Some people have contacted me and said they wished their Goodwill was as good as mine, because their employees throw out all the home-recorded VHS tapes they get. I agree I'm blessed, but just when I thought I'd seen everything from my cool rule-breaking neighborhood thrift store, they topped themselves. I went back in recently and discovered they were selling someone's homemade comic books.
This was too good. The second I saw them I KNEW I had to walk out with them, and get them online as soon as possible. If you're wondering, the Goodwill value of all four issues turned out to be $1.17.
It can be hard to put a date on things like this, but my estimation is that these were drawn sometime in the late 70s, and only survived that long because the pages were made of hard cardstock. As for where I got that estimation from, the final comic was a pretty large hint, and we'll get to it eventually. Right now we're starting with the first chronological surviving edition of Battle Team, Issue 5.
The Battle Team consists of the Fantastic Four, the Bionic Woman, Angel from X-Men (unless it's a coincidental concept) and a few original characters. Note the attempt to "laminate" the cover with meticulously placed strips of scotch tape.
(click on the images to view the full-size scans)
After a dramatic narrative setup explaining the circumstances that led to the Battle Team's situation as of Issue 5, Reed Richards, Johnny Storm, Angel, a lady in a white robe named Winter, and a robot named RD-M3 are trapped in the prehistoric past, fighting a dinosaur with a forked tongue.
Reed pulls a random device out of his back pocket and reveals he was the one who sent them through time with it, for unexplained reasons other than "you are are enemys." But they figure they must get along if they have any hope of defeating the cold-blooded beast trying to devour them at the moment, so they get to work.
Johnny is knocked out by the dinosaur's tail, Winter is about to be chomped. It's RD-M3 who delivers the killing blow, but at that moment Reed decides to play with the time gizmo and sends them all the way to the far future.
Now they're in the middle of World War IV (guess we survived III okay) and this of course leads to another battle, because it's just what they do -- it's in their name. Meanwhile back in the present, Thing, Sue Richards, and someone who hasn't been named yet are scratching their heads over where their colleagues could have vanished to. Jaime Sommers finds a hint -- a broken-off piece of the time machine. But was that piece important?
In the future, the Battle Team is facing attack from robots and spaceships at the same time, who tell them "Sease to resist or prepare to be terminated!" They pick each robot off while quipping the best one-liners creator BC could come up with.
Turns out the missing piece WAS important and without it, Reed informs the group, they can't go back. In the present, Bionic Woman has an idea: if they can just use a second time-travel device and attach the missing piece to it, they can rescue the others! This is under the assumption that Reed just happened to make two of them, but, well, of course he did.
Suddenly a giant missile "the size of the Titanic" shoots into the air, which can "only mean one thing" but the author neglects to explain what that thing is. The issue is cliffhung there, and Issue 6 is missing. Long story short is that the Battle Team do make it back to their own time, because the situation in Issue 7 is completely different.
Then there's a promotion for something called "Bionic Boy Vs. Electra Kid," which could have been a comic but could have also been a Super 8 movie. The author's name is revealed to be Brian Charloe. You have to admire his ambition.
Battle Team #7 sees the troop returning to their own time, but the second they get there The Incredible Hulk is waiting to pound them into the ground, so they just can't win.
The Team figures if they all attack Hulk at the same time they might be able to bring him down. It doesn't quite work as planned.
Winter Spinning Bird Kicks Hulk (okay, the Spinning Bird Kick didn't exist yet), while the hero now identified as "Klaw" ties him to a tree. But Hulk is so strong he rips the tree out from its roots, whirls it around and smacks the both of them with it.
Finally Angel puts him out for good with a tranq dart, which he probably could have done all along but then there wouldn't be a thrilling fight. They're the BATTLE Team, not the Diffuse The Situation With Minimal Damage Team.
Back at their fancy hidden island headquarters, the Battle Team is contacted by Reed Richards in Washington and told to meet him there immediately. They obey, climbing into "the fastest jet in the whole world" and shooting away. Reed is told to explain the developing situation, and boy does he ever:
But SOMEONE doesn't want them to kill the President and interferes. They're shot down by a mystery ship over the ocean, which leads to the NEXT crossover, where they have to battle Jaws.
Because of the crash, everyone in the Battle Team Ship has been knocked unconscious except for RD-M3 the robot. Figuring it's up to him, he clinbs out of the ship to assess the damage. Half the ship is on fire, but he puts it out with a laser, because lasers can do that in comic books written by children. At that moment, though, he realizes he forgot to fill his jet pack with fuel and runs out, landing in the waves.
The others wake up. Angel sees RD-M3, tries to rescue him but a small explosion knocks HIM into the water, and neither robots nor angels are good swimmers. AND HERE COMES JAWS!
Bionic Woman throws him a rope, and manages to pull Angel out of the way of Jaws' jaws, but then the rope snaps and Jaime faints. So Klaw throws an anchor....
..but he can't manage to bring the anchor line back in and the shark is approaching again. Angel is temporarily saved by a last-ounce-of-strength laser blast from RD-M3, and meanwhile, no one else is in a good situation either as the ship continues to take in water. The Battle Team also has a remote-controlled submarine that they can summon by pushing a button, but it will take a few panels to arrive.
Klaw swims out, and reveals the reason he's called "Klaw" is because he has retractable claws in his hands....so he's just a knockoff of Wolverine. I don't understand why Brian didn't just USE Wolverine. What's stopping him at this point?
Jaws sees Klaw, thinks "aha, there's my REAL meal" and swims toward him, but Klaw flips over and stabs Jaws' eyes out. The shark swims away in terror, and the Battle Team Submarine arrives. The team escapes the jet just as it explodes, because of course it does, and once they're inside the sub, they speed toward Washington.
Has Washington been destroyed? Can the Battle Team defeat their greatest challenge -- THEMSELVES? Find out never, because this was the last one Goodwill had. There's no way to know if Issue 9 was even drawn.
But that's NOT the end! Because from the maker of Battle Team comes...
This is the one that allowed me to determine when these were made, because there's no possible way Brian could have drawn this comic AFTER Empire Strikes Back came out. You'll see what I mean quickly.
Star Battles is a "sequel" to the original Star Wars that takes place many years later, as Luke is preparing for revenge against Darth Vader for killing Obi Wan as well as, um, his father. "But revenge isn't the Jedi way," you might say...well, no one knew that yet; the world was barely defined at this point. But that's not the worst of it. Luke has two kids here named Tanner and Princess Amy, and they are explicitly stated to be the kids he had with....Leia.
Luke and Han have let themselves get captured on purpose by the Empire so they can rescue Amy from something called the "Death Arena." Tanner hides in a compartment so he can sneak around and free them later.
Tenner fires his blaster, pecks off a couple mooks, and enters the Death Arena where he finds Han and Chewie forced into combat against a large veggie-looking monster called a Remberton. It's implied if they can't defeat it within a time limit Amy will be executed. Watching over all of this is....
Darth Vader's SON! See, Luke couldn't be Vader's son -- his son is right here! And he wears a face mask just like Dad! As the last few seconds tick down, the Remberton explodes, Han lands on his back, and Amy is blasted free. Angrily, Darth orders the dome over the Death Arena to be opened, which will suck everybody into the vacuum of space.
Elsewhere Luke uses the Force to make a Stormtrooper's blaster hit his chains, setting him free, and on the very next page he's locked into a confrontation with Vader. And....
...that is it! That's the only issue of Star Battles.
The line about Brian dying before we find out how this ends was meant as a joke, but....might those actually be the circumstances here? These feel like they were written and drawn by someone 12 or 13 years of age, in the 70s. Imagine. Within that time and now, Brian Charloe very likely grew up, graduated, got married, started a family, had a couple colonoscopies, and would be senior age by now. Many Goodwill donations happen because someone dies and their relatives want to get rid of their junk quickly. I hate to be morbid, but who would be interested in these other than Charloe himself?
Maybe as he laid on his deathbed, he whispered the words "BATTLE TEAM" before expiring and letting a snowglobe fall from his fingers. Maybe, by exposing these forgotten comics to the world, I'm doing his wishes, and he's no longer tethered to the world as a ghost and can move on to the afterlife.
Or maybe I'll get an E-mail from him in a week with the subject line "WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH MY STUPID OLD COMICS YOU [EXPLETIVE EXPLETIVE EXPLETIVE]???" Guess I'll find out.
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