TV continues uninterrupted in comic books
What are you going to do? The Office, How I Met Your Mother, and even new shows like Pushing Daisies and Chuck are either out of fresh episodes or quickly running out. Well, you don't need to spend the "strike season" curled up in the corner of your bedroom crying through a pile of TV Guides, remembering the good old days when you didn't already know what was going to happen this week on House.
Television is alive and well, and even growing ... just somewhere else. Want to know what happened to Jack Bauer before Season One of 24? How about Buffy and the Scooby Gang after the series finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer? More and more shows are expanding their horizons by telling prequels, sequels and even in-between-quels in comic books, or graphic novels.
Comics and television have been joined at the hip almost as long as television has been around. When the Lone Ranger rode off into the sunset on the airwaves, new adventures were always waiting at your local newsstand. Everything from The Beverly Hillbillies to Gunsmoke was in comics, too.
While there aren't as many TV comics today as there were then, something even more existing is happening. More and more Hollywood heavy hitters are moonlighting in the comics industry, most notably Joss Whedon (Buffy, Angel, Firefly/Serenity) and J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5, Jeremiah). Even when Babylon 5 was still on the air, Straczynski used comic books to tell what is considered 'canonical' side stories to his epic.
But it was Whedon who, earlier this year, set the bar far higher by officially launching 'Season Eight' of his popular Buffy the Vampire Slayer series as a comic book, penning the first "episode" himself. Nobody's really been sure what to make of this new project; we here at TV Squad even polled you, our readers, to see if you wanted us to continue reviewing this strange hybrid of television show and comic book. I mean, it is the official continuation of Buffy's story, but is it TV? Does it belong here? The lines have been blurred, and there's more coming out every day. With a limitless special effects budget in comics, and much lower costs associated, it's no wonder more and more creators are looking at Whedon's model and considering the possibilities. Let's hit some highlights:
These one-shots and mini-series have been mainly used to fill in back story on Jack Bauer, revealing what happened with Victor Drazen two years prior to the start of Season One and other character building events. Other stories have been incidental adventures, all playing with the same "all in one day" format as the show, to varying degrees of success. Infrequently published, there are still new projects creeping out from time to time.
There have been various series and specials published the last few years, spotlighting both the current SciFi incarnation of the series, and the original 1970s series on which it was based. Currently, they are producing the official "Season Zero" comic which tells the story of what happened before the Cylon attack that destroyed the colonies. A second series launches soon, dubbed Battlestar Galactica: Origins, which will spotlight individual characters that flavor the rich BSG tapestry. All projects are part of official continuity and can help fill the long lull between Razor and the new season.
Coming soon, two new series. Okay, one is reprints, but for those of us on the States side of the pond, they're both new. Classic Doctor Who looks to reprint adventures from the UK's Doctor Who magazine featuring Tom Baker's popular Fourth Doctor. Meanwhile, sister series Doctor Who features new tales of David Tennant's Tenth Doctor and Freema Ageyman's Martha Jones. With Doctor Who looking at a long hiatus between Season/Series Four and Five, what better than to curl up by your replica Tardis with some four-colored adventures of your favorite Time Lord.
When the episodes end on the screen, fans can go online to read the stories between the stories in graphic format. And now, the official hardcover collection of the first season of these "hidden" tales of ordinary people with extraordinary abilities has been released to tremendous sales and excitement. Look for these stories to continue online and in print format as long as the series does, and possibly beyond.
Okay, there isn't really any continuity to speak of, but nevertheless these comics capture the tone and spirit of the show perfectly. Of course, that could be because creator Matt Groening decided to start up his own publishing house and make his own Simpsons Comics. That way he could maintain complete creative control over his empire. They currently produce Simpsons Comics, Bart Simpson Comics, occasional superhero parody specials, because superheroes still dominate American comics, and even supplement the annual "Treehouse of Horror" television specials, with a corresponding comic special.
Thus far, there has only been one Supernatural miniseries. But it served as a "Year Zero" template showing what John Winchester was doing shortly after his wife's murder. It sheds a lot of light on this beloved and missed character and fills in some of the missing back story of the Winchester boys' youth.
[thanks to commenter Blackgem for reminding me of this; how could I have forgotten!! --j/h]
Official Continuations (New Seasons)
Following on the heels of the extremely successful launch of Buffy's Eighth Season in comic book format, the "official" continuation of Angel is coming soon. While he's not able to call the series Angel: Season Six, for legal reasons, that's what this is. Unfortunately, Dark Horse Comics let the Angel license go to a different publisher, so there won't be any inter-series crossovers anytime soon. Editor Scott Allie admits in the letters page of the latest Buffy comic that this was a mistake and apologizes. Hopefully, something can be worked out so Buffy and Angel can have a steamy reunion scene.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
In some ways, Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight, has set a new template that more shows may follow. Whedon has already indicated he's going to be bringing back new Firefly adventures, under its better known film name, Serenity. Whedon has already shown how far he can push things without an effects budget, with a giant Dawn, massive destruction and enough crazy magic that it would cost millions per episode to try and produce this vision of Buffy and the legion of Slayers.
Just like The Simpsons above, these are stand-alone adventures of the crew of the Planet Express, produced by Groening's own comic publishing house. It's only here because while there are new direct-to-DVD movies happening, the series itself hasn't officially been reborn. Still, every bit as good as the original Futurama series, these new stories are a great way to continue the adventure.
At a time when Disney cartoons ruled the afternoon airwaves, Gargoyles was a dramatic departure. More complex, sophisticated and ambitious than anything that came before it, it captured a wider more mature audience that lamented its cancellation. Disregarding the controversial Gargoyles: The Goliath Chronicles (third season) which was produced without Gargoyles creator Greg Weisman, the current comic book series picks up after the Season Two finale. Written by Weisman, he considers this the official continuation of his saga.
As long as there has been Star Trek there have been comics, but not like this. In the opening monologue of the original series, Captain Kirk explained that he and his crew were on a five year mission. Well, after three years that series was canceled thus leaving fans without the last two years of said mission. Sure Trek went on to spawn a multimedia empire, but the last two years of that first mission were never explored ... until now. Star Trek: Year Four is the new comic book series that continues beyond that first series with a fresh young Captain Kirk in command. But that's not all, there are Next Generation series, alien spotlights and more to come. While things may be rebooting at a multiplex near you, in comics land it's the same old cast and crew you've come to love.
TV is big in comics right now. In The Highlander, we get to see the brothers MacLeod in action together. Both Connor, from the films, and Duncan, from the series, share stories spanning time. Even really old series like The Lone Ranger are finding new life in comics. The animated hit Star Wars: The Clone Wars has spawned a graphic novel series, which is only the tip of the Star Wars comic empire. More and more, television is creeping its way into the comic book and graphic novel medium.
The Batman, Cartoon Network Action Pack/Block Party, Teen Titans, Justice League Unlimited, Legion of Super-Heroes, Looney Tunes, Scooby-Doo, Sonic the Hedgehog, Sabrina the Teenage Witch
What can be said except that there are tons and tons of comics coming out every month that highlight various children's animated cartoons. From classics like Looney Tunes and Scooby-Doo to the Cartoon Network comics which feature shorts of just about every original cartoon that has ever appeared on the network, there's something for every kind, and many adults. These comics are a great tool for reluctant readers and feature top-notch talent and storytelling.
(Way, way too many to list here)
A still growing market on television, for virtually every anime series there is a corresponding manga (the Japanese word for comics). From Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh! to Fullmetal Alchemist and Trigun, in Japan if it's animated it's in print and on the screen. And it's all heading to America in one form or both.