In Bizarre Baseball Culture, I take a look at some of the more unusual places where baseball has reared it’s head in pop culture and fiction.
Ultimate Sports Force. It’s the beloved and now-defunct comic book company that gave us such classics as the Cal Ripken-led Shortstop Squad, the power-filled Cosmic Slam, the Sasquatch-filled Mariners Mojo, and the Yankee retelling (with gratuitous Cal Ripken appearance) of Cosmic Slam entitled Championship Challenge. Today, we look at a Ultimate Sports giveaway comic featuring the 2002 Indians, as we read Indians Strikeforce Versus the Scatman:
Yes, this is a comic in which C.C. Sabathia, Bartolo Colon, Danys Baez, and Ryan Drese have to protect Cleveland from somebody called the Scatman. It also has Bob Feller, now-retired clubhouse manager Cy Buynak, and MONKEYS MADE OUT OF MUSIC. Go below the jump to see some of the glories it brings:
We begin in Cleveland, it is April 14, 2002 (in reality, this day was a rainout, presumably they rescheduled the giveaway to another day). Yes, Cleveland, the Forest City. Home of the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. It’s time for the National Anthem at Jacobs Field…
OR NOT! Because, appearing out of nowhere, there is THE SCATMAN:
And now, the required go-through of the people responsible for this great work of art:
Steve Bryant and Jason Millet did the story and art. Bryant has since become a Eisner and Harvey-nominated writer and artist, most notably working on his pulp adventuress series Athena Voltaire and other works outside of the “Big Two” of comics (he did artwork for a 24 graphic novel, for example). Millet, meanwhile, has gone on to do work as a colorist and illustrator as various places, with his most recent work being as a colorist for Archie vs. Predator, which is actually a real comic and not something I made up. No, seriously, that’s a real comic.
As for the Colorists, I can’t find anything about Charles Jenkins, but Chad Fidler would later go on to do color work with Bryant on Athena Voltaire, according to my research.
But, more importantly: MUSICAL MONKEYS.
Comics have a long love affair with monkeys, and a long history with sound-based superbeings, but I doubt anyone has ever so greatly combined these two passions as Scatman here. I mean, using sound to create MUSICAL MONKEYS!?! That doesn’t make any sense, and yet is is perhaps the most awesome thing ever. Even better, he’s already hypnotized the crowd, and yet he still has to enter his speech about his MUSICAL MONKEYS. And, what’s more, on the next page (which I don’t have up here), he further refers to them as his SONIC SIMIAN SIDEKICKS.
MUSICAL MONKEYS. SONIC SIMIAN SIDEKICKS.
Already, this comic is off to a great start. And it’s just getting started, as clubhouse manager Cy Buynak (who retired in 2006) takes advantage of having been in the clubhouse safe from the hypnosis to run in after the Scatman leaves (ON THE BACK OF A FLYING MUSICAL MONKEY) to snap the 2002 Cleveland rotation out of it, bring them to a secret superhero base under Jacobs Field, and have them meet up with Bob Feller. Yes, Bob Feller, who apparently just sort of was waiting down there:
As you can see, Bob tells them that for years, the Indians have operated as superheroes, and that he and Lou Boudreau saved the world back in 1948. I’d like to imagine that in some other universe, there exist comics that cover these Cleveland super-teams over the years, but, alas, this universe lacks such artifacts.
So, suited up, the Strikeforce fly off to save the day:
Yes, that’s Bartolo Colon leading C.C. Sabathia, Danys Baez and Ryan Drese as they fly from Jacobs Field in super-suits. Note that they all have bats, despite the fact they are pitchers. Also note how the supersuit has given all of them awesome muscles. I mean, Bartolo wasn’t as big in Cleveland as he is now, but, he definitely didn’t look like that.
They fly to a local theater, where the Scatman and his MUSICAL MONKEYS are preparing to loot some concertgoers. Only this time, he calls them POLYPHONIC PRIMATES!
Thankfully, the Strikeforce arrives, which leads to a big spread of a fight that includes C.C. Sabathia saying “Can’t… breathe…. too many… MONKEYS!” and Danys Baez asks for a banana. Really:
All hope seems lost, but there is one grand strategist in the group, who sees there is only one way to defeat the Scatman. This brave tactician knows immediately what must be done to say the city of Cleveland from the MUSICAL MONKEYS.
That man, is, of course, Bartolo Colon:
Telling his great stratagem to C.C. and the others, he then executes it…. by having him and C.C. run away:
So, Danys Baez and Ryan Drese are left to their own devices, helpless against the forves of the MUSICAL MONKEYS. One of them makes a Planet of the Apes joke. All hope seems lost. It appears that Scatman has won the day…
But then a “super-charged rosin bag” hits Scatman in the back of the head, and, with his concentration blown, his MUSICAL MONKEYS disappear and Bartolo more-or-less captures Scatman singlehandedly:
So, then the comic wraps up pretty quickly. C.C. Sabathia chews out Scatman for interrupting the National Anthem, they get the loot back to it’s real owners, there’s a gratuitous post-9/11 patriotic montage, and, finally, we get a picture of the four starters lining up for the game:
And that’s it.
As you can see, after the great initial set-up, the rest of the book sort of proves lacking, a by-the-numbers tale of heroes thwarting the villain. But, man, that is quite the set-up: a sound villain (pun intended), MUSICAL MONKEYs, a secret hidden history of Cleveland baseball superheroes, Bob Feller!
And, c’mon, this has Bartolo Colon leading a superhero team. WHAT MORE DO YOU NEED!?!?!
NEXT TIME ON BIZARRE BASEBALL CULTURE: Shipping off to Diamond City
Previously on BIzarre Baseball Culture:
Prologue: “Rockets on the Mound” (short story)
20. Shortstop Squad
21. Cosmic Slam
23. Mariners Mojo
32. Mr. Go
36. Dick Cole
47. Cleveland Indians Strikeforce vs. The Scatman (You are here)
You can purchase some previous stories featured in Bizarre Baseball Culture here!