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I already published that I really love the 1990 sci-fi action movie Total Recall which starred Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sharon Stone, Michael Ironside and Rachel Ticotin under the direction of the highly talented Paul Verhoeven. The movie is one of my all-time favorites and most notably it has aesthetics that are totally unique mainly due to the combined expressions and artistry of Schwarzenegger and Verhoeven. Behind it all, Total Recall would not have been realized without the short story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale written by the late sci-fi author Philip K. Dick whose published works led to other movies from Hollywood.
As part of a business strategy, Total Recall also had multi-media releases in the form of a novel (by Piers Anthony), video games and a comic book published by DC Comics. Very recently I was able to finally read the comic book adaptation of the film titled Total Recall Movie Special #1. It had a cover that was technically a copy of the American movie poster with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s face dominating it and it came with a cover price of $2.95 which was pretty high for 1990.
Is the comic book adaptation any good? Does it capture the essence of the blockbuster film? We can find out by finally starting this look back at Total Recall Movie Special #1, published in 1990 by DC Comics with a story written by Elliot S. Maggin and drawn by the late Tom Lyle (read my first article of Lyle’s work).
The story begins on the surface of planet Mars where a man and a woman (both wearing space suits) walk together heading towards an unknown destination. Suddenly a small stone cracks the glass face shield of the man’s helmet exposing him to the deadly atmosphere of Mars.
It turns out it was just a dream for Douglas Quaid who was in bed with his wife Lori. The dream turned out to be a recurring one as Lori asked him if the dream lady was in there again. Lori then asked Doug who the dream lady was. A short time later, Doug reports to work and while doing construction work on the field, he asked a colleague about Rekall (note: he saw a video ad of it on his way to work). The guy told Doug about someone getting lobotomized at Rekall and discouraged him from availing of their service.
Doug eventually visits Rekall after work and availed of their virtual holiday as a secret agent. Something goes wrong as Doug goes berserk while strapped on one of Rekall’s seats. Dr. Lull (in-charge of the operation) explains to her boss that Doug was not acting out his virtual holiday as her team has not even implanted it yet on him…
When it comes to presenting the story, Elliot S. Maggin clearly paid close attention to the details, the plot and dialogue of the movie while implementing adjustments along with artist Tom Lyle to make the story work in comic book format. Clearly, this is not a word-for-word, scene-for-scene adaptation but it comes close to capturing the essence of the film. Unsurprisingly, the comic book adaptation never captured the unique Schwarzenegger-Verhoeven aesthetics of the movie but it still performed well on replicating the sci-fi, hard action moments. I find it surprising that Total Recall Movie Special #1 carried the seal of approval of the Comics Code Authority (CCA) as there were some bloody shots and several moments of strong violence inspired by the R-rated film.
When it comes to the visuals, Tom Lyle succeeded in capturing the sci-fi look of the movie and even had the literary Douglas Quaid occasionally resemble Arnold Schwarzenegger. Lyle’s drawings on other characters like Lori, Melina, Coohagen and Richter looked NOTHING like the actors who played them but that’s not a problem at all as this gives this comic book its own unique touch. In fact, there were some drawings of people that sometimes reminded me of what I saw in EC Comics’ Weird Science comic books.
While Lyle scored nicely with the action scenes, his own drawings of planet Mars and the human colony are quite nice to look at. With regards to the urban environment, Lyle drew a nice mix of 20th century inspired urban areas laced with futurism. Unsurprisingly, the futurism got stronger when the story was set in Mars.
If there is anything lacking with the art, it would be visual dynamism. This can be forgiven however given the high amount of dialogue and story details that had to be presented with each page carrying a lot of panels.
I can say it out loud that Total Recall Movie Special #1 is a fun read and serves nicely as a literary companion to the cinematic masterpiece Total Recall. As a comic book adaptation of a blockbuster movie, this one is pretty good and in some ways captured some of the flair of the film even as it never successfully replicated the Verhoeven-Schwarzenegger aesthetic in the film. Really, if you want the best of Total Recall you really should watch the movie. This comic book on its own is entertaining and should encourage you to watch the film.
If you are seriously planning to buy an existing hard copy of Total Recall Movie Special #1 (1990), be aware that as of this writing, MileHighComics.com shows that the near-mint copy of the regular edition costs $11 while the near-mint copy of the newsstand edition costs $31. If you are looking for something more valuable, the near-mint copy of the numbered-and-signed edition of the comic book costs $51.
Overall, Total Recall Movie Special #1 (1990) is highly recommended!
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