Robot 6

The unreleased ‘Final Fantasy’ comic by Busiek, Barras & Mignola

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There’s a mountain of comic book projects that were solicited, advertised and told that never saw the light of day, and now we have one more lost treasure to add to that list: a Final Fantasy series by Kurt Busiek, Del Barras and Mike Mignola.

Commissioned by the defunct Disney imprint Hollywood Comics, the story was to be a four-issue adaptation of the video game Final Fantasy IV (released in 1991 in North America as Final Fantasy II). Busiek got the job by pitching an original story set in the Final Fantasy universe, with publisher Square (now Square Enix) then shifting him over to the adaptation of the then-forthcoming video game.

Busiek has said he wrote the script for all four issues, with at least two issues penciled by Barras and all four covers completed by Mignola. Hollywood Comics shuttered in 1993, and the comic has never been released.

Here’s the advertisement for the Final Fantasy series, which appeared in various Hollywood Comics titles in 1992, as well as Mignola’s original art for two of the covers.

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ffcomic-issue2-cover

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(hat tip to Thaddeus R R Boyd)

Comments

9 Comments

OK, I officially hate fatboydale.

I didn’t actually pitch for the project — I was asked to write it by the editor, either because he liked my work or because I was in the same state as the Square (I thought it was SquareSoft?) offices or both. So I visited the offices, they loaned me a bunch of stuff, I played the game and wrote up an outline.

It was after that that they told me they liked my outline but they were working on the new iteration of the game, so could I retool that story to be about that? They sent lots of reference on the new game, and there was just no way to do the first outline with characters from the new game, so they paid me a kill fee for the outline and I started from scratch with the new story outline.

kdb

I will also add that if the book came out, I don’t think that Final Fantasy fans would be particularly happy with it. It was 1991, and I was a workmanlike-but-not-particularly-noted writer. Dell Barras was a workmanlike artist, and, well, the covers were gorgeous.

But I don’t think I really started to make strides creatively as a writer until VAMPIRELLA: MORNING IN AMERICA (late that year) and the industry didn’t notice ’til MARVELS in 1993.

So, while I barely remember the details, I expect it was a workmanlike story that made sense but wasn’t particularly memorable, with workmanlike art and great covers.

And heresy upon heresies, I changed things (with Squaresoft’s permission). I thought it was so odd that the manly heroic lead was named Cecil and his loyal buddy was named Cain (really? You name the loyal guy Cain?) that I suggested maybe they needed Americanized names, and Squarest agreed. I don’t remember what I changed them to, but Squarest liked them enough that they asked if I’d be interested in a staff position making the games more American-appropriate. We never talked much about it, because I wanted to freelance. But I bet fans devoted to the game wouldn’t have liked the changes, especially not from a current POV, looking back.

What can I say? I wasn’t particularly a Final Fantasy fan — I’d played their first US game a little, and the second wasn’t even done yet.

kdb

Heh. In the game, at least, Kain wasn’t *that* loyal…

So I’ve been told. But the game bible didn’t clue me in on that, and that’s all I had to work with.

(Can’t tell if my post went through and is waiting on moderation or if it didn’t go through; my apologies if this is a duplicate.)

Thanks also to Alex Chung, who I got that issue #1 cover from (thanks to a reblog by Kurt), and to Dale Jackson, who sent me the #4 cover (which he owns).

@Kurt: If I recall correctly, Square was the name of the Japanese parent company and SquareSoft was its American branch. Following a 2003 buyout, it’s now called Square Enix.

You wouldn’t have been the only guy changing characters’ names; there was a character named Gilbert in the original Japanese version who became Edward in the US version. (And the game itself was retitled; it was Final Fantasy 4 in Japan but was released as Final Fantasy 2 in the US since 2 and 3 had never been released here.) It also had a famously poor localization, partly due to Nintendo’s overzealous bawdlerization at the time (“We defeated the dragon, so her mother is gone also.” — they couldn’t say “kill” or “die” and were left with really awkward substitutes), partly due to space restrictions (generally speaking, kanji takes up a lot less storage space than phonetic languages), and, I assume, partly due to not enough staff and not enough time. The original American release lost a lot of the detail from the original script — really basic character background stuff, like Cecil and Kain being orphans who were raised by the king.

Even if the comic book had come out and hadn’t been great, I’m willing to bet that fans of the game have put up with worse adaptations.

And yet, parts of that localization are so beloved that even subsequent translations have kept them in. I speak, of course, of the immortal line, “You spoony bard!”

@Thad: Considering that video game fans had to deal with stinkers like the Malibu “Street Fighter” comic, Kurt could’ve been the Alan Moore of video game adaptations by comparison.

Those designs actually made me cringe.

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