Mark Hamill’s Comic Book: The Movie is able to get away with poking so much fun at the industry because it’s satire so full of love.
Hamill stars as Donald Swan, the self-professed #1 fan of Commander Courage. The comic book had been created by Jackson Whitney. Swan’s love of comics led him to start up Once Upon A Dime with Derek Sprang (Tom Kenney). The grade school teacher would also go on to open a comic book shop.
Due to his knowledge of Commander Courage, Swan has been hired to serve as a consultant on Timely Studios’ upcoming Codename: Courage film. Swan was hired to direct a DVD extra for the upcoming movie’s eventual DVD release. What they don’t know is that he is on a mission of his own. Like the many fans, he doesn’t think they should make the post-9/11 character, which features Liberty Lass as a sidekick rather than Liberty Ladd. Instead, he believes that the studio should go for the original 1940s Golden Age spirit.
Swan is on a mission to convert the studio to his way of thinking. It’s foreshadowing in a way of Hamill’s own life with regards to Rian Johnson’s script for Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Even though Hamill entirely disagreed with Johnson’s take on Luke Skywalker, he came around to accept the script for what it was.
Studio executive Anita Levine (Lori Alan) sends studio marketing chief Taylor Donohue (Roger Rose) and cameraman Ricky (Jess Harnell) to the San Diego Comic Con to make a documentary. What they don’t know is that Swan has some tricks up his sleeve in the form of Whitney’s grandson Leo Matuzik (Billy West). West isn’t familiar with the legacy of his grandfather. This is a whole new world for a man who never really read comics during his entire life.
There’s a whole slew of voice-over artists taking on live-action performances. It works because of their improvisational skills. Correct me if I’m wrong but as far as I can tell, there isn’t a written screenplay that the film is based on. Regardless, the film comes off as a love letter. Commander Courage could be replaced with any other character and the film would be such a fun watch. That said, nobody can pull off the commander’s voice in the same way that Daran Norris does.
Among the cameos in Comic Book: The Movie, perhaps the two notable appearances come from comedy legends Sid Caesar and Jonathan Winters. The two cameo as army buddies who claim to have created Commander Courage before Whitney took the credit. Swan, who wasn’t at the interview, disputes it. Still, it’s fun to watch these two comedy masters on screen. It’s important to note that Caesar makes the best of what would turn out to be his final acting performance and he wouldn’t be without his trademark double-talk.
When the film came out in 2004, there had only been a handful of comic book films to be released. The first two X-Men films had been released in theaters. The second Spider-Man film was spinning into theaters that summer. DC had yet to launch their reboots of either Batman or Superman. So when it comes time for Swan’s speech before the film ends, he hits it right on the money when he says the studios “only care about our wallets.” At the end of the day, it’s all about the bottom line for the studios…and yet we keep going back for more!
One of the best features on any comic book film is the featurette or documentary that examines how the comic book made it’s way to the big screen. What Hamill and crew do with Comic Book: The Movie is take the documentary format, complete with many of our favorite comic book writers and artists, and flip it over in a satirical manner.
The 2-disc DVD set includes the following features:
• Audio Commentary with Mark Hamill & Cast
• “Four Color Frenzy” – The Making Of Comic Book The Movie
• “Behind The Voices” featurette with the top voices in animation.
• Don Swan In-Depth With Kevin Smith
• Commander Courage Radio Show
• Stan Lee On Comic Book Movies
• Don Swan’s Complete Bruce Campbell Interview
• Hugh Hefner On Comics And Women
• Commander Courage Art Gallery
• Deleted Scenes & Bloopers
• Cast & Crew Biographies
DIRECTOR: Mark Hamill
CAST: Mark Hamill, Donna D’Errico, Billy West, Roger Rose, Jess Harnell, Lori Alan, Daran Norris, and Tom Kenney
CAMEOS: Kevin Smith, Bruce Campbell, Hugh Hefner, Sid Caesar, Jonathan Winters, Debby Derryberry, Ray Harryhausen, Bill Mumy, Matt Groening, Paul Dini, Peter David, Scott Shaw and Mark Evanier.
Miramax Films released Comic Book: The Movie on DVD in January 2004