Tuesday, December 14, 2010

'1941: The Illustrated Story'

'1941:The Illustrated Story' by Heavy Metal magazine / Pocket Books

After the great commercial and critical success of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, whiz-kid director Steven Spielberg could do no wrong by the Hollywood moguls, and thus Columbia and Universal Studios together handed over an estimated $30 million for him to make a comedy about a (true-life) Japanese attack on California in the early days of World War 2.

Preceded by a massive marketing campaign, ‘1941’ was released during the 1979 Christmas season, and while it failed to get much in the way of glowing reviews, it did do quite well at the box office, aided in no small part by the tremendous popularity of Blues Brothers stars John Belushi, who played ‘Wild’ Bill Kelso, and Dan Aykroyd, who played Sgt. Frank Tree.

Heavy Metal magazine released a graphic novel adaptation of the movie, ‘1941: The Illustrated Story’, by Stephen Bissette and Rick Veitch. The graphic novel is a strange collage of both original art, and advertising images and photographs from the early 40s. Thus one may see a black and white photo of popular 40s singer Kate Smith in one panel, and a distinctive illustration by Boris Artzybasheff in another.

[The depiction of the Japanese as buck-toothed subhumans was well in keeping with the tenor of the World War 2 era but, needless to say, is very politically incorrect by today's cultural standards.]

The plot is barely coherent and I won’t divulge it in any detail to avoid spoilers, but it’s sufficient to say that the entire comic – and by extension the movie script – relies heavily on the sort of crazed presentation pioneered by the early 'Mad' comic books of the 1950s.

Readers looking for something different in terms of art, layout, and plot, as well as readers nostalgic for late 70’s – early 80’s comic art, might want to give this graphic novel a try. Copies of ‘1941: The Illustrated Story’ can be had for affordable prices from amazon.com and eBay.



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