Review: ‘Super Mario Adventures’
Super Mario Adventures
Writer: Kentaro Takemura
Artist: Charlie Nozawa
Video game hero Mario has been around for a long time now, his exact age kind of depending on what you want to consider his first appearance: 1981’s Donkey Kong, 1983’s Mario Bros, or 1985’s Super Mario Bros. And, of course, he and his friends and foes have only grown more popular with each passing year and each new game for each new platform, Mario himself becoming a sort of playable logo for Nintendo.
So even though the comics contained in this big, colorful magazine-sized trade paperback are from the early 1990s, they aren’t exactly targeted strictly toward nostalgic adults who grew up playing the first handful of Super Mario Bros games. Mario is pretty much eternal, and this silly adventure comic’s appeal is similarly timeless, with maybe a single pop cultural reference dating it (at least, I only counted one).
Originally published in 12 installments throughout 1992 in Nintendo Power magazine, these serialized adventures don’t follow the storyline of any particular game, but feature characters from the franchise as it existed up until that point, meaning King Koopa’s kids from Super Mario Bros. 3 and Yoshi play sizable roles, Princess Toadstool is as much of a player as Mario and Luigi, and when Mario adopts a doctor disguise, it evokes (or would have evoked) Doctor Mario.
The storyline is the work of Kentaro Takemura, and it’s quite cartoonish, closer to a gag comic in its tone and shape than any sort of drama. The artwork by Charlie Nozawa really sells it as such; it’s funnier and cuter in design and execution than even the fun, gentle designs of the earlier games in the Super Mario franchise.
Copious amounts of alliteration, rhyming, and singing make the dialogue particularly little-kid friendly; while it’s truly an all-ages comic, it’s also one that lends itself to being read aloud to young children who can’t quite read words themselves yet.
Plumbers Mario and Luigi enter singing their virtues as plumbers. They are working on the pipes in the basement of Princess Toadstool’s castle when suddenly giant pipes emerge from the ground, firing mean-looking turtles and mushrooms with feet out of them like cannons. Bowser, King Koopa himself, also emerges, turning various subjects of the Mushroom Kingdom–including Mario–to stone and demanding that Princess Toadstool marry him. He gives her a week to think about his proposal.
She just needs a few seconds to decide that she and a battalion of mushroom guards will go after Bowser. She eventually gets captured but rescues herself—and then helps rescue Luigi and Mario, who get captured while trying to save her. And then she gets re-captured, and needs saving from Mario. There’s an awful lot of capturing, escaping, running, and chasing going on here, a little hypnosis, the occasional character getting trapped in an egg, with fairly little in the way of violence—just a jumping on someone here, a giant cake falling on someone there. Mario rescues himself and Luigi from one particularly harrowing set of circumstances–when they are surrounded by Boos, terribly shy ghosts–by dressing up as doctors and using talk therapy to help the boss Boo resolve the underlying issues in his life that made him want to lash out.
Video games can be notoriously difficult to adapt, as what tends to make them so much fun is the interactive element, the fact that you’re actively playing them, rather than passively watching or reading them. In this case, however, the creators simply took the characters and the particulars of their setting and told their own story with them. How engaging that might be will vary from reader to reader, of course, but Mario and company have certainly made enough fans over the decades that it shouldn’t be hard to find plenty of readers to join them on this particular adventure.
About J. Caleb Mozzocco
J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.
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