One of the earliest articles I threw up here on Geek Force Network concerned a very odd (and lackluster) comic book that reimagined Mega Man as a junior high school student. While this comic tried to break out of the usual story presented in the Mega Man series, the plot fell into yet another trope-filled rut and lost the support of fans by removing most of the iconic elements from the games. It was a far cry from what I hope for in a comic book adaptation.
Ideally, a comic book adaptation should expand on the plot and characters featured in a video game. There should be fresh perspectives on the stories we have grown up playing, or brand new adventures in which we can become immersed. There could be humorous side tales with lesser-explored characters, or bonus content like creator interviews or fan art from professional illustrators. The comic would serve as a standalone product that could entice readers to try out the games, as well as a loving tribute to its source material for fans to pour over.
In other words, every comic book creator should look to Mega Man Megamix for inspiration.
Originally released in 1997 by Japanese publisher Kodansha, it wasn’t until 2010 when Mega Man Megamix would hit American stores thanks to Udon Comics. These great books were written and illustrated by Hitoshi Ariga, who has been working in comics and games for years; producing classic manga like The Big O and more recently, designing my favorite new Pokémon (Honedge and Tyrunt). Each of the three books in the Megamix series is composed of multiple sections:
-a major story or collection of stories based on the main entries in the Mega Man games
-a handful of humorous short comics
-character profiles detailing the heroes and villains within the book
-bonus interviews and art from Hitoshi Ariga and other prominent illustrators and developers, including Keiji Inafune
The major stories in Megamix re-tell the familiar tale of Dr. Light’s surrogate son Rock taking up a blue mantle to battle robots that have been manufactured by the maniacal Dr. Wily. These comics have drastically expanded the story from the simple “defeat the robot masters” plot of the games. Readers now have an insight to the struggle that Mega Man faces in battling his fellow robots while trying to convince the world that not every machine is a threat. The theatrical madness of Dr. Wily is on full display as comes up with increasingly elaborate schemes. Even the separate waves of robot masters have their own personalities and subplots, such as the sad tale of the destructive Skull Man being put to rest by his comrades for his own good.
As a contrast to the dramatic and sometimes tragic plots of the major stories, the side comics provide the hilarious moments that take place when Mega Man isn’t battling his foes. Holiday activities at the Skull Fortress, the part-time jobs of the Mega Man 5 bosses, Auto’s failed attempts to bring fan-submitted robots to life; all of these stories and more fill the latter pages of Megamix. Best of all, there are fun tributes to the stranger games, such as Mega Man Soccer and Mega Man: Battle and Chase.
Ariga’s artwork in Megamix is absolutely fantastic. The facial expressions on both humans and robots are full of life and emotion. This is particularly impressive during the moments when a menagerie of characters are in a single frame, which are frequent and wonderful. The individual designs of the robot masters have been well-translated to Megamix, with solid proportions and costume details for every machine. The battles are quite bombastic, with special attention paid to the different shots and blasts from each weapon. These illustrations exude the love and care that went into them from an obviously diehard Mega Man fan.
On top of all the great stories and artwork, every book has plenty of bonus content in the form of character galleries and creator interviews. The final product is a prime example of a great comic book adaptation; the perfect mix of loving tribute and further exploration of a well-established universe. For anyone who adores the Blue Bomber and his many adventures, I highly recommend picking up Mega Man Megamix.
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