Welcome to another edition of Just Add Comics, where I highlight comic books that adapt stories from other forms of media — movies, television, plays, “webisodes”, etc. — and see how they match up compared to the original. I actually wasn’t planning to make another one of these posts so soon, but I recently came across a comic that was so far off my radar that I couldn’t put off talking about it anymore. That’s because the comic I want to cover today is an adaptation of a classic board game: Cluedo,or as it’s more commonly known in America, Clue.
Wait…seriously? says the Hypothetical Reader. Yes. Seriously.
Look, I get it. I was skeptical myself, but after reading up on all things Clue over the last few days (i.e. I skimmed over all the pertinent bits on Wikipedia), I dunno, I guess I’ve been converted. I even pulled an old copy of the board game we had lying around the house to reacquaint myself with the set-up, and I think I have enough now to make this worth your time and mine. So yeah, let’s put on those deerstalker caps and dive in.
Isn’t it interesting how old forgotten things from our past find their way back into our lives? A crumpled up dollar bill you find in your pants pocket; a box of toys you stumble across during spring cleaning; running into an old friend from your high school days at the grocery store. They must have had some value to us once, some presumably more than others, but then for one reason or another we simply stopped thinking about them until one day, out of the blue, they sneak up on us. Moments like that make me wonder why those things were so important to me in the first place and, if they were, what does it say about me that I could forget them so easily?
Welcome to the inaugural edition of what I’m tentatively calling Just Add Comics, where I hope to shine a light on stories from other forms of media — movies, TV, web series, books, etc. — that have been adapted, for whatever reason, into comic books. I don’t really have a set format established for this yet, but for now I’m going to start by providing a brief summary of the source material, talk about some of the talent behind it, and then get into the comic itself. The story I want to talk about today is by acclaimed fantasy writer, Neil Gaiman, with a title that recognizes a timeless problem that has plagued so many awkward teenagers:
I love reading comic books, but if I’m being completely honest with you — and I like to think we’ve reached that point by now — some days it’s harder for me to really decompress from all my other drama and just enjoy a good story. There have been a few points over the years where I’ve become so obsessed with pursuing the next big crossover or Kickstarter campaign or redesigned hardcover edition that I forget to actually read the books I’m buying. Inevitably, those are the moments when I hit “burnout”; when I can no longer distinguish the books that are actually good from the ones I’ve bought simply out of habit, and so I give up on all of them entirely.
Usually it’s a couple weeks before I’m finally cognizant enough to step back and realize what I’m doing to myself, and by then it can be difficult to remember why I ever loved reading these silly stories in the first place. Fortunately, there are a few comics I can always rely on to rekindle the fire in me. Today I’ll be taking some time to briefly talk/gush about one of them.
You know I’ve talked about a couple comic books now, even a few manga, and yet I’m surprised I haven’t yet mentioned one of my all-time favorite comic books: One Piece. To very quickly summarize, One Piece (ワンピース) is a story about a crew known as the Straw Hat Pirates led by their Captain – Monkey D. Luffy – as they traverse vast oceans and dangerous islands in search of a mythical treasure known as the One Piece. Written and drawn by the insanely talented Eiichiro Oda, One Piece was first released back in July of 1997 in the pages of Weekly Shonen Jump and has been releasing chapters on a near-weekly basis for over 21 years, with no signs of stopping anytime soon. It has a small but substantial following here in America but that pales in comparison to the cultural juggernaut it has become in Japan covering books, a TV show, dozens of movies, and even an amusement park. With over 440 million volumes sold worldwide at the time of this writing, One Piece has surpassed titles including Bleach, Naruto and all of the Dragon Ball series to become the best-selling manga of all time.
Now to clarify, this post is not going to be one big all-encompassing review of the series; there have already been many, many in-depth reviews and professional think pieces that can give you a much better understanding of One Piece than I could ever dream of matching here. Instead, I’m going to narrow my focus to a single chapter – Chapter 108 to be specific – and dig into the reasons why I think it works so well.
Whether you’re a reader who enjoys comic books of the Japanese variety or you’re a connoisseur of action-packed shonen anime, chances are high you’re familiar with the hit series Boku No Hero Academia (僕のヒーローアカデミア), or My Hero Academia as it’s called here in the States. Created by writer/artist Kōhei Horikoshi, the story – a class of students learning how to become the next generation of superheroes – has become a critical and financial success with interesting characters, solid artwork, and intriguing commentary on the concept of heroism. With nearly 200 chapters as of this writing, as well as an anime adaptation, a spin-off series (the first volume of which I covered here), and a feature length movie coming soon to theaters, My Hero Academia and Horikoshi show no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
It’s easy to look at success stories like these and assume the people behind them came up with a winning concept on their first try, but of course the reality is that like many of Horikoshi’s peers in the creative fields, the path to stardom was a long and winding road. Case in point, while the first chapter of Academia was released back in 2014, Kōhei Horikoshi has been working steadily as a writer and artist since 2007. Academia is actually his third series to be published in the weekly Shonen Jump magazine, preceded by Oumagadoki Zoo (逢魔ヶ刻動物園) back in 2010 and Barrage (戦星のバルジ) in 2012. For whatever reason neither Zoo nor Barrage seemed to click with readers, neither of them lasting longer than a year or so before being cancelled, their failures ultimately enabling Horikoshi to pursue his most prolific work to date.
Being a big fan of My Hero Academia, I was curious if I could find any copies of Zoo and Barrage to peruse and see how Horikoshi’s work has developed overtime, though I didn’t hold out much hope. Sadly, as is the case with a lot of manga series that get cancelled early on in their runs, there is little chance if any for officially translated copies to make their way over stateside, not counting the underground efforts of dedicated fans. The results of my amateur search efforts bore bittersweet fruit; while there are no official English translations of Oumagadoki Zoo available at the moment, Viz Media has graciously released both volumes of Barrage in print and in digital format. Having sat down to read the complete series, I thought I could take a moment to discuss Kōhei Horikoshi’s second official series, Barrage, aka The Series That Had To Die So My Hero Academia Could Live.
By all accounts, the Teen Titans have arguably never had as much focus on them as they have in the past few weeks. On the television side of things, DC kicked off the promotion campaign for it’s new streaming service with the trailer for a new live-action Titans series, generating millions of views on YouTube alone. Meanwhile, the Teen Titans Go! animated series started it’s fifth season on Cartoon Network and released their first feature-length movie in theatres to much critical praise. One might assume that fans of the team would be thrilled, and yet based on the chatter online the reaction from fans has been polarizing at best and downright hateful at worst.
Speaking only for myself, I have never been the biggest fan of the Teen Titans, my primary exposure to them being the animated series that ran from 2003 to 2006. I could tell you the names of certain characters and a little bit about their history, but honestly I’ve never felt particularly motivated to check out more of their stories in any medium, comics or otherwise. Still, I thought with all this attention being put on the team and all these different interpretations of the characters, maybe it was time to educate myself. With that in mind, I thought I’d go back to the beginning and take a look at stories that covered the team’s origins, starting with the 2008 comic book miniseries Teen Titans: Year One.