Bizarro Back Issues: Badger, Bruce Lee, And Elvis (1990)
Badger is a weird comic. I mean, that's kind of its entire deal, right? If you know even one thing about it, it's probably that it was a strange take on superheroics focused on a delusional vigilante that could serve as a sort of forerunner to modern, "realism"-based stories, if it wasn't for the fact that there was also an immortal druid running around casting spells.
And because it's so weird --- and because it's the product of the small press boom of the late '80s and isn't all that difficult to find if you're up for diving into some back issue boxes --- it's a comic that I've actually thought about really getting into and reading start to finish.
The thing is, Badger is so weird, and in a way that's such a product of its time, that I kind of feel like the best way to read it is to just pick up whatever back issue you see and read it in complete isolation from the rest of the series. Which is how I got the one where the Badger teams up with Elvis to fight Bruce Lee.
To be honest, this isn't the best issue of Badger that I've ever run across at a con, but that's only because I once read the one where he gets into a martial arts tournament and chooses a set of wrenches as his weapon, then stabs a dude in the stomach with it and refers to it as a... "gut-wrenching experience." So, you know, if you weren't quite sure what kind of book Badger is, well, there you go.
For a little more information, though, why not just flip open to the inside front cover of Mike Baron and Spyder's Badger #65, "Kruisin' With The King," and see how they catch you up themselves:
There, that should clear everything up.
We open at a gas station, where the Badger --- readily identifiable thanks to his penchant for wearing button-down shirts patterned with his own logo --- is fueling up for a road trip. Unfortunately, he's being a little too aggressive about it:
I'll tell you right now, pretty much every page in this comic has a panel that is at least that amazing.
The scuffle with the gas station attendant --- whose shirt says DEATH on the front and EAT POOP on the back, and which I am genuinely shocked is not available alongside "Be Yourself... Unless You Can Be Batman" at the booth in the far corner of every comic book convention --- is over pretty quickly, but not because of Badger's martial arts skills. Instead, they're interrupted by the arrival of a new challenger:
That's right, y'all. It's Elvis (who died in 1977), being driven down the highway in a golden limousine by the star of The Wild Bunch, Warren Oates (who died in 1982), on a very important mission. Clearly, this is something the Badger wants to get in on, and after Warren points out that the Badger's martial arts skills could probably help them out, he's recruited into the King's inner circle.
As for what that mission is, well, it turns out that Elvis's manager, the Colonel (who is never actually named as Colonel Tom Parker, presumably because he's the only one of these guys who was actually still alive at the time of this story) has discovered that Elvis faked his death and went into hiding, and is now trying to smoke him out with threats of new tell-all books and a colorized version of Jailhouse Rock.
Clearly, he must be stopped, so the trio heads to Las Vegas, with Warren eventually splitting and leaving Badger to act as Elvis's sole bodyguard. Once there, it's not long before one of the Colonel's thugs takes a swing at Elvis, and after Badger kicks him in the face, they get their best lead yet.
It seems that the Colonel has been using the Hong Kong-based Little Dragon Import Company to bring ceramic statues of Elvis into America --- and they're not the only product being taken across international borders:
When they arrive at the Little Dragon headquarters, though, things are a little more complicated than they originally seemed. They find the Colonel there --- and plenty of heroin-stuffed statues --- but there's one thing there they didn't plan on: The Colonel's got his own new bodyguard.
And his name... is Bruce Lee.
Don't worry, though! Rather than being turned evil, it seems that Bruce has just been duped. The Colonel told him that he was selling the drugs to terrorists (who would of course be poisoned by them), and then "the money will be used to free whales being held hostage by the Japanese." With a story like that, how could you not side with the Colonel?
Fortunately, after a quick fight scene that also serves to prove Badger's identity --- and some hip-swiveling from Elvis to prove his --- Bruce decides to switch sides, and the gang heads to confront the Colonel once and for all. And really, at this point, you could be forgiven for thinking that a team-up with Elvis and Bruce Lee (and a cameo from Warren Oates) would mean that there were enough dead celebrities involved in this story already. But no. You would be wrong.
Because in order to get to the Colonel, they must first get past... his final bodyguard.
Not just a dead guy, but a fictional character played by a dead guy. I told you this thing was weird.
While the Samurai can't stand against the combined might of Elvis, Bruce Lee, and Badger, the Colonel has one last trick up his sleeve: It turns out Warren Oates was working with the bad guys all along!
That said, look. I love Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia as much as the next guy, and I love Animal House almost as much as a dorm room wall, but I wouldn't exactly pick Warren Oates and John Belushi to beat Bruce Lee in a fistfight, even if he wasn't backed by Elvis. Heck, I wouldn't pick them to beat Bruce Lee if he was carrying Elvis.
Sure enough, the good guys win, and expose the Colonel for what he truly is, which is someone who's not from Kentucky --- and not even from America, either. He is not, however, the only one hiding a secret. "Bruce" turns out to be Rex Lu, who just happens to bear a strong resemblance to his idol, and "Elvis" is really Wilson Witherspoon, an ambulance driver from Raleigh and amateur Elvis impersonator. Even the Samurai is just some jabroni from Massachusetts.
Here's the kicker, though: Badger's not even the real Badger. His name's Lanier Lutefisk, and the genuine article's been asleep back in Wisconsin this whole time.