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Comic Book / Tandy Computer Whiz Kids

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The Tandy Computer Whiz Kids series was a series of promotional comics published by Radio Shack from 1980 to 1991, and produced initially by DC Comics, then later by Archie Comics.

The two titular Whiz Kids, Alec and Shanna, teach their class (and by extension, the audience) about Tandy computer products and occasionally other topics (substance abuse, child kidnappers, environmentalism, etc.)

Eight issues were made for the main series by Tandy, along with three tie-ins with DC featuring Superman, Supergirl, and Wonder Woman (with the two, along with their teacher, also appearing in a regular issue of Superman and the "Victory by Computer" one-shot in 1981).

Tandy Computer Whiz Kids contains examples of:

  • An Aesop: The comics often dive into A Very Special Episode territory with commentary on drugs, environmental awareness, and physical fitness. This was so that Radio Shack could claim the comics had "educational value" and so make them available in schools.
  • Art Shift: The artwork in the issues published by Archie Comics is much more cartoony than in the others.
  • Artistic License – History: According to the Tandy Computer Whiz Kids: Fit to Win comic, the first all-electronic computers were made in America, not England.
  • Celebrity Superhero: Invoked in one of the DC comics, in which Ms. Wilson prepares her students for the surprise arrival of Superman by mentioning that they're welcoming a guest who is famous not just internationally, but on an interplanetary level as well.
  • Continuity Snarl: Several details are inconsistent from one issue to the next, including the fact that they've had the same teacher in the same grade for at least three years (there are at least three comics which take place on the first day of sixth grade) and the question of whether or not Alec and Shanna live in the same house.
  • Drugs Are Bad: The moral of any of the issues concerning drugs.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: In the earlier issues, Superman and the TRS-80 Whiz Kids: The Computers that Saved Metropolis and Tandy Computer Whiz Kids: The Computer Masters of Metropolis to cite some examples, Alec actually isn't that interested in computers. "The Computers that Saved Metropolis" not only has him outright state that the only thing he'd care less about is "the history of Brussels sprouts", but even when Superman shows up to give his lecture, he responds:
    Alec: (eyes closed) Someone wake me up when he's finished! History and computers are boring enough by themselves, but together? Good night!
  • Ecocidal Antagonist: In Safeguarding the Environment, the Whiz Kids are tasked with trying to clean up a polluted creek and teach others about being green. The villains are a group who not only happily spread pollution everywhere, but who are also intentionally trying to re-pollute the creek in order to have an illegal dumping ground.
  • Friend on the Force: Detective Shaw knows both Alec and Shanna well enough to recognize that if Shanna's calling him with a tip, it must be worth checking.
  • Girlish Pigtails: Shanna has these in most of the non-Archie comics.
  • History with Celebrity: According to The Computers That Saved Metropolis and Superman #358, Ms. Wilson and Superman have been friends for some time. How long, and how they met, is never clarified, but they're friendly enough that he addresses her by her first name of Margaret. She's also apparently an old high school friend of Clark Kent, though she likely does not know that Clark Kent and Superman are one and the same.
  • Hive Mind: The non-Alec and Shanna students in Ms. Wilson's class often come across this way, as they cheer pointlessly for the summer activities of the Whiz Kids and even occasionally speak in unison. For example, in Fit to Win, she asks them how their summer vacation went, and they all reply...
    Great, Ms. Wilson!
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Alec and Shanna, less so Alec in the early issues due to Early-Installment Weirdness. They love school and learning, spend their summer vacations doing charity work and/or something educational, and help the police catch criminals out of a sense of civic duty.
  • Incredibly Lame Fun: Alec and Shanna seem more interested in the educational software for the computers they promote than any video games that the computers may have.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Judy Baker is willing to put her life on the line to investigate criminals, both in order to get her story and also to help Detective Shaw bring them to justice.
  • Meaningful Name: If Superman (1939) #358 is anything to go by, Alec (at least, in his earliest appearances) was written to be a "Smart Alec".
  • Medals for Everyone: The comics often end with Alec and Shanna receiving some sort of commendation for their work in stopping the bad guys of the issue. This tends to occur even when they didn't actually do anything to help stop them.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: You will never know the kind of joy and excitement that Ms. Wilson's class (especially Alec and Shanna) feels whenever they get a new Tandy product and happily fawn over its every technical specification.
  • Once an Episode:
    • Most of the comics open with Ms. Wilson welcoming the class back from their summer vacations and asking what they did over the summer, leading into Alec and Shanna talking about something they did that ties into the A plot involving crime somehow.
    • There's very often a field trip, typically to some sort of museum or fair going on. For the former, someone there will explain the history of computers to the class; for the latter, Alec and Shanna will set up some sort of exhibition for Tandy products.
    • Expect Ms. Wilson to tell the class she has a surprise for them, which depending on the comic will be a field trip, a visit from a DC superhero, or a new computer product for the class. In some comics, more than one of these things happen, with Ms. Wilson appropriately saying she has several surprises.
  • Platonic Boy/Girl Heroes: Alec and Shanna, of course. Two of the comics seem to suggest that they're siblings (one of the comics in particular implies it heavily), but in all of the issues they act more like good friends than brother and sister. Given the quality of the comics and their storytelling, this may have been an oversight.
  • Police Are Useless: Until they are enabled with the help of a Tandy product operated by Alec and Shanna. The Computers That Said No to Drugs is probably the worst offender in this regard, since Detective Shaw doesn't do any sort of basic research about the name "Ali Gurka" until Shanna has the idea to look for it on an information service.
  • Product Placement: Tandy and Radio Shack products, of course!
    • The issues produced by Archie Comics also have a couple of references to their flagship series, with Shanna wearing an Archie shirt and Alec having a poster of Jughead on his bedroom wall.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: Community Action Program chooses graffiti as its cause of choice, with the characters talking about how ugly it is and it ruins the neighborhood, and the characters who painted it are portrayed as the antagonists of the comic. The Whiz Kids decide to paint over it with a mural, essentially painting over the graffiti with another type of graffiti and just using a different word to refer to the two kinds of work. They voice no specific objections to the content of the graffiti (and it's nothing offensive anyway) and make no distinction between the graffiti and their "mural" other than they think their mural looks better, and therefore is morally correct.
  • Respected by the Respected: Alec and Shanna are, in the various installments, lauded and praised by their teacher, the school's principal, their town's mayor, and Superman and Wonder Woman.
  • Strictly Formula: The standard story for pretty much every issue is as follows; an A plot involving criminals and/or illegal activity, and a B plot involving the Whiz Kids' class getting new Tandy/Radio Shack computers and equipment. By the end, the Whiz Kids get wind of the criminals and/or illegal activity and help stop them through some usage of the Tandy products showcased. The comics written by DC would tweak this to "the kids get a visit from a DC superhero who shows off some Tandy products (or the Tandy products are showed off separately), then goes to deal with the criminals and/or illegal activity and ends up needing help from the Tandy products".
  • Sucky School: The Whiz Kids attend what is implied to be one of these, as various issues suggest there aren't even enough desks for the kids in their class. The school also never requires permission slips (or even advance notice of more than five minutes) for field trips, and thinks that a substance abuse hotline staffed by twelve-year-olds is a good idea.
  • Title Drop: Alec and Shanna are explicitly identified as the Whiz Kids in at least one issue.
  • Two-Teacher School: The only staff members ever seen at Alec and Shanna's school are their teacher Ms. Wilson, the principal, and (in one issue) the school librarian.
  • The Worf Effect: In The Computers That Saved Metropolis, Major Disaster infects Superman with microscopic kryptonite crystals, clouding his thought processes and disrupting his control over his superpowers. Alec and Shanna have to use a computer to calculate assorted variables on how to stop disasters Major Disaster has caused.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): TRS 80 Computer Whiz Kids


Combine Harvester

Linkara snaps from the stupidity of the comic's plot.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (23 votes)

Example of:

Main / SanitySlippageSong

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