Hello, Legions of the Unspoken! It’s been a bit since Ol’ Dean Compton has been able to celebrate the greatness of 90’s comics with y’all, but life has been getting in the way. Hopefully things are starting to calm down and I can get here a lot more often.
One thing that doesn’t seem to be calming down anytime soon is the public’s hunger for superhero movies, especially Marvel movies. The Cinematic Universe has excited the public in a way that very few other movie franchises seem to be doing these days. Black Panther has taken the world by storm, and it’s very, very good! The movie that preceded it, though, Thor: Ragnarok, had a very neato tidbit that’d get a 90’s comic book fan as excited as a puppy in a dog park.
One of the most beloved of the many universes, and maybe the most beloved, that popped up in the 90’s was the Ultraverse. Malibu’s big swing for the fences wound up coming up short, but for a while prior to the Marvel purchase, the little company that could on the left coast was spitting out fascinating ideas faster than seeds at a watermelon eating contest. One of those ideas seems to have shown up in Thor: Ragnarok, and her name is Topaz.
While this Topaz looks decidedly different from the Ultraverse’s Topaz, the similarities are fairly shocking and vastly outweigh the differences.
Topaz was an integral member of UltraForce who used a power staff to keep her enemies in line. She is a warrior-queen from a matriarchal realm, and she’s pretty female supremacist. Now I know that’s gonna float some boats for some fellas reading this, but it was also fun watching her attempt to learn how to integrate into a male-dominated society in UltraForce. She used a power staff to deal with threats, and she got caught up in a big cosmic scuffle featuring The Avengers, Thor, and…The Grandmaster. Sound like the Topaz from the movie a little. TRY A LOT.
Topaz is one of the central characters in the UltraForce/Avengers crossover, which has a lot of dealings with The Grandmaster. Sound familiar? In the movie, she’s the right-hand woman of the Grandmaster, and she fights Thor. In the UltraForce/Avengers crossover, she teams with Siren to take on Crystal and Black Widow as part of the game between Grandmaster and Loki. There’s never a huge Avengers vs. UltraForce showdown, as the crossover mostly follows the “heroes meet, fight, realize they are on the same side/being manipulated, team up against the threat, and then look really cool doing it” template.
But the really important thing about Topaz right now isn’t her history, although as I said, she’s fun in UltraForce, and her debut in Giant-Size Mantra #1 is pretty awesome too. It’s the fact that Ultraverse fans like myself have been waiting for Marvel and Disney to do something with this dormant universe for way too long. The Ultraverse was full of fantastic ideas and amazing characters, and it was created by a group of some of the best writers in comic books. The universe was shepherded well by Chris Ulm, Tom Mason, Dave Olbrich, and Scott Mitchell Rosenberg so that everything felt important and needed. You never knew when something small would happen and it would balloon into something huge. Until the Valiant relaunch, it was easily the best universe created since the Marvel Universe.
For about 20 years, Ultraverse fans waited and waited for any sign of life from the Ultraverse. There would be rumors, rumors of rumors, and Joe Quesada flat out saying that these characters would never see the light of day again. Ultraverse fans like myself finally have a ray of hope with Topaz showing up in this movie. Will Prime return? Hardcase? Firearm? The Solution? Will they get their own comics back? Maybe a Netflix show? I know the 90’s kids who loved The Strangers and Sludge sure hope so! Here’s to seeing a lot more Ultraverse characters in the comics, on TV, and in the Marvel Cinematic Universe very, very soon!
Ol’ Dean Compton is back, and I do apologize for having been away so long. Life has separated me from the 90’s comics I dearly love and treasure, and it has also separated me from all of you, but that shall happen no more! We hope to be back on track around here in time for early summer, and my portion starts right here with the rather fun (and gory) Jason vs. Leatherface from Topps Comics!
I’ve been obsessed with Jason Voorhees (although not as obsessed as I am with some things) ever since I was about 4 or 5 years old. I don’t recall which Friday the 13th movie it was, but one Saturday morning in the middle of the serenity that only Saturday morning cartoons can bring a youngster, the slasher invaded. This had to be a mistake on the part of the station, but all of a sudden I was seeing a commercial for a Friday The 13th flick! I was so scared that I had nightmares about it later.
Whether this had anything to do with it or not, movies like Friday the 13th and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre were banned in my house growing up. The only Jason stuff that ever made its way into ComptonSpace was the NES game. Ask Emily or anyone who knows me: I am goddamn obsessed with NES Jason and will purchase just about anything to do with him, from NECA figures to Funko customs. For me, that game was Jason, in all of his purple and neon blue glory. Later, as a teenager, I’d be able to watch some Friday the 13th movies, and whole some of them are scary, most are just funny and a blast to watch.
I didn’t have the same affinity for Leatherface. I never got to play the Atari Texas Chainsaw Massacre game, although I am pretty obsessed with it now, to the point of having bought a NECA Atari Leatherface. (I bet you’re starting to think NECA paid me to put them in here, but nah, they just have great stuff. Of course, should they want to sponsor the site, come on, fellas!) I didn’t see Texas Chainsaw Massacre until I was 22. It’s a good movie, but I always sort of thought of Leatherface as the least of the slashers until recently. Thanks to various action figures, I have started to really dig Leatherface, so when I learned of this mini-series, I Just had to see how these two horror icons did against one another.
Published in the waning days of Topps Comics, Jason vs. Leatherface had a very low print run, making it highly desirable these days. From what I can tell from my research (which is done on little sleep and a shoestring budget, so please correct me if I am wrong), this is the only time in any medium that Jason and Leatherface squared off in an “official” manner. That sort of makes it sound like they had some sort of government sanctioned duel. That is decidedly not the case; this is much, much more fun.
Nancy Collins writes a fun story in which Jason is caught up in corporate malfeasance. A corporation has been using Crystal Lake (the perpetual home of Jason’s massacres) to dump toxic waste. They are moving on from the area, and the EPA has confirmed that something must be done about the waste. The CEO decided to just drain and dredge the lake and then use the land to build high-priced development housing. AND THEY SAY JASON VOORHEES IS THE BAD GUY!
Of course, Jason is at the bottom of the lake from the end of one of his last massacres, and he’s just waiting for something or someone to free him.
The man in charge of the dredging makes it clear to all involved that he is not a nice man and that he is there because he works cheap. While they are in the process of dredging the lake, a local arrives and warns them of the danger that is Jason Voorhees, but the contractor laughs it off. Of course, as he is scoffing at the idea that a crazed and unstoppable maniac is at the bottom of the lake, what does his crew pull up with a large crate of toxic dirt? If you guessed anything but Jason, turn in your badge; you’re off the force.
The dirt gets hauled to a train where it takes off for the desert. Joining the dirt on this journey is a hobo and his dog, and being honest, these are the most likeable characters in the entire book. Sadly, Jason kills them rather quickly, and this is the moment that really reminded me that while we all like Jason, we really shouldn’t He murders harmless and defenseless people for no good reason. This hobo offers him some booze, which is like money to hobos in pop culture, and Jason hacks his arm off.
Of course, what will really get to most folks is when Jason hacks the dog right in half.
Jason proceeds to kill everyone on the train. Even without being an engineer, I know a train can’t run without one, and it doesn’t take long before the train, toxic dirt and all, blows up with our favorite maniac walking away from the carnage.
Jason’s train has crashed in Texas. Sawyerville, Texas, to be exact, which just happens to be the home of Leatherface and family. Jason comes upon one of their intended victims trying to escape. The victim implores Jason for assistance, which is sort of like asking a demon for assistance with the devil. Leatherface and family quickly make their way onto the scene, desperate to hold onto their meat. The victim is terrified as Jason and Leatherface make first contact!
Jason and Leatherface square off in a slash clash of terror titans! Jason manages to overpower Leatherface and force the aberration to lose his grip on his famous chainsaw, but then rather than killing Leatherface and his kin, Jason kills their intended victim and then hands Leatherface his chainsaw. Leatherface’s kin introduces himself to Jason as Hitchhiker, and he convinces a confused Jason to join them back at their house for supper. Jason has never felt anything but hate and anger, even at that awesome hobo who just wanted to get him drunk, so the fact that he doesn’t want to kill these people immediately is foreign to him.
He goes along with them, and after being introduced to Cook and the rest of the family, he finds himself feeling a kinship with Leatherface. The rest of the family, especially Hitchhiker, picks on Leatherface the way Jason was picked on. Upon arriving at the house, Hitchhiker immediately makes fun of Leatherface for losing his saw to Jason, which is really not anything to be ashamed of, what with Jason’s super-strength and all. (It’s like a baby losing an arm wrestling match to Hulk Hogan. That’s just how it is gonna go down.) The taunt leads Leatherface to run away to his upstairs bedroom and fling himself on the bed in the way that teenage girls do in sitcoms, although Leatherface has decidedly fewer posters of boy bands and kittens on his walls. (He does have a sweet poster of what seems to be Conan or Franzetta’s Death Dealer above his bed.) Jason’s kinship with Leatherface grows, and he heads upstairs to offer his friendship and understanding. Jason was tormented too, and seeing Leatherface in anguish is reminding Jason of his own torment and somehow making him show empathy and sympathy for another human being.
Cook tells Jason that he is glad that he and Leatherface have started to become pals, and he introduces Jason to the rest of the family. Jason, being mute, reaches back into his memories and finds a way to reveal his name to his new “family”.
The second issue centers around the Texas Chainsaw Massacre family settling in with Jason and Jason settling in with them. Cook opens up to Jason about his desire to one day own a fancy restaurant (that I presume would serve people) while he just rakes in the cash and lives in a doublewide trailer. Hitchhiker shows Jason his dog, which Hitchhiker killed but still keeps on a chain. Hitchhiker doesn’t care for Jason for lots of reasons, including that he has taken up for Leatherface, but it seems to me that what bothers Hitchhiker the most is that Jason doesn’t eat. This scene meanders back and forth between what seems like Hitchhiker trying to get to like Jason and Hitchhiker trying to intimidate Jason. It makes little difference, as Hitchhiker has to head for the gas station where the family makes its income and meat.
A lost couple stops in for gas, and after Hitchhiker makes sure they won’t get far, Hitchhiker and Jason (at Cook’s request and Leatherface’s reluctance) set out to murder the couple when the car breaks down. Hitchhiker loves the game aspect of this, but Jason is just brutally efficient. After choking the wife in the couple to death, Jason gets chastised by Hitchhiker for not taking enough time. Hitchhiker is somehow the most despised character in this book, as his love of sadism means that he wants to hear his victims scream and beg before he kills them.
After returning from what they call “getting groceries,” Hitchhiker decides to show Jason his hobby, which isn’t collecting baseball cards or Pogs, you 90’s kids, but instead, he has this odd fascination with making things out of body parts. I guess that really isn’t too odd, seeing as how he is batshit crazy and a murderous cannibal, but you know for folks like you and me, we’re not so enamored with such things. This fascinates his brother Leatherface, who is hiding among the macabre creations as Jason and Hitchhiker chat. He tries to sit in a bone chair, and when he breaks it, he is discovered. Hitchhiker goes to abuse Leatherface over this transgression, only for Jason to recall his own past as an abused youngster, and he also recalls when his mom cut his dad’s head in two with a machete, leading to a lifelong (and deathlong, I suppose) obsession with murder and violence for Jason. This abuse, though, isn’t a pleasant memory for the Crystal Lake killer, and he decides to step in and spare Leatherface any more abuse.
After Jason’s siding with Leatherface, Hitchhiker gets really mad. Like, 1990’s Nine Inch Nails Mad. He then says he doesn’t care that Jason has taken sides with Leatherface (who Hitchhiker often refers to as a “retard” among other things. In addition to being a homicidal cannibal, Hitchhiker just isn’t very nice.) because Hitchhiker believes he cannot be hurt. He demonstrates this to Jason and Leatherface by driving a pocketknife through his hand without wincing or grimacing. Rather, as would befit the stature of such a madman, he just talked about he is invincible and how nothing can stop him. Jason, never one to turn down a challenge, picks up a sharp piece of bone and decides to find out just how invincible Hitchhiker really is. He picks Hitchhiker up by the throat and goes to stab him, only to be stopped by Leatherface. Out of respect for Leatherface, Jason decides not to murder Hitchhiker.
Hitchhiker thanks Jason by calling him chicken and then letting Leatherface know that he doesn’t care. Things are building to a head between the members of the family that aren’t Leatherface and Jason, and Cook attempts to try and soothe matters by apologizing on behalf of Hitchhiker, but Jason’s newfound patience is just about at an end. The third issue has Hitchhiker getting angry with Leatherface again, this time for reading his comics and leading fingerprints on them. Of course, many comic book fans have felt rage over this, but Hitchhiker lashes out at Leatherface and slices his arm with a pocketknife. I’ve been angry at my family for ruining comic books of mine, but I have never sliced anyone over them.
Jason’s had enough, and he tosses Hitchhiker across the room. Now Hitchhiker has had enough, and despite Cook’s protestations that this conflict not occur at the dinner table, Hitchhiker stabs Jason in the heart with the pocketknife, which has about as much affect on Jason as a BB Gun would have on a tank. Cook defends his brother with a meat cleaver, but no one can now save Cook and Hitchhiker from Jason’s wrath…except Leatherface.
The family is able to overpower Jason due to their numbers and take him out temporarily. Rather than eating him, they dump him in a lake. Jason recovers and makes his way to the surface. Rather than going to kill them, he decides to go home, as he’s had enough of the world outside of Crystal Lake.
This is a fun mini-series. I wish there had been more of Leatherface and Jason actually fighting, but three issues of this was probably a risk at that time anyhow, and to get anymore fighting we’d have needed a fourth issue. Nancy Collins tells a fun tale that actually is much deeper than anything one could have expected with this title, and the covers alone are worth the price of admission. Simon Bisley does a great job.
The worst thing about the series is that it shows us how fun Topps Comics was, publishing everything from this to X-Files to the Kirbyverse (covered here and here, and we also look at another Jason appearance here) with a large number of really good comics that drew from all sorts of source material. It’s a shame that Topps didn’t survive to do sequels to this or to keep their other great titles going. Alas, such is the fate of many a comic book company, especially during the 90’s.
Hope you have had a great time reading about two maniacs trying to kill each other! We’ve got more great stuff around the bend here at The Unspoken Decade, so stick around!!
Hey there Legions of the Unspoken, your old pal Dean Compton has returned, and I’ve brought someone much cooler with me! Steven Grant (Whisper, Punisher, The Rook, X, Challenges of the Unknown, Two Guns, etc…) was kind enough to take about 90 minutes out of his day to chat up the 90’s with us! We cover lots of ground involving his work and some events of the 90’s! Take a listen! You don’t have anything better to do anyhow!