The Colossal Show

THE COLOSSAL SHOW is a TV tie-in that came untied.

Total Television Productions, the company behind Underdog and Tennessee
Tuxedo, was all set to go with The Colossal Show when the network pulled out at the
last minute. Gold Key either got the news too late or had a slot to fill, so
they came out with the one-and-only issue of TCS in 1969. That is the story I
got from a recent issue of HOGAN'S ALLEY -- packed away, alas -- and why I
picked up an copy when I saw it marked down to $2 at the Dallas Comic-Con.

I forget if Phil Silvers was actually attached to the property, but Mr.
Colossal (if you're looking at a cover shot, he's the one with his thumb out) is
definitely a Bilko-esque character. He refers to himself as "the world's
greatest talent agent," but that's inaccurate (beyond any value judgement); his job
is not to provide talent for nightclubs, but to put on shows at the pleasure of
the Emperor and Empress. He's more of a producer or impresario.

At the start of the lead story, "The Emperor's Birthday," Colossal is taking
his ease, eating grapes. A sign on the wall lists his Coming Attractions,
including "Diana Roman and the Supremes." His assistant, Festus, announces the
Empress and Colossal does a spit-take before hitting the ceiling. He comes down
with a hunk of spackle on his face and the Empresses compliments him on his new

"Er, yes, sunglasses! They're on sale at the V and X cent store!"

"May I wear them? I'm sure they do a lot for my appearance!"

"They certainly do!" (Like hide half her face. The Empress is built on
generous lines, veddy Grande Dame -- think Margaret Dumont.)

The Empress has come to pick Colossal's brain for a suitable gift for the
Emperor's birthday. Colossal stalls while Festus goes to the scroll room and
works a rather Univac-looking scroll roll to come up with "Fish." He tries to be
clever by reflecting the info in a handy mirror, but both he and Colossal
forget how reflections work and Colossal tries to sell the Empress on getting the
Emperor a Hsif. After a page of further misunderstanding the Empress has become
enamored of getting the Emperor a fishing expedition. She tells Colossal to
bring the Nile river to the Colosseum.

After Colossal comes out of his faint, he is accosted by Scribble, his
scribe. "It's impossble to bring the Nile to the Colosseum!... Now my uncle will be
sure to fire you... and I'LL GET YOUR JOB!" Scribble shows up in every story,
but just to snipe. He's content to wait for what he thinks is Colossal's
inevitable downfall.

Colossal and Festus head for the Nile in a sports-model gondola. Colossal
gets a headache from navigating and opens the galley searching for an aspirin.
Instead he finds a lion. "I-I s-said a h-headache... not the h-hiccups!" The
lion licks his face and a small boy enters. It's the lion's owner, Andy (from
Androcles, of course). Is Andy Colossal's son? Nephew? Office boy? Ganymede? Who
knows, or cares?

After much brouhaha the party reaches the nile and is immediately chased away
by a crocodile. They pole back to Rome at speed to find the Emperor fishing
off the dock. (I thought they were supposed to bring the Nile back... oh well,
why quibble, it's over.)

There are three more stories and they all follow the same pattern: Colossal
fawns over the Emperor and Empress, rides herd on Festus and Andy, ignores
Scribble, panics at the latest emergency and claims credit when things somehow
work out. Because this is a one-shot, the art stays on-model, something that
wasn't always true for longer-run titles, especially the so-called "kiddie" books.

THE COLOSSAL SHOW might've had its points, especially with Phil Silvers (or
Arnold Stang?) in the lead. A showbiz background would've been tailor-made for
guest shots, like "Ann-Margrock" and "Stony Curtis" over at THE FLINTSTONES.
As it is, we see none of Colossal's acts, just throwaway mentions of the "Gaius
Lombardus band" (Shouldn't they be the Royal Carthagians?) and the
aforementioned Diana Roman. (Seriously, Diana ROMAN? That's the best they could do? Why
not, I dunno, Jack Paarthenon? Grouchus Marximus? Sonny Cui Bono? Dolly
Parthian? Julie Londinium? Hannibal Montana?)

What we have is a workplace comedy with no real reason to be animated. TTP
seems to be aiming for a prime-time family audience, much as THE FLINTSTONES,
TOP CAT and THE JETSONS were on first showing. But by 1969 it was pretty clear
that audiences (or at least networks) felt cartoons were for kids. Hanna
Barbera would visit the Caesar Salad Days with their ROMAN HOLLIDAYS series, which
was just Flintstone-type family humor in ancient Rome (also with a pet lion).
But at least that series got on the air. More kids can relate to being part of
a family than to being a schmoozer.