Tuesday 15 May 2012

The Clone Wars scribe adapts The Phantom Menace

Does this Star Wars: Episode I in 3D tie-in revolutionise the way we read comic books? John Rivers pulls himself away from The Clone Wars to investigate!

Guest post by John Rivers

At some point around writing for the cartoon series versions of All Dogs Go to Heaven and Timon & Pumbaa, Henry Gilroy was handed the script to Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. A decade on and Gilroy was lead writer on the highly successful series Star Wars: The Clone Wars. I mention this because while The Clone Wars is a brilliant foray into the expanded universe of the Wars, The Phantom Menace comic book is probably the most straightforward adaptation ever seen in comics.

To describe it as shot-for-shot would do Gus Van Sant’s bizarre experiment with Psycho an injustice, but this is as-near-as-dammit a copy of the movie as you could own outside of the DVD. Occasionally you are offered a tantalising glimpse of dialogue excised from the final edit of Episode 1, but other than that, it’s absolutely precise.

Not one character has a thought in the whole piece, never once is a thought-bubble deployed. Admittedly Gilroy must have been under strict instructions to follow the script as closely as possible and not deviate from it. This presents problems in the latter half of the book, when he slavishly has to keep flicking between the ground assault on Naboo, Anakin piloting the fighter and the Darth Maul smackdown.

The artwork is detailed but again lifted straight from the movie and lacks any of the imagination afforded the Manga version or the fantastic licence of the early Marvel work. As an adaptation it is entirely faithful, as a comic it has all the structural and dialogue challenges of the first episode.

I would love to see a freer interpretation of the first episode, reinvented in the same way superheroes have been done many times over. Imagine a Phantom Menace where Jar Jar is a Gungan War Lord, Qui-Gon is a broken, elderly wizard and Anakin is a girl. The possibilities are endless. Maybe that is to come and it would be great to see these interpretations in comic form, like the acclaimed Star Wars Tales or Infinities series.

Only one to consider getting if you’re a completist!

Follow @johnrivers
Photo courtesy @richardmackney

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