“HDMI Jack” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

§ October 16th, 2023 § Filed under indies, marvel § 13 Comments

So in response to my post about the passing of Keith Giffen, LouReedRichards brings up a title that I’m sort of shocked at myself for not remembering. On one hand, I couldn’t list everything, but on the other hand, I really should have pointed out this comic from 1987:

And here’s a sample page from the first issue:

Did ol’ Keith do 12-panel pages throughout the series? Oh he sure does, for the most part, with some smatterings of six and nine panel pages, so this is one series dense with storytelling. Even the last issue, featuring several guest artists (like Fred Hembeck! Walt Simonson! Trina Robbins! Jim Starlin!) is mostly 6 or 9 panel grids. There’s the occasional breaking of the format, including a pretty stunning two-page spread in the first issue.

So here’s the thing about this comic.

I remember really looking forward to it. I even picked up one of the promo posters at the comic shop, where they had a stack they were giving away, and had it put up at home. And I bought each issue off the stands as it came out, its release coinciding with my beginning months of college.

And I’m pretty sure that was the one time I read it. Well, okay, I probably reread the whole series once it was complete. And it’s been 35+ years and I remember very, very little of it. As I flipped through my copies, extracted from what remains of the Vast Comics Archive, I remembered bits here and there, some of the conceits of the series, the character designs, etc. But there is a lot going on and I’m sure there are plenty of details I’m forgetting.

Hell, I even forgot that this was written by former DC Comics stalwart Cary Bates.

I remember really liking the series. But I couldn’t tell you really anything substantial about it, beyond “dude falls into a TV world” and I’m not even sure that’s 100% correct. But glancing through it, it’s definitely a showcase for this era of Giffen’s art. I definitely would love to be able to reread it, but “rereading older comics” is on the backburner while I’m still trying to catch up with the new stuff. As I posted on Bluesky:

“Well, if I’m going to reread every book and comic I’ve bought and kept over the last five decades, I’d better get started.”

In some cases, it may be just enough to remember that you liked a think, even if it no longer lives in your memory and you don’t have time to revisit. Ah well.

And it took three and half decades, but I finally get the punny joke of the title. …No one’s ever accused me of being too on the ball. Do I need to tell the Ms. Tree story again?

13 Responses to ““HDMI Jack” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.”

  • Sean Mageean says:

    Video Jack looks like he’s ready to join The Clash…

  • Pedro de Pacas says:

    …or maybe Big Audio Dynamite

  • DavidG says:

    Much as I loved Giffen this series (which I think I got mostly from bargain bins) didn’t survive the last purge of my collection. It was a decent idea, but as I recall it didn’t really go anywhere. Sometimes Keith had too many ideas for his own good.

  • Chris K says:

    From what I recall (and I have not revisited it either, so I may be wrong), the first 3 issues are all Giffen art, and I remember liking those a whole lot.

    Then the next (and last) 3 issues, the guest artists come in, and I remember feeling like that took the wind out of the book’s sails. You would think that the “channel surfing” premise of this book would lend itself to a variety of artists, but for me the appeal was seeing familiar TV genres filtered through Giffen’s “lens,” but with the guest artists, it just became “well, here’s so-in-so drawing such-and-sucn,” and the book lost it’s appeal for me, even when it was an artist I liked. I felt the book meandered to the end at that point. (But others’ mileage may vary)

  • Oliver says:

    I enjoyed the first couple of issues of this, but then, yes — Giffen himself seemed to lose interest in it.

  • LouReedRichards says:

    Comics Scene did an article about it in one of their first issues of Vol II, which is where I first saw anything about it.
    I’ve only got a couple of the early issues of it. It’s one of those “complete the series from the cheap bins” kinda things.
    I didn’t even realize that other artists worked on the series – sounds intriguing, but as Chris. K points out, I can also see how that could dilutes the “Giffenish” quality of the book.

    I liked his dedication to the 9 panel grid, mostly.
    It reminds me of Toth talking about being restricted to a 6 panel grid for the Dell work in the early 60’s. To paraphrase him, It’s not what shape the panel is, it’s what you put in the panel that counts.
    He bristled (hard to believe, I know) at the restriction at first, but later came to appreciate the discipline it required.

    I can see where it would get a bit monotonous, esp. on something as dense as the Legion 5YL stuff.

    You don’t get much more 80’s than a bandana tied around a boot!

  • LouReedRichards says:

    That should be dedication to 9 & 12(!!!) panel grids.

  • I was a dumb 15-year-old when this came out and I picked it up thinking Jack would pop into actual TV shows. Like, my idiot brain actually expected him to be on Star Trek: The Next Generation or the Cosby Show or something like that. I really should have known better.

  • Jack says:

    Don’t worry, Mike, I didn’t get the pun in the title until I read this entry.

    I was like you about this book; when I became aware of it, it was one of my most anticipated books of that year, it looked exciting and interesting and then it came out and not only didn’t I finish the series, I never re-read the issues I did buy. You could feel the enthusiasm the creative team had start ebbing away as it went on. In many ways, it was WAY ahead of its time; late 80s cable TV wasn’t yet broad enough for the kind of parodies it could have sustained today. Imagine the fun you could have with a book that could go from HBO styled prestige TV to the Kardashians to 24/7 news. But even that, in the end, was kind of limiting as a concept. “Teenager deforms the media he consumes by existing in it” can only take you so far before you’re driving in a rut.

    That first issue, though, Giffen’s artwork is sublime. Might have to dig the issues I own out sometime.

  • Lane Hermanson says:

    I love the Ms. Tree story. Okay, I did the same thing, not getting the play on words of the title til years later. I never picked up Video Jack and am a fan of Giffen. I do have The March Hare book.

  • Thom H. says:

    I love that Giffen was simultaneously goofing off with Justice League International and expanding on the formal legacy of Watchmen (and The Dark Knight Returns) with books like Video Jack and the Five Years Later Legion.

    For my money, FYL Legion uses the 9 panel grid better than Watchmen, mainly to obscure information that readers had to infer and/or research for themselves. The hottest take on the internet today? Maybe.

  • Snark Shark says:

    That was a wacky one! I read one issue! kinda want to see it again, now.

  • BobH says:

    Funny, I had pretty much the same reaction to VIDEO JACK when I pulled it out for my Giffen retrospective post (plug https://fourrealities.blogspot.com/2023/10/keith-giffen-rip.html). Read it over 30 years ago (as a back issue in my case), remember liking it, a few things stick in my memory, but not most of it. Definitely marked it for possible re-reading in the near future.