You know, I think the title just about says it all.
I don't know about you, but I sure can't recall any classics of Western literature that feature pre-pubescent lobotomy patients time-traveling via GIANT DOG to save Camelot from ruin... ...Of course, that might be the same plot as Sinclair Lewis' 1924 classic, Brave New World. I never read it. How the hell should I know?
Mr. Caption: The Short Circus was getting ready for a show...
And indeed they are. They're all sort of standing around in their studio and pointing at random things like some kind of kindergarten class trying to figure out the difference between DOOR and WALL. Of course, they seem to have forgotten all of their musical instruments for this alleged 'rock group practice'. Not that any amount of practicing, with or without their instruments would ever, ever make them sound good. I don't even think having Freddie Mercury as lead singer could make them cool. And that's saying something.
Meanwhile, once again Spidey is hanging above the set of the Electric Company in a web-hammock. Don't you have your own room somewhere, Peter? I know you do. Do you enjoy trying to fall asleep while the mental midgets below argue loudly about whose bellbottom cuffs are the largest? Do you want them to interrupt your nap every three minutes because their damn cat got lost again or they were frightened by a scary dream again or Dr. Octopus has taken one of them hostage (again)? I really hope you're trying to score with Kelly, because otherwise I have no idea why you don't go take a nap at home without a bunch of idiots trying to ruin your day. (Though near as I can tell, your list of things to do each day consists entirely of "1. Sleep in web-hammock all day")
Mr. Caption: Suddenly, a huge dog came from nowhere!
Hehehehehehe. It's lines like this that I live for. Did I mention that this dog is a seven foot tall teleporting bulldog with a tuning fork stuck in its head and a thick French Moustache? Now then, as I was saying... hehehehehehe.
Spider-Man: This dog is Lockjaw. He belongs to the Inhumans** who live in a hidden land.
**Then comes the first ever footnote in Spidey Super Stories. Editor A.J. kindly says, "Remember Medusa the Inhuman? (Issue #4)" Thanks A.J. I'm pretty sure the only kids who possibly would care that much about the origin of the damn teleporting dog have trouble remembering which foot is left and which is right, and whether to swallow their own tongue or not, but maybe a few of them remember a terrible story eight months old that has absolutely zero to do with this story. In-between their tranquilizer injections.
And what's the point of giving the dog an origin, anyway? You didn't explain how Jennifer of the Jungle, in-between making B-movies and working at Foto-Hut at the mall, managed to train an adult mountain gorilla to play charades. You never told us how a group of junior high kids with the musical ability of boiled cabbage came together to form a "TV Rock Group Sensation." The LEAST of my worries is where the pick-up-truck-sized teleporting dog came from. Plus, your explanation doesn't help to explain this madness anyway. 'Oh, well then, the dog came from a HIDDEN LAND. Well, obviously people who live in hidden lands need giant dogs with moustaches and metal plates in their heads.'
Spidey: Lockjaw has the special power to travel through time.
Whoa! Whoa, you just hold on there for a minute, Spidey. "Time Travel" is not exactly a casual doggie ability that's material for Letterman and his Stupid Pet Tricks. You know, that irreparable harm to the timestream stuff, Nazis win the Second World War, "Scheissen der Spinne-Man!", etc. (As an aside, it seems like no matter what era you go back to and muck around with, the Nazis always win WWII. You could go back and kick Christopher Columbus in the balls, and somehow the Nazis would turn that into a victory). At the very least, for the love of God Spidey, you should NOT let the Short Circus go traveling back in time. I think everyone would agree that this would be an extremely bad idea. These are the people who can't figure out which end of cords you plug into outlets. HINT: The end without an appliance attached is a good starting point.
Wait a sec, you know, I don't think Lockjaw actually HAS the power to travel through time. So I consulted my Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Master Edition (AKA: Bill). Bill told me that Lockjaw is just his "code name" and he doesn't tell people his real name. A code name is useful for concealing his identity, since he can just disappear into a crowd, if that crowd consists of seven foot terrier mastiffs with silverware jammed in their foreheads. Also, he's known as "Sparky" (this is true) among the members of his gay dog support group (my best conjecture).
But according to Bill his only abilities are "teleporting himself and one ton of additional mass across space". See, I knew there were no dogs who could travel through time. Otherwise why aren't we all living in tiny houses wearing collars with our names on them and dumb looking pastel sweaters? Also, I think the word "humanity" would be replaced with the word "mobile humping posts".
But if we're going to get anywhere in this story, we just have to accept that dogs can travel through time, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. So Spidey tells them this and they all turn to Lockjaw and simultaneously shout, "NICE DOG!" and begin petting his face. Under the chin, maybe, but what weirdo pets their dog's eyebrows, lips and moustache? Lockjaw's freaked the hell out. But while the worst a normal dog can do is poop on your rug or maybe viciously rip your jugular out in one bite when threatened, no, when Lockjaw gets threatened, he teleports himself and ALL HIS TORMENTORS with him to a random time period. I don't know how Darwin would feel about that as a defense mechanism.
So with a "POOF!", off go Spidey and the Short Circus through time. Now, one of the neat things about comics is that you don't need a huge budget to have kick-ass special effects. You can just tell the penciller to draw something cool-looking. Of all the infinte ways to portray people traveling through time, Winslow Mortimer choose to draw them falling through a bunch of white hula hoops in a banana yellow void, while occasionally a bright red "1930" or "1800" would fly by them in big bubble letters. I've seen infomercials with better special effects. It's awfully conveinient of the timestream to have random years physically marked with signposts, and in such a pleasant, easy-to-read bubble font, too. And boy, I bet the Muslims and Jews are kinda pissed about the fact that even the timestream itself uses the Christian calendar. You'll find 'cultural sensitivity' just below 'reshingle roof' on the Spidey Super Story writer's To-Do list.
Anyway, so we finally leave the horribly embarrassing time-travel scene. And we find ourselves immeadiately embroiled in a horribly embarrassing Camelot scene. We get an establishing shot of Camelot, in which we are surprised to learn that Castle Camelot was painted canary yellow with orange roofs. I just don't believe that in medieval times there existed a durable, all-weather oil-based paint for giant blocks of stone. The knights must have had to paint the damn castle every three weeks, top-to-bottom, in sickening lemony yellow to keep it that way. Shouldn't they have been crushing each others skulls with spiked maces, or seducing their king's wife or something?
So we see inside the castle, where King Arthur has entered Merlin's lab and is berating him for not conquering some Dragon that is "scaring my people". We'll meet the dragon later. But my absolute favorite thing in this entire story is that King Arthur, in addition to the large golden crown on his head, has a button pinned to his royal cape that says '#1', while Merlin has a button pinned to his moons & stars robe that says '#2'. I really, really wish our presidents and vice-presidents had to wear big '#1' and '#2' buttons in every public appearance. Just in case we all forgot that they're way cooler than us. And the buttons would have been a great help for Ronald Reagan, who constantly forgot that he wasn't making movies where monkeys throw banana-cream pies at his face anymore, he was supposed to be bombing Libya. Or possibly Beruit.
Now here comes ye well-researched Olde English dialouge.
King Arthur: Merlin, some master of magic you are! Why can't you make a simple potion to make the dragon sleep?
Merlin: *as he vigorously stirs his pot* But King Arthur, I'm trying -- I'm trying!
King Arthur: Well, you're number two. So try harder! *storms out*
Dammit, Arthur, do you suddenly know how to do magic? Merlin is frantically throwing ingredients in his pot, trying to make the magic dragon sleeping potion as fast as he can. You make him rush it, maybe you get magical dragon aphrodisiac potion instead and things get a whole lot worse. Hey, I have an idea. Why don't you and your thirty knights maybe get off your shiny pansy asses and go SLAY THE DRAGON. Isn't that what knights do every now and then to keep up their public image? You never hear about them working their serfs until they collapse or how they get first-night sleeping privileges with all the peasant girls married on their land. No, it's always 'Slay the dragon this' or 'Rescue the damsel that'. Those knights must have had one incredible PR firm, I tell you. The tobacco industry would kill for that kind of exposure.
No, Arthur leaves the entire defense of his land in the hands of Merlin, and it takes us about two panels to find out exactly how competent Merlin is. He starts reading the following spell off an old parchment. And yes, like all magic spells in Spidey Super Stories, it just has to rhyme.
Merlin: This is the potion to beat the dragon, to make him sleep and fix his wagon!
Merlin: I'll add milk... *pours milk out of a modern glass milk jug into the potion.*
Merlin: and apple cider... *pours apple cider out of a modern ceramic jug into the potion.*
Merlin: and I'll top it off with a big fat... Spider?!
Now, you may have thought Merlin was already a little wacky, what with the "I'm Number Two!" pin and using milk and apple cider as his primary magic ingredients. But now, for some inexplicable reason, instead of throwing a spider into the cauldron along with the other ingredients, he reaches into the cauldron and tries to pull out a spider. I may be pretty confused about the way magic works in these stories, but I'm pretty sure you can't start with just boiling water and then suddenly pull a spider OUT of the water and then let him go, and somehow expect to have spiders in your potion. Don't ask me how you make live spiders out of water, milk and apple cider in the first place, but I'm fairly confident that if you take the spontaneously generated spider OUT of the mix, he won't be in the potion anymore.
It really doesn't matter what idiotic thing Merlin's doing, because, as luck would have it, right as he's trying to pull a spider out of the potion, Lockjaw chooses that moment to stop time-traveling, and of the near infinite places that a teleporting dog could land them, they appear in the giant vat of boiling water in Merlin's lab.
Merlin: *to Spider-Man* You're not a spider! Who are you?
Spider-Man: I'm Spider-Man!
Sylvia, AKA Lady Afro: Lockjaw brought us back in time, here to the days of King Arthur!
Sylvia calmly relates this, despite the fact that she's still standing in boiling hot water in a giant pot. And we know it's boiling, because thick black smoke has filled the background, probably from her flesh searing off. And don't ask me why seeing some guy in a moons & stars robe with a pointy hat means that they of course must be in the time of King Arthur. She's obviously never been to an RPG convention.
So in the next panel, King Arthur (who just stormed out) is now standing right next to Merlin, and Spidey and the Short Circus are suddenly out of the pot, no worse for wear. We see that that this cauldron is now only two feet across, despite the fact that six people and a giant dog were just able to stand in it comfortably. That's 3 continuity errors from the last panel to this one. Sometimes, I get the distinct impression that I spend way more time analyzing this wondrous crap then they did writing it.
Merlin: You ruined my potion!
Well, either that or you're covering your own ass since you know diddley-squat about making a magic dragon sleeping potion in the first place. Though I admit having a giant dog foul your cauldron water may lead to your spell fizzling out, and possibly your gag reflex.
Merlin: The potion will never work now!
Didn't you just tell us exactly that? *sigh* There's only 40 lines of dialogue in this entire story, and they have to keep repeating themselves.
King Arthur: Now I'll never be rid of the fire-breathing beast! Guards!
So immeadiately 12 guards rush in and take Spidey, Lockjaw and the Short Circus captive without so much as a peep of resistance.
King Arthur: Put them all in jail! I shall throw them to the dragon... after I mash Merlin!
So heroic King Arthur, the Pendragon of legend prophesied to save Britain, runs after Merlin, jumps on him, and tries to throttle him to death with his bare hands. Maybe he should rethink this. Not only is Merlin your '#2' guy, he's the only magician in the whole damn British Isles. If you choke him to death, you might have to actually go and SLAY THE DRAGON yourself, heaven forbid.
And I love how the King Arthur is all about the force-feeding innocent kids to dragons, where the children will have the lovely options of being torn limb-from-limb and devoured, or swallowed whole and burned alive in the dragon's belly. Yeah, noble King Arthur!
Then Spidey escapes by punching one of the guards, and runs off, leaving just the kids to be eaten by the dragon. Not that I blame him in the least, he's been trying to ditch them for two years already. I applaud his ingenuity - no bodies in the present, no uncomfortable questions, and no more Short Circus. It's like a dream come true.
In his mad rush to escape, Spidey accidentally runs into the Round Table. You might be a little surprised to learn that the legendary Round Table was also painted yellow. And it has some lovely orange wicker chairs around it. And it's made out of plywood and barely has room for six people. I have a 20-year-old hand-me-down kitchen table that's nicer than this piece of garbage. Jeez, next this comic is going to tell kids that the Pyramids are really just giant inverted ice cream cones that God dropped out in the desert.
So the Knights of the Round Table are all lounging around, in their full battle armor no less, and enjoying a light snack and drinks at the Round Table. It's interesting that we don't see any kind of eating utensils on the table, only a spear and a spiked mace. Guess they're into finger food in Camelot.
Knight of the Round Kitchen Table 1: Is this a Man or a Monster?
Knight of the Round Kitchen Table 2: I do not know... but we will catch him anyway!
So all the Knights leap up at once, and somebody grabs the spear and chucks it at Spidey. Spidey is standing on the ground, just having shot a webline to the ceiling. Like Robin Hood's arrow at an unjust hanging, the knight's spear hits the half-inch-wide webline perfectly and snaps it in two. These guys may have the home-decoration sense of a baby kangaroo still in the pouch, but I'll give 'em this, they sure can chuck those spears.
Spidey immeadiately spins a 4-foot 'web-pillow' beneath himself to ensure a soft landing. Of course, this looks a little silly since he was still standing on solid ground and just sorta fell over. (Mr. Sound Effect: PLOP!) I think Spidey's living the easy life a bit too much if he needs a cushion to catch him every time he trips. I wonder if Spidey spins himself web-covers for public toilet seats, too. Wait, that could be bad.
The Knights of the Round Table then show us what they're famous for, as three of them charge right at Spidey and then all three bang their armored heads together two feet in front of Spidey, knocking themselves unconscious. Warfare in Camelot seems to consist entirely of finding a enemy, and then charging at him helmet first with your weapon at your side, like some kind of primitive torpedo that doesn't explode. This is why you don't see a lot of Camelotians around today.
Then Spidey decides to shoot six simultaneous weblines, three out of each web-shooter. He yanks the weapons right out of the hands of the six remaining Knights all at once. Um... well, gee Spidey, if you always had the ability to shoot out infinite independently targetable weblines, uh, why have you never ever before used that power? Is this like your ace-in-the-hole or something? Someday Spidey's going to be fighting Doc Ock and suddenly "Oh yes, Doc, for the past 15 years I've been able to web up all of your arms separately and defeat you in 12 seconds every time, I... I was just waiting for a special occasion to tell you..."
So King Arthur now orders his men to give up and mopes around despondently. "You have beaten my men! Who can save my kingdom from the dreadful dragon now?" Oh yeah, I'm really sure your men were just about to get off their rusting iron butts and slay the dragon, but now that they've been "shamed by Spider-Man" they couldn't possibly go and do it. So what morons immeadiately volunteer to get rid of the dragon? Spidey and the Short Circus! Ah, maybe King Arthur isn't quite the schmuck I assumed he was...
Spidey and the Short Circus: *shouting* We can do it!
King Arthur: We'll see!
So Arthur finds armored(!) horses for all of them and outfits the Short Circus in full suits of armor. Since complete, fitted plate mail is so damn cheap in medieval England, they have a variety of child-sized armor to choose from. Then they all ride their armored horses into the forest. We know it's a forest because there's a sign that says, "FOREST". Also, we see one definite tree, and some other vague things that could be trees or possibly deformed street signs. So Forest it is!
Lockjaw starts "sniffing" the dragon out, using yet another-super power he doesn't actually have, according to Bill. God knows how they showed him what dragons smell like in the first place. ("Here's the dragon's old athletic supporter, boy - now go git 'em!")
So out pops the dragon, yeah, and what a disappointment that is. I've seen scarier sock puppets. I've had scarier dreams about the wind chill factor (don't ask). He kind of looks like a gentle, plant-eating Brontosaurus, but he's only ten feet long and has big red googly eyes. Also, he has a "roar" so frightening no one even blinks and he spits out a thin two-foot stream of flame.
In fact, Spidey decides the best plan is to just ride his horse directly at the dragon's open, flame-emitting mouth. And Spidey's untrained horse doesn't even object to this. That's how unscary this guy is. Spidey stands directly in the dragon's wimpy flame for a few seconds, which doesn't even singe his hair, and makes a pun about "Now dragon, there's no need to get all steamed up!" Then he punches the dragon in the face and leaps to a nearby branch. Damn, I think an electric steak-knife would have been a more frightening villain. Even unplugged.
So then Spidey uses his newfound power of shooting infinite independently targetable weblines once again, this time only two out of each wrist, and each one wraps itself around one of the dragon's legs, tying him up like a prize steer at a rodeo. Though the dragon's a lot more qualified to be a rodeo clown than a bucking bronco.
Spidey: I've got him tied up. But how do I keep him down?
Then we see that while Spidey was confronting the 'dragon', the Short Circus jumped off their horses and went and hid behind a bunch of trees that appeared. This despite the fact that this dragon is as dangerous as reheating a baked potato. And they're wearing head-to-toe armor. I bet the Short Circus gets terrified by their own shadows, too.
So the Short Circus hesitantly comes out from the trees, to face the not-at-all-scary-and-now-even-hog-tied-dragon, and they start singing at it. The Short Circus makes some grating, throaty sounds like a car-assembly plant, allegedly to "put the Dragon to sleep". And the Dragon does look like he's sleeping when we see him next, but I'll bet Mr. Dragon really just shot himself in the head off-panel. That's sure a lot more likely than any living thing falling asleep to this so-called 'singing'.
Dopey-Eyed Asian Girl is directing them, using a two-handed broadsword as a baton.
Short Circus: Rock-a-Bye Baby, in the tree top...
Short Circus: ...when the wind blows, the cradle will rock.
Dopey-Eyed Asian Girl: Well, they don't call us a rock group for nothing!
Honey, I hate to tell you this, but no one calls you at all. The phone never rings. Even telemarketers are scared to dial your number. Maybe when you're thirty and still living at home Mom will let you have telephone privileges.
Anyway, everyone else is astounded and amazed by this astoundingly amazing display of way-way-off-key 'singing'.
Merlin: Their music is magic!!
King Arthur: And they are indeed heroes!
Wait a minute. Their music is magic? What, you see people in red and blue pajamas shooting out spider-webs and house-sized French Dogs all the frickin' time in Camelot? Of all the crazy stuff that went down, I just can't believe the "Short Circus singing" is what seems like some great magic from the future to Merlin.
Yeah, I can imagine Merlin going to the annual magic convention that year.
Nostradamus: Well, I have invented a way to foretell the future using only pine cones, bat eyeballs and zucchini bread.
Audience: *polite applause*
Cagliostro: I have perfected my formula for turning LEAD into... CUBIC ZIRCONIUM. *Demonstrates this* But next year, lead into gold, I swear.
Audience: *polite applause*
Merlin: Ha! You fools, I have discovered the greatest magic power of all time! Behold the awesome magical might of "14 YEAR-OLDS WHO SING VERY, VERY POORLY!".
Audience: *then someone turns Merlin into a newt*
Audience: *then loud, boisterous applause, some whooping*
Alright, then the Short Circus crowds around Lockjaw for no reason, commending him on what a great job he's done, despite the fact that his only contribution was to sniff things randomly until the Dragon found them. But I can't complain too much, because it furthers the plot along since Lockjaw gets scared again when crowded, and teleports Spidey and the Short Circus back to the present, right where they left it. Spidey says, "Well gang, at least we all had the time of our lives!" Everyone looks uncomfortable and walks away. You know your jokes need some work, Spidey, if the Short Circus can't even look you in the eye, much less laugh at you.
And they even got to keep their genuine Arthurian suits of child-armor. THE END.
So Spidey's got the Dragon hog-tied. At this point, any of Arthur's men could have walked right up and slit its throat, and the worse they would have to deal with is a stream of flame that would have trouble lighting a campfire. No, they're all still too terrified, and Spidey is despairing, "How can I keep the Dragon down for the count?" So somehow the Short Circus 'singing' the Dragon to sleep is the answer to everyone's prayers. Now, I can't be the only one to see the flaw in this plan. Like when the Dragon wakes up in an hour from his nap, and Spidey's webbing has dissolved, and he starts terrorizing the countryside again. Suddenly the Short Circus goes from being the "heroes of Camelot" to having their names be swear words for generations to come. I just can't believe Merlin or Arthur didn't think that far ahead. "Well, the dragon's not attacking us now, so he never will again. Yeah, Short Circus, you have saved us forever!" Argh.
I just don't get this Camelot obsession with labeling things. They've got the "#1" and "#2" buttons, the milk jug that says "MILK", the other jug that says "APPLE CIDER", and of course the sign in the forest that says "FOREST". No, I thought it was a mountain, dumbass sign. And I forgot to mention the giant sign by Camelot castle that says "Welcome to Camelot". It's like some demented grocer got his labeling/pricing gun and went on a mad rampage.
And maybe you can figure out why they're total idiots, yet they're 1200 years advanced in beverage container technology. The milk jug and apple cider jug are the same kind of containers I could find in a modern supermarket (only with their contents painted on the sides). As long as we're talking anachronisms, how did they make those "#1" and "#2" buttons anyway? I don't think they can cut an ad out of a comic and send away $1.95 for press-your-own-button kits.
And I cannot believe what incredible pansies King Arthur and the Knights of Camelot turned out to be. Screw Modred and Morgan Le Fay and all that, I can tell you all about the real fall of Camelot.
*Earl, Bob and Thad are three 9th-century Vikings who are wandering lost around the English countryside, and happen upon Camelot*
Earl, Bob, and Thad: Uh, hey...
King Arthur: You have defeated us, sirs, with your rugged good looks and rugged loincloths. I give the kingdom of Camelot to you.
Earl, Bob, and Thad: Well, uh, that's nice, but we were just wondering if you could direct us to Sweden, we got drunk a week ago, there was some kind of dare involving the naked wooden mermaid on our prow, next thing I remember we've crashed into England.
King Arthur: Please, don't hurt us, the riches of Camelot are yours. This land now belongs to you. The Knights of the Round Table and I and our descendants will work as your slaves forever, if you but spare our lives, o savage Vikings.
Earl, Bob, and Thad: Look, look - forget about that. We just want directions, a cart and maybe some BBQ ribs. You can keep the kingdom.
King Arthur: Everything is yours! Pillage our land, ravage our wives! Confidentially, we're all too wimpy to touch them anyway.
Earl, Bob, Thad: *conferring* Alright, alright, Jesus. We'll conquer your damn kingdom if it'll make you happy. Ok, now that we're kings, how about those ribs?
4 webs. It's a great story, but I just can't get past those horrible time-travel effects. And that dragon was weak. Seriously weak.