And Then There Was The Time Kurt Busiek, Dell Barras And Mike Mignola Did A ‘Final Fantasy’ Comic That Never Came Out
I've always been fascinated by unfinished stories and pitches for comic books that never came out. There's always a level of mystery to them, trying to figure out how things might've been different if we actually got these stories that, for whatever reason, never actually made it to the shelves. This week, our pals over at Robot 6 unearthed one of the most interesting examples I've ever seen of a great comic that never happened: A Final Fantasy comic, based on the video game, by Kurt Busiek, Dell Barras and Mike Mignola.
And here's the really interesting part: The book may have never happened, but it got close enough that, of the four-issue adaptation of Final Fantasy IV, all four issues were scripted, with covers by Mignola, and two were actually drawn.
For a bit of historical context, the series was planned in 1992, the dead center of the early '90s boom period. At the time, comic book adaptations were all the rage, to the point where Disney had even founded an entire imprint, Hollywood Comics, just to deal with them. Information about Hollywood Comics itself is pretty scarce -- it did not last long, shuttering in 1993 before Final Fantasy was realeased -- but from what I can gather, it was mostly known for putting out comic book adaptations like Arachnophobia and Dinosaurs. Yes, Dinosaurs, based on the bizarre prehistoric puppet sitcom of the same name.
As for how Disney and Hollywood Comics got a hold of the Final Fantasy comics license, I have no idea, but according to Busiek they were interested even before Final Fantasy IV was released -- to a pretty solid level of success -- under the name Final Fantasy II on the Super NES in 1991. As Busiek mentions in the comments of the Robot 6 piece, he originally wrote an outline for the original Final Fantasy:
I didn’t actually pitch for the project — I was asked to write it by the editor, either because he liked my work or because I was in the same state as the Square (I thought it was SquareSoft?) offices or both. So I visited the offices, they loaned me a bunch of stuff, I played the game and wrote up an outline.
It was after that that they told me they liked my outline but they were working on the new iteration of the game, so could I retool that story to be about that? They sent lots of reference on the new game, and there was just no way to do the first outline with characters from the new game, so they paid me a kill fee for the outline and I started from scratch with the new story outline.
He also notes that in retrospect, he doubts the comic would've appealed to fans of the franchise, since he was, at the time, "a workmanlike-but-not-particularly-noted writer," but that's another thing that I find really fascinating about this particular story. While Busiek may not have been that notable in 1992, 1993 saw the release of Marvels with Alex Ross, the book that made Busiek a bona fide superstar in the world of comics writing. Along the same lines, Mingola was already well-known for his work-for-hire projects, but in 1994, Hellboy made its debut and made Mignola one of the biggest names in independent comics.
If nothing else, whoever was editing at Hollywood Comics had a pretty commendable eye for up-and-coming talent.
Barras is probably the most interesting choice. He'd worked in animation on Transformers and G.I. Joe, and at the time was doing storyboards for the X-Men animated series, but hadn't done too much in comics. What's interesting is that stylistically, he had a very American look to his art, which is a pretty huge departure from the ultra-stylized character designs that Yoshitaka Amano produced for the video game: