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When the Worlds of 1990s Marvel and Bob Newhart Bizarrely Mixed

by  in CBR Exclusives, Comics, Comic News Comment
When the Worlds of 1990s Marvel and Bob Newhart Bizarrely Mixed

Released in early 1993 (just as the comic book storyline on the Bob sitcom was about to be abandoned – the show would be renewed for a second season, but with the comic book angle dropped and Bob working for a greeting card company. The owner was played by Betty White, whose Golden Girls follow-up series, Golden Palace, had just ended), the conceit behind the comic book is that it is a flip-book showing Bob’s vision of Mad-Dog (written and drawn by Ty Templeton) and Harlan’s vision of Mad-Dog (written by Evan Dorkin and drawn by Gordon Purcell).

The problem with this comic book series is that Templeton takes on the idea of doing some pre-Comics Code-style stories and plays it as bizarre as he can (in issue #1, Mad-Dog fights off an invasion of alien cats by miraculously solving their hairball problem)…

While Dorkin and Purcell play it relatively safe, producing what is TECHNICALLY a parody of a 1990s “extreme” comic book series, but a parody that is so note perfect as to what an actual extreme 1990s comic book series would be like that it loses most of its satirical purpose. In other words, the joke on Bob is that Harlan Stone wants to do a typical 1990s grim and gritty superhero series and the joke here is that Dorkin and Purcell (with Ian Akin and Mic Gray on inking duties) deliver that misguided idea…

But if the joke on a TV show is that a guy shouldn’t do a bad 1990s grim and gritty version of a character, it really isn’t all that interesting to then see that bad 1990s grim and gritty version of the character. You need a satirical twist on it. Like Grant Morrison’s Doom Force, for instance. At the time (according to a great piece on the series by Charlie Jane Anders), Evan Dorkin wanted to do the other version of the series, for the obvious reason, as it was a more fun concept. He noted that he and Purcell never quite meshed together and instead, we just got this dreary series. It’s too bad, as Dorkin is one of the finest comic book writers in the land.

Even as the series ended with issue #6, Dorkin and Purcell continue to play it totally straight…

Also, let’s note how bizarre it is for a tie-in comic book to a then-new TV series come out late enough that the second issue can have an episode guide for the first FOURTEEN EPISODES of the series!

Bob was canceled midway through its revamped second season. But hey, we’ll always have this bizarre little mini-series to remember it by!

That’s it for this installment! If anyone else has a suggestion for an interesting time when a comic book ended up getting featured in a TV show, music video, novel, etc., drop me a line at brianc@cbr.com!

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