Friday, January 9, 2015

CBR:Quickies Bill & Ted's Excellent Comic Book

Dudes and dudettes! I'm proud to review today the most triumphant, non-non-non bogus comic book there ever was!

For more Bill & Ted, check out these other reviews:

Following the excellent* adaptation of the first Bill & Ted movie by DC Comics, Marvel Comics was then able to secure the rights for the second film.

To work on the new adaptation at the time, Marvel hired the indie cartoonist Evan Dorkin who was by then mostly known for his work on the Pirate Corp$! series (aka Hectic Planet) at Slave Labor Graphics. But after his great work on the movie adaptation, they decided to launch an on-going series further expanding the adventures of Bill & Ted. They wanted the characters to remain in the hands of Dorkin. Which he almost didn't accept. But since he was a struggling artist at the time trying to start a career, he ended up accepting the book.

His original intentions were to stay on the comic until issue #4... and instead remained the sole creator in charge of the book until its cancellation! Why's that? He even used to say he completely hated the term "dude" and was in no way a fan of Heavy Metal, can you imagine that? But he was actually given complete control of the book. That's right, despite not being much interested in the films, he ended up loving these two goofball characters and given total freedom to develop and play with these characters. That's right, not even having movie people looking over his shoulders!

Yes way!

Evan Dorkin would take care of both the entire writing, and penciling his own stories, with Stephen DeStefano inking his art (and some other unnamed associates behind the scenes).

The on-going series was continued from the film adaptation of Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey (also collected in the following softcovers). 

The series was an immense surprise at the time! It was a breath of fresh air at times when super heroes fully invaded the medium (for the worse... remember the infamous 90s comic boom?). Yet despite the general grim and gritty invaded the format, Bill & Ted remained fun, playing with all kinds of science-fiction tropes. And instead of simply aiming the series at children, like adapting the animated series for example, the book was allowed to do its own thing. Humor was the main focus of the book. And it was such a great series for both fans of the films and comic book fans and.

It's only downfall was the fact this short-lived series would only last about 12 issues.

In 2004 (and 2005), this Bill & Ted Marvel series collected for the first time by Slave Labor Graphics in two digest-sized trades. These issues were originally in full color but the reprints below are actually in black & white. But believe me, it's not much a problem honestly since the gorgeous art is  only better without the cheap 1990s coloring.

It collects Evan Dorkin's entire run on the series - which does not include the eighth issue of the series which was handed by guest writers and a guest artist (more on that below).


Comic title:  Bill & Ted's Most Excellent Adventures: Volume 1
Written & illustrated by Evan Dorkin
Format: Digest-sized trade paperback collecting Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey: A Most Excellent Movie Adaptation! and issues #1-4 of Bill & Ted's Excellent Comic Book.

Our first volume opens with a massive and detailed adaptation of Bogus Journey. It's actually really close to the movie, Evan Dorkin worked from a(n almost) complete final screenplay.

We are introduced to "The Two Great Ones". Their death and return, after having their place usurped by bogus evil robot doubles, their quest to get another chance (at life) and facing Death in all kinds of challenges they all win. After that Bill & Ted go to heaven and back, where they meet the two most excellent alien dudes, the Stations. The Stations help them by creating good robot Bill & Teds. They fight at a concert gig, save their medieval ladies and win a record label deal.

Following this second film, the actual series opens with the wedding celebration of Bill S. Preston and Theodore Logan with the princesses Joanna and Elizabeth respectively. Everyone is invited to the wedding including their historic friends such as Johann Bach, Billy the Kid , Napoleon Bonaparte, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, Genghis Khan, the always non-bogus Abraham Lincoln, Socrates and Joan of Arc! Death keeps drinking and making awful jokes. "Death's not funny!" But two jealous medieval dudes are able to follow them back into the present when Bill & Ted's guide and mentor Rufus passes by the era to pick up the princesses' favorite band. The jealous rivals might just ruin the party..

After that Death takes on a most heinous holiday! Death is tired of being, well, the "Grim Reaper". He steals the phonebooth time machine and decides to take a break and sight-seeing all the great tragedies including Pompei, the end of the dinosaurs and the big bang! But this might cause some big damages to the time stream!! (which would result in the climax at the end of the series amongst other things)

Once that's resolved, Death decides to come to the neighborhood. We meet JC and Stinky Eddie from a local cable news metal channel. Bill & Ted wanna start working on their band Wyld Stallyns... but the record deal they got at the end of second film turns out to not offer a lot of possibilities. They need to get a get proper manager on their own. They run a couple of ads in the classifieds. The group gets a bass player thanks to the addition of the most excellent bass player dude Phil, and also the only manager they could find... which turns out to be a huge fraud! But at least they get to play at their first gig... at the courthouse!

After this adventure, our heroes settle in their new house, and what married life will be like. JC and Stinky Eddie (and the readers) are introduced to Little Bill and Ted! With dads like these, it's gonna be all fun and games! Heck, they even build this giant amusement park in their own backyard (which seems to include a Gigantor!). And it comes equipped with its own time roller coaster! All thanks to the Stations dudes.. who appear to be kinda sick right now. And to make things worse, they keep splitting into smaller and smaller Stations until the whole place's overrun with Stations! But there's trouble.. Bill and Ted's most excellent wives and songs have been kidnapped by some mysterious foes! They let the rest of the gang collect the Stations while they go look through time AND space... In the end, it's revealed it wasn't from a bad intention. It's just that the dudes that live in this dimension of utter boredom wanted to have Wyld Stallyns come play in their world! Their first interdimensional tour, dude!

There seems to be some mysterious "Time Thumb" trying to talk to them the entire first few issues. An on-going mystery that would be developed in the second volume/half of the series.

Meanwhile in hell, the evil future dude DeNomolos (who built the evil robots) is planning his vengeance against the duo. He's currently trapped in Hell with the two evil Bill & Ted and the other two evil medieval dudes....

Overall: An all ages book done right , with plenty of humor that can just as well amuse kids or an older audience! It starts feeling like a continuation of sorts of the adventures from the films (albeit, slightly cartoonier for the occasion). With plenty of crazy oddball humor, lots of timeless pop culture references and it's simply hilarious!

The Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey movie adaptation comes pretty close to the film. Since it was scheduled around the release date of the film, Evan Dorkin had no access to pictures from the filming and he didn't knew how several things would end up looking like. He decided to make his own take of Death, which is basically inspired by the classic figure of the skeletal Grim Reaper. And I'm glad instead of changing his Death to the one from the film he ended up keeping his own version for the duration of the series.

I also like the way the stories are actually on-going, yet still keeping kinda stand-alone adventures in the foreground. It makes a read through all these issues even more seamless and captivating. Stuff is always happening!

This Bill & Ted's Excellent Comic Book features such great art, it's really well detailed. There's so many things to spot in the backgrounds and every corner of these panels is filled with little details and characters. Specially great work in the characters expressions. There's plenty of little notes of humor such as those different faces the smiley on the back of Ted's jacket does.

Dorking tried, and succeeded including as many characters from both films he. It's great to see almost everyone get a little time to shine such Captain Logan or "Missy". He even went ahead and created his own new characters that would become essential parts of Bill & Ted's by the end of the book!

This volume also contains a nice and interesting introduction by Evan Dorkin from 2004, around the release of this trade.

This book easily contains the best issues of this entire run, a fantastic first half!

I give this one a: 3 / 3 Score! 

Comic title: Bill & Ted's Excellent Comic Book #8
Written by Tom Brevoort and Mike Kanterovich
Drawn by Steve Buccellato & Marie Severin
Format: Single issue from the Bill & Ted's Excellent Comic Book on-going series.

Bill & Ted get Malled!

This issue was not included in SLG's collection because it wasn't made by Evan Dorkin, it's as simple as that. Which is a shame since they're only really omitting one issue from the complete series, even if it's not up to the rest of the run.

Bill & Ted are currently bored, watching whatever's on TV.. When suddenly a traveler from the future arrives to gather our protagonist for a presentation for his history lesson, much like Bill & Ted did in the original film!

This guy, Bob, also grabs George Washington, Isaac Newton and Mark Twain. They go back with him to San Dimas in the year 2692. Since there's still some time left, they decide to venture into a future mall for now. Long story short, the historic figures go missing, everyone running to his own side. Wyld Stallyns gets attacked by groupies wherever they go!

Since this issue takes place after the first few issues seen in the second volume below, DeNomolos is going all-out against our heroes. An evil follower of DeNomolos is sent after Bill & Ted.

More time protectors come to see Rufus regarding the time paradoxes, those glimpsed in the above volume. Bob and our main dudes have some trouble locating everyone while this giant evil dude is after Bill & Ted.

In the end, Bob is blamed for something Bill & Ted did once and were acclaimed as heroes for! Suddenly more time travelers arrive! It seems they come from an even farer future to gather some notorious historical figures of their own and Bob will be deemed on of the most heinous villains in history someday! Totally the end!?

Overall: It's a fun and silly issue.

Kinda forgettable and nothing much happens inside the mall in the end. Writers Tom Brevoort and Mike Kanterovich did their best following in the footsteps of Evan Dorkin. It's not as much packed with tons of things happening. But the humor remains mostly intact.

Steve Buccellato does his best, but he's pretty far from the standards used the rest of the series in my eyes. It's not as detailed and lively. But still pretty good work overall.

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score! 

Comic title:  Bill & Ted's Most Excellent Adventures: Volume 2
Written & illustrated by Evan Dorkin
Format: Digest-sized trade paperback collecting issues #5-7 and #9-12 of Bill & Ted's Excellent Comic Book.

This second volume opens with a visit to Mars thanks to the Station dudes!

Death wants to challenge our heroes once more... but totally loses again! Several games later and he has still no luck at all!

We get a first look at one of their songs, and it's kinda cheesy whenever you see a song on comic book pages.

Meanwhile outside time itself, some mysterious forces at work are angry at our heroes who have cheated time one too many times!

Bill can't stop reading those awful 90s super heroes comics ("Fight Dude", a parody of those Liefeld-style over the top characters). Their time machine gets impounded and they're brought to face the time justice! They will be judged by the Chronological Order! DeNomolos learns one can challenge Death... and wins eleven times against the Grim Reaper! He's able to resurrect all these other baddies including Al Capone and a few other psychos, including this crooked accountant Mitch. DeNomolos & cie track them to the time court. Rufus saves the day, helped by all these past friendly historical figures. Abraham Lincoln really packs one helluva punch! The Stations built a totally good robot DeNomolos to back them up. And it's back to Hell for the villains!

Bill & Ted are back from "time" to witness Death doing all these awful little jobs. I said awful jobs? I meant, Death's pretty bad at all these job he ends up working for a very short time on. He's having some trouble keeping a steady job, once you've been at the same job for the past, oh, billion years or so it might prove difficult to go for a new career... This new "kid", Morty, is hired by the big man "upstairs" as a replacement for Death. But Morty's also pretty bad at this job. It ain't easy being Death. War, Nature, Fate and the Time Thumb (standing in for Chronos) help him get his job back.

Another live show planned in the dimension of utter boredom lands them in this superhero comic parody-world of incessant fights between the forces of good and evil. Forced to assume ridiculous super identities and silly costumes.

There's an Apes Marathon were Bill and Ted are able to take Death to watch all 5 Ape-O-Riffic Planet of the Apes films (Evan Dorkin has a lot of love for these films!)! Death is confused by their love for these movies, and even misses a lot of it at one point, but arrives back in time for Conquest (truly "the bestest excellent Ape chapter!"). Our heroes finally learn about something everybody knows - the assassination of Lincoln! They try changing the fate of their best buddy Lincoln... but you can't just go around and mess with time without any repercussions. Don't worry, Bill & Ted, he's been living Happily Ever After in Heaven now.

Finally, our tale ends with this giant epic storyline of alternate time and dimensions. For the happy anniversary of both our couples (and the comic book series). Everyone is invited once more to celebrate. People are goofing around the time booths... when suddenly an accident sends them somewhere off. And all these other time booths land in the backyard! A lot of alternate Bill & Ted from all these different dimensions! Lots of them! More like thousands of them!!! (There's even "Wyld Simians"!!) Everyone starts kicking everyone else's ass! (Lincold can't stand aside a good brawl!) Just in time for the arrival of Death's pals, War & co. In the end, everything's well and put right in order. Bill's father finds a new love in Nature. Literally. And even Joan of Arc gets a happy ending unlike her real life historical counterpart, with the most excellent bass player dude Phil.

Party on, dudes!

Overall: And it's over! And what a fun ride this was!

This second volume collects the somewhat weaker issues, but it's still good and most excellent if you ask me.

A fantastic series all in all.

The art is still very strong, the characters fun and the expressions perfect. Tons of hilarious little details and reference. Just great artwork.

This trade also gets another fun introduction by Evan Dorkin, in the form of an hilarious timeline of the series (and Dorkin's life and career).

I give this one a: 2.5 / 3 Score!

One most of the most Excellent Comic Book Adaptations there ever was, out there. That was the entire twelve-issue run of Evan Dorkin's Bill & Ted series which ran from December 1991 to November 1992.

The series even won the 1992 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards for the category "Best Humor" and was also nominated for "Best Humor Publication".

To this day it remains one of the best, funniest and most original comic book adaptations ever published, not bounded by any set of rules or guidelines, and let free in the hands of its author.

While chances of a new film gets increasingly slimmer, BOOM! Studios just announced a new comic book series, Bill & Ted’s Most Triumphant Return by Brian Lynch & Ryan North. Hopefully it will be as good as the original comic series was.

And remember, be excellent to each other. And... PARTY ON, DUDES!

That's all for this time's Quickies!

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