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.
There is a man. A man unlike any other other. He’s not really a man, he’s more like a anthropomorphic water-pitcher filled with Kool-Aid. He is the Kool-Aid Man, and he is the subject of this installment of Bizarre Baseball Culture:
Obligatory Background information:
There are scant details on who, exactly, was behind this comic. It was only available to people who sent in enough proof of purchase, and other comics would follow, but in some ways that is the extent of hard information I have on it. For example there are no credits in this comic, as far as I can tell, but Comicvine lists some. Now, Comicvine is a wiki-style place where anybody can add stuff, so it might be incorrect, but if it is correct then….
- The writing was done by Jim Salicrup. Mostly an editor for Marvel, Salicrup also wrote other tie-in comics and adaptations, so it makes some sense that he’d be the guy writing this. Salicrup now is the Editor-in-Chief of a company called Papercutz, which makes graphic novels based off of properties like the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and the like.
- The artist was the late Dan DeCarlo, who mostly was known for his work on Archie Comics, where he was the co-creator of Josie and The Pussycats and Sabrina the Teenage Witch.
- The inking was done by Joe Giella, who inked many of the “Silver Age” comics at DC during the 50s and 60s and more recently has been the artist on the Mary Worth comic strip.
- Coloring was done by Stan Goldberg and/or Marie Severin (it’s possible that one of them did the story I’m covering in this and the other did the non-baseball story). If Goldberg was involved with this, he might be the biggest name to do coloring on a Bizarre Baseball Culture so far, as he was the silent third partner on the Marvel Comics teams of Stan Lee & Jack Kirby (Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Hulk, etc.) and Stan Lee & Steve Ditko (Spider-Man). In other words, if you like the particular shade of red on Spider-Man’s costume, that very well may have been Stan Goldberg’s doing. Severin is also something of a comic legend, who began her career doing coloring in EC (not DC) Comics’ 1950s romance, war and horror books before moving to Marvel, where she did both art and coloring, including co-creating Spider-Woman in 1977.
- And doing the cover was, of all people, John Romita Sr. It sort of blows my mind that as big a name as John Romita would do the cover of a comic about the Kool-Aid Man. Romita was the second artist on the main Spider-Man comic after co-creator Steve Ditko left, and to this day he is considered one of the greatest Spidey artists of all time. Among the many characters he co-created or created the “signature” look of for Marvel: Wolverine, Mary Jane Watson, the Punisher, the Kingpin, Luke Cage, and the Rhino. All of that was just practice, however, to prepare him for… the Kool-Aid Man.
- The Kool-Aid Man was created in 1954 by an art director named Marvin Potts. Originally called the “Pitcher Man”, his true origin began in the 1970s when he became a live-action mascot in commercials where he showed his beloved habit of busting through walls while yelling out “Oh Yeeaahh!”.
And now, it’s time for the Kool-Aid Man in… “The Thirsties Strike Out!” Here’s the first glorious page:
What’s great about this is that it, by itself, could tell a story. You could easily imagine this just being thrown in the middle of a comic as a usual advertisement with minimal changes. Some little leaguers are thirsty because some rejects from the Super Mario Brothers villain pool are mean, then Kool-Aid Man shows up and saves the day. The end. Really, that tells a whole story right there.
But, of course, this is just the first page of the story. You see, soon Kool-Aid Man is meeting the team:
The reference to the Hulk makes me wonder if Kool-Aid Man exists in the Marvel Universe, and if so, why he has never shown up on the Avengers. I mean, c’mon, he seems a no-brainer for membership, even if his arch-enemies are mediocrely annoying space aliens.
Also, shame on Mickey Richardson for ruining the alliteration!
Anyway, he brings them to his Kool-Aid Man headquarters, which is shaped like himself, because the Kool-Aid Man has the same level of subtlety as…. well, the Kool-Aid Man running through a wall:
Honestly, I gotta hand it to the Kool-Aid Man here. It’s one thing to have a headquarters shaped like yourself, it’s a whole other level to seemingly have a building that has ice cubes and such incorporated into the design. Seems inefficient. Like, I dunno, you could have had a few extra floors instead.
But anyway, Kool-Aid Man shows the team a quick day in the life of being the Kool-Aid Man, who fights a never-ending fight against the Thirsties, like at a Volleyball game.
The Thirsties, of course, are those weird-looking fuzzy alien-things from earlier. Apparently Kool-Aid Man is so busy fighting them that he can’t fight real crime, or fight thirst and drought in general. So, if you are stuck on a deserted island, don’t go calling the Kool-Aid Man unless you know it’s because the Thirsties shipwrecked you there.
Still, despite the fact that Kool-Aid Man makes it pretty clear to the kids that he’s pretty busy, they invite him to their big game. He doesn’t say no, but he does point out that fighting the Thirsties is a 24-hour job. Yes, you read that right: The Kool-Aid Man never sleeps.
Again, why isn’t he a member of the Avengers?
Of course, at the big game (which seems to have a major league crowd), the Thirsties are there doing such evil things as giving out too-hot hot dogs:
First off, “Relief Pitcher” is a good pun.
Secondly, did he have to destroy the scoreboard? Seems kind of reckless. A
What’s with how one of the opposing Lakeview players is all happy and the other two are shocked. I mean, the kid in the lower left looks like he just saw his bicycle run over by a car, while the right-fielder is all like: “Hurray!”
Also, why do both teams have fielding equipment on, except for that one kid with the bat?
And, finally, is the Kool-Aid Man holding a smaller inanimate pitcher more-or-less bizarre than how both Goofy and Pluto are dogs? While we’re at it, why have we not seen Max Goof in so long? I can’t be the only person who remembers Goof Troop and A Goofy Movie, can I? But I digress…
So, anyway, the Kool-Aid Man saves the day, because he’s the sentient pitcher-man that we deserve:
This isn’t the first time I have run into the Kool-Aid Man, as he, along with Pete Rose, is one of the twin deities who make up the Church of Our Dual Kool-Aid Saviors (CODKAS). What is CODKAS? Well, let’s go check the September 22, 2014 edition of Wisdom and Links over at Hall of Very Good….
1986 – Kool-Aid
It is here, as Rose’s playing career reached its end, that perhaps the most hallucinogenic of all Pete Rose advertisements occurred. Words do it no justice. Just go up there, watch it, then come back down.
Okay, did you watch it?
Now, WHAT THE HECK WAS THAT? THE KOOL-AID MAN JUST SHOWS UP RANDOMLY WHILE KIDS PLAY BASEBALL AFTER APPEARING OUT OF NOWHERE IN SOME DISCO-TRON LSD FANTASY DESERT, RUNS AND INTERRUPTS PETE ROSE’S GAME BY DESTROYING A SCOREBOARD, AND THEN RUNS BACK TO THE KIDS IN LSD-TRON LAND? AND THEN PETE ROSE FORGIVES HIM FOR HIS PROPERTY DAMAGES AND GIVES HIM THE GAME BALL?
Entire religions have been formed on lesser visions, therefore, may I interest you in a pamphlet about the Church of Our Dual Kool-Aid Saviors (CODKAS), Pete Rose and Kool-Aid Man? OOOH YEEEAAAAH!
Seriously, that commercial is weird.
NEXT TIME ON BIZARRE BASEBALL CULTURE: OLD-TIME RADIO on the BASEBALL CONTINUUM CONTINUUCAST!
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
48. Fallout 4
51. Kool-Aid Man (You are here)