vaklam said...

Wow! I did not know Kobra had his own title.

That CHOOM effect is the best thing I've seen this month. I want to be that effect when I grow up.

Thorpe said...

I recall Kobra showing up in a 4 issue mini-series called "Danger Trail" from 1992, named after the original 1950's DC series which featured it's star, secret agent King Faraday who popped up in books like Captain Atom & Suicide Squad. A bit more Bondian than superheroic but it does take place in the DC-verse.

After wrapping up a mission in Central America Faraday's boss Slam Bradley sends him to bring in one Natalia Sokoloff the former personal assisstant to renowned (and missing) nuclear physicist Gregor Mendekov. Natalia says she has information about who nabbed the Prof. and refuses to speak until she's been brought to Washington. Kobra turns out to have her boss captive, and working on a weapon to help bring that Age of Chaos he's always on about. But the old professor says his assisstant is needed for his work to be completed so Kobra goons keep dogging their trail from Istanbul and through Europe. It ends with Kobra trying to make his getaway but seemingly failing...

Tim S said...

I owned an issue of Kobra way back. You're right, they always forgot that they felt each other's pain. It was like an SNL skit, for pete's sake. They need to make a movie of Kobra and Adam Sandler can play his dumb brother. "Arrrgh!" HIT! FUNT! CHOOM!! "Owwwwww! I forgot again!"

You hate Captain Atom too?

David Campbell said...

"You hate Captain Atom too?"

With the power of a thousand exploding suns.

Dan Coyle said...

Wait, King Faraday's boss was Slam Bradley? The incredibly annoying Sam Spade manque from Catwoman?

That's right! I yam what I yam!D

Martin Hall said...

No, his boss was "Slam Ripley: Crap Pilot" from How to be a Superhero.

SW said...

Just 'casue I loves ya all, I wanted to share this with you..


I looked through these for a Hembeck Kobra, and didn't see one. Guess it's hard to be funny about someone so evil.

Wait...what were we doing again?

Harvey Jerkwater said...

King Faraday's boss in Danger Trail was the eminently forgettable "Sarge Steel," that dude with the buzzcut and a metal hand.

Kobra met his defeat at the hands of Ambush Bug and Superman in an old DC Comics Presents that kicked so much ass, it was declared illegal in several countries.

In the issue, the Bug gave Supes a gift, since Superman is such a swell guy. The gift? Red kryptonite. The outcome? The Bug and Superman switch minds. Yes. Yes. Let the genius wash over you. Then Kobra got involved. Oh yes.

One of the greatest issues of the eighties.

Dan Coyle said...

Ambush Bug and Superman WHAT?


You know, I don't know if Dave has any G.I. Joe, but I sure would love COBRA week too.

Anonymous said...

"Ambush Bug and Superman WHAT?"

Superman: OK...calm down...figure out how to teleport. Think like the Bug. Think like the Bug.



"Woop woop woop."


Anonymous said...

Please tell me this robot has a girlfriend named Dominator.

LOLA said...

Earlier, Anon said:

When Kobra has an "erotic experience" (assuming his base is not a complete sausagefest or assuming that it is) does Jason Burr get the sloppy seconds?

Please review the panel where it clearly states he can feel the force of his own blow.

David Campbell said...

You know, I was thinking about exploring the er, intimate ramifications of Kobra's empathic bond with his stupid brother, but I thought, "Naa. Somebody will bring it up on the comments section."

I'm so glad I was correct.

Cove West said...

Yeah, and for once it wasn't me!

We need an Ambush Bug Week, Dave.

Dan Coyle said...

Ambush Bug week would be swell. You know, Giffen claims for the miniseries he never told Fleming what was going on. If Fleming would call to ask he'd just hang up on him.

Scott said...

So can Cobra Commander of GI Joe fame sue for copyright infringement?

Baronessssss you have some sssssplain' to do!

Brad Curran said...

This thread has convinced me without a shadow of a doubt that the world needs a Vertigo revamp of Kobra.

Jim Kosmicki said...

I think you mentioned it before, but for a low-level, short-run series, Kobra had great logos. The snake style lettering that you show here was good, but on the last few issues the logo was changed to one with a cobra circling the O, which was a globe -- it set up the whole series, and just in the logo!!

Pere Ubu said...

Kobra's yell as the Ambush-Bug-in-Supe's-body chases him:

"I don't DESERVE this! I haven't even KILLED anyone in this issue!"

Martin Pasko said...

If you think this stuff is...unimpressive (and who can blame you?), you should have seen what Jack Kirby came up with originally, as he was on his way out the DC door to go back to Marvel, where he created such deathless works as Machine Man and Devil Dinosaur.

The Burr twins were originally 65-year-old men whose "Corsican Brothers effect" seemed to act up and disappear at random, like a flickering faulty light bulb. Jack's format had the "good" brother as a veteran Scotland Yard investigator trying to track down his twin. Why he'd been at this unsuccessfully for over 30 years when he had a psychic link to his quarry was not addressed in the original material. The rest of the plot of that unpublished prototype issue made little sense, having something to do with an alien craft that showed up out of nowhere in the last three pages with no apparent connection to the previous 14. I stopped reading midway through; there was no point. It was clearly a toss-off and years later, Jack told me as much.

At that point in his comics career, Jack -- whom I later had the great pleasure of knowing and working with in animated television, on THUNDARR THE BARBARIAN -- was coming to the end of a deal struck with DC in 1970 that allowed him to create without editorial "input." By 1975, he was long-since ready to move on and was basically doing whatever popped into his head over breakfast that morning just to fulfill his contractual obligation, thinking that then-publisher Carmine Infantino probably wasn't going to run it anyway. I think he wrote and pencilled what was originally called KING KOBRA in like a day.

Anyway, this thing was sitting in inventory for over a year when new DC editor Gerry Conway shoved it at me one day early in my career (I was 20 years old then, I think) and said, "Do something with this." So I asked Production to create a set of stats from the foreign edition negatives with the balloons whited out, and I wrote a completely new story, plus notes for redrawing the figures, without referring to the original script (which we didn't have anyway). The only thing I kept was the Corsican Brothers ripoff, developing a new backstory and details about the cobra cult from my own research on India and tweaking my ideas to fit the art or having minor art details modified to fit the content -- in many cases, changing the order of panels and moving entire pages. To redraw the figures, Gerry hired Pablo Marcos (?!), well known for his resemblance to Kirby inked by D. Bruce Berry (sarcasm, duh).

We expected nothing to come of it, but Carmine, as he was wont to do at that time, played a trick on us and put this turkey on the schedule and cancelled it six issues later. Obviously to Gerry's great annoyance, because he never bothered to hire the same artist two issues in a row. Among various other oddities, the original series features one of Keith Giffen's earliest art jobs (#3) and shows how raw the newbie Keith was when Wally Wood wasn't redrawing him. (Keith recently shared this assessment with me, so I'm not telling tales out of school here.)

The issue you justly savage here is arguably the worst, as we were working plot-first and the pencils departed from the plot so much neither Gerry nor I could recognize the story. In fact,these "pencils" were essentially stick figures (the finished art was largely created by the inker); I wasn't really sure what I was dialoguing. I believe this is the only mainstream comics gig this guy ever did, if not his only comics-format job, ever.

But, as embarrassing as KOBRA is by today's standards, there is apparently still something appealing about the character, because other writers keep digging it out of mothballs every now and then. Go figure. God bless the Net for its capacity to immortalize the things some of us did in our misspent youth just to come up with the rent money. Nice to know it's still entertaining somebody somewhere, if not in the manner originally intended.

Anonymous said...

Woah, Martin Pasko!

David Campbell said...

Holy shit! Martin Pasko! Thanks for stopping by Martin and for being such a good sport.

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Isaac said...

What exactly you're writing is a horrible mistake.