[15 November 2010]
Samuel L. Jackson undoubtedly has a larger than life persona. The talented screen and voice actor has transcended the role of Hollywood actor and ingrained himself firmly in the world of comics and manga. Many may fondly remember Jackson as the voice of the cult treasure anime series Afro Samurai. Jackson himself is a noted comicbook fan and has been quoted many times proclaiming his love for the medium. The latest intersection between Jackson and comics is his recent foray as creator and co-writer, alongside his Afro Samurai partner Eric Calderon, on Cold Space.
The limited series follows the exploits of an interstellar hard ass named Mulberry who is relentlessly pursued by the law. Mulberry is an aggregate of popular space smugglers and pirates, sort of a mélange of Han Solo, Malcolm Reynolds and every character with a bad attitude that Jackson has portrayed in the past. The character crash lands on a backwater moon, billed as the “ghetto of space”, where he becomes embroiled in a power struggle between local gangsters. Mulberry must navigate the bloodthirsty criminals while simultaneously trying to avoid local bounty hunters, looters and the police. And of course, Mulberry (much like Frank Zappa) is ultimately in it for the money.
One of the more appealing aspects of Cold Space is that Jackson once again is used to provide the framework of a lead comic book character. The same occurred when the noted comic book aficionado was used as source material in Marvel’s Ultimate Universe. Nick Fury, originally an aging white guy with a penchant for cigars and gritted teeth, became Samuel L. Jackson incarnate. The alteration proved so popular that Jackson, in a strange instance of medium transference, is now starring as Nick Fury in a series of Marvel movies.
What’s interesting about Jackson playing Fury is that the character’s revamp was based off the screen actor. Jackson’s persona was so distinguishable and unique that readers instantly seized upon the idea of Samuel L. being used as inspiration for a new variant of Nick Fury. It appears that comics and films are developing this bond where characters are recycled, not in a derivative sense, to cross pollinate both art forms. This can be stated in a very Marlon Brandon-esque inflection via Richard Donner’s Superman 2 as the screen actor becomes comic book character and the comic book character becomes screen actor.
Jackson is once again becoming a character in Cold Space. While real life people have served as inspirations for fictional characters for centuries, few have done it as often and effortlessly as Jackson has done. The man himself is a character. This strange meta-fictional blending of fact and fiction takes center stage in Cold Space.
The story by Eric Calderon is serviceable and does an adequate job of conveying the plot. Although the tale is not terribly cutting edge or revolutionary, the real star of the show is Mulberry, a tailor made spitting image of Samuel L. Jackson. The actor’s personality seemed instantly transferred to each and every page. It seemed almost impossible not to have him in mind as each line of dialogue was digested and every action seemed to suit Jackson perfectly. It also didn’t help that the art rendered Mulberry as Jackson in his prime, perhaps stepping off the silver screen from Pulp Fiction,
or Jackie Brown and hopping into the world of comics. Shades of John McTieran and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Last Action Hero are present as characters cross mediums, with real life individuals developing acting personas that become more powerful than the real thing.
Nevertheless, Cold Space is a reminder of how connected comic books are to the rest of pop culture. The presence of Samuel L. Jackson in yet another comic book strengthens the relationship between film and comics, with actors and characters freely intermingling. One of the greatest strengths of comics is their ongoing, episodic format. This ensures that the characters in comics will be around long after anyone reading this has passed away. Samuel L. Jackson shows that this immortality can be attained by those without capes and spandex. The individual has become a character.