In the pantheon of movies based on video games, there are very few which have achieved the ‘cult’ status that the 1993 Super Mario Brothers Movie has achieved. Despite being met with critical derision and commercial failure on it’s launch, it’s developed a certain affection among gaming geeks and nostalgia buffs of a certain age, thanks in no part to it’s Back to the Future inspired cliffhanger ending. So for those who have always wondered what happened next to these intrepid Italian plumbers, as played by Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo, well your questions are set to be answered as writers Steven Applebaum and Ryan Hoss have set out to create a comic book sequel and so we get to the bottom of how and why this unique take on a unique franchise has come about.
Tell us a bit about why you’ve decided to resurrect the Super Mario Brothers movie franchise and why do it in comic form?
SA: The film introduced fans of the games to such a unique interpretation of the Mario universe that it would be a shame not to explore it further. We felt that we could visualize this world without restraint much more fully through comics. It was just natural!
RH: I’ve always been intrigued by the Super Mario Bros. film. It’s a fascinating look at the art of adaptation–what happens when you take a video game with a simplistic story and turn it into a motion picture? No one had ever done that before. Steven and I are doing something just as crazy–taking a movie based on a video game and making a comic book sequel. Doing this as a comic is the quickest, most down and dirty way to get the story out to the fans that want to know exactly what happens after the film ends.
What is it about the characters that appealed and how different to ‘regular Mario Brothers’ is it – do you think you have more flexibility with this incarnation?
SA: Mario and Luigi have such a unique dynamic on the film. It’s certainly more realistic than that of the games. Showing how their relationship has grown since their first adventure is one of the chief focuses of the sequel.
How are you getting around the legal issues of copyright for the characters? Do they exist separately to the main Mario licence and is that part of the reason for choosing this format?
SA: Nintendo does own the license for any merchandise related to the film, so to avoid any legal ramifications we have opted not to sell the comic.
How do the characters in your book differ from the characters we know or are you keeping them quite faithful? (Or as faithful as you can with video game characters!) We’re there any particular challenges in fleshing out the characters back story?
SA: Parker Bennett and his partner Terry Runté actually conceived a full backstory for many of the characters, which we have made great use of in developing their motivations for the comic.
RH: We’re keeping the characterization of Mario, Luigi, etc. very true to what was established in the film. We’re taking the same approach that the filmmakers did–we’re treating the video game characters as icons, or character archetypes. We’re keeping that essence of the character, but fleshing it out for the universe that was set up in the film. In terms of backstory, we had a lot of extra reference from early drafts of film scripts, and we interviewed many of the filmmakers to get their take. We’re not changing anything that was set up in the first film just to make it “more like the games.” We’re fully embracing the film’s interpretation. And since this is a sequel, there are many opportunities to explore these characters further.
What’s the long term plan for the book? Will it be an ongoing series or are you just focussing on getting one issue done?
SA: We plan to write a total of ten chapters before moving into a final adventure that wraps up Mario and Luigi’s arc.
RH: Right now, we’re focusing pretty hard on getting one issue completed. We’ve got much more plotted out, but we just want this first issue to be as solid as it can be.
How will the book be distributed and where can people get it from? Any plans for digital distribution or crowd source funding to get it finished? What are your thoughts on those as potential avenues for self publishing?
SA: The comic is available, for free, on our website at smbthecomic.com. Donations to fund further pages are accepted, although we don’t want to depend on them too much.
RH: We’re posting new pages as soon as they’re done. After this first issue is completed, we’ll talk more about our plans to continue the series.
Finally you’ve had quite the buzz online about this, what do you think has caught people’s imagination? Is it the characters or the novelty of the angle you’re taking?
SA: It may be that people are giving it another chance or perhaps just nostalgia, but you can’t bring up the film without at least a few people admitting that they liked it growing up. People just like knowing that it’s out there.
RH: I think the Super Mario Bros. movie intrigues many people. Some despise it, some see it as an odd cult film, and others genuinely love the film. If you talk to anyone who has seen the film, it’s a good bet that they’ll bring up the fact that there wasn’t a sequel, although there was a huge tease for one. Can you think of what would’ve happened in an alternate dimension where we only got the first Back to the Future film? We’d still be talking about where the sequel would’ve gone! That’s what we’re trying to deliver here–an answer for anyone who wanted to know what happens next.
Super Mario Brothers 2: The Comic is available for free from the smbthecomic.com and if you like it please donate to help the guys continue their awesome work!