EXCELLENT COMICS
Bill & Ted & Death take a holiday in the four color medium

By KIM HOWARD JOHNSON

Their adventures and journeys have finally led Bill & Ted to comic books.  And Evan (Predator) Dorkin is making certain that it stays a long, strange trip.

For starters, Dorkin says he has never even seen Bill & Ted?s Excellent Adventure or Bill & Ted?s Bogus Journey!

"I?m serious!" he laughs, and explains that he can?t really compare the comic book with the films.

"I?ve only seen little bits and pieces of the movies, because it?s not really up my alley.  I think it makes for a better comic book than a movie.  The movies seem kind of one-joke, so I?m going to try to open up the comic book to something I?m a little more interested in doing.  I have no idea what - I?m just going to try and make it move quickly.  I?ll use the more interesting things and characters from the movies, and jettison the ones that don?t interest me like the aliens from the second script.  I?ve seen enough of the first movie to understand what?s going on, and I?ve read the second one, but I don?t think I?ll see that one, either - I don?t see many movies."

Dorkin says his lack of familiarity should actually help the comic book.  "You won?t be getting any formula, because I don?t know what the formula is!  Basically, I?m going to try to parody time travel stories and the music industry - I think one of the reasons I got this job is the book I do for Slave Labor Graphics called Pirate Corp$!, which I?ve been doing for years and isn?t on the tip of anyone?s tongue - it has a lot to do with the music scene, and Bill & Ted is ostensibly a music book, though you really can?t have music in a book.  I have many band references, and I?m actually doing a lot of work for bands - I?m doing the next Murphy?s Law album cover.

"Bill & Ted will be a toned-down version of Pirate Corp$! which started off as a space opera spoof and has become a character thing about aimless people in a lousy society.  Basically, Fabian Nicieza [Marvel editor, see COMICS SCENE #20] liked what I did with Pirate Corp$!, and said I could draw Bill & Ted in that style - it?s a little cartoonier than the average Marvel book, but it?s not a Star Comics-looking book.  So that?s what we?re gonna do - we?re gonna screw around!"

Time Pratfalls

Even though he wasn?t a fan of the movies, he wanted to do the comic book for several reasons.  One, he laughs, was to pay the rent; but he also wanted to establish himself in mainstream comics, albeit working with such licensed properties as Bill & Ted and Predator.

"My cup of tea is not to grow up and do other peoples? characters, especially guys who wear rubber suits or guys who yell, ?Excellent!?  It?s inherently limiting, but I?m going to try and write good stuff.  I want this to be an enjoyable book!  I slip in many of my own attitudes - there aren?t going to be any parodies of superhero stuff or movies.  Marvel?s idea of a humor book is to do cartoon versions of their own superheroes!  I?m going to try to tell stories that have a beginning, middle and end in every issue.  The main reason I want to do Bill & Ted is because they?re letting me do it a lot like the way I like to draw, they?re letting me write it, so I can get some writing credits - it?s not a completely mercenary view towards comics, because I have put a lot of work into this book."

Whether excellent or bogus, Bill & Ted?s adventures aren?t restricted by their past exploits.  "It doesn?t seem we have to go too much with the films, because there are so many licensing deals going on," Dorkin explains.  "It seems there are 800 Bill & Teds now.  There?s a cereal, a sitcom, an animated show, a movie - it doesn?t look like we?re held to anything too tightly; there are too many things!"

Still, Dorkin says Bill & Ted does have its limits.

"You have the constraints of licenses, the constraints of Marvel, but within that, the office has been great.  We?ve had some problems with likenesses - originally, we weren?t allowed to do the actors? exact likenesses, but right in the middle of the book, they decided yes, they had bought their likenesses.  Marvel went to bat for me, and we got to use the likenesses.  I actually had to take some things out that were a little risque.  I?m just trying to put my take on it - I obviously can?t play with it too much, because it has to be Bill & Ted.  I would like to add some minority characters, because the movies are lily-white.  The freedom is there.

"I don?t want Bill & Ted to be just another movie tie-in," he vows.  "Generally, they?re very ill-conceived books.  They run out of steam in a few issues anyway, because they?re only around as long as the characters are popular.  Movie tie-ins are always bastard children of movies.  I?m just trying to make Bill & Ted a good comic so it exists on its own."

The first issue of the regular series picks up where the second movie (itself adapted as a special Marvel edition) ends - with each of the two characters getting married.  Dorkin is devoting the first issue to the wedding.

"Death gets drunk at the end and quits his job, which leads into the next issue," he says.  "I?m showing the wedding, I?m getting all of the characters together.  Lincoln and Death end up as regulars."

Dorkin says he is working on a twist on a familiar time travel riff in which the characters go back in time to save Lincoln from assassination.  Unfortunately, in Bill & Ted?s world, they?re successful, but the Union doesn?t survive when Lincoln lives, and the pair are faced with an unusual problem.  "They realize they have to go back and make sure Lincoln catches a bullet!"

Time Schtick

In the second issue, Bill & Ted pursue Death through time.  "Death quits and goes on vacation to the La Brea Tar Pits to watch dinosaurs die, and to watch Mt. Vesuvius - his idea of relaxing is to watch thousands of people die.  All of the people who die on Earth can?t go anywhere, and they keep showing up at Bill and Ted?s apartment, because that was Death?s last known address.

"Bill & Ted #3 will probably show their domestic life, show them as a band, with unscrupulous agents.  They?re very rich and famous at the second movie?s end, but they?re so dumb that they?re still playing bar mitzvahs, even though they?re supposed to be the greatest band on Earth.  They?re not bright, though they have a very interesting vocabulary."

Dorkin admits that he really doesn?t differentiate between Bill & Ted.  "I really don?t," he confesses.  "As far as I?m concerned, they?re ciphers.  I?m not going to make anybody characters - there will be no characterization in this thing!  I tend to put Ted as a little more of a thinker, and Bill, a little more of a doer, but the problem I?m having is that I?m writing them a bit like the characters from Pirate Corp$!, and I don?t want to do that.  They?re not really differentiated in the movie - you can give any line from Bill to Ted.  As far as ability and dumbness, they?re basically the same."

Most of the movie characters will be turning up, including George Carlin?s Rufus.  "I?m going to use every character I can," Dorkin says.  "Rufus will be going on trial.  The stories that I?m working on will involve these large balls with faces in them that have clocks for eyes, basically these gigantic Jewish brains - I?m going to base them on my grandparents.  These are the Keepers of Time, the Chronological Lords; they have all sorts of stupid names like Hershel and Sid.  They?re basically just a bunch of custodians, and they?ve gone senile - they?re really mad at Bill & Ted & Rufus because of all the crap in the first six issues.

"There?s this character called Time Thumb.  He?s really strange-looking - he?s a thumb on a wheel with a face.  His thumb opens up, and there?s a squid in his head.  I just want to draw very weird things."

Time Parodies

Dorkin is quick to note that he?s doing Bill & Ted as a comedy, rather than as a time travel story.

"Time travel?s a crutch, a schtick.  The incongruity of Bill and Ted going back to see Jimi Hendrix in ?68, and they tell him, ?Hey, dude, sleep with your head over the toilet.?  That, to me, is funny.  The fact that they?re going to use this booth - they could do anything they want, they could change history, become rich, invest in gold, rule the world - but what they do is take their dates to see pre-Keith Moon Who shows - to me, that?s funny.  But, that?s not a story; that?s a schtick in a story.  I would like to do one issue where it?s just 800 funny things they do with a time machine - they go back and try to save a few people they like.  It doesn?t work, of course!"

He is trying to keep his work as varied as possible, and with his newest project, Dorkin says he?s succeeding.

"Bill & Ted is not like Predator and it?s not like Pirate Corp$!  I?ve tried to make sure that each job I?ve been doing lately has been slightly different.  You can?t get much different from the style I?ve been drawing Pirate Corp$! or Bill & Ted in than Predator, which is detail-heavy and has supposedly realistic characters beating the crap out of each other!  And Bill & Ted is very goofy!"

By a strange coincidence, Dorkin says he went to NYU with Alex Winter, who plays Bill to Keanu Reeves? Ted.  "Alex was in a couple of my writing classes.  I didn?t know him well - he seemed all right, and he?s into good music, and he has brought it into his work.  He hasn?t just gone Hollywood and forgotten who he was.  It?s the same thing I try to do with my comics."

Evan Dorkin says readers won?t be finding any heavy messages with Bill & Ted.  "Much of my work is based around friendship, and if there?s anything to Bill & Ted, that?s about it - it?s not a deep book!  The problem with comics is they?ve gotten too damned serious.  Basically, they?re writing about silly stuff.  I would much rather tell people what music I?m listening to, than what my motivation is for Bill & Ted - I just try to come up with a funky story."

KIM HOWARD JOHNSON, veteran STARLOG correspondent, is the author of And Now For Something Completely Trivial.  He previewed RoboCop 3 in STARLOG #169.