John Carpenter’s 1986 kung fu fantasy masterpiece Big Trouble in Little China was a flop when it was first released, but a long life on home video helped foster a retroactive appreciation for star Kurt Russell’s fast-talking Jack Burton and the style with which Carpenter delivers his crazy tale. It is now a bona fide cult classic, and it is getting resurrected in comic book form.
Beginning with the first issue on June 4, Boom! Studios will be rolling out Big Trouble in Little China, the new comic book series co-written by Eric Powell (creator of the awesome series The Goon) and Carpenter, with art care of Brian Churilla (creator of the critically acclaimed The Secret History of D.B. Cooper). In the comic, Burton — still played by the likeness of the mullet-clad Russell — finds a series of new adventures aboard the Pork Chop Express, the big rig he kept trying to recover in the film.
Though they hadn’t met before, Carpenter and Powell found kindred spirits in one another. “I had a definite idea of what I wanted to do with it,” says Powell. “The minute we sat down and started talking, what he thought we should do was exactly what I had in mind. We were on the same page from the beginning.” Carpenter describes their working relationship thusly: “Eric works really hard, sends his stuff to me, and I say, ‘Good job!’” the director says. “It’s a great process. It’s one I can actually do.”
The comic book kicks off right where the film left us nearly 30 years ago, with a mythical Chinese creature stowing away on Burton’s truck. Carpenter says despite that open-ended finale, there was never a direct intention to make a sequel, though he relishes the idea of being able to explore the Big Trouble universe again. “It’s a story and characters and a world that I love, because I really loved making the film,” says Carpenter. “I hadn’t seen anything like it, and it gave me a chance to make a kung fu movie. I fell in love with kung fu films back in the ’70s. For as much fighting they had, they were also so fun and innocent. They had some outrageous stuff, and I thought what a great thing to be able to do in an American movie. It’s an innocence, a purity of character. I really love them.”
Powell was also instantly attracted to a property that he loved. “In my town there was a Dairy Queen that had a little video rental area in the back, and we would go in there on the weekends and rent movies,” he says. “My sister and I would always go in there, and we’d always need to get a funny one and a scary one. Big Trouble kind of covered both of those situations. It was a constant rental—one of those movies I was constantly picking up, along with The Road Warrior, Conan the Barbarian, and The Thing.”
Carpenter particularly appreciates Powell’s brand of fandom, particularly because Big Trouble In Little China was so mishandled and went generally unseen when it was first released. “It’s great that people are re-discovering it and like it. It’s a nice way to go into my old age to realize that movie finally got its due. There are some others I hope will come along too,” he says.
Carpenter says the team is already into the second arc of the book, and he’s particularly pleased with Powell’s take on Burton. “He really gets Burton’s sense of humor and who he is,” Carpenter says. “Jack Burton is really a piece of s— if you want to be honest. He’s a blowhard, he’s sort of incompetent but he thinks he knows everything. He’s really fun. He’s completely out of his league. That’s the most fun about it.”
The first issue of the ongoing monthly comic book series Big Trouble In Little China hits stores on June 4 with five different collectible covers drawn by Powell, Joe Quinones, Chris Weston, Terry Dodson, and Emi Yonemura Brown. But just to whet your whistle, you can take the first exclusive look at the first six pages below (click each page to enlarge for easier reading).