Historically challenged “dimension-hopping ambassadors of rock” Bill S. Preston, Esquire, and Ted “Theodore” Logan, hailing all the way from sunny San Dimas, California, are back! BOOM! Studios has just released a huge hardbound edition of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Comic Book Archive which collects between its covers the single 72-page issue of Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991) and the Eisner Award-nominated, 11-issue comic book series Bill & Ted’s Excellent Comic Book (1991-1992), both published by Marvel Comics. Remastered and in full, bright color that any ’80s enthusiast would call bodacious, this release features both comic book titles plus a foreword and timeline from Evan Dorkin who wrote the screenplay adaptation and script, as well completing the pencils. In addition, there are several behind-the-scenes artist galleries, as well as the original letters’ column. The dudes got the royal treatment with this release, and it was a “most triumphant” blast from the past.
It was just over 25 years ago that the American public was introduced to Bill and Ted in the cult classic, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989), and I remember thoroughly enjoying it because the dialogue was infectious and the humor fun and silly. While I don’t believe I saw the sequel, components that I liked in the original were present in this archive. A big part of the appeal of Bill and Ted’s tales that span two films, movie tie-ins, an animated television show, and the comic books is the inclusion of a number of historical persons and events. The mash-up of historical characters were back: Socrates, Abraham Lincoln, Billy the Kid, Napoleon Bonaparte, Genghis Khan, as well as several potential future famous people. The Grim Reaper was also back and who would have thought the menacing bringer of death could be sensitive and rather lost when he loses his job? With a time-traveling phone booth, there was no shortage of historically significant locales that included revisiting the demise of the Hindenburg, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, an alternative world if Lincoln had not been assassinated, and, of course, no story is complete without a stopover to the Cretaceous Period!
Along with the myriad of historical figures and events, it was a feast of popular culture references on just about every page with a light dash of social commentary. Most of the nods were taken from famous films and television programming. While I relished mentions of Godzilla, Wizard of Oz, Perry Mason, Matlock, and Mayberry R.F.D., it is likely that unless the reader is knowledgeable about television programming prior to 1990, many of the references will fall flat. It is one of the few areas were the content felt dated. Societal statements were made about the music industry via “Pump ‘Em Out Records” with music agents Flim and Flam, an issue exploring superheroes and violence, and a totalitarian government in the alternate universe when the boys saved Lincoln from being assassinated. More commentary would have provided fascinating context; however, it would have likely been detrimental to the source material.
After all these years, Bill and Ted are still fun and engaging characters. These two wannabe rock stars with their band, Wyld Stallyns (Cue the air guitars!), could have come off as self-absorbed free-loaders; however, they are just as likable as ever. While they may freak out about the various situations they find themselves thrust into, either of their own accord or not, these dudes make sincere efforts to do the right thing. Yeah, they are silly and have dated phrases, but they have hearts of gold and are the embodiment of their belief, “Be excellent to each other.” In the process, they have easily become cultural icons of the late 20th century and their non-heinous adventures are captured brilliantly in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Comic Book Archive.