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Okay, who brought the Jell-O? – I Spy #3

September 13, 2011

I’ve never watched an episode of I Spy all the way through. The Bill Cosby I was raised on was the one that played the obstetrician patriarch of the affluent Huxtable family, the one that wore an increasingly seizure-inducing series of sweaters and relentlessly hawked Pudding Pops. It’s sometimes hard to remember the Cosby of today, an elderly gent who’s taken on the role of national scold (and who may or may not have molested drugged women), as a dashing figure enmeshed in the world of international espionage, but so he was, alongside television thoroughbred Robert Culp.

Tennis playing spies. Wearing cardigans. You have to love it.

Their accompanying comic adventures come across in much the same way as those of fellow TV members of the Gold Key stable, like the Adam-12 boys and the Dark Shadows troupe. The latter had vampires. Hard to top that. The former had stories that were perhaps a little goofier but nevertheless just as stiff as the original material. I Spy at least had the advantage of exotic ever-changing global locales to serve as backdrops. This issue (Script: Paul S. Newman, Art: Alden McWilliams) is set in Venice, a treasure-trove of vistas for Kelly (Culp) and Scotty (Cosby) if there ever was one:

The boys meet up with a fetching contact who gives them their mission: find an old friend of Kelly’s and kill him. They’re then put through the standard gauntlet of near-death gondola-infused contretemps:

They go round and round until it turns out that they shouldn’t kill Kelly’s old pal, and discover that the dame who put them on his trail is actually working for the other side. Double-dealing in the world of espionage? Who woulda thunk it? The resulting showdown provides the opening for one of the best gun sound effects I’ve ever come across:

That, friends, is a literal laugh out loud moment.

Yes. You read that right. She unloaded with her burp-gun. Just be thankful she didn’t bring any of her fart grenades.

Well.

I can’t say that I’m nuts about these Gold Key TV tie-ins. They’re kind of neat as artifacts of bygone small-screen days, but on their own they’re not all that hot. The scripts can plod along like Clydesdales, and the art is often a bit wooden (though some of the action work here is fairly good, I have to admit). Then again, this issue gave the world a belching automatic weapon. We owe it a debt of gratitude.

BURRPPPPP.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 16, 2011 6:04 am

    Cool show for a brief moment, with excellent self-deprecating but not camp dialogue between Cosby and Culp the highlight. Unfortunately it ran into stiff competition for boomer kids on Friday night. IIRC, Coz was the first black regular character on an hourlong drama; radical stuff in the mid-60s. Google “burp gun”, it refers to a particular Soviet submachine gun of the 1950s and 1960s, as familiar to my generation as “Kalashnikov” would be to Xers.

    • September 16, 2011 12:21 pm

      Well aware of I Spy‘s significance. It’s been discussed so many times in so many fora, like the first (forced) interracial kiss on Star Trek.

      You know, even if the burp gun is real, I still think it might be wiser for a comic to have a “rat-tat-tat” sound effect or the like rather than something that conjures up images of portly uncles after big meals. Even if it’s semi-accurate. Maybe I’m an uneducated sot, but every time I look at that panel I crack up.

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