I decided to take Act I, Scene I, of Hamlet and script it as a bronze-age comic book with George Lucas-like additions of extra stuff to the backgrounds. Although this was parody, my intellectual property lawyer advised me to avoid doing anything that obviously copied Star Wars. This was disappointing, as I’'m a big fan who sees Star Wars parodies all the time; but I’m also a big fan of staying out of court. So we went Star Warsy instead. Nevertheless, fans will get what I’m talking about. The great Greg LaRocque—who has drawn everything from the Flash to Spider-Man—thought this sounded like fun, and agreed to do the art.
The first page begins characteristically with “A long time ago…” In addition to the mashup with Hamlet, we find a gag based on the “moose bite” sequence at the end of Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975). My conclusion may sound like an echo from earlier in the same film where the animator suffers a fatal heart attack, but that final footnote is actually an exact quote from Aleister Crowley’s Sword of Song (1904; rpt. 1906), where he did this exact same ridiculous gag some seventy years before the Pythons.
On Page two, that first panel recalls the first glimpse we saw of Finn in the Force Awakens teaser. In the second panel, to go with the line “Not a mouse stirring” I asked for something in the background resembling a mouse droid …which Greg supplied albeit in ironically oversized form! Horatio is supposed to remind us of the actor who originally portrayed Jabba the Hut in the deleted scenes from Star Wars, i.e. before he was replaced with CGI. Again, we weren’t going for an exact copy here so much as an approximation.
Page three gives us a random lizard with rider, decidedly non-Danish structures in the background, and for no apparent reason a small flying robotic probe.
On page four, my idea was to have the first appearance of the ghost resemble the original force ghost of Darth Vader at the end of Return of the Jedi, but we wound up going with something a little more generic just to be safe. We also have a weird critter in the background of panel 3.
Page five has a reference to my favorite scene in The Life of Brian (1979): the graffiti “Romanes eunt domus.” Why is this here? Well...while every word in the comic is Shakespeare’s, many lines had to be trimmed to fit Scene I into just six pages. At this point in the uncut play, Horatio says,
In the most high and palmy state of Rome,Thus the “Romans go home” reference acknowledges this edited-out passage. When the ghost reappears in panel two, he’s not quite as dark and unpleasant-appearing but instead resembles the Special Edition force ghost of Hayden Christiansen. The pole-arm in the bottom panel has a blade that kinda-sorta looks like the Rebel emblem (but is also a standard blade design in medieval weaponry).
A little ere the mightiest Julius fell,
The graves stood tenantless and the sheeted dead
Did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets
As stars with trains of fire and dews of blood,
Disasters in the sun, and the moist star
Upon whose influence Neptune’s empire stands
Finally, on page six we see Horatio holding what might be the One True Ring, but it’s also supposed to suggest a Stormtrooper examining a droid part on Tatooine. And positions in the last panel of Claudius, Hamlet, and Gertrude is intended to mirror Uncle Owen, Luke, and Aunt Beru in Star Wars.
|The last panel of Hamlet Special Edition recalls this scene from the original Star Wars (1977).|
The dilemma was that this paperback reformatting left me with a blank page on the verso of the grayscale cover. Sure, I could have left it blank. Or put “this page intentionally left blank.” That would have been easy. But I don’t do easy. My wife suggested, “Put a fake ad there.” That suggestion sent me to my longboxes of comics, looking at the types of ads that appeared in bronze-age comics. I could have gone with sea monkeys. Or plastic soldiers. But instead I went with the classic bunch-of-crap ad instead.