How Come Super Mario Comics Don't Suck?
November 5, 2013
(The shortened opening)
NC: Hello, I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to. The Mario Brothers have not translated well into mediums, have they?
(Cut to footage of the first Super Mario Bros. game)
NC (vo): Video games, of course, were so popular that they had to try other avenues of marketing.
(Cut to footage of the Super Mario Bros. movie)
NC (vo): This, of course, led to a shitty movie...
Koopa: (in movie) A monkey!
(Cut to footage of The Super Mario Bros. Super Show)
NC (vo): ...a shitty TV show...
Princess Peach: (on TV show) May the pasta be with you!
(Cut to a shot of a Super Mario Bros. comic book)
NC (vo): ...and a shitty comic book series.
NC: (looking awkward) Insert audio clip from that here.
(Cut to a shot of the cover of Super Mario Land)
NC (vo): I guess the reason being the story's so strange and only really works in the video game world.
(Cut to a clip of Super Mario World, where Mario gets a Cape Feather that causes a cape to appear on him)
NC (vo): For example, why does a feather suddenly turn you into a superhero?
NC: (looking around shiftily) Ummmm... Look! Nothing from the movie...
(Cut to another clip of Super Mario World, with the Super Mario Bros. movie poster inserted off to the side)
NC (vo): ...is in this! (a red X is plastered across the poster)
NC (vo): So maybe Mario was only meant to live in the video game world and nowhere else.
NC: (holds up index finger) That is, except for one other avenue. You all remember Nintendo Power.
(Cut to an image of a Nintendo Power magazine that promotes Super Mario World)
NC (vo): You know, the only magazine kids read more than (cut to an image of a cover of...) Playboy?
(Cut to a montage of images of various Nintendo-themed comics in the magazine)
NC (vo): Well, they had a series of comics that told a story in every single issue. Most were pretty generic, like these Nester comics that just promoted the game of the week.
(Cut to a montage of images of the Super Mario Adventures comics)
NC (vo): But by far the best was the Super Mario Adventures. Yeah, the one element that Nintendo could never breathe life into in any other medium was suddenly the best comic series ever had, and probably the best spin-off in the franchise that actually worked.
NC: But why and how did they work? Let's take a little closer look.
NC (vo): The story is pretty much the same as any other Mario story: Bowser invades the Mushroom Kingdom, kidnaps Princess Toadstool – Yeah, remember when she was called Toadstool instead of Peach? – and it's up to the Mario Brothers to save the day. So... why is that worth reading, seeing how we've seen this plot millions of times before?
NC: Well, the first reason being, there's actually character in this version.
NC (vo): I mean, okay, they're not Tennessee Williams portrayals, but let's face it...
(Cut to a clip from Super Mario 64)
NC (vo): Over the years, Mario has not had much of a personality in the games.
(Cut to the opening of the game, featuring Mario's 3D head)
Mario: It's-a me, Mario! (winks eye) Hello!
NC (vo): He's nice, I guess, but there's not much to him outside of that, except being a generic Italian stereotype.
Audience: (gasps loudly)
NC: (holding up hands in defense) I know, I know, a lot of you couldn't see it. I just have a very strong feeling.
(Cut to a shot of Bowser)
NC (vo): Bowser's a generic villain stereotype.
(Cut to a shot of Princess Peach)
NC (vo): Peach is a generic damsel stereotype.
(Cut to a shot of Luigi)
NC (vo): The only one to have any character over the years, ironically, is the character everyone forgets about, Luigi.
(A montage of images of Luigi is shown, all showing him looking quite scared)
NC (vo): And even that's not much. He's just sorta formed a wimpy, scaredy-cat persona, I guess with Luigi's Mansion. And for whatever reason, I guess that sort of stuck.
(Cut to a clip of Super Smash Bros. Brawl featuring all the Mario characters on the field of battle, with Luigi punching the air and not hitting anyone while being given a huge blow himself)
NC (vo): Yeah, close your eyes and hit the air; that'll work great.
(Cut back to the Mario comic)
NC (vo): But in the comic, they do have more defined personalities. Mario is a surprisingly no-nonsense kind of leader. He can tell a joke every once in a while, but for the most part, he's pretty determined without many giggles or smiles.
(Cut to panels of a rap battle in the comic between Mario and Bowser)
NC (vo): Okay, granted, both him and Bowser do perform a rap the beginning of the comic, but to be fair, this was Japanese, and if I had to guess, this was probably a karaoke thing and the Americans turned it into a rap thing. Which doesn't make it better, but... okay, you just get past that, and the rest of the comic is good!
(Cut to images of Luigi in the comic)
NC (vo): Luigi, again, is sort of a wimpy scaredy-cat, but he does pull his weight in several scenes.
(Cut to images of Bowser in the comic)
NC (vo): Even Bowser has a little bit more to him. He's this big thug who tries to get things done in what he considers the most practical way, even if it always involves force and violence. But he's not just one note; he does have these very goofy, even kind of googly-eyed scenes, all for what he thinks is the love of Princess Toadstool. And here's a shocker: he actually has a reason for kidnapping her this time. He decides his little hellspawns, the Koopa Kids, need a mother to look after them. And seeing how he has the hots for Toadstool already... the same way I guess the crust species attraction (cut briefly to a shot of Jabba the Hutt with Princess Leia) works in Star Wars... (the word "Ew." appears in the image, before cutting away) he figures she'd be a perfect pick. So yeah, there's even an element of Bowser trying to be a good father... -ish. Okay, he's not good at it, but at least he's making the effort. They also make him a great big egotist, having everything his way and destroying whoever disagrees with him. Hell, just look at how much he wants to show off with the size of the wedding cake at him and Toadstool's wedding. The thing is so big that the climax of the comic actually takes place in the wedding cake! That's pretty funny!
(Cut to images of Toadstool in the comic)
NC (vo): And then you got Toadstool. Yeah, I know, she just sits back, smiling like an idiot, and waits for the Mario Brothers to save her again, right?
NC: FUCK NO! The chick saves herself!
(Cut back to Toadstool in the comic, clearly action-oriented and able to take care of herself)
NC (vo): Look at this badass bitch! She literally has a whole part of the story just about her breaking out and kicking ass! It's a really cool escape, and every other panel, she looks goddamn awesome! Even the Mario Brothers at the very end are like, "Jesus, lady! Give us some screen time!"
NC: But on top of that, when Bowser attacks in the opening, she doesn't just sit back...
NC (vo): ...and have the Mario Brothers do all the work. She fucking jumps out the window, gets a mushroom army, and goes after him herself! Goddamn, this lady's on fire!
NC: In fact, believe it or not, there's actually a scene where...
(Cut to a comic where Mario is held captive by the Koopa Kids)
NC (vo): ...Mario gets captured, and guess who the hell has to go save him? (the comic Toadstool and Luigi are shown, wearing each other's clothing) Fucking Princess Toadstool! She switched places with Luigi and ends up blowing the place apart! Fuck it, you're a machine!
NC: I'm sorry, I know I'm really dwelling on this, but for years, we've seen this goddamn broad...
(Cut to an image of Princess Peach/Toadstool of today)
NC (vo): ...do nothing and smile about it!
(Cut to an image of Princess Peach/Toadstool in the comic)
NC (vo): And in the comic, she's probably the best element in the entire story!
NC: (shaking his finger at camera) Goddamn! Nintendo has to make a game out of her doing all this cool shit! (pause) Or... just have her crying...
(Cut to a clip of the game Super Princess Peach, where she battles a huge Piranha Plant by crying)
NC (vo): ...as the weapon.
NC: Yeah, (gives a thumbs-up) it's a good try there, Nintendo.
(Cut back to Super Princess Peach, where she still cries)
(Cut back to the Mario comic)
NC (vo): I love the other favorite characters are in there, too, like Yoshi, the haunted house ghosts, and of course a ton of Bowser's henchmen and enemies. But the best thing of all about the comic, is its great sense of humor. And I don't mean like "Oh, isn't that cute? Mario said a catchphrase that'll be dated in a week." No, I mean legitimately funny. For example, Yoshi in this world can only seem to say one word, "Yoshi". So, a con artist salesman decides to sell them a book translating what they say. The result is, you guessed it, every sentence being replaced with "Yoshi". Another great moment is when they blow up Bowser's castle and their adventures seem to have come to an end. So they literally show the credits, like the comic is officially over. But then Mario interrupts when they realize they have no way to get back home! And thus the story continues! Yeah, turns out you're only at the halfway point, but when you read the comic, you didn't know that! That could have very well been the ending. It's a legitimately good fake-out.
(Cut to a YouTube video version of the ending's credits, with Mario doing the Mario from the end of the TV show)
NC (vo): Even in the YouTube versions, they play their own credits.
Mario: (dancing) Do the Mario! (singing with offscreen voices) Swing your arms from side to side– (cut back to the comic Mario) WAIT!
NC (vo): Stuff like that is great and really thinks out of the box. And the drawing style, by God, is fucking hilarious.
(Cut to a montage of anime shows, with images typical of such shows, like big heads, mouths getting big in anger and visible perspiration)
NC (vo): I'm not usually a fan of those animes where their heads get really big and they yell and they have the sweat beads on the side. It's just kind of weird for me.
(Cut back to such wild takes in the Mario comic)
NC (vo): But here, the comedy matches the visuals just right.
(Cut to a shot of a generic Mario posing generically)
NC (vo): The expressions aren't just kept to preserving the Mario characters' appealing image.
(Cut back to the comic)
NC (vo): They're actually allowed to go over the top and get some pretty crazy and hilarious reactions. That gives them a lot more personality and thus makes them a lot more memorable. And the little touches are especially great. There's a scene where Bowser turns the Mushroom People into stone, so much that even their screams of terror are turned into stone as well. That's pretty inventive! The cartoony, line-working colors are also great. They just leap off the page. Look at half of this! With every panel, you can feel the motion; you can feel the energy. This comic, instead of just being a lame little thing on the side, actually turned into one of the highlights of getting Nintendo Power every month. You wanted to read it to get a good laugh, and you wanted to know what was gonna happen in the rest of the story. It was funny, it was bright, it was creative, it was just a fun adventure.
NC: Now, after the series ended, they tried a few other monthly comics, like...
(Cut to a montage of images of the comic versions of the following...)
NC (vo): Star Fox, Zelda, even one for Super Metroid, which had a much more badass-looking Samus, in my opinion. They all had good artwork in their own right and were ultimately... okay. They told stories that were similar to the games, but also added a few new characters in different situations, but...
(Cut back to the Mario comic)
NC (vo): ...none of them quite kept you hooked, oddly enough, as those weird Mario adventures. They just seemed to connect with a wild inventiveness that you didn't often see come from strategy magazines. And maybe that's why it was so good, because it did so much more than people expected it to do. I'm not gonna act like they were groundbreaking comics or anything like that, but for something that was clearly just supposed to be a commercial to sell more video games and magazines, they'd actually managed to hook us in with great artwork, hilarious visuals, likeable characters, and an imaginative take on something we all know and love. It was probably the only time the Mario franchise was represented well outside of the games.
(Cut to a shot of Super Mario Sunshine)
NC (vo): Hell, even the games didn't always hit bulls-eyes...
(Back to the comic)
NC (vo): ...but the comic did. It was clear it was having fun with its world, so we were also having fun with its world. It took something that, quite frankly, could have just been phoned in or given little attention and turned it into something really enjoyable and really great. It was clear they understood the material it was based on off of and wanted to give us the same laughs and thrills that the video game gave us.
NC: If you want to check 'em out, go ahead and look for the Super Mario Adventures graphic novel...
(Cut to a shot of the cover of the aforementioned graphic novel)
NC (vo): ...which is a collection of all the comics that were placed in Nintendo Power.
(Cut to a montage of shots of various Nintendo Power covers)
NC (vo): Hell, it's gotta be easier than finding every single Nintendo Power they were placed in.
(Cut back to the comic)
NC (vo): I'm not sure it's easy to find, but trust me, if you can, it's worth it. With the time and effort it no doubt took to bring these comics to life, it's nice to know there's still a professional creative team outside of the video game industry that not only got why we liked these video games so much, but also loved and respected it as much as we do.
NC: I'm the Nostalgia Critic; I remember it so you don't have to. (gets up from his chair and leaves)