There’s a sort of social stigma attached to tie-ins of any sort, really. There’s something about the idea of an expanded Universe that many argue results in an unavoidable bastardisation of the source material.
Let me just define the term ‘tie-in’ within the context of this article. Tie-ins exist in across all forms of media and in any direction. You’ve got movie to comic book, comic book to movie (more common), movie to game, game to comic book, even comic book to musical album (admittedly rare, but if you listen to Coheed and Cambria, you’ll know what I mean). Some are great; most are unfortunately mediocre, but they exist in abundance, thanks to that twatty business term you may know as ‘synergy’.
I don’t think tie-ins themselves are the issue; when done right, they can provide a wealth of satisfaction, and new depths to an already well-loved character or setting. But it’s when commercialism takes a stranglehold on the creative process, that’s when you get your Star Wars: Return of the Who Even Cares Any More.
I’m not naïve. I know that it’s all business at the core, whether it’s making movies, comics or even canvas art. When it’s all dressed up and marched out in front of the public there has to be an element of commercialism involved, some possibility of profit, or there’d be no reason for anyone to foot the cost of production.
This idea that fervent audiences constantly want to know more (and there’s none more fervent than the fanboy), while organisations constantly want to make more money means cross-platform tie-ins are and will be a staple part of the entertainment industry until society crumbles for whatever reason (my money’s on Zombies).
So as they say, if you can’t beat em, join ‘em (also known as: selling out). With Star Trek 2 and The Avengers movie both enjoying comic book tie-ins, and the recent confirmation of an upcoming tie-in book series to Alan Moore’s Watchmen, we thought the time was right to put out our own list of fantasy comic book tie-ins that we just wish they’d make.
So without any further waffle from yours truly, let’s get to it.
Jules Winnfield (Tarantino Universe)
Honestly who can forget Samuel L. Jackson’s epically powerful performance as Jules Winnfield in Tarantino’s Crime Fiction masterpiece? For me, Pulp Fiction is a sedimentary rock of dramatic excellence; on the surface Pulp Fiction is a satisfying cinematic journey, but each layer of sub-textual depth is richer and more dramatically succulent than the last once you start sifting through them.
And it really is a testament to both Jacksons’ performance and the character of Jules himself that when the credits roll, Jules is one of the most remembered characters (and rightly so), in an ensemble of so many.
Jules is such a deep, interesting character and has such an insightful – if somewhat fatalistic – view of the world (he’s almost like a psychopathic evangelist) that I firmly believe he could sustain an exciting narrative in either a graphic novel or a long running series of singles.
Remember Jules’ storyline? During the climactic final scene, Jules professes that he’s done with the thug life, and (and I paraphrase) plans to “walk the Earth, from town to town, meeting people and getting in adventures and shit, like Caine from Kung-Fu”.
And basically, that’s the framework, all mapped out. It practically writes itself.
I don’t know about you, but I would read a Jules book. He was the only character in Pulp Fiction whose story was left open. As he left the diner, I got the sense that his story was meant to continue – almost as though in creating a serial-like narrative structure like Tarantino did, he was inviting me to imagine what sort of misadventures Jules would find himself having while undertaking his solitary exodus. And imagine I did.
And given that serial-like narrative structure of the film (and the fact that Tarantino himself is a major comic book geek), I can think of no better platform for some bible quote-toting, Blaxploitation themed misadventures than the panels of a comic.
The Shepherd (a huge part of Jules’ final speech to Pumpkin in the diner at the end of Pulp Fiction. It’s effectively ‘the Shepherd’ in his killing monologue that he strives to become).
Bad Motherfucker (Does this iconic wallet reference even need explaining?)
Chronicles of Ezekiel (it’s worth pointing out here that the biblical passage Jules has memorised in Pulp Fiction is from Ezekiel 25:17).
The First Men in Westeros (Game of Thrones/ Song of Ice and Fire Universe)
Firstly, if you don’t know what Westeros is, let alone who the First Men are let me just hit you with some fantasy knowledge. Surely you’ve heard of Game of Thrones by now. It’s HBO’s relatively new but hugely popular fantasy series starring Sean Bean (for a bit…relax, this is a spoiler free zone), which commenced its second season on April 1st this year.
The First Men are direct ancestors of the Starks, and many of the other houses that occupy the North when we join the story in the present day.
When we join the people of Westeros, the First Men existed 12,000 years in the past. They were the first humans to rule over Westeros after conquering a semi-mythical race called the Children of the Forest.
If Star Wars can become such a synergised franchise as it has, spawning comics, books, series, and just about everything else you can put a price-tag on, then why not the Song of Ice and Fire and Ice Universe?
The most prominent First Man was Brandon Stark, a direct descendent of the main canon Starks in Winterfell. It’s he who I’d really love to find out more about. And the story is already there; it’s just a case of applying flesh around the bones of the known backstory.
You want a perfect comic book enemy, you’ve got it in the Others; this is the race of elemental ice monsters that inhabit the inimical frozen lands of the far North, who still exist in ‘present day’ Westeros.
Brandon Stark, the first King in the North, led the defence against their first invasion and oversaw the construction of the Wall afterwards to hold them back (earning him the Moniker ‘Bran the Builder’).
I’d love to read a Song of Ice and Fire comic book and for my money, it’d be something set within the insanely rich backstory. The story of the First Men is far enough away from the source material that it’d be virtually a whole new world yet close enough to the main canon that it could add new depths to those who wish to further explore this already behemothic universe.
King in the North (this relates back to the source, where Rob Stark is named King in the North by his people, but it applies directly to Bran the Builder too).
The Fist of the First Men (it’s an important location in the third book ‘A Sword of Storms’, and a poignant would-be metaphor for Bran the Builder himself).
Winter is Coming (the motto of House Stark. Simples).
Bruce Wayne’s Training (DC Universe)
So, I really don’t have much to explain here. Bruce Wayne, a.k.a Batman (obviously) is irrefutably one of the most adored superheroes there is, was and likely ever will be.
But see where Superman’s powers were just there one day, Spiderman’s were a result of a freak accident and Thor’s were a divine birth-right, Batman’s were sought after and earned over a fifteen year period of intensive training and study.
So why is so little known about this huge portion of the Batman’s origin?
Seriously, enter ‘Who Trained Bruce Wayne’ into Google and you’ll get very little in the way of definitive answers. That’s because we only ever experience this training through fractured flashbacks, usually to explain some special discipline he’s utilizing to defeat an enemy or escape a trap. I don’t know about you, but I’ve always wanted to know more.
I guarantee you one thing: if you put a book out there about Batman in any shape or form, it’ll sell, at least initially (and continually if it’s even half decent). The premise is exceedingly simple. We follow Bruce Wayne, from his parent’s death in Crime Alley right up to the moment he first dons the cape and cowl, exploring those fifteen hard years in between.
Since Alan Moore shook the foundations of the comic book industry in the 80’s with The Watchmen, character depth within the panel has become an absolute must for many. As any die-hard fan can tell you, we know Batman now; who he is, how he thinks, what drives him.
But we still know relatively little about who he was, before he became the bat.
The story would follow him from the very beginning. Through the various degrees he enrolled on for brief semesters at top Universities, through his known man-hunting training with Henri Ducard, through his assassin training with David Cain (where he learns valuable lessons about the value of life) and through who knows what else. The possibilities for scenarios, settings and stories are virtually limitless whether it’s a graphic novel, a mini or maxi-series or even an entire line.
Echoes of the Bat (it’s a simple title, indicating that while it may not be a story about Batman, it echoes the sentiment).
Taming the Bat (one part metaphor for what Bruce Wayne did metaphorically upon completing his training and also one part cheeky Shakespeare reference).
Bruce Wayne: Lineages (Bruce Wayne is almost as iconic as the Bat himself; this title lets the reader know pretty much exactly what they’re in for).
Michonne (Walking Dead Universe)
Even my Nan knows about the Walking Dead by now (true story). The live action series is fantastic, the on-going comic is phenomenal and with an episodic video game developed and published by Telltale Games dropping this April, the market is only going to get more Walking and more Dead and soon.
Series creator and writer Robert Kirkman has already announced a novelisation of Phillip Blake’s origin (a.k.a the Governor of Woodbury) entitled ‘Rise of the Governor’. And I can’t wait. So Kirkman is a busy man, I understand that, but what I’d really love to see, in comic form preferably, is the full story of Michonne.
It feels like now would be the perfect time too. If you haven’t caught it yet, I won’t spoil the finale of the Walking Dead Series 2, but suddenly the identity of this mysterious, samurai sword wielding badass has become a source of international interest. I’m up to date on the comics, so I already know who Michonne is, but what I really want to know is who she was.
There’s been a smidgen of exposition on Michonne before she joined Rick and the other survivors (there’s a few panels dedicated to it in the comic series and there’s a new six-page story by Kirkman in the back of this month’s Playboy of all things, which I haven’t read yet but it can’t be enough…can it?)
Another thing Kirkman intentionally skipped over was the initial outbreak. Sure it’s been talked about in depth throughout the on-going story, but we were never actually ‘there’ from the point of view of a main character.
Here’s an opportunity to re-explore that initial period of panic through the eyes of a character we know to be an absolute jock. And here’s where we can find out why.
When Michonne joins Rick’s motley crew, the established timeline (monitored by Andrea’s make-shift calendar) has already spanned approximately half a year, so that’s around four to six months in which Michonne survived the zombie wasteland alone. Of course, any Walking Dead book would have to be penned by Kirkman – who else could and maybe wouldn’t sustain its own line, but it’d be a mini-series or graphic novel I’d happily open my Batman wallet for.
By The Sword (a reference to Michonne’s legendary Samurai sword, with which we’ve already seen her dispatch hordes of undead.)
Amongst the Dead (Michonne was alone before she met up with Rik and the others at the prison, avoiding encounters by travelling with her undead boyfriend and his best friend – jawless and armless of course)
The First Sign of Madness (One of her characteristics in the comic is that she ‘talks’ to her dead boyfriend; this is further explored in the mini-strip featured in this months Playboy. Isn’t this the first sign of madness?)
John Marston (Red Dead Universe)
There’s been a whole argument raging for years now, largely fuelled by Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert, that video games can never be art (check out some of his musings on the subject here).
But if there’s ever been a game that flies in the face of that statement, it’s Red Dead: Redemption. I won’t give it away, but beating Red Dead: Redemption brought with it a sense of empathy toward the central character that I don’t think I’ve felt since Cloud Strife.
I would, without a doubt, spend my hard earned cash on a Red Dead comic, especially with a character as rich as John Marston leading the way. And that’s the main pull for Red Dead: Redemption – the character is so followable.
Through either 80 hours of game, a movie (and I’m certain there will be one, eventually) or of course a comic book, I’m totally there.
There’s already a fantastic existing backstory to begin with; a lawless gunslinger – one of those bona fide American relics – and his exploits throughout an American wilderness with his roving gang of bandits (the remnants of which you yourself are tasked to snub out in Redemption).
John Marston had already lived a long and eventful existence before the events explored in Red Dead: Redemption and if you ask me, there’s an entire single-issue comic line in this largely untapped period of time.
One of the reasons the game worked so well for me story wise is that this rich, compelling backstory informs the central character as much as the events we experience in-game. In this way, John Marston is much more protagonist than simply video game badass. Ultimately though, this just leaves me hungry for more.
What was John Marston’s life before the events of Red Dead: Redemption? How did he live before he settled in Tall Trees with his wife and son. What was his relationship with Bill Williamson like before it soured? Did he always have a heart of gold, or was this something he developed during his time as an outlaw? What made him give it all up? These are all questions ripe for the answerin’ and why Red Dead should absolutely receive its own comic book tie in.
Red Dead: Origins (a simple title, but it does exactly what it says on the tin).
The Road to Tall Trees (this title also hints at the theme of origins, while also referencing the eventual climax of Red Dead: Redemption – again I don’t want to give too much away).
Redemption (simple, self-referential, and I can just imagine this title looking awesome atop an issue cover in a ‘blood and bullets’ motif. It also hints at the themes within).
This article was first posted on April 10, 2012