In the midst of reviewing the contents of Flashpoint: Legion of Doom #1 for The Savage Critics, Jeff Lester referred to there being “a Hostess cupcake ad, just like we had back in the ’70s, except it’s eight pages long and it’s about Subway.”
That’s a pretty good description of Subway Presents: Justice League #1, a comics section embedded in the middle of some DC comics that were released over the last few weeks, marked with a tiny little “Advertisement Section” to differentiate it from the comics pages that precede and follow it.
I missed those ad/comics when they were originally published, as I wasn’t born until the end of the seventies, and wasn’t able to read until into the eighties, but am familiar with them from yellowed back issues from the era and, of course, online.
A quick comparison between the two types of ads reveals the differences between comics in the late seventies and comics in the twenty-first century. The Hostess ads were only a single page long, conveying the awesomeness of Hostess snacks in a super-straightforward way: They were so delicious that they could drive people to the commission of crimes in order to obtain them, or to stop the commission of a more lucrative crime and risk capture or defeat in order to enjoy one of them.
The Subway ad, however, is just pages and pages long, the relatively simple message—this is a food product that is awesome and you should probably eat it—and is what is generally referred to as “decompressed” or “written for the trade.” Not that this will ever end up in a trade collection, of course (I sure wouldn’t mind reading a trade of those Hostess ads though; maybe Craig Yoe or IDW or someone like that will get around to packaging and publishing one some day).
The sales pitch is, of course, a little more nuanced than Hostess’ sales pitch. Not only is Subway’s various food products awesome, it is awesome in specific ways: It’s delicious, it’s healthy and it energizes you, fueling you up to give you the strength you need to be, say, a professional athlete.
It also has an additional set of pitch men involved. While the Hostess ads were sold by the presence of the superheroes and supervillains talking up their virtues, the Subway ads feature “Famous Fans,” professional athletes who are apparently fans of Subway, a relationship that may or may not have something to do with the fact that Subway is their “Official Training Restaurant,” as the back cover of the ad-comic states.
So, are these Subway comics any good? Well, like Jeff Lester, I encountered them in the course of my recent reading—and hey, with DC’s comics now only 20 pages for $2.99, who can complain about any extra, bonus content thrown in there?—but I thought it best to give them a very careful, extremely close reading and re-reading, including scanning portions of it to discuss it with you at great length.
In order to embark upon this task, I figured I would need to be fueled up with something delicious, nourishing and energizing, so I visited a local Subway.
(I should note that I normally avoid any and all fast food restaurants, in part because I’m vegetarian and in part because I hate to contribute to the corporate-driven same-ening of modern America at the expense of local culture and in part because Oh my God did you read Fast Food Nation? When I do have to eat fast food, though, and the decision is up to me, I usually decide on Subway, as it seems the least terrible choice on the spectrum of fast food restaurants. Please don’t see this post as either an endorsement of or an indictment against Subway—one probably shouldn’t eat there, but if it’s that or Taco Bell or Burger King or McDonald’s or whatnot, well, sure, Subway all the way*).
I ordered a twelve-inch, wheat sub with lettuce, spinach, tomato, cucumber, green peppers, black olives and avocado, a very welcome addition to Subway’s offerings, and brought it home to eat in front of my laptop. My belly full of Subway, I prepared to write a post about the Subway ad/comic, but I suddenly felt groggy and sleepy, the way I always do after eating a big meal, and I could feel the approach of Wesley Dodds.
So I sat down in a reclining chair and took a one-hour nap.
Then, when I woke up, I brewed a pot of coffee, the real energizing super-food that fuels me up and enables me to go about my daily life.(Why doesn’t Maxwell House or Starbucks or Chase and Sanborn or someone do some comics featuring nocturnal vigilantes like Batman and Daredevil talking up the virtues of coffee?)
The cover depicts DC's current "Trinity" of most popular heroes, our old pals Superman, Batman and Green Lantern Hal Jordan, star of the #1 movie in America, the summer's biggest blockbuster, Green Lantern:(At least, that might have been what they thought when they were assembling the cover).
Below the heroes are three guys black guys with nice abs wearing identical skin-tight Subway logo t-shirts, biking shorts and tennis shoes with no socks, only differentiated by their slightly different facial hair arrangements and/or the shapes of their close-cropped hair cuts.
Who are these guys? I would guess they are the 21st century, legacy version of The Companions Three.
But I would guess wrong, as the first panel of this comic, which is entitled "Sacked" and is written by B. Clay Moore and drawn by Sergio Sandoval and Santi Casas, begins with a bunch of dudes wearing the same outfits and the three mysterious strangers on the cover, all gathered around a poster of the Justice League, which a smiling white guy in a blazer is gesturing at, explaining that the super-team will be at "the game," and will "appear at half time."
A caption box explains that "During practice for a charity all-star game in Hawaii, football stars Ndamukong Suh, Justin Tuck and Michael Strahan are wilting in the heat."
So that's who those three guys are! Football stars! Perhaps I should know that? I assume I would know that, if I knew anything at all about professional sports at the moment, but I long ago assigned that part of my brain to comic books.
Because the football stars are wilting in the heat, they decide to, um, bail on practice and sneak away...?Way to be great role models for the kids, guys.
Soon, the trio are walking along the beach, clutching subs and drinks and talking about what they had just eaten ("I'm glad you said Subway, Justin. I've been craving an oven-roasted chicken breast sandwich all day. Banana peppers, green peppers, oil and vinegar, salt and pepper, all on honey oat bread. You can't beat that!" And so on).
Just then, Ndamukong points with his sub-holding hand into the distance, revealing that he has yet to even take a bite out of his sub (a spicy italian footlong, if you were wondering) and calling attention to something he sees in the distance. The sharp-eyed footballer (Subway subs help improve your eyesight!) notice that the King of the Seven Seas seems to be getting baptized by a couple of guys in scuba suits, and decide to wade all the way out there and intervene.(Note Michael's protestation that he hasn't finished his sandwich, a turkey and bacon avocado on wheat, yet. As you can clearly see from the smooth, un-bitten surface of the sandwich, Michael hasn't actually started his sandwich yet).
They do pretty well against the scuba guys, but then things get real serious real fast, as Aquaman's two arch-foes appear:This is one of the better parts of the story, as the two villains talk particularly villanous. I also really like the third panel in the above sequence, where the one football guy says, "Woah! That was a close one!" just as Oceanmaster's bolo gun takes out his friend.
Just then, a giant green shovel picks up the two villains, and dumps them in a giant green sand pail—Green Lantern has joined the fight! Both the henchmen and the football guys rally, and continue fighting one another.
Black Manta picks up one of the discarded subs, which must by now be covered with some combination of sea water and sand, and holds it aloft— (At least it still hasn't been bitten into.)
I love how Sandoval shows how intensely excited Blak Manta is at having seemingly escaped with a Subway sandwich: Superman arrives and flies after the escaping Black Manta, the slightly off-model Flash appears running atop the surface of the water, and runs circles around the swimming Oceanmaster, creating a little whirlwind that lifts the villain up into the air. The football guys do the lion's share of the bad guy beating though, as another half-dozen or so more scuba guys appeared and got tackled into unconsciousness by the athletes. Wonder Woman appears above the Subway enthusiasts, her hand on her hip and a seductive smile on her face, saying "Hey, guys! Mind if I wrap up that package for you?"
If it's a come on, it's no more suggestive than Hal Jordan's appearance, in which he hovered above the footballers in similar fashion, also smiled seductively, and said, "Hi guys! Mind if I join the game?"
So while Green Lantern, Superman, Flash and Wonder Woman capture and tie-up all the villains, what was the remaining Justice Leaguer, Batman, up to...? Just checking on Aquaman.
Way to go, Dark Knight. Maybe you shoulda had an oh-so-energizing Subway sub instead of whatever fancy rich-man lunch Alfred made for you, and then you might have been able to do something something more heroic and useful then simply saying, "Hey Aquaman, you alright, man?"
Here's the best part of the entire comic:Although the very next panel, in which both Green Lantern and Wonder Woman flaunt their butts at the heroes and smile knowingly at the attention they're getting, is pretty great too: It wouldn't be a bad note to end on, really, except that the panel lacks a nice image of a Subway sandwich, so there's one more panel in the story, in which one of the football guys suddenly remembers about practice, the fact that they skipped out on it, and that their excuse of rescuing Aquaman from Black Manta and Oceanmaster, who then tried to steal their sandwiches, until the Justice League intervened and Green Lantern and Wonder Woman flirted with them seems a little less than believable.
The third dude has his priorities straight, though: Finishing...? You still haven't started!
Will what's-his-name—is that Michael?—ever get to start and finish his sandwich? Will we find it out in the next one? No, no we will not. As he doesn't appear in the next one. Some different athletes who play different sports will be in that one. But let's save that until another night, as the coffee is wearing off.
In the mean time, the back cover shows us a close-up of the three famous fans, and tells us we can "follow the Subway Famous Fans comic adventures at subwaycomics.com. But this is a damn dirty lie, as that address simply links to dccomics.com, which doesn't seem to have more comic adventures featuring the Subway Famous Fans on it.
*In the interest of honesty, I suppose I should note that my avoidance of fast food restaurants does not extend to either Dunkin’ Donuts or Tim Horton’s, both of which have great coffee. Like, the best coffee. I love their coffee so much, I can’t even begin to tell you about it. I don’t even know if I could explain my love of their coffee in a blog post like this. I would probably have to try to do it in the form of a poem, so deep are my feelings. I’ve never had ads on EDILW, but I would put ones up for Tim Horton’s or Dunkin’ Donuts coffee in a heartbeat. Hell, I’d change the name of this blog to Tim Horton’s Coffee Presents: Every Day Is Like Wednesday in exchange for a free cup of Tim Horton’s coffee every day, to drink while I’m blogging.