COMICS ON THE CAN
Babylon Working issue #1
Created by Marcel Dupree & Josh Metzger, Script – Metzger, Art – Mannix Francisco, Colors – Marco Della Verde, Logo – Ed Lavallee, Cinematographer – Howard Atherton
The screen grows dark then the rating for the trailer comes up! “This review is rated “R” for scenes of horrific gastrointestinal distress, fart jokes, toilet humor and maybe a boob thrown in for good measure. So you’ll have to sneak into this one kids!”
The screen goes dark. The sounds of someone trying to poop but only air escaping is heard. Fade up: INT, Hallway, day: a low dolly shot rolling up to a bathroom door.
In a world where there are comic books and there are bathrooms, a world much like our own…
The bathroom door rattles on its hinges, light pours out of the edges along with smoke.
Except for one difference! A difference made by one man…
The door bursts open and Mike pushes out from the smoke filled room, he is sweaty and panting.
I… (pant pant) did it! I read a comic and I reviewed it!
Cut to: EXT: Highway, Night – Mike is straightening himself up from falling into the passenger seat of a convertible sports car. MISS BUXOM in a skin tight catsuit and wearing night vision goggles is driving. Mike is clutching an old school Macbook. He looks at the driver.
Who… who are you?
Miss Buxom flips up her goggles. She has a sly smile. The eighteen wheeler behind them explodes!
It doesn’t matter, now shut up and hang on!
CUT TO: Flaming Graphic slams against the black background “Get ready…”
CUT TO: EXT: CLIFF, NIGHT – Charles Dance, Alan Rickman, Gary Oldman, Richard E. Grant and any other english actors that played bad guys in 90’s movies are in a semi circle slowly walking towards someone. They are approaching Mike, who is still clutching the Macbook. He is backing up slowly towards the edge of a cliff.
Give us the computer, you have no idea what power that review has! It belongs to US!
CUT TO: Another flaming graphic “… for the review…”
CUT TO: Mike looking over the cliff edge.
Are you going to give it to us or do we have to take it from you? (He fires up his chainsaw)
CUT TO: Flaming graphic “… of your life!”
CUT TO: Mike, he drops backwards over the cliff edge.
CUT TO: Flaming graphic “Seriously!”
CUT BACK TO SCENE: Mike falls from the edge and lands in Miss Buxom’s sports car which is jumping across the gorge just below where Mike is falling. They lad on the other side of the canyon. Mike looks at Miss Buxom
I know, I know buckle up and hang on!
CUT TO: Flaming graphics “From the studio who brought you every high concept action film in the 90’s!”
CUT TO: EXT: Forest, Night: Mike, Miss Buxom and Nic Cage at his most yolked. They are walking through a creepy old forest. Nic and Buxom have mini-guns and Mike is clutching the Macbook.
How was I supposed to know that the information exposing the existence of a secret cabal of arms and heroin dealers would become embedded in the code of my comic review?
Shut-up, man, I just need to get back to my daughter!
Suddenly Nic is attacked by a mutant snow leopard!
CUT TO: Flaming Graphics – : “COMICS ON THE CAN!!!!”
Before movies studios learned the term “reboot”, “Adapted from a series of YA novels” or “Based on a comic book!” there was the term “High concept”. This consisted of taking ideas familiar to an audience and giving them a slight twist. Examples include “Die hard on a bus”, “Bruce WIllis is a singing thief”, “Die Hard on a boat”, “Arnold Schwarzenegger vs Satan”, “Die Hard but on Air Force One”, Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker in a buddy cop movie, “Die Hard on a train”, “Hellraiser in space”, “Die Hard but on a boat with a sea monster” , Pairing Chris Tucker with anybody for a mid-budget action comedy because Will Smith is too expensive now, Bruce Willis on a boat, Doctor Jekyll’s maid and “Die Hard but on a battleship… wait isn’t that a boat again? Sorry we’re running out of things to put Die Hard on!” (can you guess all of these movies? Answers in the “Thoughts Tangential to…” section below.) There was also a huge run on movies based on TV shows but that’s an entire column unto itself.
This was a fun, if shallow time, for cinema. The formula for a decent theatrical hit but really making a killing on home video was perfected! The high concept script usually from a spec, add in a respected, possibly award winning, actor having all the fun as the villain (or just Udo Kier) maybe a half hearted merchandising deal (Will Scarlet with crossbow attack!) and Viola! A perfectly acceptable sweltering August afternoon in air conditioning.
What does any of this have to do with the indie comic Babylon Working? Isn’t it obvious just by context? Babylon Working has that high concept 90’s action movie in it’s bloodline. I don’t mean this as an insult. The pitch is like this: A crew of space pirates fight Cthulhu! Fuckin dynamite! This is the hook that dragged me in on Kickstarter and if “Space heist becomes fight for life against elder god” doesn’t sound like high concept to you, maybe comics aren’t your speed. Maybe try this pitch for the young’uns out there – Mass Effect cthulhu DLC!
Oh yeah, boobs!
The book opens with a cult doing a ritual while orbiting a black hole. The tentacled space creature that is released is shoved into a human host. Naturally it’s on it’s way to Earth. The two lead cultists stuff the possessed body in a stasis chamber and board a transport to the third planet from the sun. Naturally this is the very transport that our bad-ass anti-heroes plan on robbing. It should be mentioned that the pirates are all scantily clad women who took the GED equivalent of tough guy banter before they chose their career as space pirates. I hear it’s an elective at most space pirate schools. The whole job is, according to them, pretty SOP. Issue one smartly focuses on showing this group at their most competent. The set up shows the crew is good at what they do and establishes their dynamic and that they are crooks, not murderers. Mr White would be proud to work with these ladies. Plus, boobs. The heist goes off as planned but what they couldn’t anticipate is an elder god chilling in a container they just stole. The cultists release the tentacle and boob monster while the pirates are escaping with it. They are forced to crash land on a nearby abandoned amusement park moon. Which is an idea I can get behind as opposed to your typical metal corridor and rock space station. Yeah, when we achieve space travel and planetary colonization, Jeffery Epstein motherfuckers will be setting up shop in Orion’s belt. The rest of the issue is gunplay, innocent victims and the elder god transforming into a boss monster after you’ve knocked down that first life bar.
This is all good fun. I’ve said time and time again how I love the “Badasses have to fight off the monster” plot. I guess I saw Predator at an impressionable age. Dupree and Metzger keep the plot machine running smoothly. This issue plays, mostly like the first act of a high concept 90’s film where it starts as one thing (space heist) and act two kicks off when it becomes something different (oh look, Cthulhu! Lite ’em up Gals!) A sure sign that they spent plenty of time with 90’s era Bruckheimer action pics on VHS. They also know how to make the story beats hit like a drum. The characters are pretty stock. The cultists, Ms Sappho and Dr. Ataturk, are a little thin. They are primarily defined by boobs with glyph tattoos and cyber monocle. The space pirates fare much better. Visually each being quite distinctive; black chick is mesopotamian looking, white chick is space erotica, dog type chick runs with a bit of a japanese motif and giant armored chick has ram horns and doesn’t show her face. Mannix Francisco’s (please, please let that be their real name) style has some nice expressions and solid flow to the action. The only tangible complaint is that the dialogue doesn’t really pop. Tough guy banter is half the fun of these types of stories. I guess they couldn’t get Joss Whedon to do a punch up.
I’ve seen more experimental indy stuff but I wasn’t interested in Babylon Working for pushing the boundaries of what the medium can do. I was hoping for an out there high concept executed with tight structure and a sense of fun. The unexpected boobs was just bonus! This book delivers pretty much exactly what I want from it. Even more significant is that Babylon Working has no pretense as to what it is. Dimension films did very well for itself in the 90’s packaging well crafted genre fare. Babylon Working leans that lesson well. That gets, in my opinion, enough juice to reach escape velocity.
Babylon Working issue #2 is currently on kickstarter. I’ve already backed it. I guess, put simply, that’s the best critique I could give. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1866329195/babylon-working-2?ref=user_menu
This reviewed issue can be purchased at https://gumroad.com/evoluzionepublishing
THINGS TANGENTIAL TO THE COLUMN THAT I COULDN’T FIT IN ORGANICALLY
Cinematographer – Howard Atherton. Of course the comic doesn’t have a DP (director of photography same as) I used Atherton because he was the DP on “Deep Rising” a cult movie that falls squarely in the High Concept and “Badasses fight a monster” categories. Unapologetic fun and it stars Famke!
Joblo.com has a decent episode of “The best movies you’ve never saw” on Deep Rising
Mr Atherton also DP’d, among other things, “Fatal Attraction”, “Bad Boys” and “Lassie”! How’s that for a resume!
Howard Atherton is not to be confused with Howard Bretherton BTW.
Babylon Working not to be confused with Babylon 5 which I worked on for two straight years.
The answers to the high concept movie quiz: “Die hard on a bus” = Speed
“Bruce WIllis is a singing thief” = Hudson Hawk
“Die Hard on a boat” = Speed 2: Cruise Control
“Arnold Schwarzenegger vs Satan” = End of Days
“Die Hard but on Air Force One” = Air Force One
Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker in a buddy cop movie = Rush Hour
“Die Hard on a train” = Under Siege 2: Dark Territory
“Hellraiser in space” = Event Horizon or I’ll accept Hellraiser Bloodlines though the horror icons in space is a subgenre unto itself.
“Die Hard but on a boat with a sea monster” = Deep Rising. I’ll accept Titanic also considering the stories I’ve heard about working with James Cameron.
Pairing Chris Tucker with anybody for a mid-budget action comedy because Will Smith is too expensive now. = Money Talks, The Rush Hour series, The first three Friday movies, The Fifth Element.
Bruce Willis on a boat = Striking Distance
Doctor Jekyll’s maid = Mary Reiley
“Die Hard but on a battleship… wait isn’t that a boat again? Sorry we’re running out of things to put Die Hard on!” = Under Siege.
Any video game would be enhanced with Cthulhu DLC!
Now I know what “Animal Kingdom: New Horizons” next DLC should be!
If you read my Fantoy Comics strip I’m currently doing an New Horizons arc. If you don’t read it; shame on you!
I recently worked with Christian Slater on “Dirty John: Betty”. Really nice, friendly guy. He graciously autographed a Mr Robot funko pop for me and I asked him if it was weird seeing a toy of himself. He reminded me of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves where he played Will Scarlet. The action figure did have crossbow action!
Recently I, jokingly, suggested to my daughter that we watch Predator. She said no on the basis that it sounded scary. I said “What’s scary about a space monster that hunts you down then kills you and takes your skull as a trophy?”
She responded “All of it, dad! Every single bit!”
If you love Predator one particular predator, Jeffery Epstein, didn’t kill himself.
Joss Whedon, before he became the director of “Avengers”, even before he became creator of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” was the goto dialogue and structure punch up guy in the 90’s. He did script doctor work on movies like “Toy Story”, “Speed”, “Waterworld” (Mad Max on a boat), “Twister”, “X-Men” and “Titan A.E.”
And in honor of boobs lets cap this off with the recurring image of adult stars Angela White and Maitland Ward!
NEXT: That Killer Princess thing, maybe
LATER: Maybe another Kickstarter funded comic any suggestions?