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October 28, 2009

Unsung Characters of Comicdom: Skate-Man

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Written by: Josh
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Nunchucks? Check. Explosives? Check. Roller skates? Check, and mate.

Simply put, Skate-Man #1 is the greatest work Neal Adams ever committed to paper. It was created, written, and illustrated by Adams and was published by Pacific Comics in 1983. Skate-Man is a masterwork of beauty and ridiculousness that doesn’t disappoint on any level. The opening page says it all. A grown man wearing a pair of shorty-shorts, knee socks, and high-top roller skates is kicking the crap out of some thugs in leather jackets. The first words out of his mouth? “Hands off, jerk-hole!’ At this point, I’m already hooked. What follows is a series of flashbacks and montages that were a trademark of Adams’ independent work at the time. The story tells of Skate-Man’s origin, and delivers some of the most outlandish action scenes that I’ve ever seen in the comic books’ medium. I dug Skate-Man out of the fifty cent bin at a local comic shop in West Tennessee, and after reading it, I couldn’t get it out of my head. I think it left an emotional scar or something. Regardless, I have nothing but positive memories about this book. My therapist tells me I’m just identifying with my abuser, but I disagree. I’m truly in love with Skate-Man #1.

As you can already guess, I’ve dedicated this week’s Unsung Character of Comicdom profile to Neal Adams’ outlandish eight wheeled agent of vengeance! Introducing the one, the only: Skate-Man!

skate

Skate-Man #1

First Appearance: Skate-Man #1
Alias/ Codename: Skate-Man
Secret Identity: Billy Moon
Weapons: Martial Arts, Nunchucks, Grenades, Roller Skates
Ethnicity: Caucasian

Origin: Billy Moon is a Vietnam vet who became disillusioned after witnessing the horrors of war. As soon as he is released from duty, Billy begins to grow a wicked blond mullet, and trims his bangs to perfection. He soon realizes that all he has is a bitchin’ hairdo, and a very specific set of skills he learned while in the military. After a period of soul searching, Billy becomes certain he will never adjust to the role of being a normal citizen. Until one day, while drinking at a bar, his old army buddy suggests that he should join the roller derby. Feeling he has nowhere else to go, Billy takes his friends’ suggestion to heart and joins the roller derby, honing his roller skating skills to a state of perfection. The violence of the rink is cathartic for Billy, and it soon becomes a healthy outlet for his inner rage, but one day something goes terribly wrong. In a routine maneuver, Billy aggressively tackles his friend, Jack, in an attempt to impress a talent scout who’s in the crowd. He hits Jack hard. Real hard. Little does Billy know that one of Jack’s skate wheels has worked its way loose. When Billy rams him, it leads to a devastating tumble. Jack falls head first and brakes his neck, killing him instantly (OK, that’s a dark turn). Consumed by guilt, Billy becomes a hitchhiking vagabond, drifting from city to city with a girl named Angel. After years of running from his pained past, he decides to settle down near an inner-city neighborhood in Southern California, and Angel takes a job as a freelance writer for the local paper. At this point, it really seems things are coming together for Billy, and he begins to have hope that he’ll be able to live a normal life again.

One day, he’s walking through a bad neighborhood and notices a young Mexican boy trying to sell comics on the street.  The little guy is quickly put out of business as he starts to receive an unmerciful beating by a bunch of rough-neck hoodlums. Billy intercedes. After making easy work of the boy’s attackers, he befriends the youngster (whose name is Paco), and develops somewhat of an inappropriate relationship with him. Billy ends up spending an unusual amount of time alone with his new prepubescent pal. One night when he’s having a quiet dinner alone with Paco, Angel walks in covered in blood. Billy picks her up, then holds her as she dies. Amidst the chaos, Billy begins to scream racial expletives at the young Hispanic boy. After running Paco off with his incredibly insensitive and racist name calling, Billy trashes his own apartment in a fit of blind rage. Soon his anger gives birth to madness, and he immediately begins to construct the most absurdly awesome costume I’ve ever seen. He puts on some tiny gloves, women’s high-top roller skates, and a skin tight pair of bright white ‘coochie-cutters.’ Finally, Billy straps a utility belt on and pulls a ‘do-rag with eye-holes’ over his head. Skate-Man is Born!

Motivation: Revenge. It’s a dish best served cold, and with speed skates.

Skate-Man wonders why his friends keep dying

Skate-Man wonders why his friends keep dying.

Relationships: It’s obvious Skate-Man’s friends are doomed by some unseen supernatural force. Most of his Army buddies were brutally killed in the war, his best friend was killed by a freak accident that lead to him breaking his neck, and his first true love was butchered beyond recognition before bleeding to death. Skate-Man’s only friend is his sidekick, Paco. He supplies this little boy with a healthy stock of live grenades and a skateboard with a lawnmower engine. So, in short, he subjects a small child and his only friend to the dangerous world of vigilantism as his sidekick in the war on crime. He also manages to forge a new romance with a girl named Jill, only to make her a target for drug-dealing kidnappers. Jeez, this guy has more ‘bad luck powers’ than the Black Cat.

Antagonists: There’s an unknown gang that’s led by a guy named Skull. They use migrant workers to smuggle drugs from Mexico, while constantly harassing the local Hispanic community. Coincidentally, this is the same gang that killed Skate-Man’s girlfriend, and (Gasp!) loosened the wheel on his friend’s skates, causing the fatal roller derby accident. In an attapt to avenge his fallen derby brother, he pursues the gang to an epic confrontation. Facing insurmountable odds, the  gang quickly beats Skate-Man to an unrecognizable bloody pulp and then leaves him for dead. After the battle, he’s laid up in his girlfriend’s bed, and he’s covered with more bandages than a dead Egyptian Pharaoh. Both of his eyes are black and swollen shut, and he has bandages around his head, covering his ears. For some reason, his girlfriend decides this is a great time to sing him a little folk song to make him feel better. It doesn’t. Luckily though, after she finishes her melody, she gives him an herbal milkshake that she calls Skater-Aid (I’m dead serious), and he gets better instantly. It’s science!

Allies: Dead set on revenge, Skate-Man decides to enlist Paco to help him fight the ruthless gang. Skate-Man fashions a motorized skateboard for his ‘little partner’ Paco, and they soon become the best crime fighting  team since Batman and Robin. They’re actually better than the Dynamic Duo, because they have some serious balls! They’re  not the slightest bit timid when it comes to the use of deadly force. If you had a choice, who would you rather have your back in a fight? An insane, war hardened, ex-roller derby star and a street savvy, inner city kid who was born and raised in the midst of chaos, or a playboy billionaire and his ward? That’s what I thought. In a great closing scene, the villain’s day of atonement comes when Paco and Skate-Man rescue his kidnapped girlfriend and pummel the warehouse in which she was held with grenades and explosive charges. Their incessant carpet bombing ends up blowing the entire gang to little charred bits of flesh (Another dark turn anyone?).

Unfortunately, there was never a follow-up to Skate-Man#1, but the issue ended with the bad guys getting blown into oblivion. So, at least I feel like I have some closure. I own three copies of this book, and I never get sick of reading it. It just keeps getting better every time I pick it up. If you see a lonely copy of this book collecting dust in the quarter bin at your local comic shop, don’t pass it up. Everyone who reads comics should have Skate-Man #1 in their collection.

Josh Jones
Josh@comicattack.net

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6 Comments



  1. Quite an odd comic but funny in it’s own little way. I’ll buy and issue off ya at the next meeting if your willing to sell one



  2. ‘..I never get sick of reading it. It just keeps getting better every time I pick it up’ Kind of like Beetlejuice, huh? ‘It keeps getting funnier every time I see it!’


  3. Wendy

    Hah! A purse full of hand grenades! Hilarious article!


  4. InfiniteSpeech

    nothing scares a criminal more than knee high socks, short shorts, and a man bag full of grenades lol I love how he just tosses the grenade for his sidekick to catch! I would definitely give this book a read if I found it lol



  5. “For some reason, his girlfriend decides this is a great time to sing him a little folk song to make him feel better.”

    BWAHAHAHHAAHAHAHA!!



  6. […] is the second best character that Neil Adams ever created, falling slightly behind Skate-Man for the top slot. Neil’s artwork and stories have always held a special place in my heart, and […]



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