Jet-Poop Todd: Unhand those children, you arch-fiend!
Dr. Charybdis: Gadzooks! It's Team Jet-Poop!
Jet-Poop Jack: We'll foil your evil plan and teach you the true meaning of the season, or I'm a bisexual gerbil from Romania!
Every year sees the rerunning of the same old Christmas fare while newer Holiday specials vie for their piece of the festive pie. Given that the corpus of such specials includes years of movies like It's a Wonderful Life and Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, the holiday adventures of every toy in existence, and a cable-channel's worth of A Christmas Carol adaptations, it's surprising that most venerable of American pop creations, the superhero, has been largely untapped among the specials.
Who, then, to first grace seasonal television with an invitation to spend Christmas with the Super-Heroes? The Justice League of America? The Incredible Hulk? Stargirl?
No, the ground has been broken by the guardian of Lubbock, Texas, Jet-Poop.
Most of you will be familiar, if only peripherally, with the character, from the comic or the short-lived Saturday morning cartoon. Scooter, a bearded fanboy who collects comics and old issues of Famous Monsters of Filmland is in reality Jet-Poop, who has the ability to fly and shoot thunderbolts thanks to his unique source of power. It's an impressive jet-but not the most singular of the windy man's features.
A sort of flying, bolt-shooting multiplex, Jet-Poop can also become Team Jet-Poop and divide into as many as five1 versions of himself. After a time, they must be reabsorbed, or he loses his powers. For convenience, the divided Jets use names to identify each other: Phillip, Todd, Jack, Patrick, and Olivia. Although most look like the original, Olivia has female attributes, and functions as the team's obligatory super-babe. Each wields the full power of the integrated Poop. Together with their trusty pet jackalope, Victorio, they fight crime in Lubbock and beyond, often paying visits to other places around the Lone Star State.
Anyway, this 2008 special cuts from Scooter and Victorio decorating their tree and looking forward to spending Christmas celebrating and superheroing, but, after the public events end, largely alone. Meanwhile, across the city at the Cochise residence, little Dannye Boy feels dejected because his parents have been dividing their time between his toddler sister and their working lives. Believing himself unloved, he decides to run away. Unfortunately, there's heavy weather in the city of dreams; a freak blizzard is about to dump a Texas-sized load of snow on the unsuspecting, unprepared runaway.
Since this is a superhero story, we naturally need a bigger, more colorful villain than a childish feeling of "You Are Not Being Fair" and weather that would go unnoticed in Canada. No, something wicked this way comes, and it's the menacing high weirdness of Dr. Charybdis, a mad scientist who looks like Albert Einstein's evil twin with Larry Fine's hair and Uncle Sam's beard. He quickly establishes his character by bullying some little old ladies. "Wait until dark!" he then maniacally screams, before heading to the Los Alamos National Laboratory to steal a component for his next diabolical scheme.
Meanwhile, a distraught Mr. and Mrs. Cochise have called the police to complain about their missing child, and Scooter, hearing the news, transforms into his cobalt blue suit-wearing alter-ego. Splitting into all five members of Team Jet-Poop ("Team Jet-Poop! Away!"), he vows to find the missing Dannye.
Dannye, meanwhile, has run into a less-experienced superhero, Squirrel Girl—not the Marvel comics character but a similarly-powered little red-haired girl. Her grandmother was among the women harassed by Dr. Charybdis, and she has taken it upon herself to track him down and demand an apology. She has heart, but she's not much older than Dannye, and does not really understand who she's up against.
This female answer to Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen in a modified girl scout outfit does not endear herself to me. I understand her purposes. She brings out the Poop's paternal (in the case of Olivia, maternal) instincts, thus giving him a personal reason to keep caring after the episode's conclusion. She also bridges the gap between the kids and the grownups. Unfortunately, the actress talks in a cutesy squirrel voice that sounds both like she's speaking in tongues and holding a mouthful of marbles. It's difficult to like a character whose every word sounds like a secret message which, once decrypted, rarely proves worth the effort.
In any case, Dannye and Squirrel Girl quickly find themselves spending Christmas Eve in the villain's lair, where they learn his real plot: he wants to stop Christmas, once and for all, using waxwork robots constructed from a special wax harvested on the moons of Uranus. Now, if I could make special waxwork robots, I would kick back and collect the money, but no, he's going to stop Christmas. We see cracks in his evil, however; he treats his pet, Banana Split, a poodle/rat terrier cross, with a fair bit of affection, and we realize that, underneath it all, he's not pure evil.
While we await their fate in suspense, the Poops, blazing noisy as a mad crapper across the Texan skies, experience several individual adventures in which each of the searchers sets aside his or her quest to help the less fortunate with holiday troubles. Each time, the members of Team Jet-Poop wonder if they shouldn't just pass them by for the moment, and each time, basic goodness wins out. Of course, coincidentally, each of these unfortunates has exactly the correct information, thanks to events they've witnessed, that collectively, the Jet-Poops realize Dr. Charybdis has been in their cowtown and up to no good.
They ultimately track the villain to his cyclopean lair. Supposedly across the border in Sacramento, New Mexico, the exterior shots in fact show Lubbock’s most notorious piece of suburban blight, The Blacke Asylum, which looks quite sinister in the full moon, surrounded by a fresh snow fence. Once inside, we experience no ordinary horror by holiday special standards. Filled with twisted traps and mazelike corridors, it's a film noir sort of place where one might easily encounter a classic monster, such as the Creature from the Black Lagoon. The Poops and their pet face many challenges in their efforts to stop the Doc and keep the young'uns from becoming a bag of crushed child.
Much transpires over the course of one hour. We have Charybdis try to make a patsy of our heroes by sending out wax-robot dummies, The False Team Jet-Poop. We experience Phillip and Jack, channeling Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, schticking and schmaltzing their way through the musical number, which no Christmas Special can be forgetting. Children rescued from the jaws of doom. Dr. Charybdis cackling astride a big bird of prey. A deer in the dorm and a gooey hot fudge dispenser. A showdown in a ghost town to avoid human wreckage. The homecoming to the Cochise's big house. And, of course, the final, truthy expression of the True Meaning of Christmas and a reaffirmation that there is love and magic in the world, before the final pan over the Lubbock lights.
The Holiday Season brings many specials and occasions and you can neither experience nor love everything, but, in these hard times, I believe even the biggest skeptic can make room for this tough-storm-weathering, oddball offering.
1.Oolong reminds me that the Poop could originally divide seven times. "Edward" and "Oscar" were killed in issue #68 of the comic, saving the world from an asteroid strike. In fact, the publishers felt that seven soldiers cluttered the plot, and made the character's (characters'?) adventures too difficult to follow.