Not even a Holiday Special adaptation.

§ March 27th, 2024 § Filed under marvel, publishing, star wars § 15 Comments

So I spotted on the back of the newest Marvel Previews an add for the forthcoming Star Wars comic book Ahsoka, starring the character who came to prominence in animation and recently jumped into live action portrayed by Rosario Dawson. A “fan-favorite” in the classic sense, as folks do seem to genuinely like the character, and at least at my shop toys and comics based on her usually do quite well.

The text of the ad reads “Ahsoka Tano gets her her own miniseries adaptation” and I groaned a little bit, as I realized it’s not new stories, but comic book retellings of the story from the recent Disney+ TV show. Now my immediate response was of course mature and reasoned…posting a meme to Bluesky:

…and informing said response was the rather lackluster response I’ve had at the shop to other recent Star Wars comic book adaptations of other media. The recent Obi-Wan barely sells for me, I’ve had folks drop Thrawn because it’s adapting a novel, even The Mandalorian, the strongest selling of the bunch, has begun to flag. I’ve had multiple folks express their disappointment that they were just getting retellings of stories they’ve already enjoyed.

Way back in Ye Olden Tymes, before VCRs and various forms of disc players, a comic book adaptation of a movie was one of the few ways to relive the experience at your convenience. And TV shows…well, there weren’t many direct adaptations of TV episodes in comics, mostly focusing on new stories, but it was still a way to relive a program outside of its normal broadcast times, back in the days before you could pick up (or download) complete season sets.

While some of these were…utilitarian, shall we say, several did have some artistic merit and were completely enjoyable on their own terms. I still think Marvel’s Time Bandits comic is a classic, for example, and I enjoy looking at it even though I have the Criterion Blu-ray of the film just on the shelf over there. Evan Dorkin’s version of Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey is another great movie-to-comic translation, with Dorkin’s wild cartooning creating an adaptation that arguably surpasses the source material.

Archie Goodwin and Walt Simonson’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Alien. Hook, featuring work by Charles Vess and Gray Morrow, among many others. The absolute infamous madness of the adaptation of Steven Spielberg’s 1941 by Steve Bissette and Rick Veitch. The beautiful Jerry Ordway art on the comic for the first Tim Burton Batman film.

I could keep going. I have a soft spot for many of the Star Trek movie comics DC produced (even with the occasional storytelling glitch).

But in this modern age, where everything is just a click away (legally or otherwise), the desire to relive cinematic experiences in funnybook form just isn’t there like it used to be. Even doing new stories based on films and TV isn’t quite the draw it used to be…but it seems for folks attracted to certain properties, if they had a choice, they’d want their comics to be new material rather than rehashing stories they’ve already experienced.

I’m not saying there isn’t an audience now for comics like Obi-Wan and Ahsoka. In fact, I expect Ahsoka #1 to sell quite well, just by virtue of being a Big First Issue for the popular character. I’m expecting a big dropoff on #2, however, as readers realize it’s just stories from the TV show, and as speculators stick with thier #1s and eschew later installments.

In addition, there will be the folks who don’t care it’s an adaptation, and want to enjoy a comic book version of the show. And there’s the simple fact that not everyone has Disney+, and this is their access to these particular adventures.

Now, I realize Marvel may have its hands tied in regards to what they can and can’t do with their licensed properties. I have no idea. All I know is the majority of my customers, when they hear “adaptation,” decide the comic is not for them, no matter how expertly it is artistically executed. While I’ll still sell copies, the number I’ll sell has been capped off.

I really do wish the. best for the creative team on this new Ahsoka comic. I hope it does well, not just for their sakes, but for my own store as well. Selling more comics is preferable to selling fewer, after all. And if Ahsoka does well, enough, maybe a follow-up with all-new stories will be in the offing. One can only hope.

15 Responses to “Not even a Holiday Special adaptation.”

  • Mike Loughlin says:

    @Mike: I share your customers’ feelings about adaptations- I can always watch the source material, why bother?- but I’m curious how the collected editions sell. I could see younger fans liking a comic book version of a favorite movie, at least. I could also see well-meaning adults buying this sort of thing for children in their lives.

  • JohnJ says:

    There’s another aspect of what home video did to our buying habits. Before vhs, I used to buy a lot of soundtrack albums. But when I started buying tapes of movies, I discovered that I didn’t need soundtracks anymore, when I could hear the music and see it in the proper context.
    I still have a couple favorites though, even if I also have the movies. There’s an album of Maurice Jarre’s music for two movies, Summer of ’42 on one side and The Picasso Summer on the flipside that I still love.
    Plus comic adaptations of movies also bear the occasional mistake by the artist. Kirby putting a helmet on Bowman in “2001” before the explosive bolts scene still rankles me. Not as much because he did it but for the fact that God knows how many people saw the art before publication and nobody caught it? I have to believe Kirby would have appreciated the opportunity to fix that but if nobody told him, how could he?

  • Thelonious_Nick says:

    Why is Ahsoka’s light saber all bendy?

  • I wonder if streaming hasn’t reduced the audience for adaptations of video stuff, since it has reduced the audience for the original video stuff itself. Or will people who don’t subscribe to Disney+ buy the Ahsoka comics *because* they didn’t get to watch it?

    Oh, and I always thought the Rocketeer movie adaptation was really good.

  • Cassandra Miller says:

    Marvel’s Dark Crystal and Raiders of the Lost Ark adaptations were stone cold classics. I can’t remember how many times I read and reread those.

  • Aaron G. says:

    On the subject of amazing artists who turned ’70s TV & ’80s movies into comics, there was also Marvel’s version of David Lynch’s Dune, with art by Bill Sienkiewicz.

  • Chris V says:

    I think we’re all forgetting Marvel’s iconic adaptation of Blade Runner, which finally gave us the answer we had all been searching, except never truly knew we were lost: “It’s because we’re always running as if on the edge of a blade.”

    I’ve never been a fan of adaptations in comic or novel form. They have always come across as lazy to me, even if I was interested but still unfamiliar with the source material at the time.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    Here’s a controversial opinion–even if there were enough collectors out there to justify adapting contemporary films to comics, I think we now live in an era where, by and large, the artistic talent required to render said films into visually dynamic comics adaptations is sorely lacking, based on a lot of the static art or overly cartoony manga-fied art in many current Marvel and DC comics. Of course, there is still meticulous talent out there, like Jerry Ordway, or Walt Simonson, or John Byrne, or Bill Sienkiewicz, who could deliver the goods– but would the modern publishers even think about hiring these masters of the illustrative comics craft to do really cool film adaptations? Probably not. Sadly, the days of “How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way” fell by the wayside quite awhile ago.

    Two great Bronze Age film adaptations which were mentioned by other Progressive Ruiners stand out for me: Al Williamson’s sublime art on Blade Runner (I prefer the mini-series reprinted iteration to the Marvel Super Special iteration), and Russ Heath’s superlative art on The Rocketeer film adaptation.

  • Thom H. says:

    I didn’t read it, but The X-Files series was a huge seller when I was working in comic shops 25 years ago. I’m pretty sure it was all new material, maybe some by the TV creators? Can’t be bothered to look it up now.

    I’m with Chris V. — I’ve never understood the appeal of the adaptation into comics or novel form when you could watch the actual thing. But I grew up with a VCR, so maybe that’s just more proof for Mr. Sterling’s point.

  • Chris V says:

    There have been a couple of different X-Files comics over the years now. I think you are referring to the Tops published version from the mid-1990s, as that comic was the huge seller, being published when the franchise was at the height of its popularity. It was a fun series. John Rozum was the main writer on the book with Charlie Adlard doing most of the art, I believe. It did feature all new stories.

    There was a second X-Files series published by WildStorm in the early-2000s, at a time when there was no other X-Files sources in pop culture. I remember it getting cancelled fairly quickly though, as the popularity of X-Files was probably at its lowest point (not too long after the TV show has ended). It did feature some story-arcs written by creators of the TV show tying into the show’s mythology.

  • Dave Carter says:

    I must admit to enjoying the recent manga adaptation of The Mandalorian—it was different enough as a manga to make for an interesting comics experience.

    And for those of us who deemed too young to see R-rated movies back in the early 80s, the comic book adaptations were the only way we could experience films such as Blade Runner or Conan the Barbarian.

  • Mikester says:

    Thom H. – there was a whole faddish rush around X-FILES that may have made the comics the exception. If you slapped “X-Files” on anything it sold.

    That did remind me that the X-Files comic had a companion series adapting individual episodes of the TV show, so there was that.

  • Adam Farrar says:

    My favorite comic adaptation are the three issues of Dick Tracy by Kyle Baker and John Moore. The third issue is a adaptation of the movie but the first two issues are essentially prequels establishing the backstories of the main characters in the movie. I only had the third issue for many years and loved it. Getting the first two issues years later was a revelation.

  • LouReedRichards says:

    Yeah, adapting stories of streaming shows and recent movies seems utterly pointless to me.

    I didn’t have a lot of comics adaptations as a kid,and by the time I seriously got into comics in the mid 80’s we had a vcr, so the adaptations were less crucial. Everyone has mentioned most of the classic ones except Al Williamson’s work on The Empire Strikes Back. Not surprisingly,it’s gorgeous stuff.

    I read a few novel adaptations as a kid/teen. I always found them enjoyable and they usually provide additional info or context to the story.
    Hell, just a few years ago I stumbled across the audio version of the Revenge of the Sith novel, the prologue alone was better than all of the prequels combined and demonstrated how compelling that story could have been.

    As a kid, the most important adaptations weren’t the comics, but the 45 rpm records with the storybooks.
    I listened over and over and over to the Star Wars and Black Hole records, even though the Black Hole depressed the crap out of me.

    The oversized softbacks you’d get at book fairs were also invaluable.

    Oh, and of course MAD parodies often had to substitute for movies you didn’t see. You could reverse engineer them enough to filter out the comedic stuff and get the meat of the story.

  • Snark Shark says:

    “and informing said response was the rather lackluster response I’ve had at the shop to other recent Star Wars comic book adaptations of other media”

    This does NOT surprise me. Marvel pumps out too many books too fast and the quality can’t stay up. Dark Horse did a MUCH better job with the license.

    “a comic book adaptation of a movie was one of the few ways to relive the experience at your convenience”

    I have good feelings for those old ones, too! I even re-bought a few of them over the past couple years. Indy, Krull, Dragonslayer, plus DUNE and BLADE RUNNER for a friend.

    “Evan Dorkin’s version of Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey”

    Those were decent. Someone (I think DC?) did an adaptation of the FIRST movie, and it was as bland as popossible.


    That was cool- and probably harder to find now!

    “Star Trek movie comics DC produced”

    The Mirror Universe storyline from DCs Star Trek comic (1st series) comes HIGHLY recommended.

    Cassandra Miller: “Marvel’s Dark Crystal and Raiders of the Lost Ark adaptations were stone cold classics”

    Raiders, I’ll agree! Dark Crystal was OK.

    Thom H.: “The X-Files”.

    I remember it having a good reputation, but I don’t remember if I read any.
    Now, BUFFY on th e other hand, I’ve read lots of! I LOVE BUFFY!!! The TV show is best, of course. But plenty of the comics were good.

    Dave Carter: “Conan the Barbarian”

    Oh yeah, I bought both Conan adaptations, too!

    LouReedRichards: “Al Williamson’s work on The Empire Strikes Back”

    The Treasury Edition of that one in particular… SIMPLY GORGEOUS. AMAZING! STUPENDOUS!

    “Star Wars and Black Hole records, even though the Black Hole depressed the crap out of me.”

    Huh… a literal Black Hole of depression! AND I used to have the comic adaptation of Black Hole and now realize I need to buy it again.

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