To contort the words of Star Trek‘s Leonard “Bones” McCoy, “our favorite TV shows aren’t dead, if we choose to remember them,” and now, NBC Universal has found a new way to remember (and profit) from a handful of long dead TV shows from the 80s and 90s, resurrecting them as digital comics thanks to a partnership with Lion Forge.
The shows that are making this unexpected return are a true mixed bag, with Airwolf, Knight Rider, Miami Vice, Punky Brewster, and Saved by the Bell set to be adapted. But are these comics for fans of the originals, or just retro junkies?
In the press release trumpeting the arrival of this project, Chris Lucero, the director of Global Consumer Products Licensing for NBC Universal Television, said that NBC is:
…excited to give fans a chance to revisit some of their favorite shows and characters in a completely new way.
But Lion Forge CEO David Stewart’s statement in the same release talked up both the impact of the properties involved and the courtship of new fans:
From hugely popular characters such as Crockett and Tubbs, Zack Morris and Punky Brewster to highly stylized music and clothing choices, these TV franchises have had a significant impact on pop culture, [...] We here at Lion Forge are looking forward to extending that influence by creating visually appealing and entertaining experiences on mobile devices for a whole new generation of fans.
So, which one is it? Most likely, it’s something in the middle.
Let’s face it, these properties are old, and while they doubtlessly have a built in-audience that can’t wait to see Zack Morris break the fourth wall like Deadpool or Ernest Borgnine in comic book-y glory, we’re not talking about Buffy or The X-Files - two more recent shows that were able to spawn comic series that continued where the shows (and in the case of the X-Files, the movies) left off.
That’s not something that could likely be attempted with these projects, as the original Saved by the Bell left the air 20 years ago, Knight Rider ran its last original episode 27 years ago, and the others ended somewhere in between those two.
Due to that, it seems likely that some kind of origin story will have to make its way out there with a story that pulls in elements of the originals while also seeking to expand outward. And though there is no rule that says all of these titles need to follow the same blueprint, we do know that Knight Rider will, in fact, be a reboot, thanks to Geoff Thorne, the writer of the upcoming series, who told us that the comic would feature:
Some old, familiar stuff. Some very interesting new stuff. It is NOT a nostalgia engine or something tongue-in-cheek.
Thorne is one half of Genre 19, a team that recently teamed up with comic legend Mark Waid’s digital comic book channel Thrillbent to put out Prodigal, and he’s just one of the cadre of experienced comic book creators brought on board by NBC Universal and Lion Forge, with writers Joelle Sellner (Teen Titans); Jonathan London (Geekscape); David Gorden (Catalyst Prime: Accel and Catalyst Prime: Quincredible) and artists Jason Johnson, Carl Reed and Lorenzo Lizana also involved.
It’ll be up to those people to win over hardcore fans and curious newbies who have heard these buried pop culture rubies whispered about with reverence, but who are unfamiliar with the power of Screech Powers, the wonder of Punky’s un-matched shoes, and the early embers that built into the brushfire that we now know as The Hoff.
If they pull it off, success could breed imitation and this could be the start of a trend (c’mon Simon and Simon comic!), but if they fail, fans and critics could brand this as a cynical IP cash-grab, damning all further efforts – so, no pressure.
NBC’s collection of TV classic digital comics starts rolling out in the 3rd and 4th quarter of 2013.
Source: NBC Universal