Hey, remember when I said this was going to be a 5-parter? Make that 6. I should really learn to count better.
In the first installment, we took a look at Marvel’s A-Team from the mid-80’s. The show faded away, but Mr. T remained Mr. T. While he did have some projects here and there, such as the ever-memorable Be Somebody or Be Somebody’s Fool, Mr. T didn’t really enter the 90’s with any steady piece of media. If he was going to appear in a comic book, he wasn’t going to be B.A. Baracus or any fictional character. T would have to be T.
In the mid-90’s, the company NOW Comics was filled with a myriad of interesting choices for licensed comics. Green Hornet and Terminator? Not bad. Speed Racer and Ghostbusters? Unorthodox, but still fully acceptable. Three Ninjas and Married… with Children? Then you have to vocally wonder what the Christ. Not only that, but the Married… with Children comics included a miniseries where the Bundy family gets powers from cosmic radiation and become the Quantum Quartet. I get the douche chills just thinking about it.
Mr. T would also get some play from NOW with Mr. T and the T-Force. The series lasts a whopping ten issues, longer than any other Mr. T series to date. Well, ten issues that I know of. Wikipedia suggests that there were eleven issues and there were certainly more announced within the comics, but I haven’t seen any evidence of issue #11. Though there also appears to be an annual that came out during the series’ existence. I’ve found absolutely nothing on it online outside of a Scans_Daily post showing Mr. T fighting a dude who looks like a cross between Spoiler and Phantasm.
The series ultimately works like Marvel’s Nextwave in that each arc is done in two issues. Unlike Nextwave, each arc is done by a different creative team. That means there really isn’t any true arc to the comic. Just a series of subplots and callbacks to supporting characters.
The main problem with the series is how Mr. T himself just doesn’t seem to have anything going on. While he’s shown to be a landlord, he has no actual personal life. He just goes around stumbling across people who need his help. B.A. Baracus helped people all the time too, but he still had his own personal problems to deal with. The army was after him, he had to deal with Murdock’s nonsense and his fear of flying. In Mr. T and the T-Force, Mr. T’s life seems just a little too perfect to the point that they rarely even show him in any real peril. So much that whenever anyone pulls a gun on him, he disarms them at the snap of a finger every time. I’m going to keep a tally on that.
The first creative team is Neal Adams and Pete Stone. Man, this isn’t even fair. It isn’t exactly a good comic, but the Adams/Stone story is at least balls-to-the-wall batshit insane enough to keep your interest and make it fun for the novelty value. This is the first impression, so the fact that the rest of the series doesn’t hold up as well is doubly troubling.
The very first page features Mr. T smashing the hood of a car so hard that not only does he destroy the engine, but the wheels come off. Over the course of many word bubbles and many more font styles, Mr. T yells, “It’s over, punks! I’m gonna run you and your drugs outta this ‘hood! ‘Cause Mr. T is in the house! I know you thugs are just runners… here to deliver more drugs – to the kids! But it’s over! You’re finished! And you better get out! Right now! Or I’ll bust you up! Real bad!”
Normally, I’d add emphasis to go with the quote, but every other line is an attempt to punch up the tone. The entire speech is emphasis.
Despite having seen this guy compact a car with his bare hands, these guys go after him with a bat, a pipe and a pair of knives. Mr. T takes them apart without any problems, until there’s only one guy left. The sole survivor is saved momentarily when three higher ups show up with more futuristic-looking guns and a glowing taser staff. They zap Mr. T down for a second and aim the two guns. Mr. T surprises them by holding up his own futuristic handgun, which doesn’t intimidate them, since they’re better armed.
You may have noticed on the cover how Mr. T is holding this weapon in his hand. He reveals that it’s not a gun at all, but a video camera. He puts a blank cassette in and points it at the three of them for posterity as they wonder what in God’s name is going on. Mr. T distracts them long enough to steal one of the guns, knock one guy out, grab the end of the other gun and twist the barrel so that when the guy pulls the trigger, the gun blows up in his face.
MR. T GUN DISARM TALLY: 2
The leader tries another go with his taser, but Mr. T’s ready for him. That means something, apparently.
Again, that just leaves the drug runner known as Justice (who keeps saying he’s called that because he never gets any). During this introductory fight, we’re shown a couple panels of somebody sneaking around and tossing a bag into a dumpster, accompanied by a loud screeching noise. Once the fight is over, Mr. T hears this noise and brings Justice with him to the dumpster.
He opens it up and goes on a monologue on how hardened some people can be. He holds a baby in his arms and starts crying, comparing the rather large baby to precious gold. Justice comes over to see what it is and Mr. T suddenly snaps.
That’s like a reverse crack baby! Forget being underdeveloped, that teenager gave birth to a toddler!
Mr. T wraps the baby up in Justice’s shirt and blackmails him. Thanks to his video camera gun, he has evidence that could send Justice to jail. With this blackmail, Justice is going back to school, getting a job, bringing the baby to a clinic and is forced to wear a special radio wristwatch so Mr. T can communicate with him and track him down. His reward is a gold chain necklace that he’s not allowed to pawn. With his gold chain and special wristwatch, Justice is now a full-fledged member of THE T-FORCE!
Justice brings the baby to the clinic. A nurse by the name of Janie sees Justice trying to pass off the baby, gets the idea that it’s his and angrily quits because she’s sick of people like him. Justice tells Mr. T about it through his wristwatch, which leaves people confused at what appears to be a man frantically talking to a baby. A couple guys walk over and talk Nurse Janie down. Justice notes that one of them is wearing a T-Force wristwatch too.
With that wrapped up, Mr. T is shown to be jumping from rooftop to rooftop, searching for something. He jumps off a building, crashes through a roof, lands on his feet, unscathed in a warehouse and finds himself face-to-torso with this guy!
It’s like T. Hawk from Street Fighter merged with the Cyber Demon from Doom.
Speaking of demons, the cover for #2 showcases Mr. T tangling with some alien demon creatures, so you know you’re going to get your money’s worth.
Mr. T stands up to the mighty Incan prior to be punched into the distance. The two powerhouses each have their own arguments against the other. Mr. T’s is simply that the Incan is selling drugs to the community and therefore is going down. That makes sense. The Incan’s argument is that Mr. T’s efforts against all the drugs sales have prevented the planting of cocoa plants and therefore his people are starving. Don’t even reread that sentence. Don’t bother. I have no idea and it’s never really explained.
The two fight it out and it’s not a bad fight, outside of the Incan’s gun hand switching sides in a couple shots. He shoots out a grenade, which Mr. T dodges, but it causes him to be cornered with nowhere to go. With his gun arm, the Incan fires a series of darts filled with drugs. It’s never said what drug, but it certainly does a number on Mr. T.
Justice and Nurse Janie look over the crack baby, currently laying in an incubator, when Justice gets a message from a tweaking T. Mr. T’s hallucinating and from what Justice can tell, he’s at the Incan’s mercy. Justice goes to the other T-Force members in the clinic and asks them to do something, but according to the rules, it’s Justice’s duty to save Mr. T from the ten-foot-tall Native American with the arm cannon. That’s your lesson, kids. Don’t sell drugs or else a militant black man will push you around and his cult will make you fight a half-minority/half-tank. Justice does the sane thing and tells them all to go screw. He’s gone.
And what of our hero?
Whoa. No fooling, I’ve stayed away from drugs my entire life, but… this is making me rethink that.
Meanwhile, the Latino drug lords are watching this on a monitor and all speak in “Claremont foreigner” talk. You know, the kind of talk where they speak in English for the most part, but mix in a couple random Spanish words to remind you of who they are. The kind of Spanish words that someone who isn’t bilingual would have heard. Get what I’m talking about, hombre?
The hallucination monsters keep ganging on Mr. T, saying that they can make him feel better and make the pain go away. Mr. T strikes back at them.
“I—SAID—NEVER! I was made by pain – and struggle! No one takes away my pain! Pain makes me—the BEST!”
The Incan keeps yelling at him to accept the drugs into his system and let it drive him to sleep, but he won’t do it.
The druglords are tired of waiting and decide to just come over and shoot Mr. T. The Incan is inspired by Mr. T’s response to being drugged and realizes that maybe these drugs aren’t so snazzy after all. He picks up Mr. T, runs through the wall, evades his employers and runs across thirty rooftops (their number) before settling down and apologizing to Mr. T. The Incan realizes he’s been lied to and asks Mr. T to teach him about stuff.
The Incan is never mentioned again.
The next couple issues are done by the team of Mike Baron and Norm Breyfogle. We see a couple of punk teenagers carjack a guy and drive it to a chop shop. Their boss, Mr. Gladstone – a black Wilson Fisk – is angry at them for mugging a lawyer and getting blood all over the car. That will lead to heat from the authorities and that means they’ve failed him. He shoves them off a platform, which would make for a cool death scene, but Gladstone orders one of his men to bring the teens to the hospital.
Mr. T is off being nosey by breaking up a fight between two kids and yelling at a nearby adult for not doing anything. He forces the kids into boxing lessons at the local gym, where he runs into a woman named Sharice, who needs his help. She thinks her husband Denton is mixed up with some illegal stuff after having lost his job. He claims to have a job as a mechanic, but is really shady about what he does, why he’s always driving expensive cars home and won’t even say where he works. Mr. T makes her part of the T-Force and uses his watch to contact Justice. So, wait, does this woman have to fight the Incan too? Fair is fair, man.
Justice is shown refusing to play lookout for his drug dealer friend. He doesn’t do that anymore. He’s alerted to meet up with Mr. T and not a single word is mentioned about how Justice basically ditched him last issue. Mr. T grills him about carjacking rings, makes sure he’s going to school and tells him to spread the information to the other T-Force members. Mr. T meets up with Nurse Janie at the clinic because doctors are prime targets for carjackings, being rich and all. Since it’s been half an issue and we haven’t had a single action sequence, the two discover a group of punks trying to steal Janie’s car.
MR. T GUN DISARM TALLY: 3
Again, these guys are so stupid that they gang up on a guy who just bent a gun right in front of them. He beats them into oblivion and even shatters a guy’s sunglasses in two with a direct center hit. The last one left conscious starts squawking and says Mr. T is looking for the Porsche Posse. He doesn’t know where they’re located, but he knows they’re looking for Rolls Royces these days. Mr. T discards him and comes up with a plan.
The plan is that a Rolls Royce is left on the street and Mr. T hides in the trunk so that the Porsche Posse will steal it and drive it back to the chop shop. That’s not a bad idea actu—wait a goddamn minute! Where the hell is Mr. T getting a Rolls Royce from? Does he just have a spare lying around? Does he know somebody willing to lend him one? The man lives in the ghetto! By this point, we haven’t even seen how he makes money in the first place!
Mr. T jumps out the trunk, kicks a guy as he’s pulling out his gun, throws a tire at another armed thug, kicks an armed thug into some others and knocks a car onto a man with a machine gun. Damn.
MR. T GUN DISARM TALLY: 7
He also finds Denton and makes him hold his video camera gun while he cleans house. Mr. T chastises Denton for working for criminals when he can get a legitimate job anywhere. Denton brings up that Gladstone would have killed him and his family if he left, but Mr. T says he needs to make a stand. Dude, you just used a Rolls Royce as a prop in your scheme and you have the cajones to yell at a man for trying to feed his family and then not get them killed? Really, now.
Mr. T confronts Gladstone and is met with a huge construction vehicle with a soldier armed with a rocket launcher on top. Crap.
Mr. T throws his camera into the air, dodges the truck, knocks over some oil drums, tricks the gunman into shooting the oil with the rocket launcher, evades the explosion and catches the camera. Gladstone runs off and distracts Mr. T by picking up a random crack-addicted underling and throwing him off a ledge. Mr. T has no choice but to rescue him and let Gladstone go.
When Mr. T gets home, we discover that he’s a landlord who lets his tenants get away with overly late payments. A landlord who can afford a Rolls Royce. I’d understand if they made any reference to him being a movie star like in real life, but that whole aspect of him appears to be separated from this comic series.
Mr. T goes to visit Sharice, only to find that Denton has left. The Porsche Posse is looking for him and it’s extremely lucky that all they did to Sharice was smash up her home. Mr. T gets a tip that a guy named Billings is the one behind everything and he lives in a nearby rich neighborhood. Mr. T gives it a look and is immediately pulled over due to being black. Luckily, one of the cops recognizes him. Not as a cultural icon, but as a man of the community.
That last line would still hold up to this day. Mr. T goes to plan B. He buys a hunk of junk van from a junkyard and gets those two boxing kids to spray-paint it into a fake pool service company car. Then he’s able to safely drive into the rich neighborhood without the cops pulling him over for being black. Wow. A lot more thought has been put into the action of Mr. T driving to a mansion than Mr. T using a Rolls Royce as a decoy.
He sneaks around and comes across Denton, who has a gun ready for Mr. Billings. Mr. T snatches it out of his hands (add that to the tally) and tells him, “I told you to go home, brother.” Really, dude? You’re really going to remind him of that when you know for sure that he would have died if he took your advice? Denton gives him the scoop on where all the bad guys are located around the house. Mr. T starts some trouble with another big brawl, which includes throwing a man into a guy firing an uzi.
MR. T GUN DISARM TALLY: 9
Standing on top a balcony, Mr. Billings has a gun in one hand and Mr. T’s video camera in another. Huh. Last I checked, Mr. T left the chop shop with the camera, but when Denton’s shown at the mansion, he suddenly has the camera. Either way, Billings now has it and Gladstone has Denton in a headlock, ready to snap his neck. Billings wants Mr. T to get up there or Denton dies.
Mr. T gets in one of the cars, drives it into the mansion and causes the balcony to collapse. I won’t count this onto the gun tally, since Billings did actually try to shoot Mr. T and was far enough away to understandably miss. Denton brings over Billings, who’s begging to be let go.
The issue ends with Mr. T going back home to find one of his tenants asking him to fix her sink as he meekly goes to get his tools. I notice on the next page, in the letters section, they mention that Mr. T has no superpowers of any sort. “Rather than having super-strength, Mr. T uses his head to get him out of tricky situations.”
Just want to remind you folks that Mr. T broke a car. With his fists.
Mike Baron continues writing in the next arc, though the art is now done by Tony de Zuniga. It starts with Mr. T mowing the lawn and yelling at people for not having a job. This lack of action is interrupted by a hurt single mother and her crying children, seeking Mr. T for help. Emma is a widow who gets by on her late-husband’s pension and AFDC, but she’s been targeted by thugs who want a free ride. They’ve smashed up her mailbox so she has no choice but to go to the post office to get her money. Every time she does, they’re waiting for her and constantly mug her. It may not be outrageous, like giant Native Americans or alien hallucinations, but it’s definitely an enemy we’d like to see get smashed up.
Emma knows Mr. T has done bodyguard work, so she asks for his services. He’s happy to oblige and treats her cuts. Later in the issue, he helps her out by beating up a trio of thugs. You guessed it: one of them pulls a gun and gets beaten down immediately.
MR. T GUN DISARM TALLY: 10
The thugs go running, but Mr. T knows they’ll be back.
Another subplot features Mr. T helping an old woman with getting rid of her old refrigerator. She’s far behind on her rent, but mainly because her money’s gone missing. Mr. T discovers some money and drugs hidden in the fridge. It’s identified as belonging to the woman’s grandson Lewis, so Mr. T uses the money as rent payment and knows to be on the lookout for Lewis. When Lewis does come by to visit, he sees Mr. T, gets the right impression and makes a run for it. We’ll revisit his situation next time.
The main plot has to do with a boxer named Sam Slamm. Mr. T finds him cornered in an alley, where three guys with weapons threaten to beat him down due to his scheduled fight with the champion Kevin O’Malley. Mr. T and Sam team up and easily beat them all. No guns involved, surprisingly. And if you have any doubt that this comic is from the 90’s, here you go.
Mr. T offers to be Sam’s security for the big fight. Sam is a huge underdog in this fight, only brought in last minute as a replacement. Still, a bunch of O’Malley’s fans feel the need to threaten him and make sure he doesn’t make the weigh-in. Why the hell would you do that if he’s such a minor threat? I’d think more people would be out to threaten O’Malley for being the favorite to win.
Mr. T sends Sam to the local boxing gym to train. The two kids from the earlier story dig it and Sam considers it a second home, but the head trainer acts like a complete asshole for no reason. Mr. T takes to training Sam and wouldn’t you know it, they run into more guys out to hurt Sam. They fight them off, see more are coming and run off. They pass by O’Malley himself, who is more confused over his fans’ actions than anything else.
The night of the fight, Mr. T and Sam talk strategy. An aid backstage asks about having cops escort him to the ring, but Mr. T refuses. He gets second thoughts when it’s showtime.
Yeah! You’re not going to make it to the ring! I paid very good money to not see a fight tonight! You’re going to lose by default! The most climactic way a boxer can lose!
So what of Sam Slamm vs. Kevin O’Malley? We’ll continue next time and finish off Mr. T and the T-Force.