Jul 23, 2011

Now You're Reading With POWER!

The art improves after the jump. Honestly.
I've been reading comics my entire life. Like everyone who's interested enough in comics to write about them, I've read and thoroughly enjoyed my fair share of superhero books. But really, superhero comics are a small subset of comics as a whole. For the majority of my childhood, aside from that amazing box of crazy 60s and 70s comics I found in the basement, the majority of my new comics came from non-superhero sources. The comics pages in the newspaper—both weekday and sunday—were a constant source of new entertainment, and my school's book club would often provide me with collections of new-to-me Calvin & Hobbes, Garfield and Peanuts. And I'd find other comics in weird places, too, like in the pages of video game magazine Nintendo Power.

In 1992 and 1993, Nintendo Power published "Super Mario Adventures" as a monthly comic feature based loosely on Super Mario World. Looking back on it now, it was clearly a translated kid's manga, but at the time I don't think I or anyone I knew had ever heard the term. Between being a primer on some of manga's best (or at least most recognizable) drawing tropes, the fun screwball pacing that came from being published originally in a weekly magazine, and the treasure trove of Mario fan-pleasing references, it's no surprise that I've come to love this book—it's no masterpiece, but it's pulp entertainment, and that's comics as their purest.
Requiem for a Pipe
The story is nothing incredibly complicated, and mostly serves as a vehicle for the sight gags and Mario references. Oddly enough, most of the introduction and exposition—including Bowser's Evil Speech Of Evil—are delivered as musical numbers. In a comic. I don't quite get the point of it, but they have a lot of fun with it visually and it moves relatively quickly, so I'll let it slide.

So the plot is this: Bowser wants to take over the Mushroom Kingdom by marrying Princess Toadstool, and threatens to turn everyone in the Mushroom Kingdom to stone if she won't go along with it. Our heroes, Mario and Luigi, to the rescue.

Mario: Intense. Luigi: Indigestion.
Princess Toadstool in Luigi cosplay.
Surprisingly hot.

Of course, they're not the only heroes of the Mushroom Kingdom. In a move well ahead of its time, Princess Toadstool is portrayed as a genuine asskicker throughout. She does get kidnapped, but she escapes on her own and ends up returning to Bowser's castle in an attempt to rescue Mario.

You may have noticed the fella to the right of Princess Toadstool. He's Friendly Floyd, traveling con man salesman extraordinaire. One of the few Mario characters I've never seen before or since this comic, he does provide the backdrop for some of the comic's best gags, serving as both a help and a hindrance to the brothers Mario.

What are those gags? Language textbook humor and cross-dressing.

Cross-dressing is a crime in the Mushroom Kingdom.
Floyd manages to unleash Luigi's inner Action Transvestite™ as part of a plan to rescue Mario, leaving Princess Toadstool in his clothes as he goes off as the forward party for the rescue mission.

Toadstool was KO'd at the time he made the clothing swap. 
Who knew Dr. Mario was a psychiatrist?
Makes the amount of pills he prescribes
kinda scary, though...

Did I mention that this was a repurposed Japanese kid's manga?

I wasn't kidding when I was talking about Luigi being a transvestite (or perhaps just a Monty Python cast member), because that's not the only place he puts on a dress to feel pretty. He also puts on a nurse's outfit (...really, Japan?) as part of a long con they run on a Big Boo when they get stuck in a Ghost House.

I'm actually really impressed by that bit. Dr. Mario was not a reference I would ever have expected from this kind of book, let alone a reference that fits with the plot and makes... well, as much sense as any plot development in this book.

If you pick up the trade paperback (probably easier than finding the Nintendo Power back-issues that this ran in), there's also a Super Mario Land 2 back-up story at the very end, showing the origin of Wario and a very truncated version of the game. It makes Wario a really sympathetic character and portrays Mario as a complete jerk-ass.

This thing is a fond memory of my childhood. After a friend destroyed my copy, it was years until I got to see it again, and... while it's certainly a different experience reading it as an adult, it's still an entertaining one, and nearly 20 years later I think my fondness for it is still justified. If you're not a Mario fan, though, your mileage may vary—but who isn't a Mario fan?


  1. Wow. That is, unquestionably, the best version of Peach ever.

  2. Oh wow. Major nostalgia bomb here.

    And yeah, looking back, this is so "kids manga" that it almost hurts.

    Damn Peach is sexy in overalls.