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Roy Thomas’ Run on The X-Files: Season One (Topps) (Review)

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Roy Thomas’ Run on The X-Files: Season One (Topps) (Review)

Post by sir on Wed 6 Jan - 16:37

Roy Thomas’ Run on The X-Files: Season One (Topps) (Review)
Posted on January 7, 2016 by Darren

We’ve recently finished our reviews of the nine seasons of The X-Files. Along the way, we tried to do tie-ins and crossovers and spin-offs. However, some of those materials weren’t available at the right time. So this week will be spent finishing Topps’ line of “Season One” comics, published during the fifth season in the lead up to The X-Files: Fight the Future.

It is hard to figure out what exactly the point of the Season One line was meant to be.


In a very superficial way, the point was obvious. The intent was to add a second regular series to Topps’ line of comics based around The X-Files. Even during the comic book bubble burst of the mid- to late-nineties, The X-Files was a good seller for the company. The monthly book sold well enough that Topps’ eagerly supplemented it. New stories were published as Digest editions, published alongside the less successful Ray Bradbury comics. Annuals were published alongside the monthly book. Collections were published frequently.





However, this was not enough to satisfy market demand. Topps wanted to publish moreX-Files material with greater frequency. However, Ten Thirteen were less interested with the supervision that the line required. A compromise seemed in order. Rather than creating a new original series of comic books, they flooded with market with new adaptations of existing X-Files media. Writer Kevin J. Anderson and artist Gordon Purcell offered a four-part comic book miniseries adapting Anderson’s Ground Zeroprose novel.

The publisher also decided to put out a series of adaptations of classic first season episodes, released once every two months. These would be adaptations of stories that had already been properly vetted by Ten Thirteen, having been produced in-house. The trick would simply be translating them into comic books.





The Season One comics began with an experiment, the publishing of an adaptation ofThe Pilot written by comics veteran Roy Thomas and illustrated by John Van Fleet. This adaptation was originally released at the start of the fourth season as a once-off publication by the company, another attempt to put more X-Files content on the market for fans eager to supplement their weekly doses of Mulder and Scully. However, this adaptation of The Pilot was repackaged and re-released at the end of the fourth season, this time launching a new line of Topps X-Files comics.

In some respects, the experiment proved ideally suited to the aesthetic of the fourth season. The fourth season of The X-Files had proved quite reflective, turning its attention back to the earliest days of the show in an attempt to contextualise its own history. Musings of a Cigarette-Smoking Man not only traced the history of the title character, with references to episodes like E.B.E. and One Breath, but it incorporated clips from The Pilot. First season characters like Max Fenig and Scott Blevins reappeared. The show even had its first time-travel episode.





In this context, the Season One project seemed to make sense. The idea was to produce a line of comics that faithfully recreated all those early episodes in painstaking detail. There was no room for revisionism here; the comics would not massage the finer points of the script to help stories like Deep Throat or Conduit fit more comfortably in continuity. Conflicts with later continuity were preserved, the comic consciously favouring fidelity to source ahead of integration and consistency across the line.

That faithfulness could occasionally be an issue. In his fidelity to the source material, Roy Thomas sometimes had difficulty conveying information that needed to be conveyed. This is most obvious in Deep Throat, where the comic declines to focus the reader’s eye on relevant information before Mulder offers exposition about it. It is also quite apparent in Shadows, where it is difficult to follow the strange poltergeist activity from panel to panel, because the comic is translating filmed sequences that relied so heavily on movement.





Similarly, this faithfulness caused problems when confronted with issues of dialogue and exposition. Fire is far too burdened with meaningless detail and embellishment for a comic book, with Roy Thomas declining to streamline Carter’s tendency towards verbose monologues and overly-detailed conversation. Television shows arguably have an easier time with this sort of exposition, with charismatic actors able to carry a lot of the burden. On the printed page, that exposition becomes more grating, sabotaging the pacing of the comic.

At the same time, there are points at which Thomas and his artists prove quite adept at the mysterious science of adaptation. This is particularly true at points where the first season of The X-Files lacked the technical ability to realise more ambitious visuals.Space might just be the best comic of the bunch, despite being the weakest episode of the first season. Skilfully realising special effects that were well outside the show’s capabilities in its debut season, Space demonstrates the potential of the Season Oneproject as an opportunity to revise and expand past mistakes.





In some respects, there is a sense that the Season One project arrived a little too early. The comic seems somewhat ill-suited to the fidelity promised by the fourth season’s fixation upon the show’s first year in production. Perhaps Season One might have done better to align itself with the tone and mood of the show’s fifth season, when it seemed like the writers’ had adopted a broader and more open-minded approach to the show’s internal history. The fifth season of the show offered no less than three different origin stories for The X-Files, for example.

Perhaps Season One might have been bolder if it had been willing to stretch itself a little bit, to revise some of the finer details of the stories that it was telling. Shadows would be a much more satisfying final issue if the poltergeist attacks were reconfigured to work in comics rather than simply emulating an approach that worked on film. Fire would certainly be a stronger adaptation if the comic were willing to revise some of the episode’s dialogue; it could even reinsert back in some of the character work for Cecil L’Ively that was dropped from the broadcast episode.




This is not to suggest that the Season One line was a disaster by any stretch. It was rather unsatisfying from a narrative perspective, offering little new or exciting in its visits to classic stories. However, Season One also stands as a testament to the visual storytelling that underpins The X-Files. Quite a few of the Season One comics hold up quite well, offering effectively stylised depictions of iconic and influential episodes. The X-Files was always a television series that was extremely visual in its storytelling; as such, a comic book adaptation makes sense.

Generally speaking, what makes for a good X-Files episode makes for a good comic book; a good script, brought to live with a strong artistic eye. The willingness to use more stylised artists on the Season One line, as compared to the more conventional artists working on the monthly book at this stage of its life, worked very well. There is something interesting in seeing the visual style of episodes like The PilotIce andBeyond the Sea filtered through the eyes of an artist with a unique artistic sensibility.





The art of Season One captures the tone of the show quite well. Many of the artists borrow their framing from the episodes themselves, often mirroring specific shots in the broadcast cut. However, the artists also make effective use of darkness and shadow in their storytelling. It is an artistic approach that makes a great deal of sense; this darker and more abstract style feels much more suited to the world of The X-Files than the clear lines and careful likenesses that populated the monthly comic book and theGround Zero miniseries towards the end of the Topps era.

In many ways, it is disappointing that Roy Thomas and these artists were never unleashed upon their own original X-Files story. It is fun to imagine what might have happened if the creators working on Season One had been given the freedom to develop their own ideas based around the tone and aesthetic of that first year. Indeed, it might have been interesting to bring artists like John Van Fleet or Sean Scofield to the monthly for an arc or two in order to tell a moodier sort of X-Files story. (Even Yanick Paquette worked on Season One, though his work was never published.)




Season One is more of an interesting an experiment than a worthwhile diversion. The series is perhaps an example of the creative limitations imposed upon Topps in their attempts to exploit the X-Files as a licensed property. Given that this was the best possible choice for a second X-Files comic book series, it makes sense that the X-Filescomic book line would lie fallow for the remainder of the show’s nine-season run.




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Re: Roy Thomas’ Run on The X-Files: Season One (Topps) (Review)

Post by sir on Wed 6 Jul - 4:16

The X-Files (Topps) Annual #1 – Hallow Eve (Review)

Posted on September 5, 2014 by Darren


This August (and a little of September), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the second season of The X-Files. In November, we’ll be looking at the third season. And maybe more.

No matter how you cut it, the creative team of Stefan Petruscha and Charles Adlard were prolific. The duo only worked on The X-Files comics book for seventeen months between January 1995 and May 1996, but they put out a phenomenal amount of work. On top of sixteen issues of the monthly series, there were also two digests, a number of short stories and an annual. In most cases, some of this work would be outsourced to another creative team, but Petrucha and Adlard remain the creative team for Topps’ X-Filescomic.


While this undoubtedly required a great deal of creative energy from Petrucha, churning out scripts on a regular basis, it is worth pausing to praise artist Charles Adlard. These days, for a variety of reasons, it seems that major comic book artists have difficulty producing twelve twenty-odd-page issues in a year. Not only was Adlard able to meet that objective, he was able to do that while drawing a large volume of supplementary material, including this feature-length annual.




All about Eve…

It’s remarkable how consistent it all is. One of the advantages of a tie-in comic book with a steady creative theme is that there’s a much clearer authorial voice. Although Chris Carter oversaw the production of The X-Files, the demand of weekly network television mean that some episodes got more attention than others, and that particular voices tend to shine through. Darin Morgan writes his own version of The X-Files, as do Glen Morgan and James Wong or Howard Gordon or Vince Gilligan. (This isn’t a bad thing, by the way.)

On a comic, with all the issues written by the same author and illustrated by the same artist, there is a bit more consistency. Even though Hallow Eve is a stand-alone one-shot story that exists quite separate to Petrucha and Adlard’s twelve-issue meta-arc, it fits quite comfortably with their themes and subtexts. It’s an episode about history and memory, and perception and reality.


Shocking…


It is also interesting that Hallow Eve is a story based around Scully. Scully is very much a supporting character for Petrucha and Adlard’s run. This may be due to the fact that the comic launched following Anderson’s limited availability at the start of the second season, but it may also be because Scully is a tougher character to write. Whatever the reason, Petrucha and Adlard’s run is largely driven by Mulder.

This doesn’t mean that Petrucha and Adlard have ignored Scully. Her religious faith plays a small role in Not To Be Opened Until X-Mas and she gets a lovely narration at the start of the second issue of Firebird. At the same time, there’s a sense that pair are having trouble with her character. Not To Be Opened Until X-Mas requires a pretty major screw-up from Scully to get the plot moving, while Firebird has Scully actually seeing a very alien alien – completely affirming Mulder’s world view and shedding a lot of plausible deniability.


Up on the roof…

A lot of this comes down to the fact that a comic book is always going to operate at a level of hokeyness and that The X-Files comic is – by its nature – going to be a bit heightened when compared to the series. On the show, Mulder gets to be right most of the time. In the comic, Mulder gets to be even more right. The aliens that show up in Firebird cannot be written off as the result of grotesque and amoral government experiments, looking more like something from the work of H.P. Lovecraft than a child in a little grey alien costume. That’s harder to rationally write off.

So it’s nice that Petrucha and Adlard decide to devote the comic’s first annual to a Scully story. In fact, while Hallow Eve contains quite a few inexplicable supernatural occurrences, it works very hard to present a mystery that Scully can solve somewhat rationally.

 Again, this an X-Files comic book, so the standards of “rationally” are a little lax. The comic suggests the explanation for the haunting is mostly grounded, but it still relies on meticulously calibrated projections and post-hypnotic suggestion.


Lifting her spirits…

Still, Petrucha does good work with Scully here, trying to explain how Scully can be witness to all this strange stuff and still remain skeptical. “Come on — after all we’ve been through?” Mulder asks, giving voice to a particular strain of fan criticism of Scully’s character. “You’ve seen creatures from space… held an alien fetus in your hands! How can you still cling to that world view according to Hoyle?” It’s a perfectly reasonable observation.
In fairness to Petrucha, he handles the issue the same way that he does in Firebird. He suggests that Scully’s decision to ground her approach in the scientific method is not the same as outright denial of the supernatural. “Mulder,” she states, “first of all, science is not a vision of the world, it’s a method of processing.” Scully doesn’t so much refuse to believe as she has a different way of processing the information, maintaining a higher level of scrutiny. (The show does suggest that this approach grants Mulder more legitimacy than he might otherwise have.)


Redrum…

More than that, though, Hallow Eve works hard to reconcile the supernatural with a more rational understanding of the universe. The two need not be at odds with one another – just as science and religion are not mutually exclusive. Walpola, a psychic brought in to consult, muses on a possible rational explanation for ghosts. “I mean, on a purely practical level, we all carry around our parents’ voices in our heads — right?” she asks. When Scully begins to reject, she continues, “But nothing. If we all came from this hunk of stone… how can it not be haunted?”


It is possible to think of ghosts as things that exist metaphorically and abstractly rather than on a literal plane. As fun as it is to think about ectoplasm and possession, ghosts serve quite effectively as a way of metaphorically linking the past to the present, of acknowledging an impact that extends from times long past – of suggesting consequences and legacies that live on long after the person in question. Petrucha suggests that perhaps Mulder and Scully’s perspectives are not entirely at odds with one another.


“The Haunting of Computer Lab 2″…

Perspective is one of the core themes of Petrucha and Adlard’s run, suggesting how memory and experience shape people. This is at work throughout Hallow Eve, from the way that Jonah Brockford is motivated by his memory of Lilith and to how Scully’s memory of her father influences her. The ghosts that haunt the bone at the centre of the story are really just the legacy of past events. “I’ve been locked in the past too long,”Brockford confesses early in the story, and it is suggested that perhaps the pas is ultimately inescapable.

In keeping with these themes of perspective and perception, the story even closes with a short scene at “The Foucault Institute for the Criminally Insane.” It’s a nice in-joke, considering Foucault’s theories about how society exercises power by defining things like mental illness. Perception and reality can become so entangled they are impossible to separate in practical terms. “It is not, however, unusual for accident victims to die, not from the impact, but from fear,” Scully reflects during an autopsy. “The awareness of impending death is, itself, often enough to kill.”


Last laugh…

Hallow Eve continues Petrucha and Adlard’s hot streak of inventing their own X-files, taking a bit of weird science and expanding it into a story in such a way that one could imagine that show starting from a similar premise. In this case, Hallow Eve builds from the concept of “the mitochondrial Eve”, a fascinating scientific concept first proposed in 1987 by Rebecca Cann, Mark Stoneking, and Allan Wilson. Even name is a union of scientific theory and religious iconography, making it the perfect subject for a Scully-centric story, without labouring the point.

The macguffin even fits comfortably with the theme of the story – the idea that all humans inherit their mitochondrial DNA from the same source, a little piece of that one individual that has remain intact for hundreds of millennia. If that much can pass from person-to-person for so long, it makes a great deal of sense that characters would be haunted by their parents or by previous love affairs.


Shining a light on the matter…

Hallow Eve is a delightful little story, and a testament to the efficiency and prolificity of Petrucha and Adlard as a creative team, as well as a reminder of just how well Topps’ X-Files comic was working.


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Re: Roy Thomas’ Run on The X-Files: Season One (Topps) (Review)

Post by sir on Wed 6 Jul - 4:19

The X-Files: Season One (Topps) #0 – Pilot (Review)

Posted on February 2, 2015 by Darren


This February and March, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fourth season ofThe X-Files and the first season of Millennium.
Given the success of the monthly comic book series, it made sense for Topps to try to capitalise on The X-Files as much as possible. The series was exploding into the mainstream. Chris Carter was launched a second television show, Millennium, to capitalise on the success. Fox were planning to move the series to Sunday nights. There was already talk about a possible movie franchise. This was a great time to be publishing X-Files comics.


Topps had already used the series to sell “digests” packed with unrelated comics, and had published annuals to get a little extra sales revenue into the fiscal year. However, there was a clear desire to publish more X-Files work with more consistency. Ideas began to percolate – Kevin J. Anderson would pen a miniseries based on his Ground Zero novel during the show’s fifth season, for example. The company also decided to publish a series of comic books adapting early episodes of the series.




The truth is out there…

The series didn’t properly launch until the following year, with a series of monthly adaptations of first season episodes running from the start of the fifth season through to the month following the release of X-Files: Fight the Future. Conveniently titled Season One, these comics were only cancelled when Topps folded its comic book division – vanishing quite suddenly from the stands, with little warning.

The adaptation of The Pilot was actually released a year earlier than the monthly series – it was re-packaged and re-released once Topps committed to a monthly series of adaptations. As such, it makes for a strange teaser of things to come.


This could be the start of a beautiful friendship…


To be fair, there are still a few comic book adaptations of cinematic releases and novels. Recently, Vertigo released a well-received set of comics adapting Stieg Larsson’s The Girl Who Played With Fire trilogy. However, the industry was much more dynamic and successful in the nineties – possibly owing to the wider financial success of the comic book industry as a whole. DC would release comic book adaptations of superhero films like Tim Burton’s Batman.

Topps had done quite well for itself with direct adaptations, even outside of their licensing of familiar film and television properties. Roy Thomas had adapted Francis Ford Coppola’sBram Stoker’s Dracula into a successful comic book with artist Mike Mignola. They also adapted GoldenEyeDragonheart and Jurassic Park. There was clearly an industry for fans who wanted to own a comic book adaptation of a major motion picture.


Watching the skies…

In the modern media age, the idea of directly adapting television shows into comic book stories feels a little redundant. In the era of Netflick and DVD box sets, it seems that everybody has access to anything they might ever want. A forty-eight-page comic of a television episode from three years earlier feels just a little bit gratuitous. Why would anybody want to read a verbatim adaptation of a story they already knew quite well in another medium?

It is worth noting that these adaptations were the product of a different time – that is probably why comic book adaptations are less frequent today than they were two decades ago. Now, fans can own the movie or the television show in its entirety. If it isn’t available via an on-line streaming service, it can probably be ordered from a major on-line retailer. The advent of DVDs and blu rays has made it possible to store vast amounts of physical media in a way that simply would not have been possible in the nineties.


Mulder and Scully share a Killing Joke moment…

So, in a way, a series of comic books adapting the first season of The X-Files makes a certain amount of sense. After all, the show was now massively popular and iconic. Its stature was only growing. The show had become a pop culture phenomenon, to the point where Mulder and Scully were only a few months away from appearing in The Simpsons. However, the first season had been a cult show. It had secured a relatively small and devoted audience that had expanded through word of mouth and press coverage.

As such, there were probably large numbers of young fans out there who had never seen the early episodes. After all, while Fox was releasing special VHS releases of “important”episodes like Anasazi/The Blessing Way/Paper Clip, the company never really rolled out a comprehensive VHS release of every episode. (That said, Fox Home Entertainment did release the first eight episode on VHS in the UK, but the line did not progress any further.)


Bumps in the road…

Fans had been circulating VHS recordings of early episodes among themselves. Often, posters on message boards would show up requesting specific episodes – although they often couldn’t even identify the episodes by name. There was no centralised and organised distribution method for those early episodes of the series. As The X-Files was reaching its pop culture zenith, it made sense to put out those stories in one form or another so fans could take a trip back in time.

That is, in effect, the justification for Topps’ Season One series of comics. These deluxe double-sized comics would feature adaptations of early episodes drawing from the original shooting scripts and from the finished episode. They would allow readers a chance to journey back to the beginning of The X-Files and get a sense of where the show had started. After all, three years is a phenomenally long time in television. It is hard to believe that The Pilot and Herrenvolk are the same show.


Snap happy…

As if to demonstrate how seriously they treated this project, Topps drafted in comic book legend Roy Thomas to script the series. Thomas has been a mainstay in the American comic book industry since the sixties, with former Marvel editor Jim Shooter claiming he was the man who “saved Marvel.” Thomas himself has admitted that The X-Files lined up with his own interests:

I had seen the X-Files a few times and like it because I’m very interested in that kind of thing. I’m not an active pursuer of information about flying saucers, but I’ve always maintained an interest in that sort of thing ever since the 50s, off and on. With adapting the X-Files, the combination of my interest in that sort of thing and the fact that I’ve been affiliated with a lot of adaptations such as some of the Conan stories and the original Star Wars comics, so it was a natural to get into that area. I’ve had a lot of fun with it.

Roy Thomas is a very respected name, and a writer who brings a certain amount of cache in comic book circles. In particular, he is an artist who works very well within the confines of continuity. He is notable for succeeding Stan Lee on high-profile titles like The Avengers and X-Men, producing two much-loved runs on those iconic books. He is a very solid choice for an assignment like this.


Marking the spot…

In this case, Thomas wasn’t just picking up a book following an industry legend. Here, Thomas was working within the confines of a universe crafted and overseen by Chris Carter. His first assignment on Season One would be to adapt an episode that had been written by Carter himself. That is a lot of pressure on a writer, and trying to transition a story from one medium to another can be quite the challenge.

It is interesting to imagine the creative discussions about a project like Season One. How was Thomas to approach the material? How close did the adaptations have to be? How much improvisation could be allowed? Given how much the show had changed since that first season, would the comic book tweak the script a little bit – work in some more obvious foreshadowing or continuity as a way of bridging the first season of the show with what followed?


Old news…

It seems that Ten Thirteen wanted a very tight and very controlled adaptation. Roy Thomas’ script is an almost verbatim adaptation of Chris Carter’s teleplay. At certain points, artist John Van Fleet seems to just use the framing from the episode. According to the artist, this was the preferred approach:

Stuff like the X-Files was already laid out visually for me. They just kind of said, “We want you to adapt it.” So that was pretty much like you’ve got more than just the script, you’ve got the visual script, and then you just went and did it.

The result is a comic that feels like the episode has been transposed or transcribed more than adapted. It can be read in tandem with the episode, rarely moving out of sync. There is an occasional line added or missing, but there are no substantial changes or amendments to the episode itself.


We have top men working on it. Top men.

There’s not necessarily anything wrong with this approach. After all, Season One sets out to adapt first season episodes into the comic book medium. It certainly does that. It is a very professional, very efficient job. Roy Thomas is very good at what he does, and that shows here. The pacing holds up, despite the transition from screen to page. The atmosphere is layered on heavy Thomas is careful to preserve not only plot but also character in his work translating the comic.

Indeed, John Van Fleet’s artwork is beautiful. Although he frames certain sequences so as to mimic the episode, his comic book adaptation looks like its own animal. It is moody and heavy, dripping with murky shadows and blurry shapes. It is arguably a much better reflection of the show’s early visual style than the clearly defined pencil work of artists like Gordon Purcell. John Van Fleet manages to capture the look and feel of those shadowy early episodes perfectly, while keeping everything recognisable.


Shaking it up…

This is The X-Files digging back into its own past, which makes a certain amount of sense at this point in time. It is a very well-constructed adaptation, albeit one that doesn’t ever seem to take on a life or identity of its own. While that may have been a major selling point in the era before DVD boxsets, it does make the comic feel rather redundant in retrospect.

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Re: Roy Thomas’ Run on The X-Files: Season One (Topps) (Review)

Post by sir on Wed 6 Jul - 4:22

The X-Files: Season One (Topps) #2 – Deep Throat (Review)

Posted on April 8, 2015 by Darren


This February and March, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fourth season ofThe X-Files and the first season of Millennium.
Season One feels like a very odd way to franchise The X-Files.


Topps had enjoyed tremendous success with their licensed tie-in comic book, so it made a certain amount of sense to try to milk the franchise as much as possible. After all, they had already tried a number of other promotions, like releasing “digests” to supplement that monthly series and releasing tie-in comics to appear with magazines like Wizard. So offering another series that would publish on a regular basis starring Mulder and Scully made perfectly logical sense.




The truth is up there…

About a year after the release of their adaptation of The Pilot, Topps decided to push ahead with a series of regular adaptations of first season episodes of The X-Files. They reissued their adaptation of The Pilot as the first comic in the series, and then began publishing new adaptations of those early episodes written by Roy Thomas and illustrated by a rotating team of artists. The comics would be about twice as long as the issues of the monthly series, but would only publish once every two months. The monthly series was priced a $2.50, with Season One priced at $4.95.

It is hard not to feel quite cynical about Season One, particularly in an era where these classic episodes of The X-Files stream of Netflix and entire seasons are available to purchase at very low prices.


The shape of things to come…


Even accepting that these comic served as a way for new fans to dig into the history of the show, it still seems like a rather strange idea for an on-going series. The comics do not feature interviews or other material that might make them seem like a more compelling retrospective of the franchise’s origins. Writer Roy Thomas rarely veers away from the broadcast episode for more than a panel or two at a time. It seems like there might be more interesting ways to wring more money from a successful television licence.

There is a certain logic to the argument that Topps released Season One at a point where the show’s history was not readily available to casual fans. There were certainly hardcore on-line fans who were circulating recordings on VHS among themselves, but it was not necessarily easy for fans who had joined the show at The Blessing Way or Herrenvolk to get a sense of what The X-Files had been like when it started. This argument suggests that picking up Roy Thomas and Claude St. Aubin’s adaptation of Deep Throat was an easy piece of archeology.


Scully could just as easily be talking about the people who forked out for the comic…

As tempting as this line of argument might be, it is not entirely convincing. DVDs were still several years away at this point, and television was not quite at the stage where it was affordable or convenient for fans to own entire seasons of their favourite television shows. (The Star Trek franchise was one of the exceptions that proved the general rule.) While Fox never released the entire first season on VHS, it had begun releasing limited editions of classic episodes. It released The Pilot and Deep Throat on VHS in March 1996, around the same time that Hell Money was broadcast.

To be fair, there was no way to know if this scheme was going anywhere by the time that Topps decided to publish their adaptation of The Pilot in the middle of 1996. However, by the time that the company decided to press ahead with Season One as a spin-off from their most succesful license, it should have been apparent that fans could easily have access to these earliest of episodes. Squeeze and Tooms were released in September 1996, a couple of weeks before Herrenvolk aired. They were released along a “wave one” three-tape boxset covering first season highlights.


Keep on looking…

By the time that Deep Throat was released in August 1997, these boxsets had already passed “wave four” and were on the verge of “wave five.” Anybody considering buying a copy of Deep Throat could also consider buying highlight collections extending up toAnasazi and would only have to wait another month or so to buy a highlight collection reaching past that to War of the Coprophages. Sure, these collections were incomplete, but they were mostly skipping over the same stories that Topps’ Season One comics would. (Are SpaceFire and Shadows so essential?)

So the decision to press ahead with Season One feels a little cynical. After all, The X-Fileshas been running for four years; there should be enough continuity there for Topps to explore freely without having to simply cover old ground. What was Mulder’s life like before he met Scully? How about a focus on the larger cast the show had developed? There is a lot of fertile ground. While the results have been of variably quality, IDW has enjoyed a lot more freedom to explore the license, doing a Year Zero comic, a Millenniumminiseries and a Lone Gunmen crossover.


Lights in the sky…

Of course, IDW were dealing with The X-Files as what appeared to be a largely spent television and film property. When they bought the license, The X-Files was largely thought to be dead in the water. With a five-year gap after The X-Files: I Want to Believe, it seemed fair to assume that the comic book company could set the agenda for the franchise going forward – boldly calling their monthly series Season Ten. While that might have been a little hasty, it was still considerably more freedom that Topps enjoyed with their license.

After all, writers Stefan Petrucha and John Rozum have talked about how they were confined by the restrictions imposed by Ten Thirteen. Most notably, neither writer had access to the show’s central mythology. So it makes a certain amount of sense that Topps would have very few options open to them when it came to expanding their use ofThe X-Files and trying to earn a higher return on their investment. Despite the fact that it was less enticing than it might have been a year earlier, Season One looked like a viable proposition.


Old news…

The amount of control and restraint on display here is remarkable. Roy Thomas feels a little bit more comfortable playing with Carter’s script than he did on The Pilot, but not much. There are, for example two more panels of Scully digging through newspaper archives. There is also a quick cut to the care outs the Budahas residence on Mulder and Scully’s initial visit. “I’ve got a twenty, over,” it reports, making explicit the surveillance that was simply heavily implied by the original episode.

At the same time, it feels just a little bit too perfunctory. Claude St. Aubin’s artwork is functional, but rather generic. It looks and feels much more conventional than the moody and atmospheric approach that John Van Fleet took towards The Pilot. At least The Pilotlooked like something strange and distinct from the source material – as if teasing a new way at looking back on these classic stories. Claude St. Aubin’s artwork is clear and conventional, often borrowing angles and poses from the televised episode, rather than trying to put his own spin on it.


A rash of strange behaviour…

Again, it is weird to feel the pull of history on The X-Files at this point in the show’s history. With Fox releasing so much of the show on VHS, and the fourth season making a point to reengage with ideas from the first season, it does seem like The X-Files was approaching half-a-decade on the air with a sense of nostalgia. The show’s history was being opened up, rendered accessible to fans. With The X-Files approaching the peak of its popularity, there was no better time to reflect on the past.

It is interesting to compare and contrast this historicalisation with another piece of pop culture nostalgia that was making headlines around the same time. In January 1997, George Lucas unleashed his remastered and revised twentieth anniversary edition of Star Wars: Episode VI – A New Hope upon the world. Lucas had gone back to restore and update his classic film, tweaking it with modern technology and reworking some narrative choices. All of a sudden, Jabba the Hutt appeared. Crowd scenes were busier. Han shot first.


Dancing lights…

The revised edition of the film quickly became polarising to fans, representing a return of the franchise to national consciousness, but a dramatic alteration to the historical record. Lucas’ reluctance to release the original cuts on blu ray has only fueled the controversy about films as elements of the historical record. Is it acceptable for an artist to go back and to revise their past work in light of subsequent creative decisions and technical advances? The issue remains somewhat divisive and contentious.

Although The X-Files was only at the end of its fourth season, it is interesting that it rejects this urge towards revision in its own archaeological investigations. These Season Onecomics avoid any real attempt to smooth continuity or to wink forward. Deep Throatcontains very few nods towards the next four years of the show. The only real hint at what is to come is the way that Claude St. Aubin uses the more detailed glimpses of alien ships in Paper Clip and Apocrypha to help give a bit more detail to the “money shot” at the end of Deep Throat.


So much for interdepartmental cooperation…

It is interesting to revisit these early stories in light of hoe dramatically the show has changed since it first appeared, but there is a sense that it might just be easier to buy the VHS or to stick on the DVD. Deep Throat doesn’t have anything new or interesting to say about its source material, instead feeling like a perfectly functional adaptation. However, it never quite explains why it is a better option than simply watching the episode again.

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Re: Roy Thomas’ Run on The X-Files: Season One (Topps) (Review)

Post by sir on Wed 6 Jul - 4:54

The X-Files (Topps) #1 – Not To Be Opened Until X-Mas (Review)

Posted on August 18, 2014 by Darren


This August (and a little of September), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the second season of The X-Files. In November, we’ll be looking at the third season. And maybe more.

If you needed proof that The X-Files had made it, then the forty-issue Topps comic book series from the mid-nineties seems a place to start. Of course, this has less to do with the stories published in the comics themselves – though some are very interesting – and more to do with the comic book market in the nineties and the business model employed by Topps. The comic book industry was perhaps at its peak in the nineties – at least when it came to exposure and public profile.


Chris Claremont and Jim Lee’s X-Men #1 became the biggest-selling comic book of all time in 1991, selling over eight million copies. A year later, DC Comics published The Death of Superman, a sprawling highly-publicised comic book event that killed off (and then revived) the Man of Steel. The year after that, Batman got in on the action with theKnightfall trilogy, a suitably spectacular event that featured the crippling of Bruce Wayne, his replacement as Batman, and the eventual return of the Caped Crusader.




The truth is in here?

It is important to put those figures in perspective. While this was a financial peak for the comic book industry, it was still something of a fringe economy. In the mid-nineties, a television show attracting only eight million viewers would find itself on the bubble line when it came to renewal. However, that figure was the largest readership of any comic book ever. (Audience diversification means that both television audiences and comic book readers have dwindled in the years since, but the latter much more than the former.)

However, the business model for comic books in the nineties made them highly profitable, despite their smaller audience. Price gouging was not uncommon, with some retailers charging as much as $30 for Superman #75 in 1992. Poly bags, gimmick covers, variant artwork, celebrity authors – comics were largely driven by gimmicks in the nineties. More than that, the emphasis on comic books as an investment in the mainstream media helped to suggest the industry was more for collectors than for readers.


Holy conspiracy, Mulder!

It is telling that the company to land the license for The X-Files was Topps, a company famous for producing sports memorabilia. The company had branched into comics in 1993, as the industry was growing and growing, hoping to license various characters and properties. The implication was that The X-Files comic had been designed more as an accessory than as a story. The cover to Not To Be Opened Until X-Mas ever features a handy “first collectors item issue” tag below the “1” at the top left-hand corner.

Licensed comic books have something of a chequered history. In the context of the mid-nineties, it would be easy to write off the forty-one issues (and change) of The X-Files as a cynical cash-in. However, the series has moments of brilliance and insight that mark it as a worth extension of the brand name.


Up in the sky!


Mid-way through the second season, it was clear that The X-Files was a hit. Fox were quick to try to capitalise on that hit. For his part, Chris Carter has been quite candid abouthis difficulties with licensed merchandise:

I didn’t want to cheapen the show by just putting the X-Files logo or Mulder and Scully’s face on anything that could be licensed. So I’ve turned a lot of things down. Boxer shorts was one. Various and sundry key chains. Flashlights. Mostly just doo-dads. Gee-gaws. I don’t know how to describe them. Trinkets. What David Duchovny calls wampum.

It’s an understandable concern for Carter, who worked very hard to manage the brand image of The X-Files over its nine-year run. Carter was understandably upset about losing the credibility that the show had built up.


Letting it slide…

Indeed, Carter was quite clear that the cache of the merchandise was important to him, that The X-Files never appears to have “sold out”expressing some small frustration at how mainstream and commercial the show’s merchandise had become:

I resist a lot of stuff. If this becomes a show that you can find at your local KMart or Wal-Mart too easily, it’s going to lose the thing that’s made it special. The X-Files is coming out on videotape, and it’s going to be in all those stores. It makes me a little sad. I’d like it better if you could only find them at a head shop in Van Nuys.

However, the show was becoming a booming industry in its own right, and it was clear that this was happening with the consent and cooperation of the production team.


A cold reception…

Mulder’s “I Want to Believe” poster was replaced at the start of the second season, after the first season edition proved hard to mass produce. In mid-1995, Creations Entertainment began mass-producing X-Files merchandise. In the United Kingdom,Sky Gear began offering a range of X-Files goodies. Indeed, their X-Files range was publicised in the second issue of The X-Files Magazine, published by Manga Entertainment in the UK in July 1995. That issue of The X-Files Magazine also republished the second issue of The X-Files comics.

In this context, a comic book spin-off makes a great deal of sense. Within the context of the nineties, comic books were collectable merchandise in their own right, and the market was still enough of a niche industry that there was some cultural cache associated with comic books. Chris Carter would even use comic book framing for The Post-Modern Prometheus in the fifth season, and Carter’s Harsh Realm would draw heavily on a 1988 comic book premise by James D. Hudnall and Andrew Paquette.


Lights in the sky…

And yet, despite Carter’s claims that he “loved” the X-Files comics, it seems that the monthly production cycle was a nightmare. According to Topps writer Tony Isabella, the comic had difficulty keeping to a monthly schedule because of feedback from Chris Carter’s office:

The basic problem was that whoever was approving the comics over in Chris Carter Land were the poster kids for anal retentiveness. Although it’s possible that they were so picky because they never wanted the comics out there in the first place.
The main reason the comics fell behind schedule was because it took so long to satisfy the X-Files people. They went over everything with a fine-tooth comb, including the letters columns.

It’s impossible to know whether the high-level of vetting was simply an attempt to frustrate the writers working on the comic, or a genuine effort to produce the best tie-in possible. (Both are possible; one need only look at the politicking that took place in the Star Treklicensing department in the early-to-mid-nineties.)


Caught in a blizzard of conspiracies…

The writer chosen to launch the series was Stefan Petrucha, a novelist and comic book writer. Petrucha recalls watching the television show as it first aired, and eagerly pursuing the assignment:

So when The X-Files premiered, of course I was watching. After the first ep, I frantically dialed my old pal Jim Salicrup, told him he should absolutely get the rights and to please, please let me write it. I think his spouse made a similar suggestion to him (about the rights, not me). I’d been writing for Topps Comics, obviously knew the subject matter like crazy, so when Peter David said no, I got the gig.

The fact that Peter David was pursued to the write the title suggests that the company was interested in producing a quality tie-in. David was a veteran tie-in writer, who had pitched to the first season of The X-Files on the recommendation of director David Nutter. While David declined the offer, Petrucha was not a bad choice by any measure.


Unidentified Falling Object…

Petrucha wrote the first sixteen issues (and the first annual) of the comic, collaborating with artist Charlie Adlard on the title. Adlard worked on the title a little longer, although he was no longer the only (or even primary) penciller after Petrucha departed. The quality of the comic – as with so many tie-ins – varied from issue-to-issue. After all, there are a lot of constraints in writing a tie-in that don’t exist when working on a massive television show. There were stories that were disappointing or generic, but Petrucha and Adlard generally tried to keep things interesting.

There are quite a few points in Not To Be Opened Until X-Mas where Petrucha’s writing feels decidedly “comic-book-y.” At one point, Scully shoots down a UFO, which is an absurd sequence that is perhaps the type of excess you’d associate with “an X-Files tie-in comic book.” To be fair, Petrucha and Adlard handle the moment quite well, but it feels like something that would never happen in the world of the show. Similarly, Mulder and Scully wind up getting themselves involved in a black-market plutonium deal.


Putting his big foot in his big mouth…

There are other moments that feel off. When Skinner and the Cigarette-Smoking Man get their obligatory first-issue cameo, the Cigarette-Smoking Man seems much more emotive than usual. “You’re off the case!” he warns Mulder. “Go chase Bigfoot!” Skinner is similarly emotive, “Damn it, man. We’re trying to keep you alive!” These are outbursts that seem rather strange from these two characters, treating them as stock plot obstructions whose primary function is to get in Mulder’s way.

It is easy enough to forgive these problems. After all, it seems like Not To Be Opened Until X-Mas was written around the time of One Breath, if not a little earlier. Scully includes a reference to her abduction that makes it seem like the story takes place immediately upon her return. (“I’ve missed your slide shows, Mulder,” she remarks early on.) At that point in the show, Skinner and the Cigarette-Smoking Man were only loosely defined. Both got their biggest moments to date in One Breath, and would get more to do at the end of the second season into the third.


Body of proof…

These are understandable inconsistencies, considering the realities of writing a tie-in comic book. It is worth noting that Petrucha has the voices of Mulder and Scully down quite well, even if an early plot point of Not To Be Opened Until X-Mas relies on Scully making an amateur mistake. Fittingly for a story about Catholicism, Petrucha puts Mulder on the outside looking in and lets Scully get a little closer to the case than she might usually allow herself.

“I’m here for the FBI, not The Weekly World News,” Scully remarks to Mulder. “I’ll embrace that possibility only after the long list of things I can explain has been exhausted. But this is difficult. I may be a lapsed Catholic, but my father believed. And in any case, I don’t enjoy trampling on what these people believe.” While Not To Be Opened Until X-Masdoesn’t engage with Scully’s faith in the same way that Revelations or All Souls does, it does touch on the issue in a more direct way than any episode of the show’s first two years.


Prophecy and change…

Similarly, Petrucha touches on the idea that Mulder’s skepticism about organised religion is perhaps an expression of his own quasi-religious faith. He’s interested in the Fatima Prophecy as a potential piece of UFO lore. “What if the prophecy reveals that angels are aliens?” he asks Scully. “I can see why the church might want to suppress that.” Petrucha does seem to prefigure some of the interesting twists on the dynamic that would become apparent in later shows exploring religious themes, even if Not To Be Opened Until X-Masdoesn’t get those beats entirely right.

Still, there are some very nice touches here. The closing page even cleverly ties back Mulder and Scully’s two very different forms of faith back to their lost loved ones. Scully is certain her father is up there watching over her. Mulder’s faith suggests another fate for Samantha. “I envy you. It would be such a relief to think my sister’s happy, but when I look up at the heavens… all I see are the stars.” It’s a nice little scene that seems to point a little bit towards Sein und Zeit and Closure, albeit indirectly.


Mulder’s got drive…

Not To Be Opened Until X-Mas does touch on some stuff that the television show largely ignored. The X-Files would do a couple of episodes covering religion and faith in its nine-year run, but it never engaged with the issue as a recurring concern. In some ways, this is quite odd. After all, the early nineties saw revelations about systemic cover-ups of horrific abuse by the Catholic Church organisationswith a concerted effort made to hide or downplay the victimisation of those unable to defend themselves.

This is the kind of story that The X-Files did so well – the story of horrific crimes committed by those in positions of authority, protected by their power. The show wouldn’t really address the controversy until I Want to Believe in 2008, in a rather ham-fisted and awkward manner. Still, perhaps a television network drama in the mid-nineties was not the best place to explore these issues or controversies.


Oh, Mulder…

Not To Be Opened Until X-Mas only touches lightly on issues surrounding the divide between church and state, but realises that these sorts of shadowy deals play quite well into the themes of The X-Files about abuses of power. The Vatican enlists the assistance of what appears to be the United States government in reacquiring the stolen relic. “We’ve always respected the Chuch’s jurisdiction over such items, your eminence,” the official assures him. “We’re very adept at keeping out of the public eye.”


Millennium was actually more interested in matters of religious philosophy than The X-Files. In some respects, Not To Be Opened Until X-Mas can be seen as another example of Millennium gestating among The X-Files. After all, the second season is populated with nods and hints at Chris Carter’s other multi-season nineties show, from the serial-killer hunting of Irresistible through to the epic battle between the forces of good and evil in The Calisuri. Perhaps this suggests that the ideas for Millennium were a natural off-shoot ofThe X-Files.


I do like that there is apparently a threshold on how much plutonium this guy can provide…

There is indeed some nice coincidental foreshadowing of that show to be found in Not To Be Opened Until X-Mas. Evoking the conflict between various factions over religious artifacts in second-season episodes like The Hand of St. SebastianOwls and Roosters,Not To Be Opened Until X-Mas features various parties competing to get their hands on the Third Prophecy of Fatima. “Call it a hunch,” Mulder, “but I think there’s more than one group after the prophecy.”


It would not take too much work to adapt Not To Be Opened Until X-Mas as a second-season Millennium episode. There’s an argument that it fits better as an episode ofMillennium than as an episode of The X-Files. Petrucha has very shrewdly picked a story that lends itself to the sort of conspiratorial and vaguely mystic storytelling of The X-Files. The Third Prophecy of Fatima provides a wonderful intersection of conspiracy theories, millennial anxieties, institutional paranoia and the supernatural.


Holy conspiracy, Mulder!

After all, there was significant speculation around the content of the prophecy. When it was finally revealed to the public in 2000, there was a sense of disappoint at how mundane it was, predicting a long-past assassination attempt on John Paul II. The other possibilities were much more compelling:

Versions of the secret, broadcast on hundreds of Web sites (usually under headlines like, ”Third Secret Revealed!”) range from worldwide nuclear annihilation to deep rifts in the Roman Catholic Church that lead to rival papacies.
Fatima fanatics have held hunger strikes — one even hijacked a plane — to try to force the Vatican to disclose the secret. During John Paul’s first visit to the shrine in 1982, on the first anniversary of the assassination attempt, a knife-wielding Spanish priest tried to kill the pope, but was wrestled to the ground by security officers.

Revealing the prophecy in 2000 was unlikely to be a coincidence. It seems likely that the the Catholic Church was trying to disarm some of the rumours and speculations about a potentially apocalyptic element of the prophecy. Like all good conspiracy theories, official pronouncements have done little to dissuade those convinced that the truth is more sinister.


Snow escape!

The result is an entertaining – if rather light – X-Files story. Still, the comic was a massive success for Topps. It became the publisher’s top-selling comic, placing eighty-one on the January 1995 sales chart. Interestingly, an article on the comics in New Straits Times suggested the readership was more diverse than most contemporary popular comics:

“I think it’s important for the book to have the weight of reality, and the things I find out make for terrific fodder for stories,” says Paetrucha, who’s also happy that many of the readers are female, unlike superhero comics where the readership is overwhelmingly male.

The comic book industry historically had trouble courting and keeping female readers, with breakout comics like Neil Gaiman’s Sandman becoming particularly notable for welcoming female readers to the medium.


Confessing the truth…

Not To Be Opened Until X-Mas is an effective (if not spectacular) first issue from Petrucha and Adlard, demonstrating that the duo understand how the show works, and are able to tell stories within that framework.

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Re: Roy Thomas’ Run on The X-Files: Season One (Topps) (Review)

Post by jade1013 on Wed 6 Jul - 5:01


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Re: Roy Thomas’ Run on The X-Files: Season One (Topps) (Review)

Post by sir on Thu 7 Jul - 13:45

The X-Files (Topps) #1/2 – Tiptoe Through the Tulpa (Review)

Posted on November 20, 2014 by Darren


This November (and a little of December), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the third season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of Space: Above and Beyond.

Tiptoe Through the Tulpa is another nice “extra” from Topps’ licensing of The X-Files. The comic book was Topps’ most successful property, and the company worked very hard to promote it across various platforms. They tried to recruit potential readers from within the comic book industry and outside the comic book industry, devoting considerable time and energy to advertising the ongoing series.


Stefan Petrucha and Charles Adlard had provided promotional strips for TV Guide and forHero Illustrated, both very clear attempts at courting potential new readers. Both strips adopted very different approaches. Aimed at as broad an audience as possible, the strip for TV Guide – Circle Game – was a tight five-page story that covered a lot of ground in a very efficient manner. In contrast, the strip for Hero Illustrated – Trick of the Light – was very clearly targeted at a much more niche audience, featuring in-jokes and references for fans and geeks.




Herbert’s not 1/2 the man he used to be…

Tiptoe Through the Tulpa was written as a tie-in promotion for Wizard magazine, a giveaway for people who read the comic industry’s most popular collector and insider magazine. People would buy Wizard #53, fill out a form and then send away for their copy of the seventeen-page X-Files #1/2. It was a gimmick, but it was a gimmick that was very clearly aimed at broadening the comic’s audience, convincing a few readers who wouldn’t otherwise try the book to check out a “free” sample comic.

As such, Tiptoe Through the Tulpa is written as a seventeen-page comic that could serve as a potential jumping-on point for new readers. It is rather light, rather simple, but nevertheless makes for a clean and effective X-Files one-shot.


Cue theme music…


By this point, Topps had figured out that The X-Files was a massive hit for them. The series was selling very well through Diamond, although this was undoubtedly assisted by Marvel’s refusal to ship through the distributor in the mid-nineties, perhaps skewing the figures. Still, the tie-in was a massive success. In May 1996, the company would test the water for a second on-going X-Files series with X-Files #0, a forty-eight page adaptation ofThe Pilot written by veteran comic book scribe Roy Thomas.

On top of the regular monthly comic, annuals and promotional comics, Topps collected the series in a few different ways. The X-Files Special Edition #1 was published in June 1995, collecting Not To Be Opened Until X-MasA Dismembrance of Things Past andA Little Dream of Me, for $3.95. The X-Files Collection #1 was published in July 1995, collecting the first six issues of the comic, with the Hero Illustrated mini-comic and an interview with Chris Carter, for $19.95. The X-Files Special Edition #2 was published in December 1995, collecting the Firebird storyline, for $4.95.


An impressive body of proof…

So, by this point, The X-Files tie-in comic is a year old. It has secured itself. This story feels less like a promotion and more like a celebration. While Circle Game and Trick of the Light came packaged with TV Guide and Hero Illustrated, respectively, Tiptoe Through the Tulpa does not come packaged with Wizard #53. It is instead an extra that readers have to actively seek out. So perhaps it is not as purely promotional as it might seem.

Tiptoe Through the Tulpa was only “free” in a theoretical sense. In order to get ahold of a copy, a reader had to buy a copy of Wizard for $4.99, pay a $3.00 shipping and handling fee, and fork out for a $0.32 stamp. Even if one subscribed to Wizard, that was still more expensive than the newsstand price for the current issue of The X-Files comic book, which sold at a list price of $2.95, save for special issues and annuals and digests.


Something unnatural had a hand in this…

The narrative itself is nothing to get too excited about. Stefan Petrucha had a good eye for stories that could work as part of The X-Files mythos, creating a number of stories that could easily have been adapted into the show. Indeed, Petrucha’s comics tend to prefigure a number of plot points in the show’s future. Firebird focused on the Tunguska incident over a year before the show would explore that event; elements of A Feeling of Unrealityseem to call forward to Field Trip; certain aspects of A Dismembrance of Things Pastseem to foreshadow Jose Chung’s “From Outer Space.”


None of this implies any unwholesome activity on the part of the show’s producers, the core ideas were executed and explored in a way that felt markedly different from the way that Petrucha had touched on them. Nevertheless, it demonstrated that Petrucha was very much on the same wavelength as the show itself. Tiptoe Through the Tulpaprefigures the fourth season’s Kaddish somewhat, featuring a monster created in response to a horrific incident into which a person can channel all their hatred and anger; eventually taking on a monstrous life of its own.


Escape…

While Howard Gordon’s script built on Jewish mythology and was set within the Jewish community, Petrucha’s Tiptoe Through the Tulpa draws on Asian folklore. The monster in question is a tulpa, a creature drawn from Tibetian folklore. As usual, Petrucha has done his homework here – one of the nicer details has a character reading aloud from the Isha Upanishad, without naming the text explicitly. Mulder also cites his sources here, referencing the famous story of Alexandra David Neel’s encounter with her own tulpa.
The issue’s script does reflect the mid-nineties fascination with new age mysticism and spirituality, tending to draw rather heavily from Eastern philosophy. Petrucha is upfront about the influence – the decision to set Tiptoe Among the Tulpa in San Fransisco, the hotbed of new age activity, and to explicitly tell us that the perpetrator “used to teach classes in Eastern mysticism” helps to establish an effective mood. It isn’t particularly well-developed or nuanced, but it’s a solid enough framework for a story.


A spirited chase scene…

Indeed, Petrucha’s core themes can be seen playing out in the background of the story – notions about reality and perception, and how the two concepts intersect. Quoting from the Isha Upanishad, the perpetrator’s mother makes reference to the distinction between “the self” and the mortal organic body that holds it. This touches on ideas that Petrucha has woven into his run since it began.

Still, there’s not too much of interest here. Tiptoe Through The Tulpa may not be exceptional, but it is effective. There’s a nice cold open establishing mystery, a scene of Mulder and Scully examining the body, a chase sequence, and a few twists and turns along the way – including a nice reversal when it turns out that the perpetrator is framing his own mother as revenge, revealing that not only has he created his own monster, but she has created her own as well.


Off the shelf…

There is something quite clever in that twist. It’s great to have a story about a supernatural entity that appears to be something rational, only to become something paranormal again. It’s a solid structure, quite similar to the structure that Petrucha used in Circle Game, where the crop circles were revealed to be made by a young boy who was actually a ghost. Here, there’s a clever twist suggesting that the killer’s disembodied spirit is working hard to make the crimes appear like crimes committed by a real person, and thus“staging” a more rational crime to frame his mother.

There is a sense that Petrucha is having a bit of fun here, with that wonderful double-bluff structured into the story and lots of little touches. The first two panels of the comic foreshadow the final reveals, with one victim murdered while stacking “Mother Wort.”Similarly, the San Francisco setting and the decision to base the case around a shop named “Herb’s Herbs” helps create a sense that this is perhaps a less serious or straightforward case. Tiptoe Through the Tulpa is a light little story, but the script knows how light it is.


Keeping it handy…

Perhaps the most notable aspect of Tiptoe Through the Tulpa is that it’s the first X-Filescomic book scripted by Petrucha not to be penciled by Charles Adlard, with Ted Boonthanakit and Angelo Torres doing a solid fill-in job. Adlard’s output on The X-Filescomics was phenomenal, and it’s a credit to the artist that it took a year for Adlard to require any support – despite doing a monthly comic, the annual, the digest and a wide range a supplements. That is a massive workload, particularly in this day and age when it seems a struggle to get twelve consecutive issues from an artist.

Petrucha would write the graphic novel Afterflight for artist Jill Thompson, but it’s phenomenal how much of his output is linked to Adlard. Those first sixteen issues of The X-Files comic book and the supplemental material around them are the work of a creative team doing an astounding volume of work on a licensed property. Various realities mean that not all of that work was going to be brilliant, although some of it was. However, there was an impressively high baseline quality.


Oh, mother…

Tiptoe Through the Tulpa is not a highlight of Topps’ X-Files comics, but it’s a functional and efficient ghost story. Given everything else going on around it, that’s quite an accomplishment.


Themovieblog.com

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Re: Roy Thomas’ Run on The X-Files: Season One (Topps) (Review)

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Re: Roy Thomas’ Run on The X-Files: Season One (Topps) (Review)

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