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A comic begat by the TV show that also begat John Travolta. YOU’RE WELCOME, EARTH. – Welcome Back, Kotter #2

May 16, 2012

Welcome Back, Kotter was on the airwaves before my TV watching days. My first encounter with this 1970s John Travolta launching pad was a decade-plus later sketch on Saturday Night Live, where an all-grown up Barbarino was hosting that show and was in a great sketch called “Quentin Tarantino’s Welcome Back, Kotter.” (A sketch worth seeing mainly for Adam Sandler’s goofy grin as Epstein during the Reservoir Dogs-inspired intro.) I recognize that the show had a following and a number of breakout characters and catchphrases, but my limited viewing of it left me cold. Sitcoms — unless their name is Honeymooners — have the hardest time holding up over time, and Kotter was/is no different.

So maybe the show isn’t up in the stratoshpere of greatest shows ever. But hey, did M*A*S*H have a comic? No. No it didn’t. And this site would be incomplete without a brief trip through the comic series’ pages.

The main reason I chose this issue (Script: Elliot (S!) Maggin, Art: Jack Sparling) over any of the other nine that formed the series’ limited run is that, within its confines, the renowned Sweathogs defy the laws of New York and gravity to play a prank on the curmudgeonly principal, Mr. Woodman. Remember in Animal House when Flounder, Bluto and D-Day put Niedermeyer’s horse in Dean Wormer’s office? Well, the boys here decide to do the same, but substitute Woodman’s car for the equine prop. You might think to yourself, “Wow, I’d sure like to know how regular teenagers could get a car into a cramped little office without the benefit of superpowers. I’m sure it was an elaborate scheme, complete with Mr. Science-ish levers, pulleys, weights and counterweights.” WRONG. You’ll find no such answers here, as Newton’s Law can apparently be disengaged at will on Earth-Kotter:

I used to work with my father — a home-builder — in the summertime, and when we’d put siding on a house he’d set up this rickety staging with ladders, braces and long wooden planks like the ones seen above. The wood had a lot of give, to put it mildly, and it always felt like I was one step away from plummeting into the welcome arms of a Worker’s Comp claim. Perhaps the planks the Sweathogs use are hewn from petrified trees. Or Woodman drives an Adobe. Whatever.

Apart from that, things follow a cookie-cutter trajectory seen in countless episodes of this show and others — sans of course the laughtrack. In addition to Horshack’s guffaws and Epstein’s notes, much of the standard situational comedy is replicated within:

IT LOOKS LIKE HE HAS BREASTS! HARHARHARHAR! (Not sure if those are typos or puns or inside jokes in there or what. I’m sure that I don’t care, though.)

I was impressed with this bit, as a catchphrase of the time was repurposed so that Kotter could essentially tell Woodman to cram it up his ass:

Ass-allusions aren’t often found in comics, especially comics from this era. Just saying.

Finally, I thought readers might like some “Sweat Hog Scratchings,” with brief bios of the cast. It would have been eerie prescience if whoever wrote these had incorporated “Will be dogged by rumors that he is gay throughout his career” in the Travolta blurb — and LOGO BORDERS MEAN NOTHING TO EPSTEIN’S UNTAMABLE HAIR:

I’ll give Sparling — who did adaptations as disparate as Adam-12 and The Dirty Dozen — his due for providing reasonable likenesses of the familiar faces of the show. Barbarino’s gigantic mug looked like Travolta’s gigantic mug, for whatever that’s worth. And Maggin, credited without the S! here, does what he can in giving the world of James Buchanan High a degree of Riverdale elan. Problem is, I just don’t care that much about the source material. Others who were around to enjoy the show on its first run around the block might feel differently. If so, mazel. Go with God.

There. Welcome Back, Kotter. Done and done.

One Comment leave one →
  1. November 29, 2014 10:29 am

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I truly appreciate your efforts and I am waiting for your further
    write ups thanks once again.

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