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Adventures of Jack Burton

Episode Studies by Clayton Barr

enik1138-at-popapostle-dot-com
Big Trouble in Little China: Encino Man Adventures of Jack Burton
"Encino Man"
Big Trouble in Little China #13 (BOOM! Studios)
Written by Fred Van Lente
Illustrated by Joe Eisma
Colors by Gonzalo Duarte
Letters by Ed Dukeshire
Cover by Jay Shaw
July 2015

 

Jack tries to resume his interrupted life in 2015.

 

Story Summary

 

The issue opens with a 5-page segment that takes place at some point in the future, with Wang's daughter Winona and Jack being chased in the Pork-Chop Express by a helicopter (Blue Thunder?) and loaded down with a passel of small turtle-like humanoids.

 

Then the story cuts back in time to Jack arriving at Wang's Dragon of the Black Pool restaurant in Chinatown after a bus ride from which he awoke after 30 years in Arizona, looking for his truck. Meanwhile, a very odd and violent group of three men and a robot look for Jack's body at Prospector Pete's Truck Stop and, learning that Jack recently came back to life and escaped, they blow up the station.

 

At the Dragon of the Black Pool, Jack is reunited with Wang, now 30 years older, heavier, and balding. Wang still runs the restaurant, now with his daughter, Winona. Wang has been despondent for some time about his wife, Miao Yin leaving him some time back. Eddie Lee is also still around, now living in a spare office at the back of the restaurant and having gone a bit off the deep end due to the disappearance of his author wife, Margo, who had been in the middle of researching a book. Jack also learns that Winona sold the Pork-Chop Express.

 

The three men and a robot also show up at this time and we learn that another man, Mister Shido, has the Pork-Chop Express in a warehouse along with a number of other unusual vehicles. It seems he also wants Jack as part of his collection.

 

CONTINTUED IN BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA #14

 

Notes from the Jack Burton chronology

 

This issue begins Jack Burton's adventures after waking after a 30-year "death" (seen in "The Luck of the Righteous Fool") in 2015.

 

Characters appearing or mentioned in this issue

 

Jack Burton

Winona Chi

Lt. John Attila (name revealed in BTILC #14)

Jheri Lee (the Michael Jackson-like character)

Joystick

The Gadgeteer (name unrevealed)

Owner of Prospector Pete's Truck Stop (unnamed; Pete?)

Atilla

Miao Yin (mentioned only)

Wang Chi

Eddie Lee

Lucid (mentioned only)

Margo Litzenberger (mentioned only)

Lo Pan (mentioned only)

Baba Yaga (mentioned only)

Mister Shido

 

 

 

Didja Know?

 

The issues of this series did not have individual titles. I chose the title "Encino Man" based on Winona Chi's observation in this issue that Jack is now like the caveman character from the 1992 film Encino Man.

 

New writer Fred Van Lente and new artist Joe Eisma take over the series with this issue. Also, John Carpenter is no longer co-credited with the story (though he does get a special thanks on each issue).

 

The "Chinese take-out menu" design of the credits page on the inside front cover of past issues is gone, replaced by a more standard design. In addition, the "subtitle" of "The Continuing Adventures of Jack Burton and the Pork-Chop Express" on the credits has "Pork-Chop Express" crossed out for the current 4-issue storyline, after which "Pork-Chop Express" is dropped completely.

 

Page 5 gives the title of this 4-issue storyline as Big Trouble in Little Tokyo or I Hate the '80s.

 

Didja Notice?

 

As the issue opens, we get a 5-page flash-forward to the events of BTILC #16, with Jack reunited with the Pork-Chop Express and driving it rather recklessly through Chinatown with a large number of fanged "ninja turtles" clinging to the trailer. It's not until BTILC #16 that the turtle creatures are explained as kappa, turtle-like humanoids in Japanese folklore. The turtles may also be a wink to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a comic book series that began in 1984 and has expanded worldwide into virtually every form of media.

 

Jack refers to the turtles as "Jerry Lewis-haired little buggers". Jerry Lewis is a comedian and film actor who has been active since 1931. The turtles seen here all have a tuft of dark hair on their heads that looks slightly like the style worn by Lewis at times.

 

The sides of Jack's tractor trailer appear to be blank on the first three pages of this issue, but on the double-page spread of pages 4-5, it's emblazoned with the logo of the Shrooms. The logo and associated cartoon character with it appear to be a take-off of the Smurfs, a Belgian comic book series that began in 1958 and has expanded worldwide into virtually every media.

 

On page 6, a gang of '80s-obsessed weirdoes arrives at a gas station to see the Ossified '80s Man. The gas station is Prospector Pete's Truck Stop and Quickie Annulments in Arizona, as introduced in the previous issue ("The Luck of the Righteous Fool"). Jack was seen stored as the Amazing Ossified '80s Man in that issue.

 

The '80s-obsessed weirdoes appear to be caricatures of a number of characters from the 1980s: One is an Arnold Schwarzenegger commando type, one a Michael Jackson type, one a cute-but-functional robot with mannerisms similar to Twiki from Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and the last the Rocketeer wearing the hockey mask of Jason Voorhees.

'80s gang

 

On page 8, a large sign above the check-out counter at Prospector Pete's Truck Stop appears to be read "Malboro". This would be a play on the cigarette brand Marlboro.

 

On page 9, one of the gas station workers tells the lieutenant that they passed the hat around and bought Jack a Greyhound to San Francisco. Greyhound is an intercity bus line that travels to destinations across North America.

 

On page 10, one of the gas station attendants makes a crack about Obama Care-funded city housing. Obamacare is a term often used in place of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in the United States, enacted by President Barack Obama in 2010 to provide low-cost medical insurance for all U.S. citizens. It doesn't actually have anything to do with "city housing"; presumably the argument by the attendant is meant as an example of the exaggerated criticisms some conservative voters and pundits have applied to the act in their attempts to stop or repeal it.

 

The restaurant Jack finds Wang and his daughter Winona in is the Dragon of the Black Pool, the restaurant Wang owned in Big Trouble in Little China.

 

On page 13 Winona is reading Feng Shui for Dummies. This is an actual book in the popular "For Dummies" line of learning books. Feng shui is a type of Chinese Earth magic that can allegedly be utilized to improve one's fortune and harmonize people with their environment, using principles of astronomy and geomagnetism.

 

Also on page 13, Jack remarks on his having been frozen in time since the second Reagan administration. Ronald Reagan was President of the United States from 1981-1989.

 

Wang tells Jack that Miao left him for a rich casino magnate she met on Facebook.

 

Winona refers to Jack as Encino Man. This is a reference to the 1992 comedy film Encino Man, in which a caveman is found frozen in a block of ice in the ground of the backyard of a home in Encino, CA and thaws out, obviously perplexed by the age in which he finds himself.

 

Wang refers to Jack as his BFF. BFF is short for Best Friend Forever.

 

On page 15, Jack alludes to Wang's weight increase since 1986 with a reference to Arby's discount menu. Arby's is a fast food sandwich chain in the U.S.

 

Also on page 15, Jack tells Wang, "Stop me if you've heard this one before, but I wouldn't mind just getting my truck and getting out of here..." In Big Trouble in Little China, Jack states that all he wants is his truck back after it disappeared when he and Wang were forced to flee from the Wing Kong early in the film.

 

Eddie appears to be using an old Apple Macintosh computer at his desk.

 

Wang reveals that, after Big Trouble in Little China, Eddie and Margo got married and Margo wrote a book about the events of that film titled Big Trouble in Little China. Jack doesn't seem too crazy about the title and remarks that he would have called it The Further Adventures of Jack Burton and the Pork-Chop Express. This is (almost) the subtitle of the first twelve issues of this comic book series. 

 

Wang goes on to reveal that the book was one of the biggest best-sellers of the '80s and it was even made into a movie. The movie poster he shows Jack is the actual main poster used to advertise the real world film! Seeing it, Jack is excited that they got Snake Plissken to play him! Snake Plissken is a character portrayed by actor Kurt Russell in the 1982 film Escape from New York (he also played Snake in the 1996 film Escape from L.A., but Jack would most likely not be aware of that film yet since he was ossified from 1986-2015). Kurt Russell, of course, also plays Jack Burton in the actual Big Trouble in Little China film. Big Trouble in Little China starring Snake Plissken Big Trouble in Little China movie poster

 

Big Trouble books    Wang explains that after the success of her book, Margo went around the world looking for more stories in similar ethnic enclaves, writing Big Trouble in Little Armenia, Big Trouble in Little Haiti, and Big Trouble in Little Calgary. She disappeared in the Russian enclave of Cicero, Illinois while researching what was to be her next book, Big Trouble in Little Odessa. Little Armenia is an actual neighborhood in Los Angeles and Little Haiti a neighborhood in Miami, Florida. "Little Odessa" became a nickname for the Brighton Beach neighborhood of New York City in the late '80s and early '90s when immigrants from the former Soviet Union started to move there (Odessa being a city in Ukraine, formerly part of the Soviet Union). As far as I can tell, there is no Little Calgary; Calgary is a city in the Canadian province of Alberta.
   The symbols on the book covers are representative of aspects of each culture. The Armenia book has the nation's coat of arms; the Haiti book the Haitian vodou symbol of Damballah-Wedo, a serpent deity; and the Calgary book the hat of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the maple leaf of the Canadian flag.

 

About Margo, Eddie asks, "...is it a coincidence the Berlin Wall came down right after she vanished?" The Berlin Wall was a wall of concrete and wire mesh over 90 miles long that divided the cities of East and West Berlin in East and West Germany, built by the Soviet-allied communist East German government to keep their citizens from escaping to the west. The wall existed from 1961 to 1989.

 

On page 18, panel 6, Eddie has what may be intended to be two cans of Jolt Cola, a high-caffeine energy drink, sitting on his desk. (In the following issue, the parody name "Bolt Cola" is identified in another context, so Eddie may have been drinking Bolt.)

 

Eddie tells Wang that he's got a new lead that connects Margo's disappearance to an apartment building bombing in Moscow that he believes was engineered by an ancient sect of Russian witches working under the command of Baba Yaga. Moscow is the capital of Russia. Baba Yaga is a deformed woman with supernatural powers in Slavic folklore.

 

Jack asks Wang if the internet is anything like Compuserve. Compuserve was the first major online service, beginning in the 1980s, though the company itself was founded in 1969 to provide network computer sharing for businesses. CompuServe is now merely an online portal.

 

On page 21, Mister Shido takes a phone call inside a skyscraper at Negamaki Plaza. This appears to be a fictitious location, but is probably a take-off from Nakatomi Plaza in the 1988 action film Die Hard.

 

On page 21, Mister Shido says "Arigato, Mr. Lee." Arigato is Japanese for "thank you".

 

On the last page of the issue, we see that Mister Shido seems to have a warehouse full of vehicles that may all be analogs of ones seen in popular '80s films. The Pork-Chop Express is there, as well as a helicopter that may be Blue Thunder and a jet fighter that may be Firefox (from the 1983 and 1982 films of the same name, respectively).

 

Unanswered Questions

 

Why are there fanged turtles clutching onto the Pork-Chop Express at the beginning of the issue? Why was the (U.S. military?) helicopter trying to destroy the truck and turtles? 


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