Comic Book: The Movie appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Due to its videotaped origins, Comic Book offered an erratic presentation, but it generally seemed satisfying.
Since most of the movie focused on close-ups, the majority of the came across as fairly well-defined. However, shots that broadened out from there seemed less solid. Some of the wider images presented moderately weak delineation and clarity. Jagged edges popped up with some frequency, and I also noticed examples of light shimmering and edge enhancement. Other than some video artifacting in low-light shots, the image seemed free from source defects.
Colors generally looked fine. The hues never became terrifically vivid or dynamic, but they only rarely came across as a bit bland or muddy. For the most part, the tones appeared clear and accurate. Black levels were a little thin but usually seemed acceptably deep. Low-light images were a bit iffier, as they usually looked somewhat dense. All of this came with the territory, though; as a low-budget video project, Comic Book presented an acceptable image.
Comic Book offered a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack that mixed highs and lows. The soundfield created most of the concerns, as it was an odd affair. Most of the dialogue remained right in the center, and a lot of the effects came from that speaker as well; those elements occasionally broadened to the sides and rears, but a lot of the track seemed generally monaural. At least one split-surround example failed badly. During the convention, the filmmakers took speech from the monaural source material and sent it to the right rear spealer. Since this forced all the other audio to drop out, it became a strange distraction.
Music spread to all five channels fairly equally. These made it sound unbalanced, for no real delineation occurred. Instead, the same score came from all around, which felt odd.
Audio quality appeared decent but no better. Speech usually seemed acceptably clear, but edginess interfered on a number of occasions, and the “on the fly” recording techniques sometimes left us with moderately rough dialogue. Effects played a small role and generally sounded reasonably accurate and clean. Music presented bright and tight tones, though the score lacked much dimensionality. Not much depth came up during this track, as it seemed somewhat thin and flat. Given the nature of the project, the audio seemed acceptable, but it never rose above that level, and it often came across as a weirdly fashioned track.
Despite the low profile of Comic Book, this two-DVD set includes a surfeit of supplements. On DVD One, we open with an audio commentary with director/actor Mark Hamill, actors Jess Harnell, Billy West and Roger Rose, and producers Eric Mittleman and Scott Zakarin. All of them sit together for this running, screen-specific piece. Sometimes I complain that commentaries suffer from too much dead air. In this case, however, the track doesn’t present enough empty space. The definition of “chaotic”, much of the time more than one participant speaks all at once, and we even get three or four chatting simultaneously on occasion. This makes the commentary annoying to listen to and tough to follow.
The presented information doesn’t seem terribly interesting anyway. Much of the notes revolve around naming on-screen participants. Some decent trivia about the production and comics in general appears, but much of the time we simply hear an annotated cast listing. The guys also love to clown around and offer funny voices and gags, which isn’t as entertaining as it probably sounds. The group includes some talented performers, but they mostly come across as obnoxious here. This commentary doesn’t offer much of use and will likely leave you with a headache.
Cameos presents a list of the 30-plus guest stars in Comic Book. This feature doesn’t take you to the part of the movie the features the participant. Instead – and perhaps more helpfully – it shows a picture of the person and gives us some quick information about them. It’s a decent way to flesh out the cast listing. Speaking of whom, the Cast and Crew Bios give us entries for Mark Hamill, Billy West, Tom Kenny, Daran Norris, Donna D’Errico, Roger Rose, Jess Harnell, Lori Alan, Scott Zakarin, Eric Mittleman, Jason Cooley, and Creative Light Entertainment. This display decent recaps of the participants.
We get 27 images in the Art Gallery. This nice little section displays comic book covers and other art created for the flick. We see basic ideas sketched by Mark Hamill and then check out different stages on their way to completion.
13 Deleted Scenes appear next. These last between 33 seconds and five minutes, 41 seconds, for a total of 27 minutes and 39 seconds of footage. Not surprisingly, the vast majority seem dull and run on too long with little to show for the time. We get a few seconds of funniness from Jonathan Winters but otherwise the clips fall flat. In a nice touch, each deleted scene is preceded by a quick text that sets up the snippet and lets us know a little about why it was cut.
Finally, the Miramax Sneak Peeks area offers a pair of ads. We get promos for Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over and My Boss’s Daughter.
Over on DVD Two, the main attraction comes from Behind the Voices. Shot at the Comic-Con, this 51-minute and 20-second program presents a panel discussion that goes over the movie. Hamill sets up the subject and we then meet the panel that includes West, Harnell, Rose, Zakarin, comics writer Peter David, and voice actors Maurice LaMarche, Gary Owens, Tom Kenney, Jim Cummings, Daran Norris, Lori Alan and Rob Paulsen. The introduction of the participants takes forever; we’re 22 and a half minutes into it before everyone’s seated. Some fun stories and decent information appears, but mostly this feels like an excuse for the actors to do some shtick.
Essentially a longer version of the bits seen in the film, In-Depth with Kevin Smith runs 20 minutes and 25 seconds. It presents the Don Swan interview with Smith. His comments were some of the few moderately amusing parts of the flick, so they’re a welcome addition here, though they meander quite a bit.
Subtitled “The Making of Comic Book: The Movie”, Four Color Frenzy lasts 17 minutes and 22 seconds. It mixes behind the scenes clips and interviews with Harnell, Rose, Zakarin, Hamill, West, Stan Lee, Daran Norris, and Donna D’Errico. They go over the origins of the project, some changes made from the original conception, character development and various aspects of the production. It dwells on a little too much praise and we hear some of the information elsewhere. Still, “Frenzy” provides a fairly good examination of the production.
We find a recreation of an alleged Commander Courage Radio Show. LaMarche, Paulsen, Owen and Cummings do the voices for this seven-minute program. It’s mildly entertaining but no better than that.
More unused footage shows up in the next three pieces. We find Stan Lee on Comic Book Movies (nine minutes, eight seconds), Don Swan’s Bruce Campbell Interview (17:20), and Hugh Hefner on Comics and Women (40:41). Some of Lee’s comments also come from a Comic-Con panel discussion. His piece offers some insightful thoughts and interesting factoids. The Campbell piece just expands on Swan’s attempts to win over Campbell. Unlike the Kevin Smith interview, at least Hamill manages to stay in character the whole time, but it’s not terribly interesting. The Hefner interview offers some surprises; who knew Hef possessed so much comprehension of comics history? The conversation gets pretty dense with obscure information, but it’s nonetheless fascinating to see a different side of such a familiar person.
Note that when the Lee feature ends, we gain access to an Easter egg. The phrase “Have Courage” becomes highlighted; press “enter” and watch a deleted scene.
Another section contains More Interviews. This area includes comments from Mark Evanier (three minutes, 40 seconds), Scott Shaw (4:57), Billy Mumy (4:34), Peter David (5:36), and Paul Dini (5:22). Since Evanier relates his opinions about various elements of the current comic industry, his interview offers some interesting elements. However, the others simply riff on different parts of the fictitious Commander Courage history. They do a surprisingly good job of talking about a non-existent character, but these bits nonetheless don’t offer much since they exist just to connect with the movie’s premise.
A few small bits round out the DVD. ”Behind the Voices” Bios provides entries for Gary Owens, Jim Cummings, Maurice LaMarche and Rob Paulsen. These present short looks at their careers. About Comic-Con and ACTOR Comic Fund simply give us single screens with text that tells us more about the subjects.
Comic Book: The Movie feels a lot like something made by college kids with a video camera and some connections. The flick includes talented personnel, but they rarely demonstrate those skills to the film’s advantage, and it plods along without much to make it amusing or involving. The DVD presents fairly average picture and audio plus a shockingly large roster of extras given the obscurity of the piece. While the package seems well done, the movie itself is a dud, so I can’t recommend this release.