Luke Owen looks at independent comic Super Mario Bros. 2…
In 1993 Lightmotive Pictures released Super Mario Bros. The Movie, a live-action adaptation of the popular video game series. The film ended with a sequel hook which went unexplored — until now. Following discussions with original writer Parker Bennett, Steven Applebaum and Ryan Hoss have scripted a new adventure that continues right where the film left off. Join Mario, Luigi and Princess Daisy as they explore new locations and creatures inspired by the games, yet adapted in the film’s unique cyberpunk style. Will the Super Mario Bros. be able to survive once again?
Panned by virtually every critic upon its release in 1993, the live-action Super Mario Bros. is a movie that still gets mocked to this day. Even 20 years on, the movie is the butt of jokes from Internet based podcasts and review shows like How Did This Get Made? and Nostalgia Critic. However, like a lot of movies that are hated by the masses, Super Mario Bros. has become somewhat of a cult favourite and often packs out midnight screenings. And no fan is bigger than Ryan Hoss, web mater of the SMB Movie Archive, a fan-site dedicated to all things Super Mario Bros. Along with Steven Applebaum and one of the movie’s writers Parker Bennett, the trio have created Super Mario Bros. 2 – the comic book sequel that many have been waiting for.
As with a lot of movies, Super Mario Bros. left itself open to a sequel which was never materialised when the movie bob-omb’d at the box office. Surprisingly though, Super Mario Bros. 2 doesn’t exactly follow on from its source material. During an interview, Bennett said that had the movie warranted a sequel, he would have gone down the route of Back to the Future Part II and gone in a new direction while loosely following what was set-up in the first movie. In the case of Super Mario Bros. 2, the rock around Daisy’s neck opens up another portal to some new dinosaurs lead by a clan of Shy Guys. Feeling like she can close the portal, she calls in the help of the Mario Bros. to be her distraction. Not the most inspired of storylines granted, but it does what it needs to do.
To start off with some positives, the comic looks fantastic and the cyber-punk style not only fits in with the movie’s original tone, but it also suits the character designs. The trio have managed to take fairly goofy characters in Shy Guys and turn them into bad ass looking bad guys akin to the Tuskin Raiders in Star Wars. Eryk Donovan has a very unique style that works well with Hoss and Applebaum’s script and he has a good level of detail with nothing lost in the black and white tone. He also doesn’t simply copy and paste the likeness of the movie’s leading characters which also helps in making the comic feel original and not just as a piece of fan-service. Mario is clearly Mario and Luigi is clearly Luigi, but they are new takes on the characters with Luigi resembling a post-grunge teenager alongside his grizzled vet ‘brother’. It’s a nice touch and something that should be commended.
Likewise, Hoss and Applebaum’s script (based off a story treatment by Bennett) does a good job of capturing the tone of the original movie without reading like a piece of fan-fiction. You can hear Hoskin’s thick New York accent through their dialogue and they give the formally-innocent Luigi a much more grown-up vibe, which in turn makes him a more likeable character. The script also takes the classy route by fairly light on forced Nintendo references leaving only a couple of subtle nods to fans of the franchise when referring to the nameless Shy Guys. Writing a comic is not an easy task and taking on a huge franchise such as this is even harder, but Hoss and Applebaum’s clear love of the movie and the world its created is evident in their writing and this helps raise the comic to a level above childish fan-fiction.
However, it’s not all poritive. The problem with Super Mario Bros. 2 is that it doesn’t feel like a full-length comic, nor does it feel like the true sequel we’ve been waiting 20 years for. There are a lot of ideas and Hoss and Applebaum explore them as much as possible, but Super Mario Bros. 2 is a 4-issue arc crammed into 27 pages. The whole story is rushed and the reader is never given time to let anything sink in. The Mario Bros never feel like they’re in peril, it never comes across that the Shy Guys are genuinely fearful characters and it all comes to a close with a twist-ending that leaves no impact. With a bit of time, this could have been a gripping story which could have kept readers hooked, but as it currently stands it’s just 27-pages of well-drawn and well-written fluff.
Granted, it’s hard to ‘hate’ on a comic that is independently released and had Super Mario Bros. 2 been released by one of the big comic book companies, perhaps these criticisms would be justified. However, this is the comic we’re presented with and it is what it is – a fan comic with a good idea that was needlessly rushed. If the creators had taken a bit more time to flesh out more issues than just the one, Super Mario Bros. 2 could have been a fantastic comic, but as it is – it’s just “okay”. A lot of fun with some great writing and artwork, but just “okay”. The comic does end with a tease for more stories and perhaps future instalments will improve upon the already great groundwork, but Super Mario Bros. 2 is sadly not the best start.
For more information on Super Mario Bros. 2 – head to the official website here.
Luke Owen is one of Flickering Myth’s co-editors and the host of the Flickering Myth Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @LukeWritesStuff.