Thursday, August 21, 2008

Movie Comics!

My mind works in mysterious ways.

I had a dentist appointment this morning which, naturally, made me think of the classic 1996 horror film, THE DENTIST, starring Corbin Bernsen. This wonderful piece of cinema was a story basically about Corbin finding out his wife was cheating on him and then going out and killing a bunch of people. Said killings had a dental theme, natch.

Not that I thought my dentist was going to kill me as I laid in the chair (although there were a few moments that it seemed possible), but it made me think of comic book adaptations. So far as I know, no company made a comic version of THE DENTIST which led me to wonder, “What happened to the movie comics?”

You know the ones I’m talking about. Not the comics that took a movie as inspiration like the TERMINATOR comics but ones that pretty much just plopped down on paper what had been up on the screen. Used to be that pretty much every movie would get the comic book treatment and, if it was a kid’s movie or from Disney, that was pretty much guaranteed.

Dell and Gold Key were big publishers of these comics when I was growing up and I can remember buying adaptations of my favorite movies. Most were fair but some really captured the flavor or magic of their movie.

Then, suddenly, no one made them anymore. Oh, sure, Marvel or DC might do a one shot adaptation of a really big movie (particularly if it was based on their characters) but you didn’t see a TOP GUN comic or a BREAKFAST CLUB comic or even an UNCLE BUCK comic. Why was that? What had happened to wipe out the movie adaptation comic virtually overnight? Was it a dinosaur-killing comet? No, my friends, it was video tape killed the movie comic.

I’m sure that the primary reason was money. After all, if a BLUES BROTHERS comic sold millions of copies, publishers would be fools to ignore that opportunity. They stopped making them because people and kids stopped buying them. But why?

The answer to that lies in the reason that they used to be bought in the first place!

When you bought a comic adaptation of a movie, it was usually because you had liked the movie when you saw it in the theater. You had liked it so much that you wanted to relive that fun or excitement or that great line of dialogue. But, back in those far olden days, you had no WAY to relive it. There were no DVD players. There weren’t even VCRs back then. Cable basically didn’t exist and certainly not the way it does today. You didn’t get 100+ channels on your TV. You were lucky if you got 5 or 6 channels and a couple of those were crappy UHF channels that you could only see if you contorted your antenna to look like some Egyptian hieroglyphics.

My point being that you couldn’t just pop something into a machine every time you had a hankering to watch DIE HARD I, II and/or III. You had to WAIT until it came on TV and, back then, not only could that take a long time but you never knew WHEN it would show up. It could be at 3am on channel 64 and if you missed it, you missed it. No VCRs, remember?

So, if you wanted to relive that great movie, you had to buy the comic (or the novelization which is another dying trend). But once those VCRs starting popping up all over the place and now you could get that great movie on tape and watch it ANY TIME YOU WANTED, there was little need for a plain adaptation. Why READ when you can just sit on the couch and watch the REAL thing?

Before you knew it, movie comics were gone the way of Romance and Western comics, never to return. Which is a shame because some of those comics were quite good.

So let’s all take a minute today and remember our fallen comrade, the movie comic. Let’s say thank you to Dell and Gold Key and even DC and Marvel (Marvel, remember, did the first comic adaptation of STAR WARS) for remembering and reminding us what it was like to be a little kid in a big movie house and how magical it all seemed.

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