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Tie-Tac _
solid writing
skilled art
historical bonus 2
total score 6
Back Cover
Back Cover
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Only Printing / 1974 / 24 pages / Warm Neck Funnies
Tie-Tac presents a single 20-page story about political misconduct involving a U.S. president and his staff and a government attempt to cover-up the scandal. This story was written and produced as the Watergate investigation earned daily headlines in 1973 and early '74, and while it contains some similarities to aspects of the Watergate scandal, the attempted cover-up depicted in the comic book is so absurd it detracts from the rest of the story. Perhaps that's because no one knew at the time that Richard Nixon would soon resign the presidency in shame due to the cover-up, which would have made a much more compelling conclusion to Tie-Tac.

Tie-Tac was written by future mainstream comics writer Mike Baron and illustrated by Larry Gonick, creator of the epic Cartoon History of the Universe. The story was Baron's first commercially published work and preceded his co-creation of the long-running superhero comics Nexus and Badger.

The story begins as the Regurjatomic National Convention is underway, surrounded by demonstrations and news coverage as the party delegates attempt to choose their candidate for the presidency. The leading liberal senator from New Wark is addressing the convention, but little does he know that his tie tack (spelled tie tac in the book, an acceptable spelling) is bugged by a transmitter that sends everything he says to a tape recorder in a subterranian command module beneath the convention floor. The current president and his minions observe the recording with glee, though it's never clear why they're so happy that they're recording a speech that's being broadcast on national TV.

Anyway, the tie-tac gets stolen by a sneaky pickpocket, which results in calamity as the Secret Service (in this case, Sons of the Supersonic Serpent, or S.S.S.) and local police attempt to apprehend the pickpocket and get the tie-tac back. The S.S.S. finally apprehends the pickpocket and take him down to the subterranian command module where he is interrogated by the president himself. Little does the president know that during a brief power outage the thief has connected the tie-tac to the convention's broadcasting system, so when the power comes back on the president's very revealing interrogation of the pickpocket is broadcast on the convention floor and on TVs and radios around the world. Thus the president publicly implicates himself in a huge bugging scandal and reveals embarrassing assassination conspiracies.

The cover-up of the scandal begins immediately as the S.S.S. attempts to conceal the facts by bribing and threatening anyone and everyone. The press is depicted as cowardly, indecisive and quick to give in to intimidation, and the public as descending into chaos and violence. Yes, this is the part I find even more absurd than the rest of the story, which ends with the pickpocket scurrying away to Cuba through a secret tunnel.

Tie-Tac reminds me a lot of a story Joel Beck might've written in his prime, except it's not half as funny as Beck would've written it. It's still a pretty solid story but a bit tangled in belabored plot points...it could have been told in a dozen tight pages instead of the 20 that it took. The "big shock" climax of the president unknowingly sharing his dirty laundry with a national TV audience may seem a little stale today, but I'm sure it was a much fresher concept over 40 years ago.

Gonick does a good job with the illustrations, which also remind me a bit of Beck (maybe the whole book just makes me think of Joel Beck), though they're somewhat perfunctory don't have Beck's kinetic, histrionic energy. Tie-Tac certainly captures an era in time when this type of government spy scandal would make big news. Today's scandal-of-the-day news coverage helps us understand that everything we see and hear from the government is little more than carefully scripted bullshit. Which certainly makes it harder for a comic book like Tie-Tac to deliever a jolt of reality to a calloused public.
It is currently unknown how many copies of this comic book were printed. It has not been reprinted.
Given Mike Baron's success with mainstream comics, he would probably rather forget he worked on Tie-Tac. Back in 2013, Bill Nicholls asked Baron about his first work in comics, to which Baron replied, "Larry Gonick and I published an underground in 1976 called Tie-Tac. Fortunately, no copies remain." Not quite true, Mr. Baron (not just the fact that copies of the book do indeed remain, but the book was published in 1974, not '76). And I don't think you should be so embarrassed by Tie-Tac, Mike.

Larry Gonick - 1-24 (art)
Mike Baron - 1-24 (script)