Comics : Trashmasters #1A

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: A Word From Our Sponsor

This review was first published on: 2005.

Background...

This is one of Marvels Specialty books that are produced for an end-client, rather than for distribution to the comicbook-buying public at large. While sometimes these comics are used to promote product lines, quite often (as in this case, they are utilized to promote pro-social causes. This particular comic was produced in cooperation with the New York City Sanitation Dept. in order to promote recycling. The print version of this comic was distributed in NYC public schools. This particular comic (there are two in this series) is targeted for second and third graders.

Each comic contains two stories and 6 pages of games and activities.

When a group of ordinary New York City kids turned their elementary school, known for its wasteful ways and totally messed up manners into a model champion of reducing, reusing, and recycling (RRR) they are turned into the ultra-cool, awe-inspiring warriors of waste, in other words, the Trashmasters. However, after a brief three months, the West Side Elementary (formerly referred to as Waste Side Elementary) won a Golden Apple Award for becoming the best RRR cool in the city, there have been some changes, and not for the better.

In Detail...

"Mystery of the Messmonster"
Trashmasters #1A (Story 1)
Year 2001 : SM Cover
Summary: (Grades 2 & 3) NYC Sanitation Dept./DOS Comics (Spider-Man Social Message Inside Back Cover)
Writer:  Doug Bernstein, Vivian Trakinski
Pencils:  Alex Saviuk
Inker:  Bob McLeod
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Review

The kids have gathered in the Schools sub basement, which also serves as the office for the schools custodian, Mr. Russell Reginald Reilly (or Rusty as the kids call him). As the kids are cleaning up, Shirley, a first-grader- hears something and thinks its is a Messmonster. One of the other kids chides her that only a first grader would believe in a Messmonster, while a second child (who is reading a Hulk comicbook) musses that The Hulk would know how to take care of such a beast.

The kids take solace in the fact that they are Trashmasters, and that there really isnt any such thing as a Messmonster (they hope). Franny suggests that they stake out the school after hours so that they can find the Messmonster (or messy individual) that has been causing all of the problems. Rusty agrees to the stakeout and turns it into an awful pun.

At 4:00 Mrs., Rush, the schools principal sets the kids to their task of finding out who is messing up their school so badly as she exits the building with visions of this years Golden Apple Award already sitting on her shelf. However, even as she leaves, she pitches her paper coffee cup in the general direction of a trashcan, and misses. With Mrs. Rush gone, Rusty gives each of the kids their assignments. Franny and Henry take the first floor; Nick and Stuff are to go to the second floor, while he and Shirley will patrol the third floor.

The kids head off to their posts and faithfully remain there for a couple of hours. At 6:00 Fran and Henry hear a terrible noise on the first floor, and head up to help, running headlong into Nick, who has somehow managed to lose sight of Stuff. Just then a shadow falls across them which they assume to be the Messmonster and they all fell back to the first floor, only it is just Stuff who has chosen that moment to access a snack from the vending machine. As 7:00 rolls around and the sun goes down, Nick has decided to go back and look for Stuff (although why he has waited and hour to do so is anyones guess). Back on the second floor, Nick hears a mysterious noise emanating from the boys bathroom and sees water leaking from under the door. He kicks the door in looking for his friend. What he finds, Is Stuff perched on the back of an overflowing toilet with a plunger in his hands attempting to retrieve his magnifying glass, which has apparently fallen into the bowl.

By 8:00 Shirl is getting sleepy but thats when she, Rusty, and Henry smell something awful. The think that theyve spotted the monster only to learn that it is Nick wearing a gas mask so he doesnt have to smell the rotten banana that has been sitting in Stuffs locker since Kindergarten. By 9:00 they all have pretty much given up on ever finding the Messmonster and feel the entire stakeout has been a waste of time.

Stuff aimlessly pitches his milk container into the garbage and is chastised by Shirley who reminds him that it is recyclable and should go in the recycling bin. Stuff apologies and says that it was just because he was tired. At this point Fran observes that he wasnt the only one who was tired, as apparently everyone left a mess from dinner. Whereupon Rusty exclaims that theyve finally found the Messmonster.

The next day the kids observe the rest of the school and notice that everyone contributes a little bit to the mess, teachers who dont recycle their paper but simply toss it in the trash, kids who toss their garbage into the recycling bins, and throw their recyclable material into the garbage cans, Mrs. Rush not using her school mug, but a paper cup for her coffee. So, the very next issue of the West Side Elementary School Newspaper reports on all of the mistakes the kids and students are making and then reminds them to reducing, reusing, and recycle, fulfilling their destiny as Trashmasters.

In General...

The comic is cute, and delivers a very helpful (and easy to read and understand) message about recycling. I believe that the message will reach its intended audience and that by presenting it in the form of a comicbook will make more accessible to them. Certainly the appearance of Spider-Man in the comic (even though it is just on the back page) will certainly help make it accessible to kids.

Overall Rating...

Still, having said the above, the relatively low score for this otherwise pleasant book is that because in spite of what weve come to expect about this book Spider-man really isnt in it. It isnt until the final page (back cover) that we finally get a glimpse of our webbed hero. Spider-Man is perched on the wall outside the school with the Trashmasters looking on through the windows. Here Spidey delivers the message of the comic that you dont have to be a superhero to be a Trashmaster but that every Trashmaster is a hero. There is also a text box about how NYC teachers can order their free resource kit from the Sanitation Dept.

Footnote...

Currently this comic is all over the net (due, primarily to auctions on ebay and other sites), but it is being touted as a Spider-man specialty comic. Nothing could be further from the truth. As stated, Spidey only appears on the back cover and not as a character within the story itself (on page a child who is not otherwise in the story, is shown wearing a T-shirt with a Spidey logo, and yes, Hulk does appear in a couple of panels, but only as a comicbook cover and an imagined character).

If you are a Spidey completist (Hi Pete!) then yeah, go out and snag a copy, just dont pay a load of dough for it, especially when you can simply read the entire comic (in Marvel-style dot.comic, pop-up form by going to www.nyc.gov and reading it for yourself. This link gets you to the main menu from which you can read either story.

Iron Man (who only appears in a puzzle) as well as Storm and Wolverine (who only appear on the inside back cover talking about ways to recycle) have cameos in this comic as well. The six pages of puzzles do not appear in the on- line version.