In less than two months, the new A-Team movie will be released in theaters. Even though I have a feeling the movie will be less than great, I’m still excited about it and have been ever since I heard about the casting. As far as I’m concerned, they were four-for-four with their choices and that gave the project a big head start. I suppose as long as it isn’t amazingly terrible, it’s good to see the movie exist because I’m just happy to see more A-Team.
It was a really good show and it hits me of why. The thing was like a Justice League made up of four characteristics that dudes find empowering: suave, slick, crazy and tough. Each guy fully encapsulated these ideals and nobody came off as the weak link. All four had something to offer. That said, the additional members pretty much sucked. By that I mean the two female reporters and that Santana guy they tossed in during the last season. I appreciate the attempt to keep the show fresh in the face of declining viewership, but I can’t remember a thing that guy had to offer. When the show lasted, you had a great foursome of heroes enduring explosions, rampant gunfire that almost never hit a single human being, episode after episode of making fools out of the government and bad guys who could be taken care of in less than an hour thanks to Hannibal being on the jazz. It was manly as hell.
Of course, the man we remember the show for most of all is Mr. T, who played the role of Bosco “B.A.” Baracus. With momentum from his role as the antagonist of Rocky III, Mr. T not only became a highly-paid star during the A-Team’s five seasons, but it practically defined his career. While George Peppard, Dick Benedict and Dwight Schultz each played characters, Mr. T was – and still is – a character in himself. Baracus was nothing more than an extension of his real life persona to the point that it’s hard to tell where Mr. T ends and B.A. begins. Even to this day, he stars in Snickers commercials where he gets so outraged at a man’s cowardice that he fires Snickers bars at him from a helicopter and warns him not to make him do this again because he hates flying.
And God bless him. I think the world of Mr. T and it’s hard to say exactly why. I guess he’s just a larger-than-life personality that accumulates nostalgia, super-strength, unique style, badass disposition, camp and a genuine heart of gold. Not only that, but he embraces what he is. Not as endearing as him kicking cancer’s ass (T-cell lymphoma, ironically), but endearing enough.
I thought I’d celebrate the lead-up to the A-Team movie by taking a look at Mr. T’s many comic book appearances from over 25 years. That’s right, over 25. Eat that, Norris!
What better way to start it off than Marvel’s A-Team miniseries? It lasted three issues, with the first one written by Jim Salicrup and drawn by Marie Severin. If you’ve read this far, I’m sure you probably already know what the A-Team is about. A handful of soldiers are wanted for a crime they didn’t commit and now go from city to city, righting wrongs as soldiers of fortune. There’s the brilliant, cigar-chomping tactician Hannibal, the quick-witted ladies man Face, the insane and childlike “Howling Mad” Murdock and of course, B.A. Baracus. Oh, and there’s reporter Amy Allen, but she never did anything of importance.
Our first issue starts with B.A. eating a hotdog in an unnamed city, reflecting on Vietnam and how hotdog prices used to be cheaper. Or, at least, that’s what the narrator says he’s thinking about. The area reminds him of his old neighborhood and helps him reminisce, up until he sees a kid trying to steal a hubcap with a crowbar. B.A. picks him up by the back of the shirt and chides him, saying it’ll get him nowhere. This angry, motivational moment is interrupted by a man in a corny, yellow fedora. B.A. turns around with his fist ready, yelling, “I PITY THE FOOL WHO MESSES WITH ME!!” only to calm down when he recognizes his old childhood friend Mario Ronda. The two walk off together and decide to hit a bar and talk about old times.
So, yeah, this guy is on B.A.’s level in toughness. Unfortunately, as they go their separate ways, things start to get shady. Mario’s thought bubble shows that he knows B.A. is part of the A-Team. B.A.’s thought bubble shows that he noticed Mario’s packing a pistol, but decided not to press the subject. Uh oh.
B.A. meets with the rest of the team and tells them that he ran into an old friend. Murdock jokes like a loon about how if B.A. “ran into” someone, they’re probably still picking up the pieces. Hannibal calms them down and gets onto the mission. Roger Townshend is a tycoon who owns a lot of diamond mines. From earlier in the day, we see Hannibal sneak into his office under the guise of a window cleaner to hear about his problems. Townshend is joined by Miss Lucille Priss, his assistant and sister-in-law. His goateed son Paul walks in over a business matter and gets yelled at by his father for not knocking. With an irritated look in his eyes, Paul resents that he’s not even allowed to walk in on a meeting with a damned window washer.
Townshend explains that he wants to retire and give the company to Paul, but there’s a problem that needs taking care of first. Somebody on his payroll has been stealing diamonds and selling them to diamond fencers from Puerto Rico. Those guys aren’t important. He just wants to know who on his staff is behind it all. He sends Miss Priss to join them on the mission, since she’ll be able to recognize the thief.
B.A. is able to calm down and agrees to go along, but he knows his friend would never be part of something like this. Despite that, we see Mario (this time in a purple fedora) sell some diamonds to a sheik. At the elevator, some of the sheik’s men try to mug him and get the money back, but he easily beats the hell out of them before exiting into the lobby.
The next panel got a good chuckle out of me.
Come on, you had to admit that’s cute.
No surprise, but B.A. is angry still. This time because they need to fly and you know how he hates that. Especially with Murdock in the cockpit. A scarfed gentleman walks in, saying that he is the one who will be flying the plane and proves how good he is by showing B.A. one of his medals. A shiny medal. A hypnotizing medal… With a snap of his fingers, B.A. is put into a trance and is ready to fly. Hannibal shakes hands with the hypnotist and they’re on their way.
They get to San Juan and are all ready, except for Miss Priss, who’s overwhelmed by all this espionage, especially when she has to carry around the diamonds (leading to an awful joke about how, “Lucy’s in disguise with diamonds”). As Hannibal, Face and Murdock meet with the Lopez Brothers while pretending to be Russians interested in selling diamonds, B.A. confronts Mario (wearing a bright yellow baseball cap) and warns him that nothing shady better be going down, friend or no. Amy and Miss Priss have dinner together and the discussion about Hannibal’s plan leads to Priss dropping her spoon while staring off in shock. She says it’s nothing, but Amy figures she saw someone she recognized and it startled her.
The next day, they see that Mario is on his way to meet someone at a classy restaurant and Amy breaks the news that she can’t find Miss Priss anywhere. This throws a wrench in the plans, since she’s supposed to be able to recognize the rogue employee, but it’s a moot point. They see disgruntled son Paul Townshend at the table with Mario, warning him to take the diamonds and run. Obviously, his aunt told him about the A-Team’s involvement out of family loyalty. Mario walks out and the A-Team makes an attempt at getting their hands on Paul. This is where it gets weird, because Paul suddenly has a handful of henchmen show up out of nowhere for no reason at all! Paul puts on a gasmask, throws some tear gas and the bad guys run off. Those henchmen are never mentioned again.
And I’m positive those were the Lopez Brothers, but a group of completely different bad guys. We just have four guys show up, put on gasmasks, run away and vanish from the comic completely. They don’t even get in a fight with the A-Team or anything. What the hell?
But if it’s a fight you want, don’t worry about it. Mario goes to see the Lopez Brothers in their hotel room, only to find them tied up and B.A. chilling on the balcony. B.A. is angry that Mario has the diamonds. Mario is angry that B.A. ruined months of work. Throwdown time!
When B.A. refers to Mario as a no-good thief, the frustrated Mario pulls out a gun – and his badge. He’s FBI and he’s been doing a sting operation and the A-Team have screwed it all up. Anyway, the two patch things up, find Hannibal and give him back the diamonds. They find Miss Priss in the lobby and she scoffs at the idea that she would warn her nephew Paul about the A-Team. Having had enough of all this spy stuff, she leaves. The A-Team and Mario lounge around, figuring that they’ve already solved the case. Paul is behind it all, right? Hannibal can’t help but feel that something’s wrong.
That’s when Amy runs in. She noticed that the maid had cleaned out Priss’ room and she saw something in the garbage.
Jesus Christ, look at Murdock! Even when he’s barely saying anything, he can’t stay in the same spot.
Hannibal’s really overselling it by talking about how he has a plan. Really, all they do is go back to Roger Townshend’s office and show him proof that Miss Priss was wearing a fake beard and tried to frame Paul all along. That’s not a plan! That’s like telling everyone you have a plan to enact, then quietly drive off to work.
Like it was the last five minutes of a Law & Order episode, Miss Priss tearfully admits she was behind it all and that she deserved the company and blah, blah, blah. The A-Team smile over their victory, Amy becomes blond with no explanation and we see that B.A. and Mario went on a cruise together. Mario (wearing a stupid red golfer had with black polka dots) is having a good time, but B.A. is seasick. Haha! Oh, B.A. Baracus. We can’t take you anywhere! …because there’s always a good chance you might shatter our ribs in a fit of rage.
It’s like Jim Salicrup realized the diamond plot was so sleep-inducing that he had no choice but to toss in the Mario subplot for the sake of fight scenes to liven things up. Luckily, A-Team #2 (featuring Jim Mooney and Joe Giella on art) takes care of that problem. Don’t believe me? Check out the cover!
“That’s right! You’re going to watch your friend fight a sumo wrestler or DIE!”
The team is on their way to a meeting with a potential client when B.A. swerves from hitting a dog and crashes into a tree. They easily replace the tire and it’s more of an excuse to have Murdock bug B.A. for a page or two, since he’s on the sidelines in this issue. He spends most of the time reading Fantastic Four and chilling in a helicopter, awaiting orders.
The Kuramoto brothers are rich men who have created a huge videogame empire and love America. They realized they were neglecting their father, so they brought him on a trip through America to lighten him up. On a trip to the Grand Canyon, a bunch of purple ninja cultists with swords come out of nowhere and steal their father away in a van. That’s right, ninjas have kidnapped the father of the videogame presidents. Are Hannibal and the rest bad enough to save him?
Hannibal recognizes them as the Sons of the Desert, a cult located in the US. The Kuramotos tried paying ransoms and all that, but nothing’s worked. The A-Team take the case. The plan is that Face and Amy will pose as journalists looking to do a story on the cult, which will get them inside. Hannibal and B.A. will dress up as phone repairmen and come by minutes later. Murdock will wait in the helicopter for the getaway.
The Sons of the Desert headquarters looks like an ancient Japanese palace. Face and Amy get there and are accosted by a couple guards dressed as samurai warriors. The head of security insists that they hand in their cameras for the duration and introduces them to the head of public relations, Miss Ono. Immediately, she and Face have a romantic spark.
Uh oh. A team of four awesome, talented guys who meet up with an woman named Ono? RUN, FACE! RUN OUT OF THERE BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!
During the interview, Amy asks about how she tried to call ahead for the interview, but they couldn’t find the Sons of the Desert’s phone number. Why is that?
Oh, crap! Hannibal outright HATES it when a plan doesn’t come together! When he and B.A. drive up as telephone repairmen, there to fix their nonexistent phones, the place is guarded by ninjas… even though there were samurais there about five minutes ago. Give it to Japan, they know how to make their changing of the guard interesting.
B.A. and Hannibal are taken in and the head of security threatens to look them up on their computers and find out just who they are. If they don’t speak up, they’re going to have to fight in the Arena of Death! Hannibal notices that he’s standing right next to B.A. Baracus and likely realizes that he needs to step up to prove he’s a badass. With a cigar in his smiling mouth and his arms crossed, he tells him back, “Blow it out your ear!”
They’re milking the Asian thing for all it’s worth, but I’m smiling anyway. Tezuka outfights Hannibal and Hannibal accepts that he’s no nunchaku expert. He does have a blackbelt in planning, though, and really needs to redeem himself for that phone screw-up. He drops his cigar on the floor, taunts Tezuka (“Your mother’s a Toyota!”) and tricks him into advancing and stepping right onto the lit end of the cigar. With Tezuka screaming in pain and hopping on one foot, Hannibal plays around with him until smacking him upside the head with his nunchaku and knocking him out.
B.A. is up next and he has to face THE SUMO! No, he doesn’t get an actual name. He’s just The Sumo. Either way, he shows more buttcheek than pretty much any character in 80’s Marvel. They have to fight it out with sumo rules. First one who gets pushed out of the circle loses. That’s it? Thrown out of the circle? Arena of Death my ass.
Face and Amy cut to the chase with Ms. Ono and talk about how they’re really looking for Mr. Kuramoto. Ms. Ono nervously leaves the room and security comes in to usher these intruders to the Arena of Death, where B.A. is being tossed around like a ragdoll.
B.A., ironically, uses the exact same strategy that Rocky Balboa used on Clubber Lang. Although The Sumo keeps throwing him around, B.A. keeps getting back up and gets a couple licks in. He continues to endure the punishment and starts dodging The Sumo’s swipes as the bigger man gets tired. That’s when it’s time to strike.
Thanks to Ms. Ono’s intervention, the A-Team is brought to meet Mr. Kuramoto himself, who is the head of the Sons of the Desert. He knows who the A-Team are and explains that he had himself kidnapped, since he wasn’t down with how his sons have moved away from the old country. Well, maybe you should have told them that! Whatever. He used the ransom money to fund the cult, so he’s still a dick even if they’re trying to go with a happy ending. His defense is that he thought his sons would be glad to be without their father. THEY PAID YOUR FUCKING RANSOM!
The A-Team is set free with the message that if Mr. Kuramoto’s sons want to see him, they can just visit. The head of security offers B.A. a position on the staff, but he respectfully declines. Face and Ms. Ono say their goodbyes and Face is disgruntled that he’s unable to get her phone number.
The final issue is written and drawn by Alan Kupperberg.
Not the most harrowing cover. They’ve safely escaped the burning airplane and are on their way to the ground, but let’s hope B.A. doesn’t wake up and get angry without doing anything for the 89th time! That would be terrible!
This issue is the most nonsensical and lazily written. For instance, B.A. Baracus likes to call people “fool” from time to time because he’s Mr. T, which is acceptable. Except here it’s all he says. I counted 12 instances of him calling someone or something “fool” in this issue alone and as you can see from the cover, a chunk of it has him passed out. Similarly, Murdock is written just a little TOO crazy. Every single thing he says is more over-the-top and jokey than it should be, even for Murdock.
The four go off to Arizona to meet up with their new client. They’re shocked to find it’s legendary cowboy actor Jack Munroe. Not to be confused with Jack Monroe, otherwise known as Marvel’s Nomad.
God, how old do you have to be if Hannibal Smith grew up watching your movies?
They get to his piece of land and find his hot daughter visiting. She and Face share some eye-contact, she leaves and she is never heard from again. Maybe she’s off to date one of those jewel thief henchmen from the first issue.
Jack has them watch footage of a big, red airplane called Redbird. B.A. is already angry about it being a plane and Murdock is in love. I want you to pay attention to the dialogue about what Redbird is.
“Go on, Wild Jack, tell us about this… Redbird!”
“Redbird is the code name for a new secret spy plane!”
“What’s the big deal? Our side has spy planes, too! What makes this one different?”
If you’ve noticed, Hannibal knows it’s a foreign plane without a single hint. At no point is it ever mentioned what country it is, though it’s insinuated to be Russia. It just annoys me that they couldn’t actually write that in in a way that makes sense.
Jack goes over how major this plane is in terms of technology and that the US military isn’t doing anything about it. He wants to hire the A-Team to steal it for him to prove that he’s a better American than the government. Not even mentioning that this would be a major international incident, especially during the Cold War, Hannibal gladly accepts.
They take a boat to the secret military island in the Caribbean and get to work. They immediately find a couple patrol guards walking by – talking to each other in English – and beat them up with a raft. They each split up. Hannibal dresses up in a uniform and puts on a mustache and everyone accepts him as being the general, even though he’s yelling at everyone in English. Murdock drives B.A. and Face to their destinations. B.A. has to sabotage the base’s computer equipment and Face has to turn some dials so security won’t notice B.A.’s presence.
Face is caught immediately by what appears to be Truman Capote.
The previous panel mentions that her dialogue is translated to English, without mention of what language she’s speaking in the first place. She really jumps to conclusions with the ideas of a scarred Russian soldier who doesn’t speak, but then again, Tekken made a character out of that, so maybe she’s onto something.
A lot of sneaking around happens and it’s pretty bland. B.A. beats up some random soldiers, pulls off his ill-defined sabotage, is picked up by Murdock and is forced to hide in an oil drum. All four meet up at the hanger with the Redbird and plan their escape. Hannibal drops a capsule of knockout gas into B.A.’s oil drum and puts him to sleep. B.A.’s work has paid off in the form of phones not working and control panels exploding. They get away scot free, set the Redbird to self-destruct and then eject out of it and land safely with parachutes.
Upon landing, Amy – who has been absent the entire issue – runs over with a newspaper headline that exposes Jack Munroe’s plans. Hannibal laughs that he’d rather embarrass Jack than the US government. What? Why? The entire TV series is based on the idea of embarrassing the US government again and again! Meanwhile, this guy is your childhood hero and he’s paying you a ton of money! We see one panel of Jack fuming, which is pretty curious, since you’d think the feds would have arrested him by now. And you’d think that the Russian army would have been more alert with all this front-page news of an attempt on their spy plane.
“But I’d sure love to see Wild Jack’s face now…”
Jeez! Those soldiers are being killed for basically no reason and Hannibal’s laughing it up! This whole adventure has been a big prank on a cowboy and Hannibal’s delivered these guys a death sentence for trying to serve their countries. What a horrible man.
That’s the end of the Marvel run, though it was released a couple times in trade form in different countries. Around this time there was another comic based on a Mr. T license, but I’m not going to be reviewing it. His Ruby-Spears cartoon from the 80’s about his army of gymnast children had a couple “annual” issues, but it doesn’t appear to be worth the trouble in getting my hands on.
Whatever. I still have four installments worth of Mr. T comics to cover. In the next article, I’ll be moving forward ten years. Less crack commandos and more crack babies. See you then.