By Daan Jippes, Don Ferguson & Dan Spiegle (Marvel)
ISBN: 0- 87135-464-0
The filmed interpretation of Gary K. Wolf’s novel ‘Who Censored Roger Rabbit?’ is the barest shell of the 1981 fantasy which starred comic strip icons, not cartoon characters, so please be aware that I’ll be concentrating here on the graphic adaptation of the film which resulted from a Byzantine 7-year transformational, legal odyssey rather than the source book (which I highly recommend you read, too).
After years of grief, celluloid shuffling and rewrites, Disney and Amblin Entertainment finally released a movie which easily stands on its own oversized, anthropomorphic feet and consequently spawned a couple of pretty impressive comics epics.
You probably know the plot: in the years after WWII, Hollywood was a town in transition with big business moving in and tearing up the good old ways. Animated features were still boffo box office but in this world the animated characters were real: whacky actors called “Toons” starring in live-action productions and incredible creatures who could choose which laws of physics they obeyed. They mostly lived in their own separate enclave; a bizarre ghetto called Toontown.
Eddie Valiant was a tired old private eye eking out a pitiable existence and still bearing a grudge over the loss of his brother, killed by a red-eyed Toon who had never been caught. With the world rapidly changing around him and everything good being bought up and torn down by the Cloverleaf Corporation, the despondent Shamus, against his better judgement, took a job with R.K. Maroon, head of the city’s leading cartoon studio…
It seemed their top star Roger Rabbit was unable to concentrate on his job because his wife Jessica was fooling around…
When Mrs Rabbit’s indiscretions lead to the murder of Marvin Acme, owner of Toontown, and with Roger firmly in the frame for the killing, Eddie was plunged into the lethal lunacy of battling murderous and/or boisterous toons, a ruthless land-grabbing syndicate, corrupt and obsessively homicidal magistrate Judge Doom and a mysterious mastermind determined to take control of Toontown and all of California…
With additional dialogue from Don Ferguson, the movie was adapted by European cartoonist Dann Jippes (Bernard Voorzichtig: Twee Voor Thee, the Gutenberghus Donald Duck, Junior Woodchucks and more) who collaborated with American comics legend Dan Spiegle (equally paramount in realistic comics dramas such as Crossfire, Space Family Robinson, Blackhawk and Terry and the Pirates, a magnificent succession of licensed cartoon adventure properties from Shazzan!, Johnny Quest and Space Ghost to full-on stylised Hanna-Barbera Bigfoot icons such as Scooby-Doo, Captain Caveman and many others) to mimic the unique look of the film.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit was produced with live stars interacting with state-of-the-art animation and here Spiegle and Jippes created a seamless blend of drawing styles that is a perfect amalgam of the real and surreal.
For most of the middle 20th century Disney comicbooks were licensed through the monolithic Western Publishing’s Dell/Gold Key/Whitman imprints, but by the time of this release the printing company had all but abandoned the marketplace and the American edition was released as the 41st Marvel Graphic Novel, joining such creator-owned properties as Dreadstar and Alien Legion, proprietary Marvel tales such as The Death of Captain Marvel or Revenge of the Living Monolith and licensed properties like Conan and Willow in the same glorious oversized European Album format (285 x 220mm on chic and glossy superior paper stock).
As such this fast-paced, fun, above average, all-ages adaptation is one of the very best of its (often substandard) kind and a graphic novel well worth your time and money.
And remember, Jessica isn’t bad: she’s just sublimely drawn that way…
© 1988 The Walt Disney Company and Amblin Entertainment, Inc. All rights reserved.