Back to the Future: Untold Tales and Alternate Timelines
I’m always leery of comic adaptations of long-gone properties. Some are terrific, faithful and yet newly entertaining, like The Muppet Show or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Some, on the other hand, are horrible reads, seeming as though they exist just to make a quick buck off nostalgic fans, who often don’t know enough about the medium to recognize good comic storytelling.
Thankfully, the Back to the Future comics put out by IDW fall in the former category, in large part because they’re co-written by Bob Gale, who co-wrote the movie trilogy. Back to the Future: Untold Tales and Alternate Timelines collects the first five comic issues, with a total of nine stories. Keeping the tales short also helps in keeping them punchy and entertaining, with glimpses into the history of favorite characters that we haven’t previously seen.
The credits are a mixed bag, with a variety of creators pitching in on different stories. Co-writers include John Barber and Erik Burnham, while artists include Brent Schoonover (who works with Burnham on IDW’s Ghostbusters continuation, which means Dr. Brown sometimes resembles Egan, amusingly), David Witt, Dan Schoening (who did the cover shown here), Marcelo Ferreira, Chris Madden, Corin Howell, Alan Robinson, Ryan Browne, and Erik Evensen.
The concepts will delight any fan of the films. The framing sequence is Dr. Emmett Brown telling tales of his history to his family in the Old West. Jules, Verne, and Clara listen to him talk about how he first met Marty McFly or how he came to work on the Manhattan Project or about an alternate history or his crazy inventions, all while Brown works on getting his time machine train operational. Key characters make appearances, as we see how Biff met a dinosaur or how Marty and Jennifer got together.
The last and longest story gives Clara a lot more fleshing out, which I really liked. We come to understand how a woman in 1893 could be a great partner to work with Dr. Brown, how she became a teacher and why she loved science fiction.
The likenesses aren’t totally faithful, which I find to be a good thing. They’re close enough, and the gap allows for more emotion and movement in the characters’ faces than when artists are trying to get every detail picture-perfect. They’re more like caricatures, and that also suits the rotating carousel of artists.
These comics made me want to watch the movies again, the best thing I can say about an adaptation continuation. This collection can be preordered from your local comic shop with Diamond code MAR16 0337. It’s due out May 18. (The publisher provided an advance digital review copy.)