I Will Make You Lords & Kings (Sliders Comics: Blood & Splendor).

So here we have what, in theory, is a holy grail: a comic that based directly on a treatment for an episode of the show that couldn’t be filmed due to budgetary restrictions. I mean, in theory (a different theory), that’s what all of these comics are supposed to be. But this one, as the story goes, is the real deal— Tracy Tormé’s child, made flesh!

Bonus Points for the Bones in the Corner.

Okay, but seriously, I’m basically going to spend this entire post focusing on this panel:

But really, I meant this panel:

Holy shit. I actually meant this panel:

Okay, that’s enough. But seriously, that (and the fact that it’s supposed to be QUINN) is ridiculous. And even more ridiculous is the fact that the artist who did the pencils for this issue is the dude who’s in charge of the pencils on like, a pretty important comic series you guys have prooobably heard of:

You know, this guy.

Yeah, so, like, “hey.” This comic actually has some, like, community importance.

MAXIMUM ANATOMY

Too bad it blows.

Okay, before I submit to full-on slamming, I guess I should at least  talk about what happens in it.

Ugh, next they’ll be expecting me to accept that the sky could be Violet or something!

Goblins. Let’s just say these Sliders comics have the hands-down weirdest bookender worlds, like, ever. What are these Goblins? What is the evolutional purpose of Goblins? I don’t know, I don’t care, Quinn says “Smell You Later” to them. Okay fine. They slide, no biggie.

What is a biggie is the fact that while they’re in the vortex the re-enact that one episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where Barclay sees magic worms in the transporter beam. One of them grabs Wade, which prompts Quinn to “pull in tight,” and more or less drop kick a motherfuckin’ worm in the motherfuckin’ vortex.

Y’know, Indie Comics just don’t have enough THWA-THACK-ing in them.

I’m going to let that one go for a little bit and return to it, because that’s more or less what the comic does. First we have a AZTEC FIRE BURNING:

BURN BABY BURN (or whatever)

Okay, what? We’re like 8 pages in and I have no idea what’s going on. Anyways, they’re ‘caught’ (or whatever) by these “Aztecs,” and they’re like “Oh yeah let’s just talk in English in their faces because they are so dumb obvz becuz they’re all wearing loincloths.” Actually, no joke, the Professor just calls them “SAVAGES.”

More like Professor Grump-Turo (or whatever)

But then he eats his words because this comic gives us a moment which, I have to admit, is equivalent to the “toilet seat” moment in “Love Gods.”

More like Professor TAKE THAT-turo (or whatever).

Ha! Take that you White Ass.

Anyways, mild racism aside, the comic pretty much immediately takes the obvious turn of “Sliders captured. Enemies try to make Quinn help them invent Sliding (or whatever) so they can Conquer, like, everyone. Rembrandt does something else. Sliders start revolution to overthrow ‘government.'”

I guess it makes sense that this comic is adapted from a real episode, because it’s just about as boring as “Time Again & World.” Seriously, this is without a doubt the most boring of all the comics I’ve read so far. Thanks to the incredibly bad artwork inside (seriously, it looks like sub-Rob Liefeld kind of crap— and if you’re in the know, that’s just about the worst insult I could ever give someone), it can’t even carry the inherent campiness to the comic. I mean, really— this could be on par with like, Adam West Batman. Quinn’s in a sacrificial loincloth the entire time and so are most of the locals, there are huge ziggurats everywhere, and Rembrandt befriends a Sacrifice-Pimp who orders a ‘double Shirley Temple.’ Not to mention that the fact of Quinn being in a loincloth surrounded by other loinclothed dudes would basically invent Sliders slashfic. You think you got a problem signing all those pictures of you in “Fever,” Jerry O’Connell? Wait ’til you get a load-a THIS! If this was actually televised, it would be the most hilarious hour of the show.

But it isn’t, it’s drawn. And it’s drawn poorly. This comic is probably the least imaginative work of ‘art’ I’ve looked at. I don’t know. I can’t really articulate it’s failure in concrete terms. So I guess I should at least briefly mention the fact that these comics didn’t do very well, and the Sliders run was shuttered after one more issue?

I guess that’s a drag. But just like the show itself, these comics are a much better idea than they are an actual thing that exists and is interesting. If these comics had their shit together, they’d be a welcome edition to the Sliders canon. But as it stands, they are (for the most part) more of an indication of the tackiness the show will soon descend into rather than the sci-fi optimism it once had. These comics are eerily prescient in that way, I suppose.

But who wants to be prescient about impending mediocrity?

Next time, I’ll wrap up this detour into the printed realm with “Deadly Secrets,” and then it’s  time for SEASON THREE and I KNOW you are all SOO EXCITED for that.

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That Carrot Was Organic (Sliders Comics: Narcotica).

Now here we have some trouble: a story that not only is Sliders first attempt to deal with DRUGS, and the debut of Jerry O’Connell as a ‘creative’ force on the show. Yep, J.O’C. himself wrote the script for this comic. Which sounds terrifying, and I admit that (especially since a lot of these comics were so much worse than I’d remembered) I was really nervous about  reading this one.

But hey, life imitates other life, I guess! Just like my experience, Jeff Gomez, Sliders Comics Editor, said that he too was, if not nervous, than at least ‘groaning’ about Jerry writing a comic. But apparently, after a brief primer in “hey dude you gotta tell us what happens in the panels,” Jerry was a pro. FINE JERRY O’CONNELL STEAL OUR JOBS//CLASS WAR.

Okay, backstory aside, what’s going on in this comic?

Kind of a lot! It starts with an idea that I bet they wanted to do like, every week on the show: OH RUNWAY ERRYONE RUN!

Man, you can’t pay for Puns that good. Because no one would be stupid enough to buy that shit.

But that’s a brief detour until we’re thrown pretty deep into the big difference between this world and ours: DRUGZ

The only thing I find unbelievable about this is that it isn’t in Helvetica.

Downtown San Fran is no less weird. People are passin’ J’s in the street! A dude’s huffin’ out his fingernail in an alley! There are fascistic cyber-cops patrolling the streets! Yeah that’s weird and unnecessary, but hey, whatever. It’s really just their boots:

Fuckin’ Mega Man up in this bitch.

They go to Golden Gate Park (which I’m surprised isn’t called something silly like “Cocaine Straw Park” or “Heroin Prick Park” or, y’know, whatever. Anyways, they discover that all the food is laced with drugs (Quinn is so dense he doesn’t understand what kind of Mushrooms this dude wants to put on his hot dog [also, dude, you put them on Pizza, not Hot Dogs]), and Wade really likes her Cotton Candy. Arturo, being a huge buzzkill, wants to “take it back to the lab” to analyze (this actually happened at work one time. Some woman thought her Turkey Sandwich was “Crunchy,” and said “well, if you won’t give me a refund, I’m going to take this back to the lab to analyze it.” To which we said “you work in a lab?” ANYWAYS).

Arturo’s always Bogartin’ the Cotton Candy.

But on the way to the lab, they get caught up in a anti-drug rally, and everyone is all up in Arturo’s grill. Ugh, it’s like his double was the leader of this world’s original Anti-Drug Rebellion Movement. I bet he used to hang out with Timothy Leary, who on this world is all about chilling out and Not Doing Drugs.

NAILED IT

Okay, so before I delve into the issues that this kind of plot line introduces, I have to talk about the thing that most people single this comic out for: the artwork. The original artist (Jackson Guice) had to bow out, and another (Dennis Calero) had to take his place. So from one page to the next, you may as well be reading a different comic. And apparently a lot of people take issue with the latter comic. The suits at Acclaim, the other people who write reviews of this stuff, I don’t know. So yes, it’s a little jarring. And yes, the characters shift from Season One to Season Two, and Arturo’s Rogaine gets out of hand. But, and this is where I reveal my tastes as a cartoonist, I just really really prefer Calero’s darker artwork.

I can’t get enough of this sequence.

I have big problems with Superhero/Mainstream comics —a world of which these comics are certainly a part of, and should be judged on the criteria inherent to said word. I’ll be honest, a lot of it has to do with the portrayal of Women (which isn’t to say that Indie Comics aren’t immune to drawing huge and disproportionate breasts). But that issue is sort of ignoring most of what’s going on inside (to say nothing of the issue of “who buys Superhero comics,” which is an issue that I’m sure has been better essayed, and thus will not be essayed by me). My biggest problem is generally the artwork, and it’s total disregard for taste. I guess one of the advantages of being an “independent” cartoonist is that your deadlines are more slack (marginally true), and you don’t have the pressure of “DUDE YOU GOTTA FINISH THIS IN A WEEK” all of the time (I mean, putting out a book a month is actually a lot more strenuous that you’d think). But the fact of the matter is that a lot of time the anatomy in these comics looks incredibly lazy. They seem to rely much more on trying to indicate action rather than indicating feeling, or mood, or tone. So you get people’s hands doing fuck-all, or weird, over-exerted faces.

WHOA GOOGLY ARMS THROW MY ARMS ALL AROUND ARMS ARMS ARMS EXTEND MY FINGERS AS FAR APART AS POSSIBLE YEAH

Calero’s work, though, leans towards tone and mood. Sure, there’s still bizarre action sequences, but they seem more appropriate to the comic instead of AND THEN BOOM like some of these comics. And it’s not like the script changed or anything. It’s just that Calero’s approach is much more subtle. And look at this panel:

I JUST CAN’T GET ENOUGH

That panel is gorgeous. The argument that Jeff Gomez uses to defend the disparity in artwork (that the art changes just as Wade’s addiction starts kicking in) isn’t actually ridiculous. The art changes as the tone of the story changes. As the story starts getting more personal to the characters, the art gets darker, more intense. The artwork feeds into the characters— arguably the way it always should. The comic becomes less about spectacle and more about emotion.

Okay, but that “Shewww” is total nonsense.

So in these ways, “Narcotica” is a success for Sliders as a comic. But you know, I’d make the argument that it’s also a success as an episode of Sliders as well. Yes, it’s message is painfully rote, and yes having an Alt-Wade as the head of the FDA is ridiculous, and yes yes yes it basically recycles most of the plot points of “Fever.” But let me ask you this: what’s “Prince of Wails” other than a re-tread of the Pilot? How many times are the Sliders’ doubles in ridiculous positions of power? And what’s the message of most of the episodes of the show other than “Be Nice, and Always Trust Democracy?” If “Narcotica” was a televised episode of Sliders, I’d argue that it would probably be regarded as second-tier— not the best, but nowhere near “Time Again & World.” All of the characters have something to do (which is better than you can say about half of the actual show’s episodes). Wade’s story, while half-baked, is at least a step in the right direction of tackling some serious issues. Timothy Leary, as the conceptual idea of a character as he is here, is actually pretty inspired, and would be a treat to watch on the show.

“Ho Hum” indeed, you cad.

And then there’s the plain fact that the ending image is in the running for the most moving image Sliders ever produced. Arturo, having made a televised (and fabulous) speech to the Country about the dangers of Drugs, slides away. The last page of the comic isn’t the Sliders having a beer on the next world, patting each other on the back and holding Wade’s hair back. It’s a solitary image of a young boy watching the TV, needle in hand, arm outstretched.

He’s affected by Arturo’s words, it’s clear. But it’s completely ambiguous as to whether or not he’ll actually put down the needle. It’s entirely possible Arturo’s speech will have no effect on his actions. But the fact that he gave this kid pause is actually more noble than shaking him and saying “drugs suck.” It’s more powerful than just ‘overthrowing the government.’ I’m about to get all Inception on y’all, but an idea is more powerful in this case than an actual movement.

Ambiguousness is something that Sliders often lacks. When it does end up being in the emotional grey (“As Time Goes By” being the best example), it’s always the best. So for this comic to take that turn sets it apart from the pack. If it was an actual episode, I would be singing it’s praises ’til I was blue in the face.

It’s not perfect by any means. But if you ask me, it’s less imperfect than half of the episodes the real show had to offer. And it’s wholly more effective than “Just Say Yes,” but I’ll just have to save that argument for later.

Next Time: Only two more of these things to go (I’m skipping over the Script for “Get a Life,” y’all— I know you’re bummed). Next up is “Blood & Splendor.”

Spite, Rage, Desire, Strife (Sliders Comics: Darkest Hour).

Big ideas, y’all. That’s the name of the game here. Where we had sort of pretty alright ideas in the first two comic stories (or more accurately we had a good idea in “Rapture,” and we had a bad idea in “Armada” [okay, fine, a race of two-dimensional people is a good idea, but “Armada” was otherwise totally bad]).

Anyways, now we have a three-part extravaganza. A quote-on-quote “tour de force” of the Sliders Comics canon. Or, we just have a ‘long story.’ With some really far fetched ideas. But we have just a little less SKRATATATOOM-ing. So, y’know, points.

Anyways, this comic starts with the Zercurvians, lost in the void (or wherever, I wasn’t paying attention), making one final stab at ridding the multiverse of the sliders once and for all (because everyone knows that a motley crew of rag tag nobodies is THE DARKEST THREAT to a huge multidimensional/dimensional empire). So he does some weird ass shit like killing one of his own dudes and distilling his hatred into the Vortex that is inside all of us.

Yep, they went there.

No, I’m not kidding. This comic posits that sliding also opens a gateway in our souls. Which, if you ever read my potential fanfic Season 7 (and the wrap-up miniseries Season 8 [yes that’s right, I went that far, once]), you’ll know that I’m way into. Like, wayy into. This sort of harks back to the kind of thing I was talking about in “As Time Goes By”— the sort of ‘is Sliding random’ kind of ‘fate/destiny’ thing, but taken in a far more theological direction. Well, maybe not theological- God doesn’t enter into it- but the soul does, and what the Sliders’ souls have to say for them is kind of interesting.

There’s just no better way to endear these characters to us.

Sure, I understand that they are infused with Vortex-Hate, but damn these people have some dark sides! I mean, we all understand Rembrandt’s dark desires (he tells us about them every damn episode), but Quinn full of Spite? Wade full of Rage? Arturo full of… Strife?

It all actually makes more sense that you’d think. Quinn’s the de facto leader of the group, putting him as the Papa Bear of the Sliders— which in turn, angers Arturo, who technically is older and should be smarter (but, crucially, isn’t)— but this feeds into Quinn’s “Father Issues,” which aren’t ever really telegraphed on the show. His dad’s dead, but that’s the last we really hear about it. So it makes sense that he would feel Spite at the world. He’s got to be what he never had, what was taken from him. It’s dark stuff.

Wade, who we don’t really know too well (and never really will, wah-wah), instead is imbued with what I’ll argue is some meta character commentary. Well, that’s a stretch, but I’ll argue that it’s meta because otherwise I’d have to say “Wade feels vulnerable and powerless because she’s a girl, duh,” and that’s ridiculous and offensive (RECURRING COMIC ANTI-FEMINIST TROPES UP IN HERRE). But still, I guess it’s points for having her “rage” against it.

KAM KAM for Mother Gaia.

Though maybe not points for having her use that “rage” to beat a Man’s head in with a flower pot?

What is it? It’s a ZRAAK, of course!

OH GOOD THING IT WAS A ROBOT PHEW.

So then the comic goes bananas, and they’ve slid into Surrogate-World (sort of). Or at least they slide into a world where people have transferred their consciousnesses into robo-bods (IE, Spock’s Brain on Drugs [/more drugs]).

Why can’t the Show try to be more like Blade Runner?

Naturally, Joe Robot offers the Sliders their own Proxys, and they naturally tell him to get stuffed. Rembrandt, being a dick, decides he will betray them so he can look great forever (this relies on him actually looking great now, which, I mean, sure Remmy, whatever you say).

Interdimensional Pimping.

So that’s part one. Part two starts with a pretty fair summation of Part One that involves rad skeletons and makes me feel like they shouldn’t have even bothered with the first issue in the first place.

Guys, skeletons are like, the key to my Heart.

The beginning of Part Two has the sliders as guests in the Proxy Fortress (I mean it seems like one, so whatevz). There’s some actually really nice bits in here, like the Hologram Attendant telling the bizarre and tragic story of her kids who became lost in the iCloud:

Maybe the most extreme frown-face of all time.

And then Wade, who now establishes herself as an ALMANAC HACKER (instead of Arturo being an Almanac Haggler, I guess), looks up the alt-history. Instead of hard facts, though, she spits out a bizarre metaphor that’s actually totally thrilling and kind of sums up how I feel about internet culture:

Y’all have no idea how much this panel IS MY LIFE.

But of course, we can’t focus on things like that, we’ve got to focus on the Sliders and their Dark Souls (or whatever). So Quinn tries to molest Wade, and she lays into him:

YOU TELL HIM, GRRL.

Which is actually totally awesome of her. Quit it, Quinn! Rembrandt continues his journey to try to get everyone to become Robot Slaves, and is treated to Mr. Proxy re-skinning himself. Which leads to a pretty darn terrifying sequence of melting flesh, robotic skeletons, and nude flesh being pulled over a hideous chrome skull.

It even goes so far as to throw a little racial complication into it, as Mr. Proxy (now Mrs.) implies that one of the ‘benefits’ of becoming a robot is that you can whitewash yourself. It’s a subtle note, but it’s effectively creepy. Rembrandt, being a man of honor and integrity, reacts to this by tazing all his friends and serving them to Proxy.

I mean, Quinn will be this much of a dick to Rembrandt later on, and HE doesn’t even have Interdimensional Hate Problems!

But, of course, the Sliders are too savvy for that shit, and Quinn fakes out Rembrandt and throws a ROBOT SKELETON.

YEAAAAHHHHHHHHH!

Which is awesome. The sliders escape in a brilliant series of Robot Explosions, dragging Rembrandt with them. The hologram secretary, being a fool, follows them through the vortex, where she soon discovers that she’s cut off from the iCloud.

NO FREE WI-FI!!!!

She walks in front of a car, and since merely having the car run her over wouldn’t be fucked-up enough, the driver has his PERSONAL SAMURAI get out of the car and CUT HER IN HALF.

YOU JUST GOT TSSZZAAK’D!

Bummer. Actually I remember being really disturbed by that the first time I read these things. Now, after the initial “Man, that is so dark,” I find myself with the reaction the Sliders have, which is to stare blankly and try to find some DRANKS.

DRANKS

After they get DRANKS, they chill out in a sandbox writing equations, and wondering why they’re all so dark. Quinn and Arturo have it out, trading quips like the show’s called Quippers (oof that was bad), and Quinn ends up ripping off the weird monocle that Alt-XXX-Wade gave him before melting in the last story.

WHOA CONTINUITY!

But before they can discuss that tidbit, a bunch of kids get angry and bring their PERSONAL SAMURAI out to cut them in half.

MAXIMUM SAMURAI POSE

That’s part two. Part three starts with Arturo smooth-talking some PERSONAL SAMURAI down with some honor-mumbo-jumbo stuff, and they slide to what at first seems like Toga Bennish World (which would be AWESOME), but instead turns out to be HOME?

Yeah, sure, Home.

I guess this comic is actually positing that they’re really home. But all that kind of stuff is actually dull, doesn’t really deal with what that really means for the show, and instead spends time dealing with their Darknesses. Their Darknesses basically amounting to “they all break some shit and make everyone feel bad.”

GRAMMY BLUDGEON is my new band name.

Eventually, they sit down in the Bat-Cave and discuss what happened to them. Quinn posits some Bat-Shit theory about how the Multiverse really works, and proves himself a huge Pink Floyd fan:

Originally, he was just going to point to that one poster with the painted butts.

Arturo puts it best:

Buh-whu?

That’s actually so far ahead of any theory I could come up with about the nature of sliding that I’m kind of flabbergasted by it. I don’t even really have much further to add about it other than “Whoa, yeah. Sure, dude.” But, of course of course of course, we spend about a half-second on that and instead focus on the solution, which is more or less nothing. I mean, sure, Quinn fiddles with something, and they’re supposed to slide. But while I can see how in some way what they do would make sense, there’s no explanation. I would have even preferred some mindless technobabble than just “I’ve made adjustments.” That’s it, that’s all we get. Quinn makes adjustments, and they slide, for some reason assuming that it’ll just slide them right back home but they’ll be fine. Why would it ever have done that?

“Ethical Backbone” is GRAMMY BLUDGEON’s new hit single.

Of course, part of me doesn’t want to complain when the ending is actually beautifully played out. The solution was ridiculous, but the moment where Quinn silently says goodbye to his Mom (effectively giving him a small sense of closure on the subject) is beautiful.

:.(

The semi-ridiculous “elephant firetruck” world they slide to is instead just a nice touch than jarring. And the very end of the comic serves to build on the thesis I’ve believed in for years— that this show/story isn’t about alternate dimensions, it’s about this friendship these people have, what happens when it’s threatened, and what those threats do to strengthen it.

:.)

It’s a small, quiet ending to a Three-Part-Story that attempted to redefine bombast, and it’s incredibly satisfying. I’m as stunned as you are.

Next Week: Smoke Weed Every Day, Part I (Narcotica).

The Stress Has Run These Holes Together (Sliders Comics: Rapture/Damnation).

So last time things were a little bit goofy around here. But Armada was so bad. And while I’ve read all of these Sliders comics before, I had very little recollection of them. So after reading Armada I was worried that they were all going to be the worst collective piece of shit I’d have to cover (YES, WORSE THAN SLITHER).

But out of the blue, “Rapture/Damnation” come along, and not only are they better— I’d go so far to say they’re pretty good. Don’t get me wrong- the same problems that plagued Armada are still here. The characterization is a little goofy and off at places, and the dialogue is still often stilted and joke-reliant. But the art manages to make the characters look a little more recognizable (and at this point I’m already willing to accept that Quinn will be more chiseled, and Wade is going to gain a cup size or two because THIS IS COMICS AND FEMINISM HASN’T BEEN INVENTED YET [this is why I don’t read superhero comics]).

Dudes, chill out with all this “Skratoom” nonsense. WHAT IS THAT EVEN THE SOUND OF?

But what’s striking is the fact that, as you read Rapture, you realize that there’s kind of a lot going on. Every panel is loaded with little background jokes- signs, posters, ephemera, that do an astounding job of world-building (kind of a better job than most episodes do, to be honest). These little touches kind of serve as an alternate B-plot of sorts.

The A-plot is thus: the sliders land on a world where religion is King, and people are being beamed up to the sky by “The Calling,” which turns out to be a different form of Sliding created by a Monk-Shaved Alt-Quinn. But putting all those ‘religion jokes’ in the background make for a little more complicated picture. Obviously, Sliders is going to be a little Godless (I don’t think there’s much room for Alternate Histories in the Bible), but this comic is actively positing itself as anti-religion in a way that they could never have gotten away with on the show. It’s actually a resoundingly successful example of the goal of the comics— to do what can’t be done on network TV.

This sequence is funny because IT IS HAPPENING TODAY IN REAL LIFE.

“Rapture,” to it’s credit, plays out much as you’d expect it would were it on television. Beats such as Rembrandt’s search for religion, and the reveal of both Alt-Quinn and an excommunicated Alt-Turo are all the kind of beats we expect from the show.

SO GRUMPY HOW WILL THEY TELL THE DIFFERENCE

The “antagonist” of the story is interesting— mainly because the threat isn’t really the people themselves (mainly because they’re half-sketched characters at best), it’s their actions. It’s sliding that’s the danger here. Instead of “rapturing” these people into multiple dimensions, they’re just being beamed to one.

It’s a frankly thrilling concept that the show hasn’t (and sort of won’t ever) yet dealt with: the physical, dimensional consequences of punching a hole in the fabric of space (“As Time Goes By” is different :P). It’s like that Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Force of Nature,” where it’s revealed that warp travel actually has dire ramifications for subspace.

Swiss Dimensions, yo.

But, just as “Force of Nature” sets up a grand idea and then piffles it with a reset button, so does “Damnation” fail to build on the ideas promised in “Rapture.” Instead, wer’e left with a XXX-Alt-Wade, science-nonsense, an all-too-easy resolution, and Arturo is a loincloth and ball-gag.

Actually, this part is pretty awesome.

So it turns out (and here’s the part where I get drunk and try to summarize this shit) that the world people get “raptured” to is an “inverse” world, where Satan is TOTALLY COOL. But actually people weren’t beings beamed there, they’re being converted into rift energy, which does… something. Alt-Turo plugs the hole (ostensibly with his girth) somehow, and Alt-Wade melts (for some reason). The sliders slide off of Devil World (which technically is AGAINST THE RULES but whatevz).

Summer bummer.

So it’s a bit of a mess (guys, how many times have I written that phrase at this point?) But there are parts that are interesting (you can tell that I’m straining because I’ve used the word interesting like FOUR HUNDRED TIMES). Devil World is easy and obvious, but it’s not entirely lazy, either— Wade does some Almanac-Searchin’ about Anton LaVey, and the “Howlin’ Mad Brown” joke is pretty funny.

OH I’M GOING TO HOWL LIKE A… man.

So “Rapture/Damnation” is Worlds (ha ah ha) better than “Armada,” but it’s not perfect. Well, I have the sneaking suspicion “Rapture” is going to be hands down the best one, provided “Narcotica” is a lot worse than I remember it being. But, y’know, I have to give this one points for actually doing something the show would never have been able to get away with on television. Religion isn’t an easy target. Plus, one of the funny things that no one would ever have imagined about Sliders is that it would gain more resonance as the years go by. Which is a subject that I’m going to dedicate a lengthy tangent to further down the line (*cof*California Reich*cof*).

But for now, here are Alt-Wade’s breasts:

YES EVERYONE START YOUR WADE ON WADE SLASH FIC.

YEAH 90s COMIC BOOKS NOTHING HAS CHANGED.

😡

Next Week: Wow, they actually followed through with a ‘Next Time on Sliders’ set-up! (Dimensional Shadows).

I Book My Own Gigs (Sliders Comics: Armada).

So guys, two things: First, I’m a cartoonist. Did y’all know that? I make comic books. This blog is what I do when I’m not making comic books (or making coffee because, y’know, recession). So the fact that there are Sliders comic books is totally great. My two worlds! Combining! Far out!

Second: wait, there are Sliders comic books?

Sure! Between 1996 and 1997 Acclaim Comics (remember them? no, me neither [okay, I do, but not really]) put out a series of Sliders comic books. The intent was to ‘tell the stories that couldn’t be told,’ freeing the infinite concept of the show from constraints like “budget” and “reality” and “no, why would you ever think that having the sliders chased by a huge fucking ANT BEAST would be a good idea?”

A preposterous Ant-Beast, AND a preposterous “Arturo is Fat” joke. TWO BIRDS/ONE STONE.

The above panel brings up the question we’re all thinking: “so, like, are they good?”

The answer?

Swell, indeed.

In a word? Meh.

I mean, I should qualify this by saying that ‘mainstream comics’ aren’t really my scene. And while that make me seem like a pompous windbag— and sure, in this case, I’m going to be one— I’m really just admitting that this kind of comic work isn’t what I’m familiar with. So I won’t be able to judge it as fairly as I otherwise could. Not to mention that it’s a ‘mainstream comic’ from 1996, so I’m going to be double useless.

In any case, there’s a few of these weird comics to bust through, but a good amount of them are two-parters, so that should make it pretty easy on us. In the first of these, “Armada,” we have what’s basically a dry-run for “Invasion,” what with some interdimensional conquerers hell-bent on turning us into salt.

Hey look, here’s Rembrandt sneezing a woman to death:

The next thing he says is “Vacuum Cleaners must be big business on this Earth… heh.” BECAUSE OF COURSE HE WOULD SAY THAT.

So before I deal with this silliness, I need to get something else out of the way. The way these comics write our characters is so ridiculous. It’s like, glib punchline after glib punchline after total nonsense that no one let alone the Sliders would ever say or do.

Plus, since when was the Timer just a miniature TARDIS?

Now, I’ve read a few comic-adaptations in my day. I was a big fan of The X-Files comics that Topps put out, and I remember getting a Batman Forever comic when the movie came out. And so I feel like it’s safe to say that it’s a general problem with these things and the whole ‘making the pictures look like the real people’ thing. So if you were wondering, the answer is “No, they don’t look anything like they do in the show.” And since they also don’t act anything like they do in the show, we’ve got a problem? What are we reading? Is this unique? Is this Sliders?

Well, I don’t know. It’s fun enough to skim through. It’s 2012, and we didn’t pay money for this comic book, and we don’t really have any stake in it. I guess this shit is so fucking mediocre that it just ends up being bad again? But that isn’t to say it’s not without merit. The Zercurvians are not only Sliders, they’re also two dimensional.

And this page is totally rad.

But as rad as that idea is, it is, like many other rad ideas on the show, thrown in the middle of a bit of a mess. The first part of Armada has worse pacing than “Time Again & World.” So compounded with the fact that the characters are even less defined than Wade is in general, we aren’t left with anything to love. There’s some weird shit that happens, Quinn climbs a building, they find a spaceship, shit is weird again, an alien says “hey we found your double he was SOO NICE so we killed him,” and then they slide out—only to land on a world where ANOTHER ALIEN FORCE IS INVADING.

Conclusion? Perhaps. Thrilling? Perhaps not.

…what?

So it’s nonsense. And so is part two, more or less, but it does have this panel, which is maybe the best thing that has or will ever happen ever in Sliders history:

MOTHERFUCKING SPROOM MOTHERFUCKER

I BOOK MY OWN GIGS, MOTHERFUCKERS.

But other than that being awesome, the second part of Armada is so ridiculous I’m not even going to summarize it with anything other than “weird shit happens, on both a spaceship and a vaguely Roman world (oh wait it’s ATLANTIS? OF COURSE IT IS [WHAT?]) I guess but who cares because that shit is weird.”

And if you guessed that this dude is Quinn, then I don’t know who you are anymore.

I can’t even understand what’s going on in it. I keep getting distracted by the atrocious use on onomatopoetic typeface:

And of course, the be-all end-all of bad ideas, this panel:

WAIT. Hold on.

Enhance.

Enhance.

Enhance.

Yep. That’s an awful computer written “Noooo.” If I could have that on a T-Shirt, I would in a heartbeat. But that shit is so dumb. This whole comic is so bad. Trying to make sense of it makes me have this face:

Whoa, don’t force it, bro. You’ll pop something.

So some weird shit happens, and then the Atlanteans get to skewer some other Aliens, and the Zercurvians are defeated. Or whatever. The sliders end up on a world where erryone chunky, and this terrifying panel is forced down our eye-gullets:

I hope they got ALKA SELTZER in HELL.

So. One down, way too many to go. I’m going to run through all these comics, and try to treat them with a little more ‘critical respect’ than I treated this one. But they’re all pretty bad like this, so no promises. I’ll try to make it quick, too, but let’s be honest— who of you are REALLY chomping at the bit for me to start Season Three?

Yep. That’s what I thought.

Next Week: Holy, Holy! (Ultimatum: Rapture/Damnation)

PS: You can read all of these at Earthprime. Thanks guys!

Have You Looked At The Heavens (As Time Goes By)?

Option A (deviation):

Sliders has always had a difficult time. This episode wasn’t even supposed to be the Season Finale— FOX just kept bumping it up in the running order until they realized that they’d already aired the real season finale and still had the episode left over. It was just too weird, they said. They didn’t know what to do with it, they said. So they aired the episode way after the Season had ended. And then they unceremoniously canceled the show, making this the unplanned and unknown Series Finale.

It is the end, but the moment wasn’t prepared for.

As an unplanned Series Finale, though, this episode does a frighteningly good job of summing up the underlying themes of this series. People, when explaining the show, often hear “oh, it’s like Quantum Leap.” Us fans often say “ugh, Ziggy says there’s an eight billion percent chance that NO,” but we’re sort of lying to ourselves. It’s just that Quantum Leap wears it’s heart on it’s sleeve, so to speak. The goal of Sam Beckett is to “fix history”, more or less, in the most gracious way possible. It’s easy to posit that it was Sam Beckett’s fate to step into the Quantum Leap Device, like he was destined to be an unwitting angel of history.

Sliders struggled with this concept throughout it’s entire run. Part of that is because the writers don’t know where they stand on the matter, but to be fair, it ends up being played in the characters, too. Why is it they who Slide? Are they supposed to intervene? Are they supposed to overthrow the government time and time again? Cure a deadly disease? Create equality for the weaker sex? Re-introduce the Constitution? Basically, the question is this: is Sliding random?

Her hair would have you think otherwise.

If the pilot is the hypothesis, the episodes the data, then “As Time Goes By” is the conclusion. And, to the undying credit of the show, the answer is blessedly complicated. In this episode, it’s as if the Timer decided to take matters into it’s own hands, and take the randomness out of Sliding, giving Quinn three case studies to try out the show’s thesis. It ends up being a what-if: if you could travel to other worlds, would you try to change them for the better? Quinn tries to argue “yes,” but the show, three worlds in a row, tries to tell him “no.” Even in the case of the 2nd “Daelin” world, where it’s “clear” that her life is “better” after Quinn “saves” her, he still feels defeated—he wanted to take her with him, after all. It proves that the “self” must be taken out of the equation. Daelin might be better off, but Quinn isn’t.

His grimace would (not) have you think otherwise.

Sliding is random. Sliders must remain observers. Any intervention can lead to the destruction of (at the least) the self, or (at the worst) the destruction of the universe.

The "space is a curtain" thing going on here would have you think otherwise.

These people aren’t meant to be here. As much as Rembrandt wears out his complaints, he’s right. They aren’t divined to slide in order to inflict their definition of “Right” upon these worlds. They are sliding to get home, and nothing more. In a way, it’s really like Science winning out. The Martian Preservationist winning out over the Terraforming Colonist. It’s a tough conclusion for the show to sell, but they make it work. And it’s perfect and wonderful that it would be the Series Finale to do so. If they had any episode following this one, it would cheapen the resolution. We’ve seen the nature of sliding in every way we could, and it’s a beautiful thing that we don’t watch them ride off into the sunset. We watch Quinn cringe at his past decisions. Sliders, in it’s final moments, becomes an incredibly human show.

And for that, I will miss it.

Option B (detour):

So far this Season, we’ve been disappointed. Every week’s had some brighter moments, but they’re held amidst a heaping load of crap. Last week we had an Old-West Town attached to San Francisco, Texas. There were good things to be said about the approach to “Law” as shown in that world. Before that we had a decent idea of “Turn a City into a Giant Prison,” but that was sidled with a poorly-acted maniac, and ended with the Sliders taking someone through the wormhole who we never saw or heard from again. Wade drove a van through the vortex.

The promise we saw in Season One episodes like “Eggheads” or “Luck of the Draw” are so far not present. So when we get to this episode, it’s a shock. All of the sudden, people are trying. There’s effort in the concept, the execution. It’s an episode unlike any other that’s come before it.

And just like that, the Season turns around.

It’s interesting that it took this long to have an episode that applies the “14-year old boy” approach to sliding. By which I mean that this episode is dealing with one of the most obvious “what if” ideas of “anything’s possible:” Hey, now I can get with this chick I never could in High School.

And her hair is exactly the same as in High School, too!

It’s easy to forget that Quinn is a nerd. It’s also easy to forget that he’s only supposed to be, like, 22-23. So when he’s talking about this Daelin woman (who we’ve never heard of before [can you imagine if this episode was about WADE?!] but whatever) we have to remember that it’s only been… 8… years… and he’s still in love with her…

Okay, it’s weird. It comes off as creepy. I mean, Jerry O’Connell plays it well. He is accurately playing the shit out of being a total nerd who gets to M.O. with his High School Sweetie (or whatever). But that doesn’t mean that it’s fun for us to watch Quinn jerkily run his fingers through Daelin’s hair.

But you know, for once, I really can’t complain. The emotional beats this episode has are all immensely satisfying. But really, the key to the episode’s success is the fact that Quinn and his actions are wrong. He’s not right to try to change Daelin’s life, her fate. Even if it seems like it was for the better in one case. Because he isn’t just changing her life, he’s changing the lives of everyone around her.

To put it mildly.

The fact that he actually destroys an entire universe at the end of the episode is the extreme metaphor for his actions. Quinn thinks he’s doing all of this out of selflessness, but it’s truly the most selfish act. So having him not be the “winner,” the “good duy” at the end of the episode is perfect. The pained look he gives that closes the episode is a bold move, but to end it any other way would be an extreme disappointment. This is an act of respect on the part of the show. Respect to the characters, to morality, and to us an audience.

Option C (center):

There’s just no respect for this show. FOX bumped this episode up to the end because they didn’t understand it. And it’s not like I don’t get it— it’s a bizarre episode. But it’s also a brilliant episode. And, were it not for a lengthy letter writing campaign by the fans and a mild outcry, it would have been the last. There are worse ways to end a show (as we’ll see, of course), but if this was going to be the end, they unwittingly had prepared for the moment pretty well.

This episode, shunted as it was, is a last stand for creativity, and a farewell to the Canadian darkness the show had enveloped so well. FOX agreed to a third season, but demanded high costs. The show would move to LA, and the majority of the production staff would be replaced. FOX would be more ‘Hands On,” not allowing any kind of sneaky business like “continuity” or “putting Conrad Bennish in an episode” or “being interesting.” Using “In Dino Veritas”‘s popularity as leverage, they’d wrench the show out of ‘interesting’ and shove it wholly into “action” territory. The show suffers. But it soldiers on.

Part of being a Sliders fan is accepting this. Part of being a fan of any show is being able to accept change. You don’t just stop watching Doctor Who because Tom Baker leaves. You don’t stop watching Fringe because Peter is erased from the timeline. You don’t stop watching BSG because Colonel Tigh wears an eyepatch.

Of course, in reality, people stop watching shows all the time when they make a production decision that you don’t agree with. But as much as the general Sliders fan bitches and moans about the next three seasons, they still watch them. They’re stuck with the show. There’s something innately endearing about this show that people watch it for. And we’re protective of it, too. We do things like run comprehensive websites about the show, or run a blog where we discuss each episode one at a time.  We care about this show, and we want people to know it existed. It’s a part of us and we want to share that with people.

But why? As you’ve no doubt noticed, if you actually watch these episodes when do, this show is flawed. It’s entirely a product of the time it was created. It’s concept is great, but it never decided how it wanted to follow through with it. At the end of it all, when we carve through the things that make the show terrible, we’re left with Quinn, Wade, Rembrandt, & Arturo. Eventually, we’re left with even less. But these four people struck on a chemistry that was frankly magical. It was warm and loving, but never alienating. You could be friends with them, if you wanted. And we are friends with them, in a way. We care about them, and we want to stay with them through thick and thin— whether that refers to what’s going on in the show or behind it.

I’ll miss the show as it is at this point. But I’m excited to continue this project/journey. It’s not like there won’t be good episodes after this. Even the bad ones can have their charm. But it’s still necessary to me, as a fan of this show (for whatever reason), to say goodbye to this era.

It's the end of the show as we know it (and we'll get over it eventually).

So, y’know, goodbye.

Next week I’ll probably take a holiday. But after that I thiiiink I’m going to throw you a curveball. We’ll see. Stay tuned.