Kyle Baker's first full-length comic book is four chapters in the career of Cowboy Wally, a self-made celebrity whose fame began with hosting children's TV shows and spread to owning his own theme park and Wally Broadcasting Network (eventually shut down by the FCC for mysterious reasons that had nothing to do with free advertisements to pay back Wally's gambling debts to the Mob). We learn of Wally's film career, which began by producing Ed Smith, Lizard of Doom and later included Sands of Blood, the epic saga of a group of young men who have joined the French Foreign Legion to forget their broken hearts:
BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG....
—Eat hot lead, Nina!
—You're brain soup now, Pamela!
—...And this is for "I'll love you forever, Harry." BANG! And this is for "I wish you'd trust me and open up, Harry." BANG! ...And this is for "I think we should see other people, Harry." BANG! ...And this is for "We'll still be friends, Harry." BANG!
—Hey you, hey! Look up here! Up here!
—Shoot me! Shoot me!
—I'm worthless! Please kill me!
—Hey! You! Hey! 'Tis a far, far better thing I do! Hey!
After a heated battle, the guys head into town to do manly stuff like drink beer and pick up on women. Hilarity ensues, but back at the barracks, the second thoughts return.
I wouldn't mind having a really beautiful girlfriend... I wish I could just tell her, right off, before we get involved, "Look, you're beautiful and all that, I'll give you presents, take you dancing, buy you dinner, make love to you, do anything you want, give you anything you want, I'll treat you like a queen, for chrissakes, but if you try to talk to me, I'll break your arm."
Later, we see a rerun of Cowboy Wally's Late-Night Celebrity Showdown in which actress Linda Mason, a great admirer of Wally's work, gushes, "Through the story of twenty lonely men, you illuminated the plight of women everywhere.... I think you're great. The way you lampoon outdated sexual stereotypes and other Hollywood conventions. I think you're brilliant." (Wally goes on to show a clip of her "1981 classic" Rita Merkel, Leather Barbarian Girl, much to her embarrassment; as he says, "I liked it because you kept falling down, so we could see up your skirt." "You noticed that?" says Linda, "That was actually my idea. I wanted to say something about sexism in movies, you know?"
But I digress. Chapter 3 of The Cowboy Wally Show is the making of Cowboy Wally's Hamlet, a work of unmatched filmic genius. After an exciting night of celebrating their new movie contract ("The evidence against my clients is circumstantial, and those girls brought their own drugs and Wally and Lenny didn't know it was a Laundromat, and the pony was there when they arrived.") Wally and his Sands of Blood co-star, Lenny, are held without bail on charges of contempt because the judge hates their guts, but with the help of the cameraman Morris, who was kind enough to get arrested, and a friendly guard who smuggles in costumes and equipment, Hamlet is filmed on time and within budget ($10 million by the end of the week, for tax reasons, as Wally's producers say).
It may sound like I've given away a lot, but I promise, that isn't the half of it. In case I haven't made it adequately obvious, Wally is a hilarious send-up of fame, fortune, show business, advertising, commercialism, and a whole host of other things. It's vulgar, coarse, crass, and tacky, not unlike its title character, but don't let that stop you. I found it at my friendly local public library, and maybe you can, too!
A Dolphin/Doubleday book, copyright 1988 Kyle Baker. Acknowledgements (Baker's are often priceless): "I blame society."