You know those terrible links you see floating around the web that scream, “28 Awkward Child Stars That Are Now Crazy Hot?” This is one of those. Sort of.
Back in the 1980s, Marvel rolled out a kid-focused imprint called Star Comics. Aside from Peter Porker, The Spectacular Spider-Ham, most of the Star titles have been long forgotten. But one of the imprint’s lamest characters has been back in the mainline Marvel Universe for a little while.
Here’s what happened this morning: I’m scrolling through new comics from this week that I haven’t read yet and see Drax #8. The cover’s foreground features salty space vagabond Pip the Troll, a Jim Starlin-created mainstay who often appears in Marvel’s various cosmic storylines. There’s also a guy who at first quick glance looks like Adam Warlock, another Starlin character whose brooding, philosophical early adventures made him one of my favorites. Pip and Adam Warlock? I’m there.
I haven’t been reading Drax but decide to jump in cold, thinking I’ll go read back issues later if I find myself confused. Several pages in, Drax calls the red-tunic-wearing dude Planet Terry.
“Ha ha, deep cut, writers CM Punk and Cullen Bunn,” I think, wondering what status quo change might have led to Adam Warlock being the butt of jokes. But, no. As I keep on reading, it becomes apparent that Red Tunic is actually—for-real-life, as my daughter would say—Planet Terry. They ain’t joking.
In a line of bad comics, Planet Terry was one of the worst. Launched in 1984, Star Comics was a collection of toy and cartoon tie-in projects (Starhawks, Chuck Norris: Karate Kommandos), goofy mutations of the publisher’s established superheroes (Spider-Ham) and blatant rip-offs of other companies’ successes (Royal Roy was basically Richie Rich). The character named via a bad pun was just the tip of Planet Terry’s awkward execution iceberg. The main plot of the series was rooted in classic child-hero tragedy: Terry traveled the spaceways, looking for long-lost parents that he’d never met. However, the tragedy was undercut by hammy gag-writing that wasn’t going to land well with its intended audience.
Exhibit A: these scenes from the first issue of Planet Terry.
Harsh one, diaper-wearing aliens.
Who thought it was a good idea to have an antenna-ed homage to legendary Borscht Belt comedian Henny Youngman in a kids’ comic?
You couldn’t think of a word to express dislike? Y’all were just telling Terry to scram a few pages ago. Not that big of a linguistic leap, guys. So far, we’ve got lame, made-up, letter-salad alien language, trope-y interventionist-space-explorer beats and anti-sympathy for the orphan hero. Know what this kids’ comic needs? Vavavoom girl robot jokes with a sad note of AI obsolescence.
There’s more wince-inducing stuff in Planet Terry #1 but let’s move on. The series’ main character reappeared in an 2009 X-Babies miniseries, looking like he took that alien meanness to heart.
Terry was still shown as a kid in X-Babies but he’s all grown up in his re-emergence in the Drax series. His surprise return happened at the end of Drax #6.
No one really remembers Planet #*$&@ Terry, which hurts his feelings.
Being a fan of the way that Venture Bros. has riffed on the ‘terribly aged boy hero’ idea with Dr. Venture, Action Johnny and Jonny Quest himself, I like the use of Planet Terry in the last few issues of Drax. It’s a fun instance of digging into cobwebbed portions of the Marvel character stable and making a flubbed experiment useful more than 30 years later, seeing as how his appearance got me to pick up a comic I hadn’t been reading.
I kinda hope he doesn’t die a funny, humiliating death anytime soon.