TITLE: Protectors Issue #5
YEAR: January 1993
COMPANY: Malibu Comics
Writer: R.A. Jones
Penciller: Thomas Derenick
Colorist: The Malibu Pack Rats
Letterer: Clem Robins
Interior Color Design: Tom O’Connor
Separations: Edd Hendricks, Mark Christy
Before there was an Ultraverse, Malibu Comics released several series but one that would delve into the superhero realm with the series “Protectors”.
Written by R.A. Jones and featuring pencils by Thomas Derenick and inking by Deodato, “Protectors” was a series that would return back to that Golden Age feel. In fact, a lot of the letters about the first issue always made comments of how it felt like a Golden Age comic book.
And with an interview featured in the first issue of “Protectors”, R.A. Jones said, “With the ‘Protectors’, I want to do a ’90s book but retain certain elements from the past that I think were good. One of those elements is trying to keep the story down to a human level, at least for now. Super hero comics have tended to become extremely large and cosmic in their scope. The heroes don’t seem to be doing their job unless they’re fighting some menace that threatens to destroy the entire universe or something. I would prefer to keep it scaled down to a more human level than that. That’s one of the reasons I came up with the clause in their charter that doesn’t allow any of these heroes to kill. With the trend towards grim and gritty that comics have now, we’ve lost a little bit of the nobility the heroes once had. Again, I’m working for a blend there, I want it to be as realistic as anything involving people in silly costumes can be, but at the same time keep some of the old-fashioned things that got lost in the shuffle somewhere along the way”.
Perhaps the first four issues made too many references to the comic feeling like a golden age comic book, perhaps the competition with other independent comic books willing to take risks made R.A. Jones rethink his approach to the “Protectors” because by issue 5, the comic went grim and gritty and its most violent and bloody issue yet.
The issue begins with two leaders giving a speech to their team. Man of War getting his team ready for night patrol and reminding everyone that their is problems with the communications equipment. So, they’ll need to be careful and maintain regular radio communications.
Meanwhile, the series antagonist, Mr. Monday prepares the Steel Army to deal a crushing blow to the Protectors.
As the President goes to the hospital to visit Philip Reinhard (secret leader of the Protectors and was recently targeted for death by the enemy), Philip is still not thrilled that his son Richard (Night Mask) joined the Protectors. But that he’s older and a man, he needs to make his own mistakes.
Richard has always been a young man that has been trying to make his father proud of him. Unfortunately, Philip Reinhard is always looking down on is son and is so cold to his son for joining the Protectors. So, Richard wants to prove that Night Mask can be a hero.
As everyone is on patrol, Night Mask catches the Steel Army trying to break into a Post Office. As he tries to alert his teammates, unfortunately the communication devices are not working right and feels that he needs to take them on his own. Feeling he needs to prove to his teammates that he belongs to be in the team and most of all, to prove to his father that it was not a mistake for him to be a member of the Protectors.
PLEASE NOTE: I’m going to spoil the ending because I have to discuss how this issue ends…
Unfortunately, Night Mask has stepped into a trap setup by Mr. Monday and as Man of War sends out a Code Red to all members of the Protectors A and B Squad to find Night Mask, Mr. Monday has hijacked the TV networks and broadcasting to the world of his fight against Night Mask.
Night Mask tries his best but Mr. Monday proves to be too powerful.
And by the time the Protectors reach Night Mask, they find Night Mask murdered with “Monday riles” written on the walls in his blood.
So, let’s discuss this issue. Malibu Comics probably has the distinction of creating the first comic book with a force beam (Bullet Hole). No, this is not just the front cover but the entire comic.
This was quite interesting because as Marvel and DC competed in having various limited edition covers, while “Wolverine” issue #50 was cool with the die-cut claw rip on the cover, Malibu Comics had a hole going through the entire comic book to showcase Night Mask getting a laser beam shooting across his body with blood gushing out.
But I found this issue interesting because everyone expected “Protectors” to be a Golden Age style of comic book series, nothing grim and pretty much good guys vs. bad guys. Until we got to #5.
In some ways, I looked at Night Mask to be like Robin. It made me think of Jason Todd before he was killed off in “Batman”, a hero trying to prove himself and not thinking clear enough and in this case, Richard has always been a character with dad issues. A son yearning for his father to accept him, to be proud of him. And a father who is not only leader of the Protectors but also a major dick. His father has the “you are older, you are a man, you f*#$ up, that’s on you!” mentality. Really, all it took was, “Son, I’m proud of you. I don’t want you to be a member of the Protectors but there are things you can do behind-the-scenes to help out!” or heck, get him another job. He had the connections and the power, but he looked down on his son, made him feel like crap and in the end, his son died trying to make his father and the Protectors proud.
Nevertheless, I enjoyed this issue and I think I owned multiple copies of issue #5 at one time but ending up selling a few copies to friends wanting it because of the uniqueness of the hole in the middle. Granted, I doubt any other comic company will follow because a hole does interfere with every page in the comic (fortunately, for this issue, it’s not obscuring any dialogue or faces) but it was unique for its time and I don’t think comic book company has done something like this since then.