I don’t follow solicitations in comics much anymore. I like the mystery of seeing what’ll show up on the big ol’ Wednesday wall at my local comic shop. So imagine my surprise with all this Back to the Future Day hype, IDW puts out BACK TO THE FUTURE #1. Grab a bottle of Pepsi Perfect, torch that Grays Sports Almanac, and tune up your favorite jams by Huey Lewis– we’re in for a pretty nice read.
Let’s start with the cover. BAM! That’s Dan Schoening showing off the main cast from the first film. Doc, Marty, Lorraine, Biff, and George are all featured, with the DeLorean DMC-12 itself fleeing from Libyan Terrorists. The likenesses are all on-point, and the cover certainly does its job of making me wanting to read it. Well… that and it being the first comic about Back to the Future I’ve even seen, which in and of itself would probably get me to read it. And… did get me to read it. Huh. Anyway, this issue is a little like an anthology book, with two short stories that are actually written by Bob Gale, who co-wrote the trilogy of films alongside Robert Zemeckis. And right after the index page, we get a some nifty big flashy letters that read “Untold Tales and Alternate Timelines”, which is just chock full of potential for future issues. This is, after all, a franchise that’s had a decent share of “expanded universe” treatment already, with a cartoon and a few comics continuining after the trilogy, a very cool Telltale video game, and a classic Universal Studios ride, so I’m excited to see what’s in store.
The first tale, scripted by Bob Gale and John Barber and drawn by Brent Schoonover is called “When Marty Met Emmett”. It’s a story narrated by Doc Brown to his wife Clara and sons Jules and Verne in the far-flung past of the 1890s. As he toils hard to recreate the flux capacitor (that would eventually be put in his time-traveling steam engine), he begins to detail the history of his family home at 1640 Riverside Drive in Hill Valley from 1915 up until 1982. One fateful day, October 2nd 1982, a young Marty McFly is being bullied by Needles over some equipment for a guitar amplifier. When the interocitor tube breaks, the cash-strapped Marty is challenged to get a new one… by stealing it. After investigating where all the ones in town have gone off to, he finds his way to Doctor Brown’s home. After getting past an electrified passcode, a hidden key, and even a Rube-Goldberg security system, Marty comes face to face with Einstein the sheepdog and the Doc himself. Turns out that breaking into Doc Brown’s house is almost like a secret test of character– Marty’s proven his cleverness and ingenuity, and takes on a new “job” as an assistant and errand boy. In telling the story, Doc expresses how grateful he is for that day, and all that would unfold after befriending Marty. Nitpicky readers might read this story and say “Hey, these two met for real in 1955”, but I’m chalking this up to Doc remembering the original timeline. Whatever works, right?
Next up is “Looking For A Few Good Scientists”, scripted by Gale and Erik Burnham with art by Dan Schoening. We’ve already seen Schoening’s work on the cover, but I’d already enjoyed his art in IDW’s Ghostbusters book since 2011. Judging by this issue, he’s really come a long way in a few short years, and everything here is vibrant and animated looking, capturing everything you’d expect out of a young Emmett L. Brown. His expressions for Doc on every panel echo Christopher Lloyd’s performance in such an excellent way, and the verbosity of the dialogue goes hand in hand. So… Doc, or Prof. Brown, is extremely frustrated that he hasn’t been plucked away by the government for a secret think tank project that’s been taking away all of the other best professors at the Institute. The Dean is concerned that since the process involves an interview at Brown’s messy and eclectic home, he might be rejected on merits unrelated to his scientific genius. Doc comes up with a plan to host the interviewees at his landlady’s tidy home, a plan foiled by some misplaced mail with her name on it. As he slinks home, lamenting what he deems a failure, Doc finds that the two government men are waiting for him in his actual apartment, and even brought J. Robert Oppenheimer along to welcome Brown to… The Manhattan Project. Appropriately, Doc’s been saving some mushroom-themed gelatin for just such an occasion.
I’ll be honest, I don’t like anthology books in general. You get two pint-size stories and still have to wait a month for the continuation. But here? It’s a good way to test the waters for expanding the lore of Back to the Future a little at a time. And in less than a dozen pages Gale, Barber, Burnham, Schoonover, and Schoening deliver fun well worth the price of admission… so you can bet I’m sticking around to see what the next issue gives us.
This is neat too… in doing a little bit of research after reviewing this issue, I happened upon a comic called BACK TO BACK TO THE FUTURE, a very meta ‘What If?’ kind of story by David Levy and Jeffrey Spokes. It’s part homage and part history lesson: writer Bob Gale is sent back in time to the making of the first film, before Michael J. Fox is set to star in the project. It’s a treat for fans who know the history of Back to the Future’s production, and a real learning experience for fans who don’t know it and fans of altered history in general. It’s a weird-but-cool Last Action Hero “Stallone-is-the-Terminator-in-a-world-without-Schwarzenegger” kind of alternate history. The art is pretty spectacular too, and the comic was produced for the Young Storytellers Foundation, so your interest can even go to a good cause!
And that’s all I got. Now think, reader, think! Make like a tree… and check out IDW’s BACK TO THE FUTURE #1, butthead!