I often assumed that the closest thing I would ever get to a Django Unchained sequel would be Quentin Tarantino’s next western, The Hateful Eight. But, this past June, upon my first trip to a comic book store, I found just the opposite. On the shelves, among the graphic novels, I saw a comic adaptation of the film. But then, looking at the recent issue shelves, I saw something that really caught my eye: an ongoing crossover series between Django, and the pulp fiction (no, not that Pulp Fiction) hero Zorro. When I found it on the shelf, it was in the midst of a seven-issue publication. Now, it is available as a hard cover graphic novel.
This pairing is fascinating. Zorro is a character with nearly one hundred years of history, while Django first hit the big screen in 2012; it’s hard to pair two characters with such varying history . Certainly, Zorro probably wouldn’t be your first pick for a companion to Django, you’re more likely to think of someone like the Man with No Name, the Lone Ranger, the other Django, or some other cowboy, but Zorro? However, when you get to thinking about it, it makes sense; both swashbuckling heroes, one with a wholesome sense of justice, one with a vaguer sense of justice, and both exist around somewhat the same time (most of the Zorro mythology places him in the 1820’s, where as Django Unchained is set in 1858, so Django / Zorro features an older Zorro). It would shock me if when designing the idea of Django, or possibly Dr. Schultz, Tarantino (who has seen just about every film ever) did not think at least once of Zorro. I was surprised when I saw the two names together, but the more I thought about it, the more the pairing just made sense. In a preface to the story, Tarantino says it best:
Hello Good and Dear Readers,
What you are holding in your hands right now is a labor of love. Where my old south black bounty hunter character, Django, meets Matt Wagner’s version of the legendary Mexican champion of justice of the Old West, Zorro.
When the idea was first presented to me, it raised my eyebrows. Not out of skepticism, but out of intrigue.
The most famous Mexican western avenger (sorry Cisco Kid) of pulp fiction, teaming up with my newest creation. That could be fun.
And it made me want to see what adventure could contain the two.
Usually on this blog, I try to go for a deeper reading, but honestly, all I can say is that this shit is just awesome. This is a reason to love comics: the crossovers. There is a certain magic that can come from a point where two characters who would not usually interact finally encounter one another. It can be a bit of a novelty. Putting together a duo which would usually have nothing to do with each other coming together gives readers a really interesting story. It’s for this very reason that people lost their minds when the Avengers movie came out, and people will likely lose their minds when Batman v. Superman comes out. The notion of seeing characters, formerly kept separate, now alongside each other.
Not to mention, this particular book provides the readers with a continuation of the film, as the volume has the subtitle: “The Official Sequel to Django Unchained.” Avatar did this too, releasing a comic series that both continued the story and tied up a loose end introduced in the series finale. There’s also Chuck Palahniuk writing Fight Club 2 as a comic series, rather than as a novel, as it was originally, or a film, which made it a sensation.
Another comic spin-off I picked up was the first volume of the Darth Vader series, titled… Well, Vader.
Vader is quite a volume. It’s an interesting change of pace to have one of fiction’s greatest villains as your protagonist. In the three films we see three stages of his character arc: In A New Hope, he’s really a dragon character, doing Moff Tarkin’s bidding. Empire Strikes Back shows him scheming and hunting the rebels, before his emotional reveal in which he asks his son to rule the galaxy. Return of the Jedi is his redemption after confronting his relationships between Luke and the Emperor. In the first volume of the Vader series, the story is expanded. We get to see the steps between these chapters. Giving insight into this space in between, we don’t just have the brute force and we don’t quite have the ambitious absentee father, but a look into the transition between these two stages. I can’t say much more without arriving in spoiler territory, but Darth Vader comes out of this volume a more nuanced character. And there’s a bunch of other cool stuff! Darth Vader and Jabba the Hutt, the consequences of the defeat at the Death Star, a sassy rogue who fangirls over Vader (and makes quite a sidekick)! We even get to see evil versions of R2D2 and C3PO! Who knew the most evil man in the galaxy could be so fun? But when it boils down to it, this is story about Vader dealing with the failure he experiences in A New Hope, and finding out new things about himself, which for one of the biggest bad guys in a galaxy far, far away, is pretty surprising.
From the release of Star Wars (A New Hope) until 1987, Marvel comics produced the original run of Star Wars Comics. In 1991 Dark Horse comics resumed the series after a brief absence, and continued to do so until both Marvel and Lucasfilm were acquired by Disney. Star Wars and Marvel reunited in a big way, releasing a main series, covering the happenings between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back, as well as a number of off-shoot series: Shattered Empire, Darth Vader, Princess Leia, Lando, Chewbacca, and Kanan (from the Rebels television series). (I’m still waiting on a series for Boba Fett!) This might seem like a lot, but it is a build-up to
one of the most anticipated films of all time the most anticipated film of all time, so it makes sense.
It’s almost as though you can’t have a successful sci-fi franchise w
ithout it eventually spilling into a comic series: Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who, Back to the Future, Terminator, Serenity, Alien, Predator, Alien vs. Predator*, Robocop, and various others all have comic adaptations. Hell, there’s even Aliens vs. Predator vs. Terminator!
(There’s also, uh… whatever the hell this is.)
But let me elaborate on one of those: Doctor Who‘s comic series. It’s got a similar set up to the Star Wars comics, with currently on-going releases of the Tenth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Doctors. This is great for a show with a character like the Doctor, since there are so many gaps to fill in, and so many characters to write about. What was the Ninth Doctor doing after the end of the time war, before meeting Rose? What was Ten up to while prolonging his death? What were some of the adventures Eleven had on Trenzalore? (To be fair, we did get a novel for the Trenzalore years.) Recently announced was a Fourth Doctor and Sarah Jane miniseries. Even aside from the Doctor, the Doctor Who universe has so many characters that a comic series could take a closer look at.
In this next section, I will be discussing spoilers for a Doctor Who comic series titled Prisoners of Time. If you wish to remain spoiler free, move along.
Prisoners of Time is about a shadowy figure who chases after every Doctor and takes one of his companions captive, as part of an elaborate time-travelling revenge plot. This villainy spans 12 issues and all the Doctor’s life times, including use of vortex manipulators, Cybermen Technology, and assistance from the Master.
And who was the mastermind behind this all? Adam. Now, if you don’t know who Adam is, that’s all right. Frankly, there’s a lot of stuff from Season 1 that I would like to forget too (looking at you, Aliens of London). Adam was a secondary companion – that lasted one episode. You might remember the gang first encountering him in “Dalek” and then bringing him along in “The Long Game” where they visited the satellite above earth and he gets that weird brain surgery that makes his head open when people snap? Yeah, now you remember. Well comics was a way of taking a character nobody liked and making him interesting.
Now, I’m sure that some of the comic adaptations that I don’t know about have the potential to be really bad, but most of what I’ve seen has been really cool. It’s a great (and rather low-budget way) for movie studios or what have you to add more to the fictional world. It’s a great outlet for creativity. Take a look at Joss Whedon, who, after directing a season of Firefly, had an uninterested studio and a fanbase that was begging for more. So, after you’ve had Serenity, you launch a comic series.
It’s hard to say what the future has planned for Django and Zorro; it seems that, for now, their comic adventure has ended.however, there are some rumors about a Django/Zorro film. That, and the ending to the above preface to Django / Zorro in which Tarantino hinted at, perhaps another series?
I love that my Django lives in the same universe that Zorro lives in. And since in another book Zorro meets the Lone Ranger, that means Django lives in that universe as well. Which just begs a question.
What would happen if Django met Tonto?
Well if you dear readers ask that question, maybe I and the good folks at Dynamite might try and answer it.