Last week saw the release of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the second film in the Jurassic Park sequel trilogy being overseen by director/producer Colin Trevorrow. The Jurassic World films have impressed many and disappointed others, but what some Jurassic fans might not be aware of is that the very first “sequels” to Spielberg’s modern classic were actually in the form of several comic book series published by the now-defunct Topps Comics between 1993-1997. Featuring acclaimed and iconic comic talent from the likes of Steve Englehart, Michael Golden, Adam Hughes, John Byrne, George Pérez, and more, these comic books took the story in many unexpected directions. These stories from the world of Jurassic Park are an untapped resource for adaptation to other mediums, and below are the top five lessons the new films could learn from these forgotten ancestors of the franchise.
This week marks the release of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the fifth installment in the Jurassic Park film series. It was 25 years ago that Jurassic Park roared onto the silver screen, introducing audiences to billionaire philanthropist John Hammond’s wildlife park of cloned dinosaurs on the fictional Isla Nublar. Based on the 1990 novel written by Michael Crichton, who also brought us The Andromeda Strain (1969), Westworld (1973), and Coma (1978), Steven Spielberg secured the movie rights for $1.5 million even before the novel was released. He went on to direct this science fiction adventure film at a cost of $63 million but banked a whopping $1.029 billion in box office receipts!
Jurassic Park celebrates its 25th anniversary this summer, and it is one of the best movie-going experiences of my lifetime. The film features my childhood love of dinosaurs and introduces a world where they could be reintroduced into modern society. Now, this doesn’t mean that I expected a life of dinosaurs to come into existence after seeing the movie, but it left me ready to imagine such a reality and then debate whether or not dinosaurs were a good idea, including the cost of creating them.
If you were a kid in the '90s and into dinosaurs, 1993 was your year. When Jurassic Park was released, a Pandora’s box of toy figurines, comic books, and video games was unleashed. At school, if you opened up a copy of the Scholastic book club flyer, you’d probably see advertisements for a couple of Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) books, including Dinosaur Island by Edward Packard.
Star Wars is kind of my thing. I have been a fan for forty-one years now. It was my thing since I first saw the film on a rainy afternoon on Cape Cod in June, 1977. Our family was camping (for the first time ever), and it rained for three days straight. By the third day, with three wet, crazy kids under ten, my folks decided we were going to a movie to get out of the rain, whatever was playing. What was playing was a thing called Star Wars, and 121 minutes later, I had found my new religion. I saw it seven more times that year. It was the first film I saw more than once. (VCRs weren’t a thing yet.) I saw all of the prequels multiple times in the cinema, even Phantom Menace. My siblings saw the movies, but it was never their thing. They’d seen the film when it came out and said, “It was all right,” and moved on with their lives. I obsessed.
While applauded by critics, the bold and subversive nature of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, directed Looper’s Rian Johnson, has left the Star Wars fanbase fractured between those who absolutely loved the film, those who absolutely hated it, and a few left in between. Easily the most divisive Star Wars film so far, The Last Jedi, perhaps, was destined to be controversial given the monumental task set forth, such as the return of the iconic character of Luke Skywalker to the franchise (Mark Hamill appeared in a mere cameo at the end of 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but audiences truly spend time with their original trilogy hero in this film.) and the final on-screen appearance of the late Carrie Fisher (a.k.a. Princess Leia), for example. Perhaps nothing could truly be as purely satisfying as what our own imaginations have whispered to us regarding what we might witness in that darkened theater. And, while I disagree with many of his choices, director Rian Johnson is someone who took the story in a distinct direction and changed the characters and the mythology in lasting ways going forward. Fans cannot be expected to love every choice made and story told, but we must acknowledge that for Star Wars to survive and grow with new generations, it must evolve, be given room to change, and provided the opportunity to take chances and even fail at times.
In the year and a half since Donald Trump assumed the presidency of the United States (and even prior, during his presidential campaign), fascism and racism under a variety of monikers (alt-right, neo-Nazism, neo-fascism, white supremacy, and so on) have become emboldened in America. While politicians and news agencies have either been slow or negligent in their response to this crisis, pop culture has taken up the mantle to criticize the Trump administration and the ensuing rise of the extreme right wing, from Saturday Night Live skits to promotional materials for a Purge prequel to comedians at correspondence dinners.
The Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, often referred to simply as “the Eisners,” are generally accepted as the most prestigious recognition one can receive in the comic book field. The awards are named in honor of comic book pioneer Will Eisner, the creator of The Spirit and the man who helped to popularize the term "graphic novel," and span over two dozen categories. (Those wishing to learn more about the meaning and importance of the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards should check out our previous article on the awards.)