Comic Fodder

The Pervasiveness of Comics in Life – Part One

There are three major legs to pop culture in America: movies, television, and comic books. One leg is doing a mission creep on the other two.

The movie studios have been raiding opera and novels and other sources to translate them all into the Hollywood format and increase their familiarity to the audience for decades. Today, there are more than a hundred movie projects based on comic books. Although I may devote a column to some aspects of this in the future, I think for now I can skip over the part that covers how movie-land has already been overtaken by comics. The invasion is not one-sided, as the annual San Diego ComiCon has been infested by the other formats.

The awareness level at Comicon itself has actually been a source of consternation to long-time comic fans, as the presence of actual comic books are increasingly side-lined by the incoming rush of movies and now TV shows to pimp their latest project and grab some of that uber-geek cred that will allegedly boost the buzz. But when the fans of floppies complain about TV and movies invading Comicon, they always forget to mention that comics have returned the favor.

Television is reflecting the change in status quo in two ways. The first is the new "seasons" of a TV show presented in comic format. There are a ton of programs that could have/should have gotten another season, but for whatever out of a possible million reasons, the ride is over. The creators and producers often have enough rights to the material to swing over into the two-dimensional world and continue the saga in the form of a comic. Joss Whedon is the most referenced example of this with Buffy, Angel, and Serenity comics. Battlestar Galactica came back to comics near the end of its run, and both Star Wars and Star Trek have come and multiples times, with both of them currently having a current stream of comic projects going strong. Sci-fi has been the major recipient of this TV-to-comics love, with Babylon 5 in the past, and relatively recently Farscape has found new life in several mini-series. Devil's Due is putting out Season 3 of Jericho, a cult favorite that couldn't get a new season after its second chance at sparking interest on the boob tube.

The TV show doesn't have to be cancelled, either. We have seen one-shots for The Shield and 24 while they were still on the air. The executive producer of Eureka produced a mini-series during the season break that tied into the TV series itself, providing additional mystery and clues for fans, and Fringe did something similar. Stargate is coming soon, with stories from both SG-1 and Atlantis, and stories centered on their new spin-off, Stargate: Universe. Doctor Who has a series as well. Come to think of it, Army of Darkness deserves at least an honorable mention in all of this too. As opposed to someone carrying around a comic book begging for it to be made into a movie, the TV people have recognized the medium as a way of heightening interest, and being able to tell stories in a way that might not work on TV. For the series that have been canceled, it provides a creative outlet for the creators who still had more story to tell, and a great way for die-hard fans to get a precious extra dose of something that otherwise would have faded into oblivion.

The second way TV is changing things is with the ever-increasing comics references becoming intertwined with the shows themselves. The best example is the new hit Big Bang, a series which opened on a geek argument over Superman's abilities. This hit comedy for NBC shows super-hero T-shirts and pop culture memorabilia, and the occasional comic book itself, and has scientific theory co-mingled with comic book references all thrown into the mix for nonstop jokes. It is the premiere show to celebrate our collective geek hood, and its popularity shows that the geeks have grown up, and we are them. Part of this was inevitable, as the people involved with the show obviously love comics. This was immediately clear when Sheldon couldn't go somewhere because, he declared, "It's Wednesday. Wednesday is New Comic Book Day. We have to go to the comic book store."

Setting aside a show with comics as one of its foundational background themes, comics have permeated the rest of the networks with an unrecognized subtlety. Josh Holloway, who plays Sawyer on the hit TV show Lost, was on the Horoscope page of TV Guide in a July issue. He was wearing a Superman T-shirt. This wasn't a cover photo where Wardrobe planned his clothing, and professional photographers posed him, this was simply what he chose to wear at the moment, because he likes his Superman T-shirt. Whether it’s Stephen Colbert giving us a Spider-Pope joke or Brad Garrett’s character in ‘Til Death using Spidey bedsheets when the married couple decides to have different beds, the references have become common fodder for use among all TV writers.

So that’s the land of television. The boob-tube has been thoroughly conquered by the funny books. Tune in for the next column when I talk about how comics have also taken over the United States military.

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