Or, if you prefer, substitute “much cooler” with “far geekier.” It works just as well and might be closer to the truth!
Recently I read that Hans Beck had died. Beck, for those of you too lazy to click the link, invented Playmobil, possibly the world’s greatest toy line. I was surprised to learn that Playmobil was invented only in 1974, because when I lived in Germany (1975-79), my parents bought it for me. I just assumed it had been around for a while before that, not realizing how avant-garde they really were (in terms of toys for their kids, I suppose, as they’re not terribly avant-garde in anything else). Not only did I have a lot of Playmobil toys, I had something else, too. When I saw that Beck had died, I asked my mom to dig through my bookshelf at home and send me something in the mail. That “something” would be:
Yes, a Playmobil comic book. Writhe with envy, fanboys, it’s time to check out Goldrausch in Klickytown!!!!!!! (I should note that this scene does not actually appear in this comic. It’s just like a DC or Marvel cover from today!)
If you’re wondering, “Greg, is this the most awesome Western comic ever written, even better than Moebius’ Blueberry?” the answer is an emphatic “YES.” Watch me prove it to you. We begin in Klickytown (so named, presumably, because of the “click” that accessories make when you snap them into a Playmobil character’s “hands”), where the livin’ is easy. So easy that Sheriff McKlick spends his time daydreaming in his chair:
Although this might be due to the fact that he has brain damage. Poor Sheriff McKlick! Life is so easy that the townspeople, instead of helping their poor sheriff up, make fun of him as only Germans living in the Old West can:
Soon (on page 2, because Bendis didn’t write this), we find out that gold has been discovered in the hills. This leads to wives beating their husbands, for some reason (my German is extremely rusty):
As well as Native Americans looking on bemusedly:
As well as bad guys, helpfully identified by their cigarette smoking and their cursing (in a kids’ comic!), wanting in on the action:
The bad guy (Blacky – “Der gefährliche Boss der Blacky-Bande”) rides back to his campsite, where his gang is holding someone hostage. We see that Playmobil toys are both stronger than the Hulk and can defy the laws of physics when the hostage escapes by breaking his bonds thusly:
He rides back to town to warn the sheriff that the Blacky-Bande is heading for the gold hills, while the gang itself rides off, cheerfully singing:
(“Gold and money are the most beautiful things in the world,” they sing. They’re a cheery bunch of outlaws, aren’t they?) They reach the gold site, where one of the good guys clocks one of the bandits on the head with a wheelbarrow before Blacky takes charge and steals the gold. Then, according to the boss, they’re off to Mexico!
The Native Americans return to their camp site, where they discuss … something (poor German, remember?). It becomes clear in the coming pages that they want to take the white people hostage, so they ride off to the gold site themselves. When they arrive, they call each other “roten Brüder” and wreak some havoc. Not before a woman attacks them (a different one than the one beating on her husband), albeit politely (she calls the one she’s attacking “Mister Indianer”) and an Indian steals some dude’s hat. But he’s French, so it’s okay:
The Native Americans capture the Non-Native Americans and lead them off. One of the Indians wears the top hat proudly:
Back in Klickytown, the sheriff rounds up a posse (including one woman) and heads off to the gold site. They discover feathers the Indians left behind, and Sheriff McKlick decides to head off to Fort Union (which lies “Zehn Kilometer westlich”) to get some help from the U. S. Cavalry. As he’s riding across a creek toward the fort, he falls off. Poor Sheriff McKlick! There’s obviously something wrong with his balance, yet no one cares. Even worse, this “creek” turns out to be some kind of chasm to the underworld, as it’s not a foot or two deep like you would expect of a creek! Sheriff McKlick can’t swim, and he’s going under!
The soldiers get a ladder and drag him out of the creek. He explains what’s going on, and the Cavalry is on board! They too ride out, and after an encounter with cattle that once again dumps the sheriff on his butt …
… they’re off to the lonely homestead of Tom and Mrs. Corner. Why, I’m not sure. Is it too hard to write everything in English? Sheesh.
Back at the Indian camp, our hardy settlers are tied up … and grumpy. The woman who was taken says, “Ich protestiere gegen diese Behandlung! Ich bin eine anständige Frau.” I like how she protests her capture, as if the Natives are some kind of bureaucracy that cares about her. As they move the captives into tepees, one of the Indians thinks, “Weiße Squaw hat scharfe Zunge,” (“the white squaw has a sharp tongue”) – he’s just jonesin’ for a chance to put her in her place! She lets slip that there’s gold in them thar hills, which leads to this reaction from the chief:
Now, why he would care, as what use is gold to the Natives, is beyond me, but apparently the Indians don’t like Blacky all that much, so they set the gold-diggers free and plot to stop the outlaws. Said outlaws, meanwhile, are riding toward Mexico when they stop for the night. There’s a lot of slapstick comedy that I, frankly, don’t understand (it has to do with an outlaw falling down and the others trying to get him to drink, which I guess for a nation as deadly serious as Germany is high humor indeed!), and then they all fall asleep to dream sexy dreams:
The bandits decide their compatriot is sick enough to require medical attention, so they kidnap the doctor:
(He sleeps with his top hat on. He’s Action Doctor, ready to spring up at a moment’s notice!)
The doctor doesn’t do much, but somehow he cures the outlaw, so the band is once again on the move. And they leave the doctor out in the wilderness. Those dastards! They come across a Wells Fargo stagecoach, carrying the delightful Miss Poppcorn, and seize all their stuff. This includes … a totally metafictional reference:
Yes, the sentient Playmobil toys find a briefcase full of actual Playmobil toys! Take that, Grant Morrison!
The outlaws let the stagecoach go, and we head back to find the doctor, who doesn’t wait long until an Indian band finds him. There’s more slapstick comedy involving alcohol (Germans love making alcohol humor in their kids’ comics!), then the Natives see Blacky on a bluff, but they’re only able to nick a few hats with their arrows. This gets them dressed down by another Indian, who says women can ride faster than they (I think):
That night, Blacky’s gang sits around a campfire as the Natives sneak up on them. An Indian hurls a tomahawk at an outlaw, but misses high. More incompetence! It alerts the outlaws, of course, and they make a run for it. One of them is knocked off his horse by a low-hanging branch, and one of the Indians pounces on him:
I like how there’s a footnote explaining what a UFO is. Because UFOs were all over the Old West, apparently.
The Indians capture Blacky and his gang and head back to Klickytown. Unfortunately, the rest of their band is in trouble, as Sheriff McKlick and the cavalry have arrived on a bluff overlooking the tepees. Not unlike the actual U. S. Cavalry, they shoot first and ask questions after the slaughter:
(I like how cheery the guy firing the cannon is. Clearly he loves his job.)
The chief’s tepee is destroyed, but two Indians get above the cannon and drop a big rock on it before it does any more damage:
(So is cheery cannon guy dead? That’s hard-core!)
Thus begins an epic battle …
… that is only ended when the captive settlers come out and tell the cavalry they’re buddies with the Natives now. Hugs all around!
All’s well that ends well. The Blacky band is in the sheriff’s jail, the gold has been distributed to the townspeople (in true Socialist fashion), and things are calm in Klickytown. The sheriff has nothing to do, once again …
Oh, dear Lord. Someone get the poor guy to a neurologist!
So that’s the epic tale of Klickytown and the time the settlers found gold. Can you stand the excitement! For years, I owned Fort Union and the sheriff’s office. My mom probably still has them in a box somewhere, because Playmobil toys are durable and, you know, AWESOME. I’m just disappointed I never got the other Playmobil comic:
“Dire Times in Bieberstein.” Hell yeah. I would have loved that one.
There you have it. I can dig stuff out of my closet and write long posts about it, too! And come on, what’s cooler – my Playmobil comic or Other Greg’s collection of science fiction novels with Frank Frazetta covers?????
On second thought, don’t answer that.