barney1Barney the Invisible Turtle #1 made it’s debut in 1987 thanks to the publisher, Amazing Comics! Despite multiple google searches and relentless link clicking, I was unable to find anything on Amazing Comics. Numerous fanboys and shop owners have adopted the name for their web blogs and stores, making it difficult to find info on an obsolete comic book publishing company from the late 1980’s. My search on Barney’s creator, writer, and illustrator, Rick Rodolfo, was only slightly more successful. The small bits of info I managed to find on Rodolfo are that in 1992 he illustrated Sports Superstars #11 (featuring Pittsburgh Penguin and hockey great, Mario Lemieux), and he is credited on the comic Led Zepplin #1 (although there is no mention as to what he actually did on the title). It’s as if Rodolfo’s turtle creation has passed his intangibility onto him and Amazing Comics, as both have become invisible to the modern world… However, Rick did write an afterword in Barney where he states that he was working for a publishing company (but doesn’t mention the name) when he came up with the idea for the comic, “The inspiration [for Barney], of course, was the old Jimmy Stewart movie. Harvey. That classic film was about a man who talked to a rabbit- a ‘pooka’ – which no one else could see or hear.”

I’ve never seen the film Harvey, but the description of it fits Barney the Invisible Turtle just fine. So who is Barney? Well, he’s a sarcastic, hard nosed, cigar smoking, scarf wearing, no nonsense-sneaker-sporting invisible turtle detective who can only be seen by the insecure Private Investigator, Ted Gavin. Oh, and Barney also drives a car. You know that MTV show where muscle-man-meatheads go on a headset to coach pimply-wimped-out-nerd-boys on a date with an incredibly hot girl? That’s the relationship Barney has with Ted: a corny figure of guidance who also gives a swift kick in the pants when needed. The turtle’s first lines of the comic are, “Murder City. That’s what they call Detroit. I like to stay out of Detroit. I’m no fool. But- if anyone around Detroit gets out of line, that’s where I come in. My name’s Barney. I’m a turtle. My partner’s Ted Gavin. We’re detectives. I’m invisible.”

The comic is printed in black and white and contains three short stories about the adventures of the two detectives. The first tale is called The Cold Glint of Death, and opens with the wealthy Max Caulder calling the police to inform them that his wife Rose and her car have gone missing. Ted and Barney discover that Max was having an affair with a sultry waitress, and the two P.I.’s can’t help but wonder if Rose is truly missing, or if something sinister is going down… When Ted goes to interrogate Cheri, the suspect waitress, she slaps him and tells him to get out of her restaurant. Later, the duo happen upon tire tracks leading into a river, and upon further investigation find Rose’s body in the submerged car. Now they have a new mission: to peg Max and Cheri for murder!

The second tale, entitled Soft-War begins with Ted and his invisible pal being introduced to a top secret government weapon: the robot M.A.R.C. (Mobile Army Retaliatory Computer), which looks like an android with a flat screen TV for a head. After Barney pinches the bum of a tempting female government worker (and Ted gets the blame, because Barney is of course, invisible), M.A.R.C. goes haywire and escapes from the government facility. Nobody knows that the robot’s system has been hacked by a kid named Johnny Boudin who now has control of the most powerful weapon in the U.S. military! The machine goes renegade, escaping from the government facility.

Ted and Barney are repeatedly thwarted in their search for M.A.R.C., as it changes from a walking machine to a mailbox and then into a gas pump in order to avoid capture. But, when the two P.I.’s finally pin M.A.R.C. in a residential area, Barney gets aggressive and proves how valuable a scarf can truly be in the heat of battle! Ignoring the fact that a scarf is used as a weapon to take down a robot, the story has two odd moments when the art is heavily shaded for one page, and about half way through the tale the lettering style changes. I know- this is peanuts when compared to what the comic is actually about. But hey, I thought it was worth mentioning.

A Day at the Game is the final installment of the issue, as after their previous two adventures Ted and Barney decide to take a vacation and attend a football game. Ted gets ice cream spilled on him from a fat guy, and when he and Barney head to the bathroom to clean up the mess, Ted trips over a bloodied body. That body is in fact an F.B.I. agent who was badly beaten by the international terrorist, Mad Albert! With his dying breath, the Agent charges Ted and Barney to track down Mad Albert and put an end to his evil games. Naturally, the two agree to this mission and some seriously silly football fighting antics ensue.

Check out these frivolous quotes from the issue:

“I’m invisible– nobody but you can see me. Besides, you can plead insanity. I’m sure someone will vouch for you.” – Barney

“Big deal! It’s just like any other government-funded project- $500 for nuts and bolts and probably doesn’t even work.” – Barney

“I just wanted to check out that hot blonde at the cash register!” – Barney

“Are you guys foolin’ around with that computer again? Why don’t you act like normal teenagers and mug somebody?” – Mr. Boudin

“It’s not how you play the game that counts, it’s whether you win or lose that matters.” – Barney

So, does Barney really exist or is he just a figment of Ted’s imagination? We’re never really told as either conclusion is possible considering Barney’s cigar smoke is never smelled by anyone, yet he is able to drive a car and touch people (and by ‘people’ I mean ‘unsuspecting women’). I suppose that question is left for the reader to decide. After all, haven’t we all met someone like Barney at one point in our lives?

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