EP0038: Back to the Future: Untold Tale and Alternate Timelines

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Learn some untold tales from Back to the Future as told by Back to the Future co-writer Bob Gale.

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Transcript below:

Today we’re going back in time. It will be a look at Back To The Future: Untold Tales and Alternate Timelines straight ahead.

Welcome to the Classy Comics Podcast where we search for the best comics in the universe.From Boise, Idaho here is your host, Adam Graham.

The Back To The Future film trilogy followed the adventures of Marty McFly, a average teenager from Hill Valley, California and Dr. Emmett Brown, an eccentric scientist who discovered time travel. I won’t even try to recap all of those films. Probably listeners can be divided into two categories: either those who have seen this trilogy or those who are under thirty years old. If you’ve not seen the film series I recommend it, and you can’t help but spoil some details of the film so this would be a good time to stop listening to the episode and go and watch all three films and then come back. Well, that’s OK, just pause it, we’ll still be here. At any rate, Back To The Future continues to be enjoyed by those who first saw it. It has a great charm about it even though the future isn’t quite what it used to be. We don’t really have flying cars or policeman with reader boards on their hats. The appeal of the film is the characters, the fun and just all of the crazy elements that they managed to work into that film series.

With the thirtieth anniversary of the film’s release IDW commissioned a four-issue comic book mini-series and it later became an ongoing series. The subtitle of the comic and of the trade is Untold Tales and Alternate Timelines. What it really has the nice benefit of is that the entire book is written by Bob Gayle who actually co-wrote the film, so that gives it a bit more authority even if just some random person got commissioned to write Back To The Future comics. And Gayle said he considered a lot of different ideas for what he might do with the story. Would he tell a story about Marty McFly older and in the present day or would he tell some sort of other story to update Back To The Future, maybe set it in the modern day and have them go back to another time. For Gayle, he decided that what people really liked was these characters in these situations and that he really shouldn’t mess with that and go in some other direction. So, essentially, what this book does is fill in the gaps and answer questions about what happened prior to the films and in between the films.

At the end of the third movie it’s revealed that Doc married the schoolteacher he met in old West Hill Valley and they had two sons: Jules and Verne, and he built a time machine that was made out of a locomotive. And a framing device is Doc Brown talking to his wife and kids about his past which is in the future. It is very confusing being married to a time traveler, and you get to read a lot of things such as how Doc met Marty, and about how Doc actually worked on the Manhattan Project and what he did to get on that, how Doc Brown’s house burned down, how Marty met Jennifer. To be honest, most of the first part of the book is kind of OK and more mildly interesting and occasionally amusing than anything else. Most of this is not going to knock your socks off. How much you enjoy this is really going to depend on how much you are into the movies. There are people who have watched the movies over and over and over again, the entire trilogy, and want to have every sort of detail filled in, then you’re absolutely going to love this that you know what happened – even if what happened while there was a reason that they didn’t film it in the first place.

The most of it is fine. I think the only one that seemed a little bit silly was the idea that Marty’s parents came looking for Calvin Klein, i.e. the name he went under back when he was in 1955 and came to Doc Brown’s house several years later looking for him. I mean, Marty was a friend to his parents who helped them out in high school but you really would not think about years later. I mean, if it was the next year, maybe, but it was like three or four years later. I do think the last part of the book really did get good and addressed some interesting issues. At the end of the first Back To The Future movie Doc Brown drove away in the DeLorean and then he arrived back in the DeLorean but it was now a flying car fixed up with a Mr. Fusion engine that could power it through converting trash. How did Doc do that? How did he raise the money required to perform these very expensive conversions on the DeLorean? And this book answers it and it’s a really funny answer the way that it plays out. And this book collects the four issue mini-series and then it also collects Issue Five which extends it, and that is really the story of Clara, the woman who Emmett Brown marries in the third movie. And I have to say that was actually excellent because there were some things that were hinted at in the movie, but this comic really flushes it out and it constructs what her life must have been like, and how she must have felt, and the real challenge that she had growing up.

It was a really poignant story, it was certainly probable based on what we saw in the movie, but it just had a lot in it that really worked. That made me connect with this character in a way that I really hadn’t before. I, of course, saw the movie as a kid, and to me she was just the girl that Dr. Brown fell in love with. But this just really flesh the character out in a really surprising and beautiful way while also providing some perspective and a little additional detail on what Doc saw in the dystopian world of 2015 with Biff Tannen running everything.

The art throughout is pretty good. Marty sometimes doesn’t look quite right, but for those that are set before the movie it’s important to remember that Marty was a little bit younger and perhaps a bit scrawnier in some places, so the issue with the art can be covered pretty well. So, I will go ahead particularly on the strength of the last story with Doc Brown actually finding a way to convert the DeLorean, and particularly the story of Clara. I’m going to go ahead and give the book a rating of Somewhat Classy. These last couple stories really elevate a more so-so book, though I think the more that you’re into the Back To The Future movies the more you’ll actually enjoy this book. I mean, I didn’t go fanboy crazy when I read the panel in which Doc read the ad for the DeLorean. But if that’s you, you may find the whole book to be a blast. Still, like I said, those last two stories really elevated it and I’m happy to give it a rank of Somewhat Classy.

Alright, that will do it for today. If you do have a comment email it to me: classycomicsguy@gmail.com and feel free to suggest any material we might want to cover in the future. Follow me on Twitter @ClassyComicsGuy and check out the website classyomicsguy.com. From Boise, Idaho this is your host, Adam Graham, signing off.

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