80s Odyssey: Weird Science (1985)

I’ve been doing some writing the past two nights which has been very creatively gratifying, especially because I’ve been slacking a bit in that department of late. When I write, I like to have something on in the background that I can not necessarily ignore, but not really pay full attention to. Now that I think about it, that’s a pretty crummy way of explaining why I watched Weird Science the other night, but it’s the truth. I realized a few minutes in that this was probably the first time I’d actually watched this movie from beginning to end unedited. I actually have this relationship with most of Johns Hughes’ teen-centric movies because they were on TV so much when I was a kid that I’d just catch bits and pieces here and there.

Anyway, I was actually surprised with how silly this flick is. Don’t get me wrong, that’s not a bad thing, it’s just something I wasn’t expecting. I mean, I knew that these guys created a girl using a computer that could probably have barely handled solitaire, let alone the incredible feat of scanning images, figuring out what they meant and then incorporating that information into the techno-organic genie they wound up creating out of a Barbie doll. I think the reason the silliness isn’t offensive or boring is because most of it comes from an honest place. Of course it’s silly that Wyatt and Gary shower with their new creation wearing their clothes (and shoes in Gary’s case), but that hints at the sexual confusion and fear many guys that age feel as things change internally and externally.

That’s really the key to Hughes’ films, the honesty found therein. But, while some of his other films might get a little too inside their own teenage angst, this one really has fun with itself. I definitely need to give this film, as well as the rest of Hughes’ flicks, a more concentrated look, but this one served it’s purpose well.

Trade Post: Weird Science The EC Archives Volume 2

Weird Science The EC Archives Volume 2 (EC Comics/Gemstone)
Written by Al Feldstein with Bill Gaines, drawn by Al Feldstein, Jack Kamen, Harvey Kurtzman, Wally Wood, George Roussos, George Olsen and Joe Orlando
Collects Weird Science #7-12 (1951-1952)

For years, I heard great things about EC Comics. The stories were stunners, the art amazing and all of it way ahead of its time. But, they’re not exactly the easiest comics to get your hands on. Back in college, I got my hands on a Vault of Horror reprint annual from Gemstone, but for various reasons, I’ve never been able to get through it. While listening to the audiobook version of Ten-Cent Plague in my car (which I actually finished quite a while ago and forgot to post about), I actually made a trip to a comic book shop that had much nicer EC reprints for half off. They had this volume and then a couple of the war collections, which I wasn’t as interested in. Man, am I glad I picked this book up!

One of the things you need to know if you’re going to try and jump into the work of EC books is that they are over-written. The comics were written for kids and presumably needed lots of hand holding as far as story progression goes. But, if you can get past that and the relentless twist endings, there are some pretty fantastic stories to check out. One of the problems I’ve had with the Vault collection is that the twists are super obvious 60 years later, but also many of the stories are very similar. Science benefits from a big mix of horror, sci-fi and fantasy as well as stories drawn by some of the best artists in the medium.

I’d say I figured out the twist of about 95% of the stories by the second or third page, so they weren’t super surprising, but like a great philosopher once said, sometimes it’s about the journey not the destination. Knowing what the twist is going to be frees you up to really look at the art by Wood, Kamen, Orlando, Kurtzman and the others. These guys are fantastic. In fact, they’re so good, you can mostly skip those huge boxes of text at the top of the panels (not a single sentence ends in a period, always an exclamation point or an ellipses) and you’ll still understand what’s going on.

One more thing that I couldn’t help thinking of while reading these stories is how much of a direct connection there is in the world of sci-fi and fantasy between these stories and Twilight Zone. Both series had a nice, broad spectrum of stories they would tell. You’re as likely to read a story about a man who goes back in time to become his own dad as you are one about alien women who burst out of the chest of men. You can also see roots for movies and stories that have been made or written since then. I have no idea if James Cameron read that issue I mentioned about the women, but there’s obviously some thematic connections between it and Alien (the story is called “The Maidens Cried” from issue 10 and drawn by the amazing Wally Wood).

So, if you’re a sci-fi fan or just want to experience some historically beloved comics in a format that flatters the line work of some of the absolute masters of the form, do yourself a favor and check out some of these beautiful Gemstone hardcovers. I’d love to get my hands on all of them and might grab those war hardcovers if they’re still at the comic shop (I’m not going to say which one because I don’t want someone to snatch them up!), but they’re actually kind of pricey with $50 cover prices and often times go for more online. But, hey, it’s always nice to have a comic project, right? Time to make a checklist!