Fed up with suffering failure after failure after ignomonious failure at the hands of the Treehouse Warriors, Hiss Hole does the unthinkable. He calls upon the services of four of the most ruthless, bloodthirsty, powerful foes the Warriors have ever faced: Demi-Jon, Captain Maggot, Dr. Ichabod Freely, and Dung Tung Wu. Dubbed the Nefarious Four, these dangerous outlaws will stop at nothing to bring Jon and his team down. Will the Teen of Titanium survive the most brutal fight of his young life? Or will their onslaught of perfidous puzzles crush both his mind and body irrevocably? This lone issue promises to change the face of this franchise forever!
Issue #: 401
Issue #: 37
Release Date: April 29, 2008
This month's cover is a mock-up of the cover to an issue of Madballs, a short-lived title Marvel Comics published in the mideighties under its Star imprint. Elements of the plot and structure are also very similar to that issue: a cadre of past foes gather for the express purpose of destroying the heroes, and each offers up a puzzle for them (and the readers) to solve.
Title: "The Nefarious Four"
Story (out of 33 pages): 33 p.
Penciller: Jason W. Keane
Letterer:Shane T. Eaton
Colorist: Annette T. "Jo" Shaw
The story opens in a great meeting chamber down in the Cobra Pit, where Hiss Hole has gathered four of the most dangerous, psychotic, immoral criminals together:
Ichabod P. Freely, and
Dung Tung Wu.
Each man has been hand-picked for both his own unique talents and the fact that each has a bitter grudge against either Jon himself or for a member of his team. Although Maggot is initially wary of working with Hiss Hole again because of
what happened the last time, the four men agree that working together is a good idea. Hiss Hole dubs this new criminal alliance "The Nefarious Four".
Later Jon recieves an e-mail from someone telling him they have his sister, ending with the warning "Do not call the police". Jon--using his detective skills and some very obvious clues left about the apartment--figures out that Demi-Jon, Captain Maggot, I.P. Freely, and Dung Tung Wu are working together, and that they forcibly took Marcie from her apartment earlier in the day. The Warriors wonder why those four have teamed up.
The question answers itself when, suddenly, a holographic Hiss Hole appears right in Jon's den. The villianous viper tells him he has Marcie, and if he ever hopes to see her again, he must prove himself worthy by facing his warriors in battle. Jon agrees, and instantly a dimensional door opens. Jon and his Warriors step through and find themselves in a strange parallel world.
Hiss Hole announces that they've come to a special "proving ground" of his called The Black Labyrinth--which, as its name suggests, is a great maze/arena of black stone. Here combatants are pitted against one another in bloody battles to the death. The Nefarious Four, Hiss Hole tells them, wait for them inside. If Jon wins, Marcie will be returned home safe and sound; if he fails, he will meet his end. With beloved Marcie in a psychopath's hands, time at a premium, and no choice left, Jon accepts the challenge....
This issue had a number of alterations made during the transition from storyboard to finished issue:
In the original draft, after the opening in the Cobra Pit, the scene called for a cut to the Warriors at the park. Buddy is watching ladies' ankles through binoculars--and is chided by Brandy--while the younger boys are playing football (setting up a brief sight gag where the ball knocks a beehive out of a tree and Ben swallows it, resulting in bees coming out of his ears). The plot was then to return to the Four. The comic relief was ommitted, making two short scenes one long unbroken one.
Following Demi-Jon's scene with Marcie, Jason was to spot the Four leaving the apartment with her. He alerts Jon and the others, and the whole team searches the apartment for clues. This was changed to an anonymous e-mail and Jon searching Marcie's place alone, the other Warriors not appearing until about a third through the script.
The dimensional warp was to originally appear, according to the ransom note, behind Clancy's Pool Hall (a reference to a line in the Three Stooges' Disorder in the Court). This was changed to the Sweets' den in order to make the story flow faster by entirely omitting the Crook Buster's role in the plot.
A number of Buddy's asides and Gort's one-liners were excised.
It was to be mentioned that Wu was once an agent of The Brown Lotus, a squad of premiere Chinese assassins (similar to the secret Triad organization) before becoming a Chinese chef (hence his skill with and propensity for using sharp kitchen tools as weapons), but this bit of character-lending backstory was cut for page space restraints.
Demi-Jon was originally to attack Jon with a chainsaw embossed with the line "The Saw Is Family" (a reference to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre). The saw was also to reappear later at the end, when the Warriors confront the Four. The saw was deemed "too slasher-flick schlock" and was written out, and the final battle with the Four was eventually cut dramatically from several individal skirmishes spread out over a number of pages to a single big splash panel.
Capt. Maggot was originally to slice Larry's hair with a sweep of his sword, then deflect Chance's laser fire by bouncing it off his blade, frying him. The whole scene was completely rewritten to make Larry's team look less "bumbling and camp".
Dr. Freely's fight with Gort and Flunger was cut dramatically, excising the two ripping the doctor's suit and yanking his mustache.
A scene where Ben uses his Tasmanian Devil Double-Back Barrelhouse Cyclone Spin to drill underneath the maze, but bangs into a wall and knocks it over onto the villains was completely excised for "not really going anyplace, and besides, if he could do that all along, why didn't he just do it 15 pages ago?". Another scene with Jon setting a trap for Demi-Jon with a porno magazine as bait, then beating him up and swiping his clothes (for a disguise) was rejected for being "amateurish and silly even by this franchise's standards".
"The Nefarious Four" are a take on The Fearsome Five from Darkwing Duck (which in itself was a spoof of Spider-Man's Insidious Six). In particular, both teams are spearheaded by an evil clone of the hero (Demi-Jon/Negaduck). Demi-Jon also uses a parody of Darkwing's introduction: "I am the terror that flaps in the night! I am (numerous variants)! I am Darkwing Duck!" when he makes his entrance, complete with the same theatrical gas cloud effect.
page 5. The "You got shit in yo' Inbox!" voice e-mail alert was last heard in "Plant Feud". "Notmail" is a parody of MSN Hotmail.
page 16. Covington, Tennessee is the seat of Tipton County. It's known best as the home of the (in)famous Tenn. House Speaker Jimmy "Neanderthal" Naihfeh.
page 17. Dung Tung Wu's line about "ancient Chinese secret" refers to the tagline in an old commercial for Calgon water softener.
Billy mispronounces Wu's name as "Ding Dong Daddy" (18) and later calls him "Mr. Miyagi" on page 24. Ding Dong Daddy Dowd was an actual villain in the Teen Titans comics (#3, 1966)--a crooked hipster and car nut who finagled gullible teens into dropping out of school to come work in his garage. The comic was a goverment-comissioned effort to combat the soaring dropout rate in America. Mr. Miyagi, of course, was the wise old sensei from the Karate Kid movies (played by veteran Asian actor Pat Morita) who employed a combination of unorthodox methods and sage homespun wisdom to teach Ralph Macchio's character martial arts and, along the way, self-confidence. The title of the film, oddly enough, came from another comic character, this one from The Legion of Superheroes books.
The two mutants seen fighting the Warriors in the flashback on page 30 are named Butt Out (the one with the large prehensile ass) and Buger Nose (the one throwing balls of mucus). According to creator J.M. Sweet, they were very early designs for villains who never made it to the final cut.