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"Brain Drain Brings Pain!"

by: Protoclown

This last summer, Office Max released a special promotional comic in their stores in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, called "Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four in... Brain Drain!". This book flew well under my radar, but fortunately, a reader named Amber informed me of its existence, and after checking all the local Office Max stores only to discover that they'd given them all away to some Teacher Conference, I managed to track down a copy of this elusive book on eBay. Sure, it cost me a few bucks more than the "free" cover price, but as you yourselves will soon discover, this book was worth every penny for all the laughs it provided. While the concept is somewhat, um, noble, I guess, the execution is so cheesy it's impossible not to laugh.

Office Max! Home of office supplies and... bad comics?
There's a reason you couldn't find this comic for sale, and it has less to do
with reaching a specialized demographic than it does with it completely sucking.

Our story starts out with Peter Parker (who has been a high school teacher by day ever since Straczynski took over writing duties on Amazing Spider-Man) defending one of his students from a Doombot that has smashed into his classroom. There are no other students present, so they either all had the good sense to run away when a giant green robot punched through the wall, or Mr. Parker wanted this student to stay after class for some special education *bow chukka wow wow*.

Before becoming the famous lion tamer extraordinaire,
Peter Parker practiced taming killer death-bots.

Parker seems a bit nonplussed (and perhaps even a little offended) that the Doombot is after his student rather than him, but before he has a chance to muse on this further, the Human Torch shows up, flying through the hole in the wall and melting the Doombot into a pile of slag.

The joke was on Johnny Storm when he later found
out that was a guy in a robot suit! Whoops!

Upon seeing the Human Torch, Parker's student Allison has a celebrity freak out moment and begs him for an autograph. Oh, what sick irony that unbeknownst to her, she was standing beside the Amazing Spider-Man this whole time!

The Human Torch prepares to accidentally immolate another fan.

Moments later, in the privacy of the classroom with the giant gaping hole blasted in the wall, Parker and Torch discuss how bizarre it is (and how jealous they are) that the Doombot was after Allison instead of either of them. Spidey and Torch head back to the Baxter Building, headquarters of the Fantastic Four, to investigate this strangeness further with the help of egghead scientist Reed Richards.

Reed Richards reveals to Spider-Man that Dr. Doom's Doombots have been kidnapping the smartest students from across the nation and draining the knowledge from their minds, leaving them little more than blank slates, like babies! Yes, apparently Dr. Doom, scientific genius and master of the dark arts of sorcery, has decided that he could somehow benefit from some teenager's half-assed knowledge of state capitals and the plot of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. Please. Even the nefarious Stilt-Man never stooped so low as that. Also, if he was going to steal useful knowledge from students, American students would be about the last ones he'd pick. But my favorite part of this revelation is Spider-Man's reaction, when he asks "You mean there have been OTHER brain drain incidents?" Like he knew about it all along. Oh yeah, he deduced that's exactly why the Doombot was after his student while he was swinging his way to the Baxter Building.

"Why, there's nothing wrong with these students, Spider-Man! They're just Americans!"

The Invisible Woman (Sue Storm) then takes Spider-Man and introduces him to the teachers of these brain-drained students (who don't even know better than to not shit themselves, like some diaper fetishist's wet dream), who can apparently take the time off work to just sort of lounge around the Baxter Building and hang out. The teachers volunteer to help out in the search for Dr. Doom's headquarters, one of them even offering the services of her trusty laptop, "Big Blue". Oh yeah, sure thing, lady, the Fantastic Four have millions of dollars invested in state-of-the-art technological resources, but your laptop computer cluttered with student essays and pictures of your cats is really going to bump things up to the next level! Sue Storm replies by saying of course they can help, and one of the teachers excitedly pipes up that he saw an Office Max around the corner, where they can pick up all the supplies they need to track down Dr. Doom.

The only reason Sue Storm agreed to let them come along in the
first place was because she thought the guy in glasses was really Superman.

Inside the Office Max, Reed Richards exclaims that they'll have no problem at all finding the secret lair of Dr. Doom with all of the school supplies available, while rooting around through a large bin of rubber-band balls. Again, Reed Richards is a super scientist who can invent nearly anything he needs in extremely short notice, and yet "compasses, maps, calculators, pencils, papers, and more" are all that is required to trace the radio signal from the Doombots back to Dr. Doom's secret base.

Reed's poop actually looks just like those rubber-band balls.
Reed desperately searches for the short-packed
"pastel rainbow" ball he needs to complete his collection.

What I like best about this is that during the scene where they are all "pitching in" to help locate Dr. Doom, Reed Richards is the only one shown doing any actual work, while the rest of them stand fascinated around a large box of rubber-band balls. But he thanks them for their assistance anyway, stating that finding Doom wouldn't have been possible without all their help.

They copied off of Reed on the S.A.T. tests back in high school too
While Reed does all the work, the rest of the team
tries without success to solve their "Rubik's Ball" puzzles.

As they're preparing to head out to Castle Doom (which ends up being in the middle of nowhere, despite Reed pointing to a location on a map of Manhattan), the teachers refuse to be left behind, stating that it's their students they're saving, so they should go along. The heroes agree to let them tag along on their mission against one of the most dangerous villains in the entire Marvel universe without any argument, but when they arrive outside the castle, they realize it might be a bit dangerous and tell them to wait outside (where they'll surely be safe).

As any good superhero knows, when you crash in the middle of the wilderness,
you make a dash for it and leave the dead weight behind to attract predators.

As they storm the castle, they can't help but comment about how the teachers deserve some "extra credit" for caring about their students, and that they're the real heroes in the war against ignorance. The Thing even comments about how one of his favorite teachers inspired him to become a test-pilot, and that if he hadn't followed that path he never would have become the "ever-lovin' idol'a millions". Now, I could be wrong, but doesn't the Thing frequently rant about how much he hates his current condition and how he'd give anything to go back to being a normal human? So I think it's far more likely that he visited his favorite teacher in the middle of the night shortly after his accident and smothered her with his pillowy stone fist while she slept.

The Thing easily smashes through Doom's peanut brittle defenses.

Our heroes are so busy singing the praises of their past teachers even after smashing through the main castle gate, that they fail to notice Dr. Doom and an army of Doombots standing...pretty much right in front of them.

URINE! Their only true weakness!
Much to their dismay, our heroes learn that they're not into watersports.

Spidey gets that tingly feeling he always gets and tries to warn them, but it's far too late, and Doom zaps them with some kind of electric pulse, rendering them all unconscious.

Disappointed by his mistake, Dr. Doom realized he mixed up the order yet again. Gloat, then kill.

Some time passes, and the teachers standing outside the castle begin to worry. They decide to be bold and incredibly stupid and follow our heroes into the castle to see what's happened to them.

"Gee, with these office supplies at our disposal, putting this castle under siege'll be a cinch!"

They discover that Doom has trapped our heroes in glass test tubes, which they apparently can't get out of ("if...only...I...could...lift my...arms..."), and he's standing before them pontificating about his great plan.

"Doom has 'just put his heroes in water', and Doom has 'watched them grow'!"

Doom reveals his sinister scheme to steal all the information from the minds of America's youth, which is no big revelation, since everybody figured all this out pages ago. He explains that with the wisdom and facts learned by these students, there will be "no limit" to his power! Yes, because knowing that, like, oh my god, Julie is taking Kevin to the prom is going to be oh-so-handy in his conquest of the world.

"BEHOLD! The percolating madness that is...MR. COFFEE!"

The teachers, knowing that "knowledge is power", are fully aware of how utterly unstoppable Doom will be if he gets his hands on all the knowledge that he already had in his head by eighth grade anyway, so they decide to take action. Unfortunately, this does not involve any sort of plan so much as it involves one teacher distracting Doom with her "radiant beauty" while the rest of them run into the room with no idea at all of how they're going to save the heroes.

Dr. Doom never believed in love at first sight...
that is, until he met the mousy vixen of his dreams.

The teachers just end up running around the room trying to avoid the Doombots that will obviously destroy them with ease if they get too close. But one teacher, just as he is grabbed by the robot strong enough to rip his arms out of their sockets and play a smashing drum solo on his skull with them, throws a fucking rubber-band ball at the machine that holds our captive heroes, that evidently has a gigantic button on it marked "release".

It's a damn good thing they brought the gym teacher along.

With our heroes free, they are able to whoop Dr. Doom's ass, now that he hasn't gotten the drop on them by standing inside the front door with his army of Doombots in plain view.

And thus, after a long twenty minutes of grueling oppression,
the heroes were rescued from their test tube prisons.

Spidey and the FF continue to sing the praises of teachers as they capture Dr. Doom with ease, round up the lobotomized students, and destroy all the remaining Doombots. But it's not all fun and games however, as Doom calls them "lamentable toads", telling them in an odd choice of dialogue that even though they've destroyed his Brain Drain, it has already achieved its "cherished" goal. I can think of a lot of words that could describe Doom's goal: sinister, nefarious, dastardly, malevolent. But "cherished"? Aww, Doomy. I didn't know you cared.

"Doom cherishes the love he has, as well as cherishing the life he lives!"

Back in the Baxter Building, Reed Richards informs the teachers that Doom was telling the truth: that the students have forgotten everything they've ever been taught. The teachers look on the bright side of this, however, stating that it'll just give them another chance to teach the students all over again (as long as they manage not to shit themselves in the classroom).

"Now that the children are pretty much retards, they'll be a breeze to teach!"

The students then go through a big box of school supplies (read: rubber-band balls), as one teacher states that with all these different (colored) school supplies (balls) to choose from, there's something available for every student's learning style. Then the comic closes with all of the characters sharing one of those creepy moments of synchronicity, as everyone in the room finishes one guy's sentence by shouting "teacher's count!" even though there's no way in hell they would have known what he was going to say.

If you actually experienced a moment like this in real life,
you'd probably stab your eyes out and hide under a bed.

Now, the lesson you're supposed to take from this is that teachers are important (yeah, if they're so important why do they get paid so crappily? Maybe we should work on that.), but the real moral of the story, as I saw it, which got drilled into my head over and over throughout the comic is this: as far as school supplies go, nothing, and I mean nothing trumps a rubber-band ball. A rubber-band ball can not only help you find Dr. Doom's hidden fortress, but it's also about the only weapon in the universe that can defeat him. If your parents don't get you one of those when school season comes around, they obviously don't love you and they want you to fail.

Found any weird, bizarre, stupid or funny comics that
should appear in a future "Tales From the Longbox" column?

Email Protoclown and let him know!



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