GogglemanCoverI once wrote a comic book about a talking pair of safety goggles with arms and legs. For the Power Tool Institute, an “association of power tool manufacturers (which) educates the public as to the usefulness and importance of power tools; encourages high standards of safety and quality control…and prepares and distributes information about the safe use of power tools.”

It was, essentially, an adaptation of a (repetitive) legal disclaimer in comic book form. And about as interesting.

Some time in early 1991 I was contacted by Kanan, Corbin, Schupak & Aronow (KCSA), a New York public relations firm. I don’t recall where they dug up my name–maybe they’d come across some of the several promotional comics I’d written for DC and Archie for Radio Shack’s TRS-80 computer (starring Alec and Shanna, the “TRS-80 Computer Whiz Kids”)–but they called, I went in for the meeting, and walked out with the assignment to write The Adventures of Goggleman one-shot comic book.

Goggleman was apparently the “creation” of the young artist who would be drawing this opus and who was already attached to the project when I was hired. To call his efforts amateurish would be kind, but (a) I had no cause to blow the deal for this kid by offering these guys access to someone who could draw, because (b) this was some kind of power tool trade show giveaway which was unlikely to ever be seen by anyone I knew. So I didn’t point out the deficiencies to the KCSA bigwigs…especially after one of them had gushed enthusiastically over the artist’s preliminary sketches. Like most people I’ve encountered from outside the comics biz who are dealing with comics in their own fields for the first time, all comic book art, good or bad, looks pretty much the same to them. Plus, c’mon…The Adventures of Goggleman? This this was a take-the-money-and-run gig if ever there was one. (Not that I give any more or less to a project because of what it pays or any other factor; if I take the money, I give it my best. As I like to say, I don’t write for the money, but I always turn in the manuscript for a check.)

The Adventures of Goggleman was a 24 + 4 (24 interior pages + 4 covers, although they used the same paper stock for the whole package), and I was handed a “Comic Book Treatment,” or outline of the contents:

Cover 1

Cover 2: “Introduction by Goggleman”

Pages 1-6: “Chapter One: Safety Begins In the Home”

Page 7: “Interactive Quiz Page #1,” etc.


With that as my guide, I went home and wrote the script. What I said above about this being a legal disclaimer in comic book form was no joke…well, okay, it was a big honkin’ joke which, at the time, I didn’t think was very funny. See, I wrote a script featuring a bunch of characters (dad and daughter, pals Tim and Allen–I was a big fan of the Home Improvement comedian at the time–school shop teacher, etc.) who, within the boundaries of the project, spoke more or less like real human beings. Albeit ones in a comic book. Who were pitching woodies over power tool and shop safety tips. But even that sorry stab at natural (naturalish?) dialog was fated to fall to the Legalese Red Pencil of Doom.


See, this being an instructional booklet, with the consequences of ignoring the instructions therein the possible dismemberment of all sorts of body parts, KCSA, the Power Tool Institute, and all the lawyers had a very specific idea about how this comic should read. And that was like the small print in an instruction manual that comes with a table saw. So instead of saying simply, “Remember to always wear your safety goggles when using a power tool,” the characters have to launch into a long litany that not only includes the goggles but also touches on ear protection, the use of safety guards, the need to thoroughly read the manual before you turn on the power, even wearing the proper apparel (no loose clothing! no jewelry!). No stone was to be left unturned in any single balloon in any panel of a single page of this thing. In other words, there couldn’t be a single word or statement in–or, more importantly, left out of–that entire comic book of that might be interpreted or misread in any way, shape, or form and could lead someone to not wear their safety goggles or to think it’s okay operate a chainsaw while standing in a puddle of water.


The rewrites–every single one due to these “legal clarifications”–were, as I recall, endless, and each one made the script worse and worse. Which, considering where it started…but, as with all things, it finally ended. Mostly, I think, because there just wasn’t room left in the panels to shove any more words; the characters were already being crushed to death under the weight of these dense, dry balloons. Oh, and for all the excess and mind numbing verbiage they forced into the story itself…on the back cover, they ran a repetitive, not to mention redundant, full page of “Goggleman’s Power Tool Safety Rules”: twenty-six detailed rules in four-point type.

Some time later, I received a couple of copies of the finished book (“Special Collector’s Edition!”…not!) in the mail. I flipped through it, winced, and stuck them away on a shelf. And now, almost twenty-five years later, I share the pain with you. But remember: Be sure to wear your goggles while reading!Goggleman-Rodriquez

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