• Following Us

  • Categories

  • Check out the Archives









  • Awards & Nominations

Roy Thomas’ Run on The X-Files: Season One (Topps) (Review)

We’ve recently finished our reviews of the nine seasons of The X-Files. Along the way, we tried to do tie-ins and crossovers and spin-offs. However, some of those materials weren’t available at the right time. So this week will be spent finishing Topps’ line of “Season One” comics, published during the fifth season in the lead up to The X-Files: Fight the Future.

It is hard to figure out what exactly the point of the Season One line was meant to be.

In a very superficial way, the point was obvious. The intent was to add a second regular series to Topps’ line of comics based around The X-Files. Even during the comic book bubble burst of the mid- to late-nineties, The X-Files was a good seller for the company. The monthly book sold well enough that Topps’ eagerly supplemented it. New stories were published as Digest editions, published alongside the less successful Ray Bradbury comics. Annuals were published alongside the monthly book. Collections were published frequently.

xfiles-beyondthesea13

However, this was not enough to satisfy market demand. Topps wanted to publish more X-Files material with greater frequency. However, Ten Thirteen were less interested with the supervision that the line required. A compromise seemed in order. Rather than creating a new original series of comic books, they flooded with market with new adaptations of existing X-Files media. Writer Kevin J. Anderson and artist Gordon Purcell offered a four-part comic book miniseries adapting Anderson’s Ground Zero prose novel.

The publisher also decided to put out a series of adaptations of classic first season episodes, released once every two months. These would be adaptations of stories that had already been properly vetted by Ten Thirteen, having been produced in-house. The trick would simply be translating them into comic books.

Burn with me.

Continue reading

The X-Files: Season One (Topps) #9 – Shadows (Review)

We’ve recently finished our reviews of the nine seasons of The X-Files. Along the way, we tried to do tie-ins and crossovers and spin-offs. However, some of those materials weren’t available at the right time. So this week will be spent finishing Topps’ line of “Season One” comics, published during the fifth season in the lead up to The X-Files: Fight the Future.

And, with Shadows, the Season One line comes to a close.

Although The X-Files was at the very peak of its popularity between the fifth and sixth seasons, the Topps line of comics was winding to a close. Although Topps had turned a very tidy profit on the line, Ten Thirteen had been less enthused by the relationship. The production company decided not to renew their contract with Topps, and so the X-Files line of comics was quietly retired. Shadows was published in July 1998, a month following the release of The X-Files: Fight the Future.

A shadow of itself...

A shadow of itself…

It was not the last X-Files comic book to be published by Topps. The company would release one more issue of the regular series – Severed – shortly before the start of the sixth season. There was little indication that Topps expected the contract to come to an end; the publisher had actually solicited two further issues of the Season One line beyond Shadows, adaptations of The Jersey Devil and Ghost in the Machine. These were somewhat lackluster first season episodes, but episodes with the sort of impressive visual ideas that might translate well to the comic book medium.

An adaptation of The Jersey Devil and Ghost in the Machine would certainly have made for a more visually satisfying final issue than an adaptation of Shadows.

What we do in the shadows...

What we do in the shadows…

Continue reading

The X-Files: Season One (Topps) #7 – Fire (Review)

We’ve recently finished our reviews of the nine seasons of The X-Files. Along the way, we tried to do tie-ins and crossovers and spin-offs. However, some of those materials weren’t available at the right time. So this week will be spent finishing Topps’ line of “Season One” comics, published during the fifth season in the lead up to The X-Files: Fight the Future.

Space was perhaps the best of Topps’ Season One line of comics, a version of the first season episode that came much closer to realising the potential of Chris Carter’s outer space mystery than anything that appeared on a television screen during the show’s first year. In a way, Space suggested a possible sustainable model for the Season One line of comics beyond a rather cynical attempt to have two separate X-Files comics running in parallel. What if the Season One line could be used to “fix” stories that had misfired the first time around?

This makes a certain amount of sense. After all, there is little point in just rehashing the show’s strongest moments. The comic adaptation of Beyond the Sea might entertain, but it will never be the definitive or stronger example of that story. The comic adaptations lack the chemistry of David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, but they do have an unlimited visual effects budget and the ability to filter a story through a unique artistic sensibility. So perhaps Season One should not fixate on a “greatest hits” tour of the first season, but should instead focus on the misfires.

Burn with me...

Burn with me…

Continue reading

The X-Files: Season One (Topps) #6 – Space (Review)

This May and June, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fifth season of The X-Files and the second season of Millennium.

If the jump to Ice suggested that the Season One line would only be covering the “highlights” of the first season of The X-Files, then the decision to immediately follow with an adaptation of Space puts paid to that theory.

Ice is generally regarded as one of the strongest stories of the first season. It is moody and atmospheric, tense and claustrophobic. It shines a light on the characterisation of Mulder and Scully, while also offering a particularly memorable (and unsettling) monster of the week. In contrast, Space is generally regarded as one of the weakest stories of the first season. It is clumsy and muddled, slow and dreary. The episode’s direction is bland and the special effects are woeful. On paper, it is probably the least likely choice for a Season One adaptation.

Face the future...

Face the future…

However, Space ultimately lends itself to a comic book adaptation. The story finds itself well-suited by the transition from live action footage to comic book page. there are a number of different reasons for this, but the truth is that the story is simply better suited to this format. That applies to the technical limitations imposed on film, but also to the storytelling conventions associated with comic books as opposed to live action television. It is a startling result, and arguably the biggest success of the entire Season One line.

Although it is a qualified accomplishment at best, Space is the first Season One comic that manages to surpass its source material.

Is there life on Mars?

Is there life on Mars?

Continue reading

The X-Files: Season One (Topps) #3 – Squeeze (Review)

This May and June, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fifth season of The X-Files and the second season of Millennium.

There is an argument to be made that this is the perfect time to feel all nostalgic. The X-Files is one of the biggest shows on television, sitting just outside the top ten as it entered its fifth season. The climax of the fourth season generated a national conversation, something that very few season-ending cliffhangers can do. The X-Files: Fight the Future was filmed in the summer of 1997 and primed for release in the summer of 1998. If there was ever a time to look backwards and dig into the show’s history, this is it. However, Season One feels like a flawed exercise.

There are a lot of problems here that contribute to the sense that Season One is not everything that it could be; the price is a little too high, there’s no new content to justify the nostalgia, and the show was becoming more easily available on home media as Season One was being released. The relaxed release schedule meant that Season One (and, presumably, any follow-ups) would never keep pace with the show, let alone catch up. At nine issues a year, the comic would fall further behind the show, even allowing for the decision to cherry-pick episodes.

In a tight spot...

In a tight spot…

However, the adaptation of Squeeze demonstrates perhaps the biggest problem with the Season One line. While writer Roy Thomas was working from Glen Morgan and James Wong’s original script for Squeeze, and artist Val Mayerick can reference the finished episode, there is undeniably something missing from this adaptation. There is some part of Squeeze that is not replicable in the classic four-colour design, a vital part of The X-Files that seems lost in translation and seems to identify Season One as an inferior imitation.

Quite simply, Season One does not have access to David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson.

Closing in to seal your Tooms...

Closing in to seal your Tooms…

Continue reading

The X-Files: Season One (Topps) #2 – Deep Throat (Review)

This February and March, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fourth season of The X-Files and the first season of Millennium.

Season One feels like a very odd way to franchise The X-Files.

Topps had enjoyed tremendous success with their licensed tie-in comic book, so it made a certain amount of sense to try to milk the franchise as much as possible. After all, they had already tried a number of other promotions, like releasing “digests” to supplement that monthly series and releasing tie-in comics to appear with magazines like Wizard. So offering another series that would publish on a regular basis starring Mulder and Scully made perfectly logical sense.

The truth is up there...

The truth is up there…

About a year after the release of their adaptation of The Pilot, Topps decided to push ahead with a series of regular adaptations of first season episodes of The X-Files. They reissued their adaptation of The Pilot as the first comic in the series, and then began publishing new adaptations of those early episodes written by Roy Thomas and illustrated by a rotating team of artists. The comics would be about twice as long as the issues of the monthly series, but would only publish once every two months. The monthly series was priced a $2.50, with Season One priced at $4.95.

It is hard not to feel quite cynical about Season One, particularly in an era where these classic episodes of The X-Files stream of Netflix and entire seasons are available to purchase at very low prices.

The shape of things to come...

The shape of things to come…

Continue reading

The X-Files: Season One (Topps) #0 – Pilot (Review)

This February and March, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fourth season of The X-Files and the first season of Millennium.

Given the success of the monthly comic book series, it made sense for Topps to try to capitalise on The X-Files as much as possible. The series was exploding into the mainstream. Chris Carter was launched a second television show, Millennium, to capitalise on the success. Fox were planning to move the series to Sunday nights. There was already talk about a possible movie franchise. This was a great time to be publishing X-Files comics.

Topps had already used the series to sell “digests” packed with unrelated comics, and had published annuals to get a little extra sales revenue into the fiscal year. However, there was a clear desire to publish more X-Files work with more consistency. Ideas began to percolate – Kevin J. Anderson would pen a miniseries based on his Ground Zero novel during the show’s fifth season, for example. The company also decided to publish a series of comic books adapting early episodes of the series.

The truth is out there...

The truth is out there…

The series didn’t properly launch until the following year, with a series of monthly adaptations of first season episodes running from the start of the fifth season through to the month following the release of X-Files: Fight the Future. Conveniently titled Season One, these comics were only cancelled when Topps folded its comic book division – vanishing quite suddenly from the stands, with little warning.

The adaptation of The Pilot was actually released a year earlier than the monthly series – it was re-packaged and re-released once Topps committed to a monthly series of adaptations. As such, it makes for a strange teaser of things to come.

This could be the start of a beautiful friendship...

This could be the start of a beautiful friendship…

Continue reading