Back in May, Boom! Studios announced that they would be bringing you a story you never knew you wanted: Die Hard: Year One. Penned by Howard Chaykin and illustrated by Stephen Thompson, it promised to tell the story of John McClane in his rookie year of 1976, during the heady time of the Bicentennial Celebration. If we know McClane like we think we know him (and after four Die Hard movies, I think we do), nothing is going to go very smoothly, peacefully, or without a Yippie-Ki-Yay Motherf******. The comic goes on sale this Wednesday, and I thought I'd use its fine timing to kick off a discussion about paper prequels. They're becoming more and more of a presence on comic book shelves, though they're generally tied into an upcoming release. This summer had a lot of them, as Star Trek, Terminator: Salvation, and Transformers all received a prequel comic. There's more to come, such as IDW's tie-in to Legion and Astro Boy.
But Die Hard: Year One is an entirely different sort of animal. I don't think it's the first of its kind, though it might be -- but it doesn't take a genius to figure out that if this high profile book sells well, it'll spur on a whole bunch of comic prequels. In the best case scenario, they'll add a little something to the character, or simply be a fun collectible for fans. Worst case scenario, they'll be grounds for a flurry of cinematic reboots. (That was Erik Davis' prediction back in May.) But I decided to jump on the bandwagon, and offer up a few movies I'd like to see comic prequels to. You'll probably roll your eyes at how obvious my selections are (and oh, some are painfully obvious) but I offer them purely to inspire you to make a list of your own.
Let me stress that I don't intend these to be very serious, because half the fun of the movies is not knowing how the hell a character arrived at a certain point of his or her life. If In media res was good enough for Homer, it's good enough for me. That said, anyone up for a comic book prequel of The Iliad ... ?
1. Kill Bill
I wished that Quentin Tarantino would actually pen a comic book after Playboy teased us with a 6-page comic book of Inglourious Basterds, and I just can't stop wishing. I take back what I said in that post. I do want to see a comic book prequel to Kill Bill that tells me all about Hattori Hanzo, or why Budd left the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. I want to know why the DIVAS broke up. I want origins on Vernita Green and Elle Driver. I could care less about the origin stories of the Reservoir Dogs or Jules and Vincent Vega, and I'm satisfied with what I know about the Inglourious Basterds. But I'll never get enough of the Kill Bill characters, and I know there will never be a movie prequel or a sequel that expands upon that universe. A comic book would be the next best thing. Better, because of how beautiful it could be on paper.
You have a lead character named John Matrix. That name is too cool to die out with just one movie, and we know he's a man with a glorious, blood-soaked past. We know it was super patriotic and awesome because of how chipper he is in retirement. He has no demons, just a daughter who happily makes him sandwiches and is learning to turn her body into a weapon. The fact that he's a single dad screams for an origin story. Was his wife a civilian, or was she in black ops? Was she killed by his enemies? I'd like to think she was an agent provocatuer for the Soviet Union, and betrayed her politics for the love of a beefy Austrian, but then that's the story I make up for everyone.
3. Miller's Crossing
A film noir relies on the fact that you don't know a damn thing about anyone involved, and hardboiled gangsters are that much more romantic when you don't know how they earned their scars. But Tom Reagan is so deliciously bitter that I want to know just who or what screwed him over in Ireland. Something tells me he has a long and unhappy past with the IRA. Leaving him aside, I'd be happy just to see the rise of Leo O'Bannon. Nothing's better than the long and bloody climb of a gang boss.
4. Dirty Harry
Harry Callahan had a rookie year once too. One of the reasons I love this character is the sadness that lurks at his edges,a facet audiences overlook in favor of his cool ways with a Magnum. I'd like to see Callahan before his wife was run off the road by a drunk driver, when "a hell of a thing" made him give up on humanity altogether. Something tells me he was a really nice guy who liked puppies, wanted kids, and had his eye on a fixer upper house with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge. I'd like to see him snap into the bitter hardass we know in 1971, particularly since he stayed a hardass unlike his chirpier successor, Martin Riggs, who found his way back to the light thanks to the love of the Murtaughs.
5. Kingdom of Heaven
I didn't particularly care for the film, but one thing I wanted out of it was to go back in time and make Liam Neeson film a prequel telling of the one character I really did like: Godfrey of Ibelin. He's loosely based on Godfrey de Boullion and on Barisan of Ibelin, but naturally there's more of fiction than fact. Cherry pick between the two medieval figures, add a dose of illicit romance and accidental pregnancy, and you'd have a wonderful bodice ripper. Plus, Godfrey's taking of Jerusalem in 1099 would be an incredible piece of blood-soaked and politically relevant storytelling.
So which films would you like to see a prequel comic for?