Comic Book: The Movie (2004) mini review

about comics

Don Swann (Mark Hamill) is a comic book fan along for the ride as Hollywood takes control of his childhood hero, the patriotic Golden Age superhero, Commander Courage, and turns him into gun-toting terrorist-fighting anti-hero Codename: Courage. Well, technically, they take the grim and gritty revamp of the hero (written by Peter David), and adapt the film from this modern version of the hero (along with his sidekick who is morphed from a teenage nephew into a sexy superheroine). Swann attempts to derail the movie's production and turn it back to the original Golden Age hero.

As director and producer, Mark Hamill puts together a mostly-improv'd film with the help of several voice actors, comic creators, and other personalities. The film pokes fun at the current state of comics, including the penchant for remaking comic heroes into something more seemingly palatable for modern movie audiences.

It was genius on Hamill's part to show real people talking about the rich history of not only this fictional character, but also his creator, Jack Whitney. Names you'll recognize include Peter David, Paul Dini, Mark Evanier, Bruce Timm, Bruce Campbell, Stan Lee, Matt Groenig, Lloyd Kaufman, and Kevin Smith (talking about the Giant Spider™ yet again). And that's only the tip of the cameo iceberg. It takes place at the San Diego Comic Con, so it even attempts to be a documentary of sorts of what it's like to enjoy the chaos of the con - though, I've never been, so I don't know if it succeeds in that.

There's a lot of voice talent here, as Hamill relies on his peer group to provide a lot of the characters. I can't begin to list all their credits here, so I'll just include what they're probably most famous for, along with a few superhero parts. Tom Kenny and Jill Talley (married in real life) play Swann's friend, Derek Sprang and his wife Jill. (Kenny is famous for Spongebob Squarepants, but is also the Mayor and the Narrator on PowerPuff Girls, The Penguin on The Batman; Talley has had parts in Stripperella and The Batman). They both actually had small parts in Sky High, playing the couple the end of the film admiring their new house - my daughter was watching that on the Disney Channel the other night, and I thought I recognized them from this film. [Side note: What's this about a Plastic Man cartoon pilot on Cartoon Network in 2006 starring the couple??]

Billy West plays a long lost relative of Courage creator Whitney (he's Fry on Futurama and has had many other parts, including Captain Righteous on The Powerpuff Girls). Of course, Jess Harnell plays the cameraman (he is Wakko Warner, Sewer Urchin from The Tick, and even did voices in Kim Possible and Underdog). The Hollywood stereotypes are played by Roger Rose (many parts on Batman: The Animated Series; Four-Legged Man from The Tick) and Lori Alan (Invisible Woman from the 90's Fantastic Four series, but probably more known as Diane Simmons on Family Guy). Finally, Daran Norris plays the actor who suits up for Commander Courage, and Codename: Courage (he is J. Jonah Jameson on the new Spider-Man cartoon).

The movie's enjoyable, but there are drawbacks. Jess Harnell is fun, but overacts a bit; the improv starts to come apart about 2/3 of the way through the film; and I'm not sure what the whole Hugh Hefner scene was about, except to fit another cameo in.

Finally, I really liked this blurb in the credits:

Above all, we're thankful to the comic books themselves. So to all the artists and writers, both famous and faceless, we dedicate this film.

See it if you're a comic book or superhero fan, or a fan of indie film.

Don't see it if you're not a fan of any of those 3 things. And e-mail me letting me know why you read this blog - I'm just curious.


Mella said...

Marco M.

Anonymous said...

Great review and it is also an Awsome movie if your a fan of voice actors a "voice chaser", because just abaut all the big names are in it such as Jess Harnell, Billy West, Tara Strong ect. though you won't find that maney REALLY small names and there are a few that are fans of the small name's like I like David Moo and Cristopher Castile, but all together comic book: the movie is the best movie and a funny must see movie!