Dark Horse Comics
Created for Comics by Joel Hodgson
Written by Joel Hodgson, Harold Buchholz, Matt McGinnis, Seth Robinson, Sharyl Volpe, Mary Robinson
Art by Todd Nauck and Mike Manley
Release Date: 9/12/2018
WARNING: SPOILERS (AND JUMPSUITS) AHEAD
Recommended Noise: Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are DEVO
If you’re someone who hates fun with robots or poop jokes for some reason just stop reading right here and go home.
On Wednesday Dark Horse Comics will release a book no one expected to absolutely need on their pull list. I certainly didn’t expect to be so pleasantly surprised, being the jaded comic book curmudgeon I seem to be becoming as my little ship floats further into the infinite vacuum of space. Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Comic is a book that checks almost every box on my comics want-list. It manages to capture the same intrepid, DIY spirit of the original television series while breaking new ground on its own, right alongside the sleek new Netflix series as an equally entertaining extension of the franchise. Best of all, MST3K: The Comic lets us marinate in the madness — to become enveloped by the pioneering spirit of a pop-cult legend from the not too distant future.
I’ve been an MST3K fan since the infancy of my geekhood. We all have. This is a series that has helped define lifelong friendships, rescued bad trips from insanity’s teetering edge, and kept us company through the indulgent late-night-Chinese-food-and-ganja phases of our suspiciously foggy twenties. Mystery Science Theater 3000 is weird and wonderful and a real tradition among those initiated to its often surreal (and always fantastically clever) sense of humor. The long running show is famous for the way it tears down the fourth wall and invites the hypnotized viewer on a charming slow-ride through the low-budget cosmos with a robotic peanut gallery from another dimension. This new comic book release from Dark Horse goes beyond that.
MST3K: The Comic is the brainchild of the show’s creator, Joel Hodgson, and it holds on tight to the things we love most about the show’s original concept. MST3K’s near-cornball style of absurdist humor works perfectly in comic form, and I’m a little surprised this project hadn’t happened years ago. If not from the beginning then at least soon after the television premiere and its rise to icon status in syndication. The comic’s concept is wonderfully simple — the crew engage with a goofy, silver age comic style tale the same way they would a B movie, except now the gags can go much further. How that plays out in the narrative is worth the price of admission and I’m not going to ruin it for you — except, maybe, to say that choosing to combine modern and silver age formats allows MST3K the opportunity to take extended creative risks without the pesky limitations of finances or physics or commercial breaks. The comic meets the potential of the show’s original concept head on and takes us to a place I haven’t been before in a comic book from this publisher or any other.
I do find myself wondering, though, if MST3K’s firmly established place as a nerd-culture touchstone doesn’t inform my experience more than I’d like to admit. After all, I’m a sucker for nostalgia from my home planet. It’s hard to gauge how newcomers to MST3K will respond to this particularly zany style of humor, but to me this feels engaging and bright. I expect new fans will find it easy to dive in, and those of us who still have episodes on cassette tape will have a great time with it too. The Satellite of Love cruises onward. I feel good about giving this comic my highest rating so far here at Comics Bulletin because MST3K: The Comic does what comics are meant to do — surprise, delight, engage, and sail us far away in our minds. Welcome aboard.