To go by the more popular, vocal opinion, no one ever asked for this. And yet, who didn’t watch the Super Mario Bros. movie and wonder “well, what comes next?” following the cliffhanger ending?
20 years later, two fans have committed themselves to help answer that question. And what’s more?
It’s official. Well, sort of.
Super Mario Bros. 2 really doesn’t have anything to do with either Nintendo nor Disney, which owned studio Hollywood Pictures and distributor Buena Vista Pictures. However, it does have Parker Bennett, one of the original screenwriters who helped (or at least tried, if you know the history) to bring the bouncing brothers to the big screen, which lends this particular project a sense of semi-canonical status to the movie. Considering that none of the aforementioned companies are likely to do anything resembling a follow-up to the 1993 motion picture, this is honestly the best we could hope to ask for in that regard.
Joining Bennett in helping flesh out his story as an actual comic script are Steven Applebaum and Ryan Hoss, curators of the Super Mario Bros. The Movie Archive, an online font of information for virtually everything about the movie, from interviews with the actors and crew to merchandise on down to the many permutations the film went through before becoming the film we know today. Rounding out the crew are artist Eryk Donovan and letterer Jaymes Reed.
I won’t bother spoiling the first film for you, save for the basic stuff one could assume by virtue of a sequel– i.e., the good guys won, the bad guys lost. I will, however, mention how the first film ended, which kind of straddles the fence of being a spoiler, as the cliffhanger was not originally a part of the script; rather, it was added at the last minute to give it a sort of Back to the Future sort of hook. Ironically, Back to the Future‘s was included without an actual sequel in mind, and it went on to spawn two more films for a trilogy; the folks making Super Mario Bros. seemingly had the idea of more in mind, and… well, here we are.
With that said, the end of the movie takes place a few weeks following the main adventure which ran throughout. Mario and his lady love, Daniella Pauline Verducci (referred to simply as “Daniella” in the film), are in the bros.’ apartment making dinner while a despondent Luigi is on the sofa, watching a tabloid television show called “Our Miraculous World” when a clip about their adventures in the other world come up and the reporter dubs them the “Super” Mario Bros. This raises Luigi’s spirits, and just in time, as there comes a knock on their door, soon followed by the appearance of Princess Daisy (the equivalent of Princess Peach Toadstool in this version). She looks dressed for battle, carrying a Fry Guy flamethrower, and tells the brothers that she needs their help, and the brothers grab their tool belts to take on their next challenge.
Strangely, this is where the new story diverges from its source material. Whereas Back to the Future Part II went to painstaking lengths to recreate the closing scenes of the first movie (albeit with a new actor cast as Marty’s girlfriend, Jennifer, and some added scenes), the Super Mario Bros. 2 comic largely chooses to forgo its jumping-off point. The “Our Miraculous World” bit is cut out, but a bit more jarring is that the characters are sporting different attire and the dialogue is changed as well. If you’re a fan of consistency, this is the kind of thing which could drive you nuts. To be fair, it’s hardly unique to this story or even this medium (though some do go to greater lengths to make sense of it in-story).
Interestingly enough, though, this is not the beginning of our new story; the movie places us in media res for the cliffhanger, but the comic begins a few pages prior by taking us back to see what has Daisy in need of a pair of plumbers in the first place. Investigating some desert ruins in the other world, her meteorite-fragment necklace reacts with a pod that seems to create a portal, unleashing what appears to be an army of hooded figures, some wielding spears and others riding atop dinosaurs– the pre-evolved kind.
So the Marios join Daisy and a mysterious turbaned man as they try to provide enough distraction for the Dinohattan princess to close the portal down. This involves a neat fight scene which includes punches, plumbing tools, and the movie’s famous Thwomp Stomper boots, finally living up to their name as Luigi delivers a one-liner that teasingly alludes to the video game equivalent of what they’re dealing with. Our heroes are eventually overwhelmed, but thanks to some foresight by Mario and a strange new power from Daisy, they manage to turn the tide and drive back the invaders. With that taken care of, Daisy reveals that the people of Dinohattan are interested in meeting the heroes from another world who saved them from Koopa.
Meanwhile, we get a peek at the world on the other side of this new portal and a glimpse of who we’re dealing with this time around. One could say that for those hoping for a follow-up to the original movie and its cliffhanger, this looks like a dream come true.
That’s the story thus far, and while it’s only just getting going, I have to say that I like it so far. Without giving away the details (and trust me, the clues are there if you look beyond borders), I have little doubt I’m among the biggest fans of the source material they’re drawing from for this, and I know I’m not the only one who thought that this is where such an endeavor should go. Suffice to say, I look forward to seeing how this unfolds.
The other big thing to look at here is the art. In the comic’s short time being active, it has gone through two different artistic talents. The original cover (seen at right) and first four pages were drawn by Joshua Ballze, whose style managed to mimic the look of the movie as perfectly as you could hope for in comic form, featuring a very realistic grayscaled style which provided very good likenesses for the actors in the movie.
Perhaps a little too perfect. For reasons unknown, whether due to a worry of stirring up a hornet’s nest regarding the rights to those likenesses or maybe because the style is too time-consuming for cranking out one page a week (the comic’s ongoing schedule), or possibly both, more, or neither, Ballze is no longer working on the comic. In his place now sits Eryk Donovan, who brings a completely different style to the book, full of bold, clean lines and a more stylized appearance to the whole production that is admittedly looks a bit more lively and fluid. You can still tell which character is Mario, and even that he’s Bob Hoskins’ Mario, but without being the spitting image of Bob Hoskins himself.
That said, I’m am enjoying the new style, which has admittedly taken me some getting used to– mostly due to coming off of the sensation of seeing what literally looked like a second movie on paper (well, onscreen… whatever). I’ve alluded to how I appreciate consistency before, and with that in mind, it’s good that Donovan has gone back and redrawn the cover and the original pages before continuing forward. By that same token, it’s strange to see the brothers (as well as Daisy) sporting different attire here– not just in their apartment, but when they “suit up” as well.
At first they went with more game-like overalls, which was fine (Luigi’s torn-off sleeves aside), but with the recent start of the second chapter, they’re now in the jumpsuits again (with Luigi’s sleeves still torn off). They might find a way to explain it, but until they do, it’s a detail that will probably drive me nuts. That said, I do prefer the jumpsuits, as they’re more emblematic of the movie version of the Mario Bros. (which is not uncommon, having the movie versions feature unique takes on outfits), and having worn the suit myself, I can say that people do indeed recognize it as the “movie” or “Bob Hoskins” Mario. I’m ultimately glad the change was made, but I’m left wondering if they’ll update the previous chapter to match, or if they’ll address it at all in-story.
As for Luigi, the sleeves really do bug me. I expect Luigi to look a bit different from Mario, and he does. He lacks the mustache (one statement thrown out about the original movie was that it took place before the games, and before he grew it), he wears his hat backwards, and he carries a rainbow tool belt. The latter obviously doesn’t translate to a black-and-white comic, and doing away with the sleeves seems to differentiate him a little too much. I’m not sure whether seeing it in color would make it better or worse, because having no sleeves means having almost no blue, which has long been the unifying color between the two brothers.
Still, if Luigi’s sleeves are my only major criticism, then things aren’t going too badly at all, are they?
The Super Mario Bros. movie has built up quite a cult following over the past two decades, and though there are some who still hate it, there are also those who appreciate it in a “so bad that it’s good” way, while others still are able to appreciate the uphill battle everyone on set went through in trying to do something no one has ever done before. To those who would allow it, they were treated to a rather endearing version of the Super Mario Bros. story which stands on its own apart from everything that’s come since. And for those people, they’re finally getting the follow-up they’ve waited so long for. It should be fun and interesting to see where the crew take it from here!
On a somewhat-related note, I suppose I would be remiss if I didn’t mention here that I’ve been working on a Mario comic of my own. Titled “Super Mario Bros. in Neo Bowser City”, you can find the first two chapters which ran in the first two issues of Nintendo Force magazine at SMBNBC.com. We’re currently working on a few things, including something to post updates to so that I can explain why the comic hasn’t updated with a new chapter! I’d hoped to be updating again by this point, but I’m still trying to hammer out a schedule and ideas with the artist, Mark Kelly, which may include a bit of a do-over of our own!
For now, feel free to check out the story thus far, and if you follow me on Twitter, you can expect me to trumpet to the heavens any new progress we make!