SUPER MARIO BROS. ADVENTURES – Intro to Comics


Okay, this needs a lengthy introduction.

I mentioned this briefly on my write-up of the Super Mario Bros. movie, but I was, and still am, an unabashed Super Mario fan. I’ve been behind on the games as of late, although I did play Super Mario Bros. Wii and I am currently on-and-off with Super Mario Galaxy. But the premise, background, and history of the Super Mario Brothers universe is almost like a second world to me. I love its whimsical freedom along with its dark undercurrents; it’s really a lighter form of the Harry Potter universe without the genocide.

While my fanship waned (somewhat) over the years, I have amassed a small collection of the available Super Mario Bros. (SMB) comics that were published in the early 90s. There was two overall anthologies: The SMB comics under the Nintendo Comics System, published by Valiant Comics in 1990 and 1991 (which also produced a run of Legend of Zelda and Captain N series), and the Super Mario Adventure volume, which was the compilation of the Nintendo Power series published when that magazine was the best thing out there, back in 1992.

SMB Anthology Hardcover

The SMB Valiant series was released in a hardcover edition in 1990, which contains the “Best of” of the lot, not so much all of them. Owning that, and Edition #1, I think I only failed to read 2 others that may exist out there in the void, and these comics are not easy to find. Still, the fact I still have them gives me a sense of… shameful pride? Prideful shame? Something.

I happened upon this blog here, a fellow blogger who reviews and analyzes various Ducktales/Scrooge McDuck Disney comics, and I truly enjoy the write ups, so much so that I decided to do something similar with the collection of SMB comics I have, in addition to the CHILDHOOD REVISITED series, the various updates to the webtoon, and what ever entertainment issue I want to write about. Truth is, I wanted to do this for a while, and mister Geo X just gave me the kick in the pants I needed to start.

I will try to impart as much info as I can about the writers and artists for each of the comics that I can find; truth is, it’s a bit tricky since it was so long ago and it’s difficult to find and confirm that some of these current comic book creators indeed worked on this series. In all honesty, some of these comics are of various quality, and save for one or two, you… wouldn’t really want them in your portfolio. But I’ll try my best to blend together a general recap of the story, a light review, a bit of analysis and information, and some good ol’ fashioned nerd-love for the SMB world.

I’ll go in the order of the hardcover anthology, starting with the first offered comic: “Just Deserts”.

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“Just Desserts” is actually a great comic to begin with, as it’s both a good mix of what could be great about this series, as well as what could be flat-out abysmal. Here, the art is fairly decent all around, and the story starts off cute and intriguing, but ends with a “What the fuck” (I don’t do WTF, as W is not a great letter to use as an initial) type of twist that would make Shyamalan look at it incredulously.

We start of with what looks to be the precursor to Super Mario Kart as well as the introduction of who will be a recurring character:

Just Deserts - pg 1

I’ll talk more about The King, King Toadstool, the father to Princess Toadstool, at length in a future comic where he’s much more prominent, but the basic gist is that he’s a bold, lazy, slightly-arrogant and simple-minded fool. You get the sense that Princess Toadstool does all the real royal duties, but it’s surprisingly clear that 1) she’s her father’s daughter and 2) isn’t as smart as another future recurring character. I’ll talk about him, as well as Princess Toadstool, later as well. I’ll tell you right now, though: I LOVE how the comics portray her.

I digress. Our sibling heroes and king are on their way somewhere – and they get stuck when they run over a cactus and get a flat tire. It’s important to note that here, SMB takes a very cartoony approach to its storylines, unlike something like Sonic the Hedgehog, which is more mystically serious.

The king lazily forces the brothers to fix the flat. Meanwhile, Bowser is watching their struggle in a hidden, underground pyramid/hideout:

Just Desserts - pg 4

(That is the old design of Bowser, AKA King Koopa, in the days when games were still 8-bit. He’s even called King Koopa in this comic run as well. I’ll get into the revamped villain design later as well.)

Our king sudden spots a pool nearby, and dives right in. The brothers are skeptical that it might be a mirage, but after watching the king have fun, Mario and Luigi join in —

Just Desserts - pg 6 crop

— only to be duped by the entire scenario being a mirage. The king’s been taken while the brothers been busy, which sets up something pretty creepy: Mario and Luigi have to find him in the HUGE expanse of a barren desert. In theory, this could be a pretty tight adventure. Expect not:

Just Deserts - pg 7

Okay, while the convenience of the ransom note vending machine is pretty lame, it doesn’t kill the plot completely. But where is this tiny pyramid?

Just Deserts - pg 8 crop

I included this panel because it’s a really awesome canted perspective shot. And Luigi’s right: the pyramid’s big now, so they still don’t know where this “small pyramid” is!

Only one thing to do now: just book it!

Just Deserts - pg 9

This is pretty amusing – the progress cut short by gravity. I really dig how the first panel portrayed that. Also, very convenient, as they find the king AND a nice pool to cool off in. The escape, however is where the problem arises. I mean, the emergency button near the pool is ridiculous but plausible in a far-fetched kind of way, but:

Just Deserts - pg 10

— the idea that the entire thing, pyramid, plan, and all, was a mirage is just too far out there. If it all was a mirage, then how was it originally created? I get that the device didn’t create mirages so much as create realistic holograms, but there’s no way to play the “hologram created the hologram” card without going cross-eyed. It’s a chicken-and-egg problem.

Still, I will say for the most part this is a fun little comic and the art is fairly great all around (although, the settings tend to be better and more consistent than the character designs), with little bits of visual flair here and there to make this issue stand out. Vibrant colors is key to any SMB outing, and here, the artists do a decent job. The writers miss the boat (or should I say limo?) at the end there, but for a primer entry into this series, it’s a decent one.

I should also mention that most of these and the future screenshots and crops are from this site: http://trsrockin.com/ncs_smb.html. I thank them for the scans so I don’t have to scan my edition, which is almost falling apart at the seams anyway. You can read most of the comics there.

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  1. #1 by Jon on December 1, 2010 - 3:45 am

    Ah, King Koopa! Those comics bring back memories of playing the original Nintendo and really enjoying it.

  2. #2 by Matt on December 3, 2010 - 10:06 am

    I heard you were the man to find a streaming service better than Justin Tv the ‘location’

  3. #3 by carl on December 30, 2010 - 9:35 pm

    nice review; will be looking forward to your future posts :)

  4. #4 by Nibiki on January 20, 2011 - 7:03 am

    I have that hard cover “Best Of” collection book too! Too awesome. It’s in about the same condition. x3

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