Mark Hamill (Star wars)
Billy West (Futurama)
Donna D’Errico (Candyman 3)
Roger Rose (Happy Feet)
Jess Harnell (Taz-Mania)
Lori Alan (Family Guy)
Daran Norris (Veronica Mars)
Jim Cummings (Aladdin)
Jill Talley (Sky High)
Tara Strong (Batman: The Killing Joke)
Jeremy Bulloch (A Night To Remember)
James Arnold Taylor (Batman: TBATB)
Tom Kenny (Super Hero Squad)
Peter Mayhew (Star Wars)
Bruce Campbell (Ash vs Evil Dead)
Kevin Smith (Dogma)
Hugh Hefner (Hop)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)
Lloyd Kaufman (Tales From The Crapper)
David Prowse (Star Wars)
Matt Groening (The Simpsons)
Arleen Sorkin (Batman: TAS)
Ray Harryhausen (20 Million Miles To Earth)
Phil Morris (Smallville)
Gary Owens(That 70s Show)
Chase Masterson (Star Trek: DS9)
J.J. Abrams (Alias)
Bill Mumy (Lost In Space)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Maurice LaMarche (Futurama)
The story centers around Don Swan (Hamill), a middle-aged high school teacher and comics aficionado from Wisconsin who owns his own comic book store and even publishes a fanzine about the Golden Age of comics. He’s invited by a Hollywood film studio to be a technical consultant on a movie based on a comic, which in turn was based on a Golden Age comic he’s loved since childhood. It’s his insight Timely Studios wants to help make a good movie… or at least that’s what he thinks.
The fictional comic in question is “Commander Courage,” a WWII-era superhero who is a composite of every legendary, patriotic superhero ever (Superman, Captain America, the Lone Ranger, etc.). He’s got super powers, wears a mask, has a boy sidekick and fights the Nazis. This character eventually faded away but was resurrected as “Codename: Courage” after 9/11. The new version is updated for the times, but to Don’s chagrin, perhaps a little too modern. This new guy embodies every cliche of the mysterious loner/badass-to-the-extreme/tough-as-nails government assassin-type “superhero” to come out of comics in the last 15 years. Or, imagine every action movie character ever played by Stallone, Van Damme, Segal and Schwarzenegger all rolled into one. Now imagine what a movie company would like to do with a character like that!
Poor Don, he thinks he can actually persuade the studio execs to keep the Courage character close to his original conception and not ignore his 60-year history. Lori Alan and Roger Rose co-star as the vain, uptight, greedy movie moguls who are just using Don to endorse the film at the hugely popular San Diego Comic Con where over 60,000 other geeks are hoping for a sneak peek. After all, no word of mouth endorsements or condemnations travel faster than at the speed of geek. They even provide Don with a Tommy Chong-esque cameraman named Ricky (Jess Harnell) to document everything as a DVD bonus feature.
As is the case with most mockumentaries, there isn’t really a plot to “Comic Book: The Movie,” it’s more of a meandering story of Don’s journey to Hollywood and then to the comic book convention and his feeble attempt to convince the world the original, wholesome character would make a better movie than the gritty one. Don is so committed to his quest he even has a Commander Courage costume professionally made and hires an actor to wear it at the convention CBTM2(Daran Norris is sublime as the clueless patsy). Don’s work on his fanzine manages to get him some pretty big contacts in Los Angeles too, most notably filmmaker Kevin Smith, Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner, and cult movie star Bruce Campbell. All three are genuinely interested in Don’s mission to keep the movie from becoming another lame potboiler. Voice actor extraordanaire Billy West (best known for Fry on Futurama) co-stars as Leo, the long-lost grandson of Commander Courage’s creator who has no idea of the royalties he’s entitled to. Leo’s very shy and not too bright, but over the course of a few days will be seduced by the Hollywood scene and the way he changes is hilarious.
The film was shot entirely on video with hand held cameras to make it look as if you were watching a TV news magazine, or, dare I say it – MTV. It’s an original way to tell the story since the majority of the film takes place at the giant convention with thousands of people walking around. Shooting it this way makes it more believable when we see people standing around watching the main characters talk and even getting in on the action too.
The only problem I had was that sometimes it’s difficult to tell where Comic Book: The Movie ends and the movie-within-the-movie begins. We occasionally see the “real” movie’s camera crew through Ricky’s camera, but unlike Ricky, these guys are never acknowledged. I didn’t feel this was a wink at the camera in-joke, but more of a sloppy filmming technique. It probably would have worked better had the actual movie been shot on film with Ricky’s video footage intercut when necessary instead of at random. The constant back and forth and the appearance of boom mikes is disorienting and confusing. Obviously, Comic Book: The Movie is targeted at a specific audience, and being part of that demographic I couldn’t help but enjoy it. To the non-comics fan it might come across as silly, but there’s really a lot of intelligent satire to be found here.