Well, it's the 1980s. Sorry, that's just how it is. You're going to have to put shoulder pads in your jackets, use lots of mousse in your hair, drive a boxy K-car, and move heaven and Earth to force yourself to become interested in computers. You're in luck though, because you know who's here to help? Comic books!
Yes, comic books, long known for their delicate artistry and their cutting-edge graphic design sensibility, were early adopters of using digital technology to help make their final products ugly, unreadable messes. Who cares if computers are at least ten years away from being any use at all in the production of graphic storytelling? Certainly not computer nerds desperate to find some - ANY - use for their expensive, low-powered, ungainly Radio Shack boxes, which at the time had zero utility for the man in the street, or his comic book enjoyment.
Of course, these are 1980s comics we're talking about here, so concepts like "artistry" or "entertainment" were not exactly fundamental to the industry. But let's learn more about the amazing technology that may one day have all our comic books reaching the dizzying graphical heights of your typical handheld LCD game!
I'll have you know that Vector was produced using NAPLPS standard graphics, which are a hallmark of the Videotex industry, which is - get ready for this - computer data including text and images transmitted to your home through your phone line and viewed on your very own television! What will they think of next?
But enough future daydreaming, let's get on with the story of Vector which, as befits its cutting edge technology, will no doubt be a forward thinking, groundbreaking work of art that challenges as it entertains! Right?
Our high-technology Comic Of The Future begins with a guy putting his feet up at his desk, which contains some paper, some pens and pencils, an old fashioned typewriter, an open window... come on, this could be taking place in 1950, not 1986! Where's the 80s?
BAM! There's your 80s - the Human League haircut, the Professional Woman business outfit, and, of course, the Computer With Word Processor. It's the solution to your lack of a social life! Yes, back in the 80s they honestly felt that computers would enhance and encourage human socialization. I have bad news for you, 1980s.
Sure, it's 1986, you just buy the computer at the store, plug it in, and start writing your mystery stories. You don't need a printer or software, you don't need to check with your editor to find out what environment the publisher is using - are they using WordPerfect? MS Word? Or, god help you, SamnaWord? Gowan, just plug it in and get going. The guy at the store said "it's great!"
It takes Henry Vector, Mystery Writer, all of thirty seconds to realize that this thing is a toy and will not help his writing at all. However, as a time-wasting, productivity destroying device, the computer has no parallel!
Wow, the light from that cheap-ass CRT monitor is changing Henry's very form, from that of a crudely cartooned comic book character to that of... a crudely digi-painted cartoon character! Progress, ladies and gentlemen.
The low-res images seem to be... forming... an image... of an elevator, and buttons, and people... it's trying to tell me something... it's trying to tell me to go down to the arcade and play six games of Elevator Action, which is what this comic book costs, and which will give you vastly more entertainment than this comic book. Elevator Action. Remember to duck and/or jump, and don't get caught in the shaft when an elevator is coming down on you. Elevator Action... from Taito.
Not so much a "that old lady looks familiar" face as it is a "I hate all humans and being close to them for any reason disgusts me" face.
Wow, it's like the badly rendered graphics were predicting his badly drawn future!
Now, I'm no expert, but I'm pretty sure you can't stop a falling elevator by reaching through the ceiling panel and grabbing the hand brake. I'm also pretty sure that if I was a future-predicting computer, I would just display some text in English that read "hey stupid, don't use the elevator" or send a phone call to building security or the elevator maintenance company and have them take care of it, rather than put humans in deadly danger just to prove a point. But I'm not an expert. What do I know?
Oh, thank God the screeching halt of the plunging elevator didn't slam Henry Vector into the floor of the cage at tremendous velocity, breaking several vital bones and damaging organs throughout his body.
So after his amazing Elevator Action, man, that game was my favorite, afterwards Henry and Alice here take a visit back to the location of the computer store where Alice bought this fantastic elevator-accident-predicting device.
I can't wait until I'm retired and I can stand around on the sidewalk, smoking a big cigar in my wifebeater undershirt, hollering at strangers about mysterious vanishing computer stores.
Here's a handy way to keep things confusing in your comic book, keep new characters in the background so we can't see 'em and name them similarly to characters you already have. Alice, meet Al. Al, meet Alice. Everybody, meet the gigantic fifty-foot computer terminal.
Well, THERE's your problem, you bought a DRUID computer, you know, Druids, a race of wizards with advanced technology, according to "Looney McMadeup's History Of Fake Art."
Now that they know their new computer hardware is infested with the dark power of the bloody Celtic wizardry of ages past, steeped in horror and human sacrifice, what's the next step for our intrepid couple? Surely not spending the next day on the couch watching reruns?
Sadly their couch-potato day is ruined by gigantic apartment-destroying explosions. That'll do it every time.
Oh no look in the open doorway it's some kind of horrifying Mattel Intellivision game character - maybe even George Plimpton! Run!
proof of how awesomely powerful this computer warrior is - he smashes a door that WASN'T EVEN OPEN. That's pretty awesome! And our story is to be continued and we're gonna continue it right now, so make sure you backed up your work and that your monitor isn't overheating and we'll keep going!!
VECTOR ISSUE THREE: THE GREATEST RAVE EVER
Our story so far: Luke and Laura have evaded the Druid computer police throughout Chicago and have returned to the abandoned computer store and are going to get to the bottom of this mess, dang it. Vector has embodied the 8-bit... okay, 4-bit or maybe 2-bit graphics of his new elemental Atari 2600 powers a few times and feels confident his joystick skills will get them past whatever space invaders lie in their path. Also at this juncture I would like to point out that "vector" is a computer graphics term, and I would also like to point out that the graphics we see here are not vector graphics. But whatever, comics.
Together the Vectors ascend the spiral staircase in a few panels that highlight the ineptitude of a comic book series that can use NAPLPS Videotex technology, but can't quite master a set of circle templates.
They've gone full - no, it's not needlepoint, they are now existing completely within the Videotex Graphics environment, which, to be honest, has a simple charm lacking in the more traditional comic book art we've seen here so far. Score one for Videotex.
Apparently the Druid Computer Agents we saw earlier are named "Modem", which is an actual computer term somebody read about in a magazine at the dentist's office, but really isn't applicable to these guys, unless they generate annoying high pitched tones and move at speeds of up to 2400 baud.
It's just as the best marriage counselors always say, the couple that fights Druid computer people together, stays together! Fight some Druid computer people today.
But battling the seizure robots is strangely draining and our heroes fall to the "floor" of whatever weird digital Tron world they're currently in. Surely this is the climax of our amazing computer adventure!
Nope, they just wake back up, still in the computer world, that big fight was completely pointless, a waste of time in a three-issue comic book series that we are beginning to suspect could have been wrapped up in twelve pages. And I thought computers were supposed to make our lives more efficient!
Velcome, Vector, to Dimension V! We are Druids, who are NOT first-century pagan Celtic priests as seen in the fine documentary film "The Wicker Man", but are actually energy beings from another dimension! We suck energy from YOUR dimension into OUR dimension and then we eat it! Stonehenge was... you probably don't know what Stonehenge is, it's pretty obscure, let this comic explain Stonehenge to you in a contemptuous footnote, because this boring, ugly, pointless comic book thinks you're stupid.
Merely by pushing some buttons Vector became the energy pipeline to Dimension V, and now the Druids are gonna choke that power-transferring capacity right out of him, which to be honest Vector would probably be OK with, he's probably fine not having anything to do with transmitting energy to Dimension V.
Did you know that little Druids can combine Voltron-style into one giant Druid? I feel like I need to be mashing the fire button A LOT right now, this panel is really sparking all my 1980s arcade memory banks.
Aris! We don't know who you are or where you came from or why you're trying to help Vector by intoning the magic words "4-4-3-2 Mulligan Stew!" but take this! Zap! Noooo!
Vector must concentrate all his mighty mystery writing brain power into remembering how to program in BASIC and use "full force."
And there's a big explosion and that means you need to put in another quarter or hit "reset" on the Intellivision. This comic is over, right?
Wrong! They still have three pages to kill, so it's all about escaping the modems through the dimension hole. Strangely enough, "Escaping The Modems Through The Dimension Hole" was also the title of my 1992 electronic-music solo album. It sold okay, I guess.
At this point the comic is just throwing whatever it can at the reader to try and wrap things up. Random numbers, quarter forces, squinty concentrating faces, purples and blues and oranges, readers throwing this down in disgust and vowing to never purchase a computer, everything.
FINALLY another big space-wasting explosion. Take us away, sweet blast of silence!
And now... now we can go back to normal. No more energy-sucking Druids from Dimension V, no more computers that warn us of elevator accidents, no more abandoned computer stores on Wabash Ave, no more comic books drawn with computer software that is hilariously inadequate for the task. Harken well, future people, and let not the temptation of digital artwork consume you until said digital artwork is up to the task! And now, if you'll excuse me, it's off to the arcade. That Elevator Action isn't going to play itself!
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