There was only one comic book I wanted as part of Free Comic Book Day last Saturday: Bob’s Burgers. I managed to snag a copy at the second comic book store we went to, and later that night I read it from cover to cover, laughing hysterically the entire time.
I love the Belcher family. Bob’s clever burger names, Linda and Gene’s flair for the dramatic, Tina’s confidence and Louise’s scheming make for top-notch entertainment, and each episode has its gems that continue to be funny after repeated viewings.
The comic book series does a fantastic job at allowing each family member their space, a way to let us get to know them on a personal level. The letters from Linda, Bob’s Burger name lists, Tina’s fanfiction, Louise’s re-imaginings of hit movies altered to fit her universe, and Gene’s musical dramas.
It’s a fantastic notion to expand a story’s universe beyond one medium because it allows the story to appeal to a wider audience across a broader range of platforms. I remember when Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly comics came out to supplement the storylines after the shows were canceled, or when Pushing Daisies published a comic to resolve the end of season two, and there’re newer shows like Adventure Time and Regular Show that have established a comic book run while the show is still running. There’s also comics like Axe Cop that got made into TV shows, and, of course, there’s the comic book heroes now striding confidently onto the big screen, from Wolverine to Ant-Man.
There are issues, of course, with stories that medium-hop. What is canonical, and what isn’t? Do fans or writers or creators get to choose which it is? Does it matter? What if we prefer the story in one medium over another? And what about stories that don’t get a fair shake on any platform?
There’s a lot of discussion these days about the whitewashing of comic book characters when taking them from the comic book universe to the television or film universe (such as the whitewashing of the Maximoff twins in Avengers: Age of Ultron), and there’s also trouble when going back to older materials and finding sexism, racism, or other problematic thinking buried deep in the story.
Which stories are worth being told cross-platform? Who gets to make that decision? While creating comic books for stories told through film and television or transferring comic book characters to screen may in fact be a large part of a marketing ploy, there’s something to be said for a story that transcends medium. Stories that can stand apart from their mode of telling have a better chance of being remembered and loved.
It’s interesting to think about this in conjunction with older modes of storytelling like oral tradition and Egyptian hieroglyphics — we’re still using both of these, in fact, just combining them to create film and television, as well as audio books (a co-creation between author and voice artist), radio plays (an ensemble effort between cast and creator) and podcasts (such as Welcome To Night Vale, which was inspired by H.P. Lovecraft).
Humanity has a rich history of story. We use it to explain the world around us, our experiences, and our relationships. Really, without story, we wouldn’t have history.
I’m thrilled that we’re beginning to explore various ways to tell one big story (Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy has gone through various alterations as a book, movie, radio play, etc.), whether it’s the epic story of a ragtag team of ne’er-do-wells roaming the galaxy or a tale of small-town life and flipping burgers.