'Back To The Future' Comic #1 Review: When Marty Met Doc
Bob Gale is a name that should be familiar to all true Back to the Future fans.
Not only did he dream up and write the film series, he has been its de facto custodian across the last three decades, always ready with an answer whenever fans have questions. Those same fans have begged for more Back to the Future adventures many times over the years, but Gale was always hesitant to go back to Hill Valley. Doc and Marty's story was fully told through the three movies, he argued, and felt that anything more would just be repetitious.
So how did IDW Publishing get him to sign on as writer of a new Back to the Future comic book? We don't exactly know, but Gale, as he explains to readers in a lengthy note at the back of issue #1, decided that the only way to expand on the movies would be to not make time travel the focus. Instead, he wanted to reveal to us more about our favorite characters than we'd ever known before.
The resulting Back to the Future comic is a canonical anthology, subtitled Untold Tales and Alternate Timelines. Planned as four issues, it's a series of what are basically short stories that fill in narrative gaps from the movies. The stories are set before or during the film trilogy, as well as alternate timelines glimpsed in the movies. Every issue is split into two separate tales, one written by John Barber and the other by Erik Burnham — both of whom work under the guidance of Back to the Future mastermind Bob Gale.
Issue #1 provides the charming story of how Doc and Marty first met, three years prior to the original film. John Barber has a lot of fun riffing on familiar tropes and lines from the movies, with a cute and satisfying story that sets up the longtime friendship of Marty McFly and Emmet Brown. The story is bookended by scenes from the Old West, after the events of the third movie but during the time when Doc is still working on his time-traveling steam train. Brent Schoonover's pencils stick to the basics, with a suitably cartoonish, if a bit simplistic, aesthetic.
The second story's art by Dan Schoening is more exaggerated and stylized, with the characters in particular reminding this reviewer of those from the old cartoon series The Real Ghostbusters. Film director Robert Zemeckis has for years told fans of his belief that Doc Brown probably took part in the Manhattan Project as a young man. Erik Burnham's comic book finally addresses this by showing us how Doc was brought into the project. It's not terribly revelatory, but the art makes it a fun little read.
Issue #1 is worth picking up to find out how Marty and Doc met, but I'm more intrigued to see what kinds of stories the three remaining issues tell.