Hey, did you know that George Lucas’ Star Wars franchise is popular in other countries that aren’t even America, even some countries that are in Europe, a cradle of actual culture, and not just pop culture?
I suppose I sort of knew that, in the back of my head, but I was still surprised to see actual evidence of it, in the form of Space Warped #1, the first half of a Boom Studio’s published translation of Herve Bourhis and Rudy Spiessert’s Rustic Wars.
The new title alludes to the source material being parodied, but the original title better reflects the premise. It’s well known that Lucas sought inspiration from a variety of sources, including Jack Kirby’s Fourth World comics, Japanese cinema, Westerns and Joseph Cambell-digested world myth, and Bourhis and Spiessert essentially take the original Star Wars movie as Lucas created it, and then walked it back toward some of that inspiration.
In other words, it’s still an adventure story with elements of fantasy set long ago and far, far away, but the long ago is pre-Industrial Revolution, and the far, far away is Europe.
The plot is identical to that of the first Star Wars (or fourth, depending on how you count, I guess), with many of the gags coming from the ways in which it transports the characters and scenes into the new old setting: The droids are now druids, Luke is now Jean-Luc, Vader is Salvador, spaceships are replaced by horses and carts, et cetera.
Sometimes these lead to absurd gags, like the Druids getting lost in one of the many, long passages found in the back of a tiny Conestoga-style wagon. Many of the gags also comment directly on the source material, like the Kenobi character expressing relief that Jean-Luc’s uncle was killed, allowing the plot to progress without hinderance (“What? You were thinking it!” he says to the droi—er, druids).
While many of the gags are dependent on one’s knowledge of and affection for Star Wars, Spiessert’s art is a real pleasure. It’s flat and highly abstracted, the character’s having big heads, small bodies and super-expressive faces. Overall, the design sense suggests a Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon series, or, in more comic book-y terms, Peter Bagge by way of Stephan Pastis.
It’s a bit of a trifle, but it’s hard to elevate Star Wars parody beyond a bit of a trifle, and it sure is a great looking trifle.
I haven’t read the second half of the story, or the original album version, but like some of Boom’s translated Disney comics imports, it does seem ill-served by being broken up into a series of comic books, as the issue just ends rather than concludes.
While Space Warped has fun at the expense of the world-building of others, Dungeon Monstres Vol. 4: Night of the Ladykiller offers adventure fantasy parody and humor in service of original world-building.
The latest offering from one of the…let’s see…five distinct series of Trondheim and Sfar’s Dungeon franchise, Ladykiller is part of the Monstres series, which features short stories starring minor characters.
The title story, drawn by J.E. Vermot-Desroches in a slightly scratchy, cross-hatching filled style that approaches the Dungeon “house” style, stars young Horus, a vulture sorcerer who has devoted his life entirely to the study of necromancy.
He’s not exactly a ladies man, which is why it’s so perplexing when a bunch of attractive young ladies insist that he has been seducing and impregnating them. He and some of his peers must get to the bottom of the magical mystery, while meeting a few other challenges ranging from deadly (a battle with a necromancy master) to frustrating (helping a practically brain-dead, totally illiterate character pass his exams). Kinda like an R-rated college comedy from the ’80s, set in a Dungeons & Dragons world populated by anthropomorphic animals. Only not.
The title story only occupies the first half of NBM’s reprint and publication; it’s followed by “Ruckus at The Brewers,” illustrated in a painted, almost cartoon Simon Bisley style by Yoann. This stars Groro, a big, strong, dim-witted monster who looks like he was designed and built by Jim Henson, given an important task far beyond his ability to complete—pick up the Dungeon’s beer order from the brewery.
Things go spectacularly wrong, and the relatively simple errand becomes an epic quest as Grogro makes new friends and enemies, battles monsters, rescues a town, is sold into slavery and becomes a gladiator.
As with all of the Dungeon books, Ladykiller is a pure comic book pleasure, and one that manages to the neat feat of both parodying the fantasy genre while also functioning as a perfect example of said genre.