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Episode Studies by Clayton Barr

"Of Hunan Bondage" Part 1
Buckaroo Banzai: The Prequel #1
Story: Mac Rauch
Story consultant: W.D. Richter
Art: W. Chew Chan
Covers: David Palumbo (A) and Matt Haley (B)

Buckaroo tours with the Hong Kong Cavaliers while simultaneously working on the completion of the


Story Summary


During a late-night ride on the Cavaliers' tour bus, Buckaroo reflects on his youth: his father's death; growing up on the Apache reservation; discovering his musical talent; university studies; and his Nobel Prize.


At the band's next stop in Cheyenne, Wyoming, he meets a virtual double of himself in looks and musical talent and hires him to double for him on upcoming gigs due to his own damaged throat and need to complete work on the OSCILLATION OVERTHRUSTER.


Later on, in Changsha, China, Buckaroo hires local workers to construct a tunnel accelerator for an upcoming experiment. While on a midnight horse ride in the local desert, Buckaroo and Peggy are attacked by a gang of Deathheads.




Didja Notice?


Cover A of this issue is a symbolic collage of the characters featured, not directly related to the events of the story. Notice that Buckaroo is carrying a six-shooter and a samurai sword, reflecting his Western and Eastern heritage; on his right arm, he is wearing pieces of samurai armor. Perfect Tommy is holding a watermelon, a reference to the watermelon clamped into a vice in one of the labs of the Banzai Institute in Across the 8th Dimension...I'll tell you later.


The story's title is a play on the 1915 W. Somerset Maugham novel Of Human Bondage.


The story opens on the tour bus of the Hong Kong Cavaliers, making its way between Omaha, Nebraska and Cheyenne, Wyoming. This means the bus is probably on Interstate 80, which runs the roughly 500 miles between the two cities.


It's clear the story is opening some time before Across the 8th Dimension because Buckaroo's fiancé, Peggy, is with him on the tour bus. They eventually do marry, but she will die under mysterious circumstances, with his arch-nemesis Hanoi Xan suspected of her murder.


On page 2, Buckaroo calls Peggy "Little Boots", possibly a pet name he has for her.


Page 3 states that Buckaroo was 4 years old when he witnessed his father's death in a jet car prototype. But the boy presented in "A Tomb With a View" (where we witness it with him) seems at least twice as old as that.


Buckaroo's mother on page 3 does not bear much of a resemblance to the one seen in "A Tomb With a View". And neither of them look particularly like actress Jamie Lee Curtis as Mrs. Banzai seen in the extended version of the film Across the 8th Dimension.


Page 4 states that Buckaroo's father sent him to live among the Apaches, but in "A Tomb With a View", it is his mother who does it.


Page 4 also states that Buckaroo's surrogate father on the reservation was Spotted Eagle. "A Tomb With a View" suggests that this man was also the chief of the tribe.


Page 5 reveals that Buckaroo headed for Nashville to play his music when he was just 14 years old.


Buckaroo eventually signs a recording contract with producer-legend Audio Murphy. This is a play on the name of Audie Murphy (1924-1971), the American WWII hero and later movie star who also had some success with country-western music.


Page 7 reveals that Buckaroo graduated from Harvard University and then went to medical school at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons and then to M.I.T. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) for a doctorate in Jewish-Chinese Physics. Don't know what Jewish-Chinese Physics is.


Page 8 suggests that the original lineup of Buckaroo's band was four other grad students from the Boston area (where M.I.T. is located): "Perfect Tommy" Abbott, "Reno" Salazar, "Rawhide" Tanner, and "Illinois Mongoose" Kawolski (though in "Return of the Screw" Part 1, Illinois Mongoose is said to be someone named Jimmy Oh). The band also appears to have gone through at least four different names before becoming the world-renowned Hong Kong Cavaliers: BB and the 4 Horsemen, Buckaroo and Hong Kong Crew, Banzai & the Beantown Cavaliers, and Buckaroo and the Hong Kong Howlers. (Regarding "Beantown", it is a nickname for Boston.)


Rawhide's nickname is probably intended ironically considering a "rawhide" is an animal skin which has not been tanned (the process of producing leather from animal hides) and his last name is Tanner.


Page 8 also implies that Audio Murphy and Buckaroo's mom became lovers.


Page 9 reveals that Buckaroo won the Nobel Prize for the OSCILLATION OVERTHRUSTER when he was 28 (even though the device doesn't work yet!).


As the Cavaliers join him on stage for a performance on page 9, Buckaroo shouts, "Gonna rock...rock solid...let's go through solid rock!" The "go through solid rock" line is a reference to what he'll soon do with the aid of the OSCILLATION OVERTHRUSTER in Across the 8th Dimension.


Buckaroo's double, Wilbur Turnbull, is from Butte, Montana.


On page 12, Buckaroo tells Wilbur that his heroes were Hank Williams and Albert Einstein. Hank Williams (1923-1953) was a country-western singer-songwriter and musician. We've already met the renowned theoretical physicist Albert Einstein in "A Tomb With a View", where he was also a friend of Buckaroo's father, the original Dr. Banzai.


On page 15, Buckaroo has a hidden laboratory in a restaurant called The Long March in Changsha, China. As the narrative states, Changsha is the capital of Hunan province. The restaurant's name of The Long March is a reference to a massive year-long military retreat in 1934-35 by China's Red Army, led by Mao Zedong, from the Kuomintang Army of General Chaing Kai-shek.


On page 16, Rawhide mentions a tour date in Sioux City and two canceled ones in Omaha and Dubuque. These are references to the real world cities of Sioux City and Dubuque in Iowa and Omaha in Nebraska.


On page 18, Buckaroo mentions the secret yak police may be tailing them as they ride horses out of Changsha. I'm presuming the secret yak police are a fictional construct of the BB universe.


Also on page 18, Peggy comments on Buckaroo's Chinese test site as being overrun with "red Chinese ants". This is a somewhat deprecatory reference to the workers of "Red" China being communists. Perfect Tommy also uses the phrase "chop suey commie" for similar effect.


On page 19, Buckaroo remarks that the Chinese workers who are building the tunnel accelerator for his experiment think they are building an amusement park ride (which it will eventually become, he says). On page 20, he and his gang are at a celebration that appears to be for the building of Buckarooland, presumably the name of the amusement-park-to-be. The sign hanging above the table of the guests of honor is written in stereotypical broken English: HALLELUJAH BUCKAROOLAND! RIDE 'EM COWBOYS IN GREAT CIRCLES THROUGH AMUSEMENT OF THE PEOPLES!!!


On page 20, Peggy makes the comment, "Even when I'm alone, I feel like there's another with me." This feeling of hers could be interpreted as the connectedness alleged to exist between twin siblings, a retro-foreshadowing of the appearance of her unknown twin sister Penny in Across the 8th Dimension. They even have the same haircut. This assumes that Penny actually is/was Peggy's twin sister and not some alternate fiendish plot by Hanoi Xan as hinted in some other sources.


At the end of the issue, Buckaroo and Peggy are attacked by what he refers to as Deathheads (and also remarks that they're eunuchs). Deathheads are Hanoi Xan's specially-trained soldiers of the World Crime League. Although it's not obvious in the one panel appearance of this issue, in "Of Hunan Bondage" Part 2 and later stories, they are depicted as working as couples, with one man riding on the shoulders of the other, thus making a two-headed, four-armed attacker! Deathheads originated in the 1986 pilot script of an unproduced TV series called Heroes in Trouble that was shopped by Earl Mac Rauch and W.D. Richter.


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