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Not even a gun-wielding Spider-Man could save Sledge Hammer’s doomed comic book – Sledge Hammer! #2

July 17, 2012

I suppose you could put this opposite The Twilight Zone on the spectrum of television shows turned comics.

What’s that? You don’t remember Sledge Hammer!? One of the more bizarre little slices of comedy to ever grace/pollute network airwaves? FOR SHAME. In fairness, though, it came and went so fast, it may have slipped past many of you. Or others — and this is depressing — might not even have been alive during the 1986-88 window when it was on the air. We therefore need some explaining before we get to just how Spider-Man got entangled in a comic book adaptation of said series. JUST WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE?

I’m not expert on the show, but it had few bigger fans than single-digit me when it first came out. To my refined eight-year old sense of humor, the law enforcement exploits of Inspector Sledge Hammer, a Dirty Harry clone with no sense of P.C. and little regard for Miranda rights, were the height of prime time comedy. David Rasche filled the title role, deadpanning his way through his buffoonery in the same way that Leslie Nielsen did in the much zanier, much funnier, similarly punctuated, and much more rapidly cancelled Police Squad!. He had a big, sexually suggestive gun. He had an exasperated Captain. He had an attractive female partner He had terrible sports coats that looked like they were tailored from the fabric of a couch that had been sitting on a fraternity’s front porch. So all the cop show boxes were checked off, and the show was filled with commentary on the entertainment tropes and societal shifts of the time.

But it barely held on after its first season, and at the close of the second it was kaput. To put it in some wordplay worthy of the show: The hammer fell on Hammer. Maybe it was the Friday scheduling (the infamous Friday Death Slot) that killed it. Maybe the world just wasn’t ready for Sledge. Or maybe it just wasn’t all that funny. Looking back now, I have a hard time finding a laugh while sifting through random (and purportedly hilarious) clips. It’s NO LAUGH DEATH. But that’s just me looking at out of context material. Hopefully others can still find the humor in it. If so, great. More power to you if you can.

Then there was this comic series. I’m not sure what made Marvel think that a half-hour comedy show, one that barely made it into season two, would be ripe for porting over to the print realm, but someone had the bright idea. And so it was greenlit, and saw the light of day in the midst of the show’s second season. There were only two issues, both fairly awful reads (more on that in a moment) and forgettable, but the second had the merit (or demerit) of the cover you see above. Yes, the good name of Spider-Man was webbed in to help defribrillate this bitch. To their credit, the Marvel folks made it fairly clear (as if the gun didn’t clue folks in at first blush) that this wasn’t the real Spider-Man that was guest-starring. But still…

Jim Salicrup wrote while Alex Saviuk and Sam de la Rosa provided the art here. I don’t want to bash them over the heads, because this is one of those Impossible Task books. Who in God’s name wants to read a Sledge Hammer! comic book? What was the audience here? These poor souls were exiled to the desert and told to grow watermelons. It was a Herculean task to take the comedy of the show and faithfully carry it over. An uphill slog.

They were set up to fail, and make no mistake, fail they did.

The comic is horrible. If you found the show dull, then the comic might have been enough to knock you into a fugue. Most of the problems come from the script. Once again, not to bash Salicrup, who could turn in fantastic stuff (like the monstrously potent Spider-Man molestation tale), but the writing here fails like the proverbial lead balloon. This thing chokes with dialogue. You need to keep humor short. I mean, the TV show was a half-hour sitcom, not Roots. We don’t need giant James Joyce blocks of words to glaze our eyes. Stately, plump Sledge Hammer… Brevity is the current through which wit flows, and this is far from that. FAR. I literally had to set this comic down multiple times and then return to it to wade my way through. It was a slog, like hacking through a jungle. Take, for instance, this one page, which finds a recently de-gunned Sledge pulling a Mel Gibson from Lethal Weapon with a potential suicide:

The word balloon ratio seems excessively high, no?

The wordiness would be one thing if there was a story, if this was an installment of Alan Moore’s From Hell or something. But this is a Sledge Hammer! book. Come on. We have things to do, you know? Said (un)story has a lady wrestler (who somehow comes back from the dead after falling about forty stories onto the hood of a car, leaving — one imagines — a puddled corpse that would make even the most jaded coroner retch), a prison warden named Warden (Warden Warden), and, of course, a crook disguised as Spider-Man (with little dots in the whites of his eyes to help differentiate him from the real thing). Here’s Sledge giving the imposter his final comeuppance:

I suppose we shouldn’t really complain about the appropriation of “Spider-Man” for this. It loosely fits into the pop culture commentary that the series strove for, even if it makes little to no sense in a story that makes even less sense. I mean, there’s absolutely no reason for a crook to dress up like Spider-Man. Is he trying to go unnoticed? One thinks that a Spider-Man costume would be easily spottable. JUST MAYBE. Is he trying to masquerade as the real Spider-Man? Despite some confusing dialogue, the comic Sledge Hammer! universe doesn’t appear to cross streams with the Marvel reality, as Sledge at one point refers to the switch to the black costume in Secret Wars. Unless this is a pocket universe where comics, heroes and Hammer all coexist in a OKAY ENOUGH ALREADY. I really don’t care.

This isn’t a comic book that’s supposed to be taken seriously. It isn’t Maus. I get that. But it’s nevertheless dreadful. Light-hearted humor isn’t supposed to be so wordy, so choked with junk. If the young me — the same one who LOVED the show — had come across this comic, I/he would have flung it out the window. Or fed it to the dog. Some grim fate. If I want Spider-Manish humory comics, I’ll stick with Spider-Ham, thank you very much.

Sledge Hammer! is out of DVD. I don’t think I’ll be buying it any time soon, but if you were a fan at one point and forgot all about it, maybe check it out again. But if you see this comic in a back bin, it’s perfectly safe to flip right past it. Nothing to see here.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 17, 2012 8:21 pm

    This comic existed because New World Pictures, producers of the Sledge Hammer, also owned Marvel at the time. And now you know!

    • July 18, 2012 12:05 am

      Thanks for that. But if that’s the A that led to B, then why weren’t we besieged by Killer Tomatoes comics and The Wonder Years: The Comic Book?

  2. March 30, 2013 2:49 pm

    Holiest of holy smokes, not only did I LOVE the Sledge Hammer television series, but I also dug the comic. For whatever reason, this cover, with “Spider-Man” shooting at Sledge has always been burned into my brain.

    I’ve long since lost or given away my copies of this series. I may have to seek them out.

    • fourcolorcult permalink
      March 30, 2013 2:56 pm

      As an addendum, my buddy bought the DVD sets about 3 or 4 years ago and it kept us laughing the whole way through. Admittedly, some of them were laughs heavy on the groan, and both of us ARE easily amused, but on the whole, I thought it help up rather well.

      Obviously, your mileage may vary.

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