Comic Fodder

Comics on TV – Bonus Castle Coverage!

Monday, October 26, 2009: In an opening scene sure to thrill Firefly fans everywhere, Richard Castle, aka Nathan Fillion, dressed up as a “space cowboy” in a fun nod to his old role on Joss Whedon’s doomed sci-fi series, Firefly. Castle’s daughter says, “Didn’t you wear that costume five years ago? Don’t you think it’s time to move on?” Classic. They’ve been dropping little Firefly nods into the season at different points throughout the series, but this one was great for their Halloween episode.

That’s just one little way the pop culture phenomenon feeds on and devours itself, sports fans. The real reason for this bonus column is that a main focus of the entire episode involved comics. The murder victim goes by the alias "Crow," and the subsequent investigation reveals that he was a gifted artist, and was developing his own graphic novel. When Castle and Beckett first see his art, Castle makes a comment about Frank Miller, and the female detective Beckett asks whether he's talking about "early Frank or Dark Horse years."

Now, most of us realize that Beckett is probably not really into comics, and that a writer put those words in her mouth, but we all still have to agree with Castle: "That is the sexiest thing I have ever heard you say!" The geek crowd went crazy on Twitter over it.

Crow's friend and associate, Damon, was the letterer, and Castle picks up on the coroner's report that the stake driven into Crow's chest had Indian ink on it, which is used by comic book letterers, which steered them to looking into Damon. What they found was a dead Damon, actually murdered on the same day as Crow. The graphic novel was then used even more to find additional clues to help them piece everything together: a partially-hidden folder in Damon's place had some press clippings about a dead woman, and it was the same image of a woman that Crow had been drawing throughout his entire graphic novel. A photograph of a tree where the dead woman was found matched a depiction of a tree in the graphic novel, so they were able to figure out that Damon recognized the specifics of the tree and/or the woman upon coming across Crow's artwork, and that was when their collaboration started.


These events led to the whodunit part, which was Crow's nanny. She originally killed the woman so she could become closer to the husband, and Crow was there when it happened, a witness to the event at two years of age. Eventually his memories became expressed through his art, and he discovered the truth. The nanny killed Damon when she figured out what it meant that they were working together, but failed to find Damon's evidence. Then, at the cemetery where Crow's mother was buried, the nanny had taken a stake and dipped it in the Indian ink from Damon's place in an attempt to make it look like Damon killed Crow. Phew!

The Castle show itself is fun and funny, and has the right mix of humor and tension for a police procedural. A normal show is entertaining, and I imagine most fans of Firefly have already found the series. But for those that haven't, I highly recommend it.

This episode in particular is a blinding example of the things I have been writing about recently. Sequential art is an American-originated topic, but still followed by a only small niche of the U.S. population, relatively speaking. That has been slowly changing over the past twenty years, but we may be hitting a key point, where the trickle turns into a flood. Not only are comic book characters being used as pop culture references and jokes in a manner that increasingly takes center-stage in television, but the behind-the-scenes aspects are also being given notice.

In this case, the Castle episode quickly introduced the idea of comics, and showcased not something like Superman or Batman, but educated the viewer on aspects of graphic novel production. Potentially more important, they also showed how the creativity from artistic expression can give deep insight into the creator's mind and feelings, if people can be bothered to look close enough.

The execution of this episode was excellent. We know that a majority of the current crop of producing talent in movies and TV were weaned on comics, sometimes from birth. If they can continue to weave all of these different aspects relating to comics into their work, that will be a good thing for everyone. The slightly insidious part of it is this: many of the viewers will still never think to pick up a comic or graphic novel themselves, but they will absorb some knowledge anyway through osmosis, simply by watching it on one of their favorite TV shows.

In other words, all of America will slowly be turned into a little bit of a comic book geek... and they won't even realize it.

Bwah. Ha. Hah.

Tpull is Travis Pullen. He started reading comics at 5 years old, and he can't seem to stop.