Though the Sega Genesis was not officially discontinued until 1997, I tend to think in my head that it’s last real year was 1995, because every year thereafter, iterative sports games outnumbered traditional genres. With that caveat, I reminisce about a particularly special game released in the twilight of the Genesis’ lifespan. Though it was an action and beat ’em up hybrid in terms of combat mechanics, its distinguishing feature is its commitment to simulating a virtual comic book. Rather than side-scroll after the hero dispatches the last batch of enemies, he hops on to the next panel, rather it need to the right, left, or down below depending on prior choices made in previous panels. Enemies rarely manifest from background scenery or generate from off-screen while walking on to it. The hand of god would seemingly reach down onto the screen and illustrate enemies into life in real-time, or they would already be part of the scenery when the hero arrives on the scene.
The premise of Comix Zone is not original, where the protagonist is trapped within frame and attempts to conquer all the obstacles his avastary who is off-frame, throws at him. Concept was born out of the animated short, “Duck Amok.” Daffy duck, the would-be protagonist of his own cartoon, struggles to immerse the hero as is offscreen adversary is Bugs Bunny!
One of the most famous cartoons of all-time.
Comix Zone, perhaps inspired by “Duck Amok” as well as more traditional heroic fair, opens with sketch turner working on his comic during a thunderstorm as story writer, illustrator, anchor, and colorist—extraordinarily talented, right? Lightning strikes is illustrations, and brings the main villain, Mortus, to life—real life. This feeling manifests himself into sketches reality, trading places with his creator. Sketch, now trapped in the comics the zone, has to fight his own creations to survive, less he become trapped in his comic forever, and Mortus gains flesh to bring him out of his animated form. Indeed, an animated character with bad intentions trying to become real is also a borrowed plot from Cool World; “Holli would, if she could.”
There are a lot of things cool about Comix Zone. Sketch does not know kung fu—Kung Fung the game calls it, but that is his chosen fighting style to get himself through to the end. Always already the hero in his own comic, he has to earn is gradual superpowers—his heroic avatar appearing at the end of every level; after the in-world assistant Alissa tells him, “Good work, Turner!” his a heroic self first with an oh yeah! Predictively, she becomes a romantic interest after Mortus abducts her to use her as bait for the grand finale. After defeating Dr mortius, sketch returns to the real world, with his newfound girlfriend in his arms.
I would love to pay tribute to Comix Zone by using it to name a new series of articles like Backloggery Beatdown, except about comics rather than video games. After all, who has not imagined themselves with superpowers to save the day like Sketch Turner? Comix Zone is the video game equivalent of how we imagine ourselves, what we might do, if we were integrated into a comic, manga, graphic novel, or other forms of sequential art (though if sketch were female, and I imagine that his girlfriend, Alissa, is his female alter ego, I wonder if she would punch her away through all of her problems, or bring to bear skills that cavemen do not have?) When Superman and Doomsday punch each other so hard that their exchanges shatter all glass within a country mile, we wish we could hit someone that hard; after all, the Wachowskis emulate those infamous panels when Neo and agent Smith duke it out in Matrix Revelations.
To be clear, I do not want to write the reviews, especially because so many of the items that I want to write about are already well renowned. Do Maximum Carnage, Persepolis, or Y: The Last Man need another review? I believe that only narcissists write anachronistic reviews for works that are already world-renowned.
But criticism? There’s always room for more of that. Let us begin with why I got out of comics, and why I want to get back in. In the 90s, like many others my age, I was subject to whatever comics that were sold in the grocery store rotational racks. I managed to save up my allowance to purchase subscriptions for Archie’s Sonic the Hedgehog for a few years, but the way that the bigger publishers like marvel conducted there subscription models was too convoluted to understand. Okay, so if I wanted to continue the clone wars saga which led all the way up to and through onslaught, I had to purchase The Amazing Spider-Man, The Spectacular Spider-Man, and Web of Spider-Man? X-Men, X-Force, X-Factor, X-Man…yo how is a brotha supposed to keep up on $10 a week? I couldn’t so I didn’t.
Years passed by until, while in graduate school, I was assigned to TA for a professor who was teaching an integrated arts and humanities course, a type of class designed for major in the humanities, but have to take humanity’s courses as a prerequisite for their non-humanities degrees. This syllabus included volume one of neon Genesis evangelion, paprika, and Watchmen, All of which I was exposed to for the first time. This class coinciding with a graduate course in science fiction and Nickelodeon purchasing the rights to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in 2009, set me on a trajectory to return to comics.
I learned that Michigan State University sits on a humongous special collections which includes comics. The kind of rare materials that they only let you handle one at a time, and you can’t leave the room while you do so. I donated All of my Sonic the Hedgehog (and EGM) issues to that collection. Then I sought more.
News of the Ninja Turtles license being sold to Nickelodeon got me interested in looking them up. That is when I found Mark Pellegrini’s TMNT Entity blog, which would serve as a template for when I began to write on pop cultural things for my own amusement and entertainment (And if one or two people read what I wrote, all the better). That blog is an inspiration, And for all intents and purposes, is the definitive place for all knowledge concerning Ninja Turtle comics, including their chronology since not all stories were written and illustrated in chronological order. Pellegrini would offer a review of the comic book, including a brief synopsis, and then an analysis of that comic in the grand scheme of the Ninja Turtle pantheon. He began with the Mirage run, Volumes one through four, cover Archie comics’ Adventures series, and is currently covering the IDW run.
What he is doing with TMNT Entity, is what I would like to do with Comix Zone, but with various content Stay tuned!