Sunday, December 4, 2011
Stuff I've Done--8
The Need for Speed
In 1986 I was hired by an L.A. ad agency to draw four comic strips advertising an indy action film called Jake Speed. The movie was a one-man show. Wayne Crawford, not-well-known for a handful of small films like Valley Girl, Barracuda, and Night of the Comet, produced, wrote, directed and starred.
The movie was sort of Romancing the Stone in reverse. A woman seeking her kidnapped sister is aided by a man who seems to be the real-life incarnation of Jake Speed, hero of a series of paperback books. There follow lots of one-liners, high-speed chases, and explosions.
The agency came up with a month-long teaser campaign. They wrote a mini-adventure, supposedly a prequel to the movie, in the form of four daily-size comic strips. One strip would appear each week during the month preceding the film's release. On the fifth week the strip's position on the page would be filled by the regular movie ad.
I don't know what went wrong--the strips were delivered to the agency on schedule--but the first one didn't appear in the Times until two weeks before Jake Speed opened. The remaining three were run in a block the following week. Then the movie opened and, 100 minutes later, disappeared. Here are the four strips. [In the movie "Reno Melon" was the author of the Jake Speed paperbacks.] I've never seen the movie. Reviews of the time savaged it. I remember one writer noted that Wayne Crawford had "all the charisma of a can of tuna." Many remarked that the body-count was unusually high even for such a genre film. On the other hand, IMDB offers nearly two dozen reviews praising Jake Speed as an unjustly-ignored minor classic. One thing I do know: the "production values" on the strips were much higher than those of the low-budget feature...a sad truth as old as the first comic adaptation of a motion picture.