Saturday, May 30, 2009

Out of the Vault - Barbi Twins #1

Hot on the heels of last week's translation of real-life Playboy centerfold Susie Owens into the superhero Flaxen, I give you Playboy cover girls Shane and Sia Barbi, the Barbi Twins, in The Barbi Twins Adventures #1! The book was published in 1995 by Topps Comics, a spin-off of the trading card company that launched in 1993, during the height of the early 90's comics speculation boom.

The early to mid-90's saw a sudden boom in comics featuring hot girls with big boobs, such as Cry for Dawn, Lady Death and Witchblade. And since Topps Comics mainly published licensed properties such as X-Files and Ray Bradbury Comics, it was natural for them to jump on this particular bandwagon by licensing some big-boobed hot women rather than developing a new character from scratch.

And so we ended up with The Barbi Twins Adventures, a comic which combines all the worst features of the early 90's in one volume. You want a first issue collector's item (or as the cover incoherently states "All-New First Collector's Item Issue!")? You got it. You want variant covers? You got 'em (the issue is in flip book format, with two front covers). You want fan favorite artists? You got 'em (four pages and a cover from Matt Haley, plus a cover and four pages from poster artists Fastner and Larson). You want crossovers? You got it (Everett Hartsoe's Razor). You want elaborately rendered and colored art that glosses over a lack of plot, characterization and even basic visual storytelling? Oh baby, you got that in spades.

The basic concept is that the Twins are fashion models by day, secret agents by night. In the first adventure (with the first cover shown above), Shane and Sia are on their way to a fashion show when their helicopter is shanghaied by their arch-nemesis, Betty Blodryed (which I'm guessing is pronounced "blow-dried," but man, that spelling hurts my eyes). Betty (whose face has been scarred Phantom of the Opera/Two-Face style) threatens to crash the helicopter into a giant vat of acid at a nearby acid factory in order to destroy the Twins' good looks forever. The Twins pull out Barbi-Blasters and shoot their way free, but end up falling from the exploding chopper directly toward the vat of acid.

Just before they hit, though, they end up in a futuristic world populated by mutant demons ruled over by a talking dragon. They call their boss, DJ, who tells them they are actually trapped in a virtual-reality simulation programmed by the world's greatest hacker. The talking dragon orders the Barbi Twins to fight to the death, or else they will be punished severely.

How severely?

But the girls outwit the master hacker and wake up back in their own apartment again.

In the other (and mercifully, much shorter) adventure, the twins head to an Italian restaurant to capture a mob boss named Fellini. Before they can make a move, however, Razor shows up and begins chopping the bad guys to pieces in a sequence that is strikingly gory, since the rest of the comic seems to be a goofy spoof. Not to be outdone, Shane and Sia blow away a few bad guys of their own, but fail to nab the mob boss. It's all good, though, since "thanks to our vigilante friend, Fellini won't be dealing drugs or anything else."

The story is pretty basic crap, but it is notable if only for the fact that Fastner and Larson, well known for their air-brushed posters and cover illustrations, actually did four pages of full-on comics. Also interesting (at least to me) is the fact that they seem to be consciously imitating Ron Embleton, who illustrated the long-running Sweet Chastity comic in Penthouse Magazine. Below, compare the Barbi Twins illustration on top with the Sweet Chastity panel just below.

This is followed by a text feature by comic scripter Robert Conte describing the origins of the comic and future plans.

Soon to follow is THE BARBI TWINS ADVENTURES #2, which yours truly is working on right now.

'There are all sorts of cool villains in future issues,' states Sia. 'Silverfoot, Dr. Mindwash, Clubhead...'

'Cheeseface, Meaty-Dog and more,' interrupts Shane. 'They'll(sic) even be cameos from rock groups and movie and television stars. It's going to be a Barbi Twins blast.'

Sadly, no more issues were published, so we will never know just how cool Meaty-Dog really was.

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