One thing Marvel did in the 70’s to fight falling market share and become more relevant in the mainstream culture was to chase trends. When UFO’s were hot, they did alien books. When Satanism and demon possession grabbed the spotlight in the wake of The Exorcist, they created supernatural heroes like Ghost Rider and Son of Satan. When disco was hot, they created a disco heroine.
And for those whose musical tastes leaned away from disco, they did a comic book featuring KISS in 1977, and in 1979, this odd issue of Marvel Premiere starring Alice Cooper. Marvel Premiere was an anthology series devoted to introducing new characters, or trying out supporting characters from other series in their own starring vehicles.
Although there are no credits on the story proper, the editorial page that replaces the letter column gives the credits. The issue was scripted by Ed Hannigan from a plot by Alice Cooper, editor Jim Salicrup and Roger Stern, with art by Tom Sutton and Terry Austin.
I bought this issue because I was curious. I had heard of Alice Cooper for years and had even seen him appear on TV, on an episode of The Snoop Sisters, a short-lived mystery series about two old ladies who solved crimes. I was intrigued by his persona, which seemed as if it might have an interesting story behind it. But I didn’t much like his music, so I didn’t want to pay for a whole album I might hate. Instead, I paid 40 cents for the comic, hoping maybe it would clue me in to the whole Alice phenomenon.
It didn’t, really. The splash page informs us that the story is titled “From the Inside, based on the album of the same name with songs by Alice Cooper and Bernie Taupin. As the story opens, Alice is trying to escape from a mental institution when he is caught by Nurse Rozetta, who has orderlies restrain him and throw him in the Quiet Room (cue song).
From there, Alice narrates in flashback how he came to be a prisoner in the ward, due to a case of mistaken identity.
And here in a nutshell is what disappointed me about the issue. Alice Cooper was supposed to be some creepy, scary guy, you know, Welcome to My Nightmare and all that. But in this issue, he’s not only the most normal person in the issue, but he’s the sort of goofy, cowardly hero in what ends up being a not-very-funny comedy featuring cameos from characters over ten years out of date.
Seriously, if you’re going for Alice Cooper’s target audience, why feature cameos from the cast of Car 54, Where Are You? (the two cops above), a series which hadn’t aired since 1963? Other cameos featured Archie, Fearless Fosdick from Li’l Abner, and freaking Alley Oop.
The other factor which kept the story from really clicking was its reliance on the album for inspiration. Most of the characters in this panel have their own songs, for instance.
But for instance, Millie and Billie on the lower left, who hang around in the background, otherwise only have one lame gag to justify their existence. This is the most boring collection of oddballs you’ve ever seen.
Alice finally escapes the asylum, discovers that his loony almost-namesake is running for President, spouting nonsense to swooning crowds almost 40 years before Obama won the same way. Alice is caught and thrown back into the Quiet Room with his pet snake, Veronica (woefully underused–what this story seriously needed was more Veronica). In the editorial page, the editors hinted that they would make Alice a regular series if fans clamored for it.
They didn’t. And it’s easy to see why. There was hardly enough story to justify the one special issue. There was certainly nothing intriguing enough about the character or compelling about the story hook to make readers want more.