The time has come for the tale of Jell-O Man and Wobbly.
The year was 1991. My roommate and I were into collecting comics, it was the height of the speculation boom, and comics legends like Rob Liefeld were dazzling readers across the nation. While in a Circle K convenience store looking to see if they had any rare X-Force #1 variants (yes, that’s true) I came across a gem of a book called the Adventures of Jell-O Man and Wobbly.
I knew this would someday be a highly prized collector’s item, especially since the cover announced, “First Issue! Collectors Edition!” I had no idea how much it was, and neither did the cashier, since it was obviously supposed to accompany a Jell-O purchase, but I convinced her to sell it to me for the “$1.25 value” price on the cover. This gem was now mine!
In it, I learned the outrageous origin of Jell-O Man and Wobbly. See, two scientists, Dr. Goodtaste and Snackens, were working on various Jell-O related inventions, including the “S.L.A.H.P.” — Secret Laser-Activated Hologram Printer (displaying the word “Jell-O”.) However, their robot, Grabby, jealous of all the kids who get to enjoy Jell-O products, super-charged the circuits, simultaneously causing a power overload and allowing him to control the master computer! However, the power surge to the holographic Jell-O logo caused an unexpected result:
The logo came to life! The O, L, L, and E formed a humanoid being, and the J and dash formed a dog-like being. And thus was born Jell-O Man and his dog, Wobbly!
Now, this comic was indeed a joy, but time passed, and a few years later I was sitting with friends and talking about it. “I should dig that comic out and see who wrote it,” I said. “For all I knew, someone like Kurt Busiek might have worked on it.” At the time, I really didn’t have a great idea of who Kurt Busiek was — his was just a name I pulled out of the air to signify some currently popular writer.
I found the comic and once again delighted to the adventures of the only hero made primarily of bone meal. As I was reading the second story, “The Natural History Mystery”, I found myself marvelling at the realistic dialog. A French chef was alarmed at the disappearance of a tray of Jell-O pudding snacks. I admired how the writer had captured the story from the point of view of an Everyman, a common person whose life would only briefly intersect that of the hero.
It was as though — what’s this!? The credit box in the corner!
Kurt Busiek did work on this comic!
Not only did he pen the words of the suffering chef, but also this confrontation between Jell-O Man and the pudding thief, Snackosaurus:
In the hands of a less capable writer, Snackosaurus would just be some random villain, swiping Jell-O pudding snacks for no discernable reason, but Busiek imbues him with a depth of character and motivation so that at once you are drawn into the struggle. It’s a shame Alex Ross hadn’t painted the book.
Eventually Jell-O Man triumphs over Snackosaurus in his trademark fashion: detaching his head and rolling it at the villain, causing the dinosaur to fall over. Or, as the Busiek’s dialog puts it:
A very big oops indeed!
A couple of years later, Kurt Busiek was at the Chicago Comicon, and I was delighted when I ran into him on the dealers’ room floor. I told him how much I enjoyed his work and ask if he could sign a special piece for me. I pulled out the book and his eyes lit up.
“Oh man, this is great!” he exclaimed. He pointed out to me that the third story in the book was written by Shana David, the daughter of Peter David. And Ken Steacy did the cover and advertisement art in the book. He happily signed it for me, and this remains the only comic in my collection that is bagged and boarded:
(The autograph isn’t easy to see on this scan. It’s in the lower right. The extra text was added by him as well.)
This piece is the pride of my collection. It’s worth jack, it’s not the greatest read in the world, and the puzzle pages aren’t very challenging. But you just can’t beat a story like that. To you, Mr, Busiek, I say to you: “Yeah yeah yeah yeah!”