What are Mom and Dad doing in there? Testing out some new super powers?
The Incredibles: Family Matters, Graphic Novel Adaptations That Must Happen
At this point, True Believer, unless you reside in warm southerly climes, you are
sick of winter. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we've had a good three months of
rain and wind. The sun's been coming up at eight and setting at four. In these dark
times, my normal urge to curl up with Watchmen, Maus, Sandman or even Batman
is stifled. I've got plenty of darkness. I want something fun. Something full of
Time for The Incredibles. Oh, haven't you heard? You don't just watch it -- now
you read it. Now if only there was a breakfast cereal.
The Incredibles: Family Matters from Boom! Comics is a direct continuation from
the Pixar movie -- well, not exactly direct, since it doesn't show what happened
with that Mole Man-type guy at the end of the movie.
(I love the transparent Fantastic Four-ness of the Incredibles, by the way. Some
comic fans were put off by the fact that Helen was basically Reed Richards and
Violet was basically Sue Storm. I say: guys, it looks like we won't get a decent
Fantastic Four movie, set in the 60s with all the Kirbyesque trimmings, for years if
ever. And it will take just as many years to forget how putrid the recent ones were.
If The Incredibles is the next best thing, it's even more than I hoped for.)
Family Matters starts the family out battling Futurion, an evil robot from the --
you guessed it -- future. Futurion, through his "devolution bombs," has
transformed most of the zoo into dinosaurish creatures that still retain some of their
original features, like elephants whose noses have become Apatosaurus heads. It's
the first of many of Marcio Takara's visual treats. His art is just as dynamic and
alive as the movie's animation, but it's got a kinetic aesthetic all of its own, a deft
switch between thick black action-packed lines and thin lines that accentuate detail,
taking full advantage of the pen-and-ink joy that so many comic inkers can't quite
master. Andrew Dalhouse's bright fun colors make it even better.
Halfway through the fight, Mister Incredible throws a punch at the robot that
doesn't do much more than hurt his hand. "Odd," Futurion notes. "Last time we
met that punch would have taken my head off."
It seems that Bob Parr, Mister Incredible, has inexplicably lost his super powers.
As in the film, Bob blusters and bluffs while hiding his newfound handicap from
his family. He secretly sees a doctor, the brother of the infamous Edna, the costume
designer from the movie. The doctor, among other tests, hits his knees with a
hammer the size of a Hummer. I likes me a comic that likes its visual gags.
The conclusion is unexpected, funny, and heartwarming. This comic is rarely
laugh-out-loud funny, but it's got all the charm and excitement of the movie.
For all that I love the Parrs, I bought Family Matters because of the writer. Mark
Waid could well be the best writer in mainstream comics. In my mind, he's only
surpassed in longevity and quality by Peter David. Waid wrote Kingdom Come, a
Watchmen-type epic about a future Superman who has lost faith in humanity, and
he wrote spectacular runs on Fantastic Four and The Flash. Besides Incredibles,
he currently writes the Artist Formerly Known as Spider-Man, but we won't talk
I like the respect that Boom! gives to their licensed property, culling such top talent
for such a great franchise.
One more Incredibles-related note. Brad Bird, director of Incredibles, Iron Giant
and Ratatouille, was born to direct said retro Fantastic Four movie.
So, loyal readers, after last month's discussion of comic-book adaptations, I have
taken thought. It was like a Rodin sculpture, only more muscular.
I have thought upon which books, famous or otherwise, could really use a comic-book adaptation. And I have four. Three would have pleased the gods, but I
couldn't help it; there were too many good ones.
First, Greg Keyes' Age of Unreason. This amazing four-book fantasy series stars
Ben Franklin and Isaac Newton as a pair of alchemists battling the French king's
dastardly plan to call Halley's Comet down on London. Our heroine, a consort to
said French king, has just given birth to an Antichrist figure destined to recruit an
army of evil spirits. And there are airship chases, gun battles, and swordfights that
are 70% better than any other swordfights in fantasy, given that Mister Keyes is a
Keyes writes great dialogue, so I'm going to leave the scripting to him. For the art,
though, I call upon the lesser-known but spectacular Cam Kennedy. He's drawn a
host of stuff, but Kennedy's most famous work was Star Wars: Dark Empire,
where in pen-and-ink and watercolor, Kennedy created shattered worlds, hulking
spaceships and space-chase scenes, like the opening scene where the Millenium
Falcon banks through the wreckage of a Star Destroyer, that put George Lucas to
shame. Since Keyes has also written Star Wars novels, it's a perfect match. I want
to see Kennedy draw the steampunk-esque airships, malevolent spirits and
alchemical workshops of Unreason, and watercolor-drench that world in torchlight
and gunpowder flame.
Second, Naomi Novik's Temeraire. This five-book series was about fighting
dragon riders, but it was no Eragon. Temeraire is a rare Chinese dragon, a
foundling who bonds with the captain of an English ship in the Napoleanic Wars.
By virtue of the bond, the captain, Will Lawrence, is bound for a life in the Aerial
Corps, fighting France from dragonback.
Will Lawrence gets a lot more than he expected, though -- and that's considering
he expected to lose family and property forever. Temeraire pursues civil rights for
dragons, whom the English treat as somewhere between foot-soldiers and pack
animals. There's intrigue from the Chinese court and underhanded dealings by
their own government.
Again, Novik is a capable writer, and could easily handle the scripting chores. For
the art, I choose Ryan Ottley, with some watercolor help from whomever he
chooses. Ottley draws some amazing monsters in Invincible every month, and he
would be more than suited to hosts of dragons. His superheroes knock each other
through massive office buildings and his evil aliens wreck whole other worlds, so
with the right amount of photo references, he could easily recreate ships and
pagodas and harems.
And then there's Harry Potter.
I know Rowling doesn't need the money. And there are already movies.
But there's nothing wrong with a new look. I'm not crazy about the drab Hogwarts
we saw in the first two movies, though Alfonso Cuarón's dizzying visuals in the
third finally recreated the magic for me.
And it doesn't have to be an adaptation, either. According to Rowling, Harry, Ron
and Hermione went on fighting evil wizards all around the world for years before
the epilogue to Deathly Hallows. Why not tell those stories? For the art, bring on
Nathan Hale, illustrator of the amazing Rapunzel's Revenge. In Revenge, Hale
drew a fantasy Old West, complete with an evil witch, a princess in a tower, and a
ravenous beanstalk, all in a quirky fun style reminiscent of Mary Grandpre, cover
artist for the US Potter books. He can do Quidditch, hippogriffs, house-elves and
As for the script, who else but Peter David would be up to such a task? He's funny,
he's already proven he can adapt in Dark Tower, and he Really Gets the characters
he writes, even in franchise work.
Finally, there's Lord of the Rings. More than any other book out there, this is
crying out for a graphic novel adaptation. And it will probably never happen.
Christopher Tolkien and the Tolkien estate didn't like Peter Jackson's movies, and
they've still got, as far as I know, all print rights.
But Tolkien estate, I have four words for you: Scouring of the Shire.
You know you want to see it.
Plus other scenes. Jackson created brilliant visuals, but he made a lot of missteps
purely because of film limitations. He rushed Galadriel's temptation and turned her
into Psycho Zombie Dark Queen, because there just wasn't time to explain that the
Elf Queen had been in Middle-Earth since the First Age and didn't want to give up
her little corner of the world. He couldn't take the time to add in Dol Amroth, so
the Dead became the Unstoppable Green Zombie Army and thus were robbed a lot
of the creepiness Tolkien imbued in the Paths of the Dead passages.
And Frodo told Sam to go home. What are they, third-graders? "Go home and take
your stupid elf-cake with you! I didn't want to play with you anyway, Sam!
Gollum is my new best friend."
In a comic adaptation, done in fifteen or so installments, we'd get time to explore
both the exciting and the subtle about Tolkien's world, making more room for the
narrative to breathe.
(Me talking about Peter Jackson is kind of like an expectant couple talking about
their own parents. I'll recognize what he did right, but I'll spend just as much time
talking about what he did wrong as if I would be able to avoid it in the same
If any artist is up to one-upping Jackson's visuals, it's the legendary P. Craig
Russell. Russell's work in the The Ring of the Nibelung showed that he could
create poetry out of the flow of his art, and recreate a lost world of heroes and
myth. Ring of the Nibelung inspired the pride and wickedness associated with
Tolkien's own ring, but Russell could now add Tolkien's beautiful musing on faith
and loyalty that he embodied in Frodo and Sam and Gollum. The amazing visuals
Russell brought to his work on Neil Gaiman's Sandman showed that he can create
other worlds full of dizzying detail as well.
Russell made a pretty straight adaptation with Nibelung, but if he needs help with
dialogue, why not use Michael Avon Oeming? Oeming wrote the very best of the
many, many Thor Ragnarok stories and is an amazing artist in his own right.
If anything like these adaptations should come to pass, I will be at the comic shop
squealing. Until then, I shall dream.
Read more by Spencer Ellsworth