“Four Color Frenzy” The Making of Comic Book: The Movie
“Behind the Voices” Featurette with The Top Voice in Animation
Don Swan In-Depth with Kevin Smith
Commander Courage Radio Show
Stan Lee on Comic Book Movies
Don Swan’s Complete Bruce Campbell Interview
Hugh Hefner on Comics and Women
Deleted Scenes and Bloopers
Cast & Crew Biographies
Don Swan is a long time comic fan and an authority on the character “Commander Courage”. A movie studio has recently hired Swan as a consultant on a Commander Courage movie. Swan is eager to do it except for one problem. The character has recently been revamped post-9/11 into a grim and gritty character named “Codename: Courage”. The Commander’s boy sidekick “Liberty Lad” has also now been transformed into the buxom “Liberty Lass”. With the movie geared to put the new characters on the big screen, Don Swan looks to use fan outcry to get the studio to use the vintage Commander Courage instead. When the studio hires Swan to make a documentary for the movie’s DVD at the San Diego Comic Con, Swan sees his chance. With spacey cameraman Ricky and slimy studio publicist Taylor Donohue in tow, Swan begins his quest.
At the San Diego Comic Con, Swan starts his campaign to rally support. He brings in the long lost son of the creator of Commander Courage, Leo Matuzik (a sheet metal salesman overwhelmed by the fantasy world of the Con). He also makes a traditional Commander Courage costume with his fanzine partner Derek Sprang to help promote the old look. Finally, he grills celebrities like Kevin Smith, Hugh Hefner, Stan Lee, Bruce Campbell, and others to try and sway them away from the dark Codename Courage. But can Swan fight Hollywood and win?
Comic Book: The Movie is rated PG-13 for language, sexual content and some drug references.
Mark Hamill writes, directs, and stars in this film. It becomes obvious very quickly that he’s a true comics fan. He speaks about the characters, comics, and conventions with such authority that you know he’s a true geek like you or I. You can’t fake that sort of thing. In fact, I wonder how much of what he said on screen was acting and how much was his own personal perspective on the world of comics. The role of Don Swan is a definite step up from his role of “Cocknocker” in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.
What really makes the movie, though, is the fantastic supporting cast. They are probably your favorite actors whom you’ve never heard of. Almost every one of them is a cartoon voice actor. They include Billy West (Fry from Futurama) as Leo Matuzik, Jess Harnell (Wakko from Animaniacs, TROOPS) as Ricky, Lori Alan (Pearl from Spongebob, Family Guy) as Anita Levine, Tom Kenny (SpongeBob SquarePants himself) as Derek Sprang, Roger Rose (everything from Tiny Toons to The Tick) as Taylor Donohue, Jim Cummings (Winnie the Pooh, Taz), Debi Debyberry (Jimmy Neutron), and Daran Norris (Cosmo from Fairly Oddparents) as Commander Courage. Donna D’Errico from Baywatch also has a role as Liberty Lass. Each of them are called on to improvise as the movie is filmed at Comic Con. This of course leads to hilarious results.
Every character in the film has a shining moment, but one of my favorites is Jess Harnell as Ricky, the stoner cameraman filming Swan’s documentary. No matter what is happening on the screen, Harnell always has some comment that totally comes out of left field that makes the scene funnier. I imagine he threw off his fellow actors on more than one occasion. Since there was only a loose outline of a script, all of these great actors were able to improvise a lot. Harnell makes the most of it by doing voice impersonations and cracking jokes about what’s happening. He does a fantastic Beatles impression and keeps a running gag about the Hulk going through the whole film. An encounter with Hugh Hefner is also priceless.
I also got a huge kick out of Tom Kenny’s performance, mainly because I identified with it on a more personal level. He plays Swan’s partner Derek Sprang. Sprang has dragged his wife and young son (played by Kenny’s real wife, Jill Talley, and kid) to the convention more or less against their will. We see Sprang and his wife dragging their son through the convention when he gets tired. His son, a true comic / toy geek prodigy, refuses to open up a Shazam toy because it’s a collectable. This starts complaining from his wife about how their son refused to open his Christmas presents because they are collectible. Seeing as how I’ve turned my own kids into comic geeks, dragged them to a convention or two, and stashed away a couple of unopened boxes because they were “collectible”, I could identify with Sprang. If you’ve done any of the above, you will identify with him too.
What also makes Comic Book: The Movie unique is the amazing number of cameos in the film. They range from the well known like Hugh Hefner, Kevin Smith, Bruce Campbell, Ed Hall, and Stan Lee all the way down to geek favorites like Peter David, Paul Dini, Bruce Timm, Matt Groening, Mike Mignola, Ray Harryhausen, and others. They all dive completely into the roles of Commander Cody fans and help really lend an amusing air of authenticity to this fake comic character. (My wife, unfamiliar with comic characters, even asked if Commander Courage was a real character.) Star Wars fans will also spot cameos by David Prowse (Darth Vader), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), and Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett).
The only down side of the movie is the ending. It gets a bit cheesy towards the end as Don Swan unleashes his final righteous indignation towards Hollywood and the comic industry. It could have been better, but seeing as how everything was improvised, I can’t blame them if it all didn’t work. There were really more hits than misses in this film.
If you have ever been to a convention or read a comic book, then Comic Book: The Movie is a DVD well worth adding to your collection. Attendees of the San Diego Comic Con will also definitely want to pick this one up. They may spot themselves wandering in the background of the many shots on the showroom floor. (I’m amazed these guys didn’t get mobbed at the con while filming.) Rather than making fun of the comics fans (and their potential customers), they celebrate geekdom and the fact that they’re part of it. Hamill and everyone else certainly look like they had fun making this movie.
Audio Commentary with Mark Hamill, Jess Harnell, Billy West, and more This audio commentary is one of the most frantic and fun I’ve ever heard on a DVD. Everyone seems to be talking over each other, making jokes, and telling stories behind the making of the film. It’s almost difficult to follow what is being said, but it’s all good. The commentary is a great source for additional information on the making of the movie and finding out what happened when the cameras weren’t rolling. If you enjoyed the movie or are any kind of fan of Hamill, West, or Harnell, this is required viewing.
“Four Color Frenzy” The Making of Comic Book: The Movie This is a very brief video on the making of the movie. Each of the cast members and their characters are highlighted. They talk about how the idea came about, how they were brought on board, how they filmed the movie, etc. It’s good stuff, but there’s more entertaining footage elsewhere on the DVD.
“Behind the Voices” Featurette with The Top Voices In Animation This is a video of a panel held at the San Diego Comic Con featuring the cast from the movie along with Gary Owens (Space Ghost, Blue Falcon), Maurice LaMarche (The Brain), and Rob Paulsen (Pinky, Yakko Warner). This is by far the highlight of the DVD extras. Each of the actors gets up and does the voices they are best known for. They then discuss how they were roped into the movie. Some of the best moments are when they tell stories about doing the various character voices. Jess Harnell has a funny story about trying to convince a kid at Disneyworld that he was the real voice of Wakko Warner from Animaniacs. LaMarche and Paulsen have fun doing a Pinky and The Brain bit. Jim Cummings also has an amusing story about how Don Bluth got him into doing cartoon voices. If you’re any kind of fan of animation, you’ll want to see this.
Don Swan In-Depth with Kevin Smith This is an extended version of Don Swan’s interview with Kevin Smith from the movie. It’s amusing to see Smith play along with the whole bit with a straight face. One of his funnier anecdotes is about how he tears up his comics after reading them rather than bagging and boarding them. Kevin Smith fans will love this.
Commander Courage Radio Show In keeping with the Commander Courage mythos from the film, Mark Hamill wrote a script for a fictional Commander Courage vintage radio drama. It is played out on stage by Gary Owens, Jim Cummings, Maurice LaMarche, and Rob Paulsen. It is hilarious what they do with a short, five minute script and reaction shots by Hamill in the audience are priceless.
Stan Lee on Comic Book Movies Stan Lee talks on a Comic Con panel with Hamill and others about comic movies. I was surprised to hear him criticize the old Spider-Man live action TV show for not following the formula that made the character popular in the first place. Lee talks about Blade, the bootleg Fantastic Four movie, and more. Marvel fans will want to see this.
Don Swan’s Complete Bruce Campbell Interview This is another extended interview from the movie. Bill Campbell also plays along with Hamill and really gets into the idea of Commander Courage. It’s so much fun to see them both having fun hamming it up on camera. They discuss a lot more of the history of Commander Courage, more about the costume, and other stuff.
Hugh Hefner on Comics and Women Many people aren’t aware, but Hugh Hefner is a big comics fan. In fact, he originally wanted to be a comics artist. (As Jess Harnell says at one point, “I think you made the right career choice, dude.”) Hefner really gets into the comic discussions and interviews in this extended version of what’s in the movie. (Apparently this is the most fun Hefner’s had in an interview in years.)
Deleted Scenes and Bloopers There are about 14 deleted scenes included on the DVD. One features Jess Harnell and Billy West singing a song together (which they also happened to write). They really sound great together! (West also scored Comic Book: The Movie.) We are also treated to more scenes from the party where Jim Cummings spouts more wisdom about alcohol and Tonight Show announcer Ed Hall reveals that he wants breast implants. There are also a couple of subplots that were filmed but ultimately cut because they went nowhere. There’s good stuff here as well so you’ll want to check it out.
The Bottom Line: