Let me start off this week by giving credit where it is due: I found out about the Brute Force from a YouTube reviewer who calls himself Linkara. He reviews bad comics (among other things), and I’ve found out about a few things from the guy. In point of fact, his review of U.S.1 helped me flesh out that Misplaced Hero Case File on that guy, though it wasn’t the first time I’d heard of that character.
His show was the first time I ever heard about the Brute Force. Oh man…Brute Force…
Brute Force was a product of the brain trust at Marvel that had what sounded to me like a legitimately good idea: reverse the licensing process!
Allow me to explain. Licensed books have been around for years as comic companies vie for the rights to print comic book adventures of other company’s intellectual property, usually in the form of TV, movie, or toy tie-ins. Marvel had some success with a few of those.
Now, the thing with toy tie-ins for stuff like G.I. Joe, Transformers, and Micronauts, all books Marvel held the rights to at one point in time to some level of success, is, for a licensed book, a comic company puts out some money to acquire the rights to the characters, and then for a toy line especially, Marvel or whoever often has to make up the mythology themselves. The Toys That Made Us documentary series on Netflix explains that very well in the Transformers episode. Heck, I read a reprint of a Superman/He-Man team-up that DC did back in the 80s and that was clearly showing a Masters of the Universe mythology very different from the one on the cartoon show. For one thing, He-Man talked like Marvel’s Thor.
But, what if Marvel created the line and then licensed the idea out to toy manufacturers instead? Let the toy company pay Marvel for the rights to something instead of Marvel paying one of them?
That was the basic idea behind the creation of Brute Force.
The essential idea was that, in order to fight pollution and environmental damage, a scientist created some battle armor that gave human level intelligence and advanced weapons to some animals. They called themselves Brute Force, and their membership consisted of a bear named Wreckless, a lion named Lionheart, a kangaroo named Hip Hop, a dolphin named Surfstream, and an eagle named Soar. Together, they fought polluters by blowing things up and causing as much damage and mayhem as possible. Appearing in a four issue mini-series in 1990, Marvel even got Simon Furman to write it, and he did a lot of Transformers comics over the years.
As it is, no toy company took the bait. And the Brute even had some enemies, cybernetic animals initially kidnapped by fast food clowns (no, really) that loved to pollute. See this was the era when enviromental comics showed bad guys just loved polluting for some reason, not that they let bad stuff get out due to greed and/or laziness. No, they intended to ruin the Earth! As such, they had through their corporation Multicorp the team Heavy Metal, the villainous counterparts to Brute Force. Their numbers included Armory the octopus, Uproar the gorilla, Tailgunner the buzzard, Bloodbath the shark, and Ramrod the rhino. Brute Force beat them at the end of issue four, and….well, they did reappear once more since then.
Now, today we know more about pollution than we did in 1990 in terms of things like climate change, but back then, well, it didn’t matter how much stuff you blew up to be a good guy for the environment. Those sorts of things just happen.
By the by, the aforementioned U.S.1 was also an licensed character when Marvel got the rights to…some slot car set? Man, I guess a remote control coin wasn’t that bad a thing when you consider what they started with…