In Retrospect, #53 Wasn’t So Bad

Out of the 1572 posts I’ve done on the ISB, the one where I review the issue of the Project Fanboy Award-winning Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose where the Skeleton man does battle with a haunted vagina is far and away the most popular.

Six months later, however, and I’ve got a confession to make: As popular as that post is, it’s partially based on a lie. The line “You have to get out of here! Your vagina is haunted!”, while quite possibly the most brilliant thing to come out of Tarot, is certainly not the worst.

For that, we have to go to this one.

 

 

Yes, January 2007′s Tarot #42, which features a story called “Hex in the City,” a pun that in some countries would be punishable by law.

Instead, we’re in store for for 22 pages of a story that opens with this, a piece that art historians will someday refer to as Skeleton Man in Repose:

 

 

This is, of course, cemetery caretaker Jon Webb, alias Skeleton Man. He’s Tarot’s boyfriend, and is also The Worst Super-Hero Ever, whose powers include seeing ghosts, making them solid, and lounging around in full-blown splay. His function in Tarot generally seems to be limited to having things explained to him, comic relief, and the occasional kidnapping, which sort of gives credence to the idea that Jim Balent really is subverting the usual male and female roles in comics, and is pulling off the greatest Tony Clifton act in comics history, an interesting theory that is only contradicted by everything else about the comic. Incidentally, Jon also looks exactly like Jim Balent, who I heard used to make his living as a gravedigger before breaking into art.

Meanwhile, Tarot, the de facto star of the book, is of course naked and having trouble sleeping, due to a vision that she had of one of the tarot cards from which she takes her name. This time around, it was The Tower, and in the complex, mystical language of magick, that represents… a tower.

Like, a literal one.

Blowing up.

In New York City.

 

 

And if you think that’s the part that’s bad, then brother, buckle up. We’re not even close yet.

Anyway, after some hemming and hawing about not wanting to take her inept boyfriend off on one of her adventures, Tarot and Jon decide to head to New York, and suit up. Jon of course is in full regalia in the space of one panel, but Tarot, as you might imagine by this point, puts on her mask, gloves, boots, and cape before the panties and bra that make up the rest of her costume. Why? Because getting dressed the way she wants to is more empowering, especially if she’s sitting with her legs spread perpendicular to her torso while she does it.

She does eventually finish getting dressed though, and before long it’s off to the source of all their trouble:

 

 

“Kitty City! The name that the Three Little Kittens call their headquarters!” Cool sentence, bro!

I’ve mentioned the 3 Little Kittens before, but for those of you just joining us, here’s a refresher:

Back in 2002, right around the time that Tarot was being moved behind the counter in a lot of stores due to adult content, Jim Balent expanded the BroadSword Comics Universe with a three-issue series starring an ersatz Charlie’s Angels trio in cat-themed fetish outfits named Catress, Jaguara, and–sigh–”Kitty Pop,” with “Mommy Cat” standing in for Bosley.

The story involved a rejected Kitten named Latex Red whose jealousy over Catress’s larger bust–breast-jealousy being the driving force in the BroadSword universe–prompted her to get implants that are ridiculously huge even by Balentine standards, put on a devil-themed fetish costume, recruit a gang of “Satanic Cheerleaders,” and seek revenge. It was, of course, promoted as “An All-Ages Adventure Comic.”

Sadly, that was their only feature, but they have made a couple of appearances in Tarot, most notably in the story where they’re transporting Saddam Hussein through Salem on Halloween.

And now you’re back up to speed, although it’s entirely possible that you wish you weren’t.

Thus, Tarot flies Jon up to the roof, and we get a good look at the very serious events that could result in disaster:

 

 

Yep. An all-out battle between the 3LK and Latex Red and her crew of flunkies, who are currently dressed in bikinis made of teddy bears and snapping taser-towels at each other in the culmination of more fetishes than I can count.

The fight–which includes both Latex Red attacking Catress’s breats with her riding crop for three panels in a row and Skeleton Man literally taking one of the bikini girls over his knee to give her a spanking–comes on the heels of the 3LK foiling a terrorist attack and taking possession of a nuclear bomb that Latex Red wants for herself, her own nuclear breast implants having been presumably removed after the events of Tarot #29–yes, really–but in the course of the fight…

 

 

…it gets activated.

Catress can’t disarm it, and Tarot, suffering from plot-induced power-loss, can’t do anything to help, which, at this point, might just be the most frustrating part of the story thus far. She has magical super-powers, but offers nothing but a lame excuse about how if she teleports the bomb, someone else’ll still have to deal with it. Which is sort of true, but seems like an odd limit on her abilities. Admittedly, teleporting it to the heart of the sun might be a bit out of her range, but if she could take it to “the Fairy Relam,” couldn’t she at least send that shit to Bikini Atoll or something? But no, she doesn’t, and it’s up to the Skeleton Man to save the day, which essentially means they’re screwed.

And then this happens.

 

 

The ghosts of the firefighters who died on 9/11 show up and defuse the bomb.

And then they make a pun about it.

 

 

The sound you just heard might’ve been the dull thud of your jaw hitting the floor.

70 thoughts on “In Retrospect, #53 Wasn’t So Bad

  1. Okay, this I’ve actually read… I think. I mean, how many crossovers between Tarot and those cat girls can there really be?

    And it only gets more ham-handed later on. Spoiler: THAT’S NOT THE REAL JAGUARA EXCEPT YES IT IS KIND OF.

  2. Is there an in-story reason why Tarot has no arms in that last panel?

    There are very few in-story reasons given in Tarot, period.

    And it only gets more ham-handed later on. Spoiler: THAT’S NOT THE REAL JAGUARA EXCEPT YES IT IS KIND OF.

    You’re thinking of the story with Saddam Hussein that’s linked above, but I have the same problem. I was trying to describe this issue to people at HeroesCon and the stories just blended together.

  3. That may indeed be the worst comic book I’ve ever seen. At least #53 had some unintentional (if also nauseating) comedy. This was just…I mean…the…the…damn. Couldn’t you have just hit me in the head with a mallet, or posted that link to Marvel vs. Capcom 2 music again? Either one would cause less brain damage.

  4. I remember you mentioning this once. It was a long time ago, but it was pretty much seared into my memory forever, and I knew someday, I’d have to confront it. I’m strangely comforted by the fact that the art is so much more amateurish than I’m used to from Balent.

  5. Also: This blog says it is valid XHTML, (in the “meta” sidebar) but the front page contains 673 errors and 53 warnings.

    Not bothering to write valid xhtml is entirely defensible, but claiming to be valid while flagrantly not is really not cool. If you’re not going to write valid xhtml, then you really should remove that link, as well as the doctype in the header.

  6. Man, I was all set to come in here and praise Chris for his willingness to jump on the Tarot grenade…

    But now that I know his website has LIED about having valid XHTML? Well, that is just the LAST STRAW.

    God bless you, bbot. You’re fighting the good fight. The fight none uf us have the guts to fight.

  7. I think bbot is right. XHTML errors are worse than 9/11. And the fact that Sims isn’t “bothering” to do it right, and is instead “flagrantly” doing it wrong? That’s worse than raping the memory of the 9/11 dead as a titty-comic deux ex machina. Sheesh.

  8. Keep in mind that Chris Sims is an artist, and what you perceive as “errors” are actually examples of the way Mr. Sims subverts the traditional validity of attributes in XHTML. He’s not incorrectly using general entities; he’s EMPOWERING them. It’s a one-man crusade against the heterogeneity of hypertext.

  9. What is this I don’t even

    (Hey, you said “Cool sentence, bro”, I had to respond in kind.)

  10. “Help me Green Lantern, I have no arms.”

    bbot, are you saying that since the code has errors, Chris should remove a link to a validator that checks the code?

  11. I gotta get me a new internet moniker. People might get to thinking I’m somehow associated with this ‘Skeleton Man’.

  12. Ouch!

    Ok, here’s how Balent can save it. Add another panel after the pun that looks the same except everyone is just staring at Skeleton Man. No dialog.

  13. I’m strangely comforted by the fact that the art is so much more amateurish than I’m used to from Balent.

    Balent’s art style hasn’t actually progressed all that much since his catwoman days, he’s just recently used a lot of phototracing and then drawn two huge circles over the torso.

    Holly’s colours have gotten really good though, I will say that much.

  14. yeah… When I read the title of this entry, I thought you had seen too much goofy and snapped… but no. You’re right on the money. Haunted vaginas are one thing, but this has just put “tasteless” on a whole new level.

    wow.

    -kat

  15. I wanted to make a joke, but the bit with the firefighters is honestly one of the most tasteless things I’ve ever seen.

  16. Yeah, I’m torn between objectivity and my religious/political beliefs here. However, I can’t tell if it’s a failed attempt to honor the 9/11 lost or purposely piss on their memory for the sake of a plot device.

  17. … At the risk of offending some, the dull thud I heard wasn’t my jaw. It was my whole body. Rolling on the floor. Laughing. This is the (second) most brain-dead comic I’ve ever known.
    Balent is either the industry’s greatest troll, or he’s at the sublime border between wear-your-underwear-on-your-head retardedness and stark raving lunacy if he didn’t realise just how offensive this is.
    Whatever possessed him to believe he could actually WRITE comics?

    PS: For those asking, my #1 crappiest comic spot is occupied by the ridiculously incoherent crapfest that is “Warrior”. Especially with its insane Christmas special.

  18. I’m fairly sure Balent made a deal with the devil. In return for his soul he gets to publish a comic where absolutely anything that trips through his mind gets put down on paper and sold to the public.
    *fingers crossed for an extra female empowering issue where Tarot faces off against a woman who dosn’t require scaffolding to keep her breasts from knocking her out when she fights*

  19. Weird. Mark Millar and Steve McNiven having The Heroes of 9/11 tackle Captain America at the climax of “Civil War” no longer seems all that lame to me.

  20. Well I for one want to thank Chaz Simes for posting this patriotic tribute to our boys, the troops, and 9/11, on today July 4th aka INDEPENDENCE DAY THE DAY WE FIGHT BACK. Those firemen are protecting our right to enjoy wonderful internets like this on today more than any other day except maybe Christmas.

    Now I’m going to go all Joey Chestnut on Artie Simek. THANKS AMERICA!

  21. Maybe the ghosts of the web developers who died on the tragic day can fix the code!

  22. The ISB: Where cousin-fucking can be justified, but not invalid HTML.

    Finally! A place that gets it! *calls up some programmer cousins to invite them to the ISB*

    But, uh… wait… if the ghosts of dead firemen are protecting the city, what about all those firemen who died before 2001? Why didn’t they protect the city from 9/11 in the first place?

  23. I never noticed before, but why does the “New Hotness” link read “The Stark, Existential Horror of Tarot #54″?

  24. Skemono, they’ve been focusing their energy on trying to protect the city from Broadsword Comics, with no help from Sims.

  25. Yeah, this is horrible, lopsided excuse for a comic. Having said that, the ghosts of the 911 rescuers returning from the netherworld to save their city yet again… is kind of awesome.

    Even in a series that had the, y’know. Saddaam thing.

  26. It is quite obvious that as far as this comic goes the first syllable in Tarot is meant to be silent, and the O pronounced as a short O instead of a long one.

  27. Kiddie City used to be a toy store chain back in the 80′s. I still remember the jingle, “Lionel Kiddie City turns that frown..upside down!”

    Was Balent going for a Haunted Tank(vagina) or Angel of Mons type of theme here, with the spirits of heroes gone by helping the living?

  28. I’m going to read 30 issues of Archie Digest, to wash this out of my brain.

    By Yimminy.

  29. No mention of the awesome face-kick?
    and i dunno… this seems pretty fun. like Action Age, only with more fanservice

  30. Unnnnngh.

    Jim Balent, in twenty years, I hope you read through this again and realize PUTTING DEAD 911 FIREFIGHTERS IN THE SAME COMIC BOOK AS FETISH MCNASTY MAY NOT HAVE BEEN A WISE OR TASTEFUL IDEA

  31. No. That sound was the punch in the stomach that awful line gave me.

    And do NY firefighters generally know how to defuse bombs?

  32. Are you kidding me? Calling the FDNY to defuse a bomb is practically overkill in this town. I live a block away from a firehouse (where they lost eight good men that day) and they would totally diffuse it for me, but normally I would just take it to the hair salon downstairs where they have a complementary bucket of sand for just such occasions.

    -Yeah, pretty tasteless “tribute” to honor our fallen firefighters, but I’m sure most of them liked big boobs and women who are into people that wear rubber, so they may not have totally hated the book or anything.

    -Citizen Scribbler

  33. Bikinis made of teddy bears. Yeah, okay, that’s worse than the haunted vagina thing.

  34. Since no one else will say it, I will…

    Give Balent credit for making his Gary Sue character the comic relief, rather than a masturbatory lead role. I want to believe that Skeleton Man is the worst superhero ever on purpose.

  35. Jesus Christ.

    And just to complain about utter minutia (because I can’t even begin to process the fact that someone might have thought that the dead of 9/11 should pop up in Tarot): Something can’t “literally represent” either it figuratively represents or it literally is.

  36. At least there will always be the Superman cover where the Man of Steel looks up at a mural of fire fighters and says “Wow!”

  37. I refuse to believe that Jim Balent is that ripped. I also refuse to look up any pictures of him to see if I’m right.

  38. You posted that picture of Skeleton Man just to get back at all of us that reap joy from your suffering, didn’t you?

  39. Something I just noticed in that last panel. Balent draws the the (presumably) painted on jawbone of Skeleton Man’s mask as a three dimensional object. Just saying is all….

    Chris, I love it when you read shitty comics.

  40. What a wonderful tribute to our firefighting heroes. Mainstream comic companies like Marvel and DC remember the heroes of 9/11 when there was money and publicity in it for them. Jim Balent doesn’t need a special occasion to remember our lost guardians. I hope they can become recurring characters and helpmates for Tarot. But some of the firefighters should be female. Plenty of empowered strong women lost their lives that day too.

  41. The whole thing is nuclear-meltdown bad, but let’s face it, Skeleton man has a bitchin’ costume.

  42. Skeleton Man does indeed have a bitchin’ costume.

    I’ve read a couple of issues, and it’s not that the art is bad, it’s that it’s inconsistently bad. Have you noticed that the quality on the first few pages is always better than the last ones?

    Also, I’ve started reading these now to see if they’re as bad as they seem. (they are.) Thanks, Chris Sims. Thanks a lot.




    …even I’m not sure if I’m being sarcastic or not. There is a special kind of joy in describing to people how bad it really is.

  43. You guys are some serious lightweights! Tarot’s trashy as hell, but it at least has the so bad it makes you laugh appeal found it B-movies. I have seen MUCH, much worse. Like seriously, go read the fisrt issue of Hellina. Makes Tarot look like fine art!