In 1986, John Carpenter released a little film about a mulleted trucker named Jack Burton, a reasonable guy who experienced some very unreasonable things. Helping out his somewhat-more-competent friend Wang Chi, Burton found himself battling evil sorcerers, straw-hatted storm gods, some floaty thing with giant eyeballs, and other weird creatures he was not terribly inept at handling. There was destruction, soul-eating, and a guy’s head exploded for some reason. It was awesome.
Audiences did not turn out nearly as much as they should have, but decades of cable, video/DVD and revival screenings have helped properly cement Big Trouble in Little China as unquestionably one of the finest examples of American cinema of all time, ever (or at least says the writer, with some hyperbole fitting the subject).
This June, the film’s characters come to comics – and entrusted with the sacred duty of continuing the adventures of Jack Burton on the Pork Chop Express are no less than Eric Powell, creator of The Goon (providing scripts and covers), and Brian Churilla of The Secret History of DB Cooper (providing interior pretty pictures). Just in case you’re still on the fence, John Carpenter himself is providing a guiding hand for this new series, overseeing this new chapter of the legend of Jack Burton.
We decided to interrogate Powell and Churilla on venturing into this dangerous world, along with some looks at the variant covers and character designs. We had to find out – are they ready? Based on their answers, we have to say: They were born ready.
Newsarama: Eric, for the sad few who haven't seen this film, who's Ol' Jack Burton and what kind of mischief is he up to in this book?
Eric Powell: He's just keeping' in between the ditches and making sure the wings of liberty never lose a feather.
Nrama: How'd this title come about and what made you want to get on the Porkchop Express?
Powell: Ironically, My buddy Tim Wiesch, who is the foreign licensing guy for Dark Horse Comics, and I were talking about how cool a Big Trouble in Little China comic would be right before BOOM contacted me. So I had already been thinking about it a little and was thrilled when they asked me to be involved.
Brian Churilla: I was contacted by the editor, Ian Brill for the job. I think he was a fan of my book The Secret History of DB Cooper. He was curious if I'd be interested in doing a comic based on a licensed property. I've never had any interest in doing such a thing, but once he told me what it was and who was writing it and doing the covers, it was a no-brainer.
I've actively watched, or had that movie playing in my studio while working, literally, hundreds of times.
Nrama: Tell us about the initial storyline. Will this take us back to the underworld of Chinatown, or will we get to see more of Jack's misadventures as he's truckin' around? Will Wang Chi show up, even though he was clearly just a sidekick and not the real actual hero of the original flick?
Powell: The story picks up from the very last shot of the film. I definitely wrote it as a comic book sequel. There are lots of faces from the film that show up, and of course some new ones.
Nrama: What makes Brian right for this?
Powell: He does a great Jack Burton caricature. Cartooning the character just enough to make it fun and stylized. And he draws great monsters.
Nrama: And Brian, what makes Eric's scripts fun to draw?
Churilla: Eric has an intimate knowledge of producing comics at every level. He's been doing it forever, and for the most part, on his own. He understands the time-intensive nature that producing comic art demands. He's also a great cartoonist and storyteller.
This all lends itself to scripts that are easy for me to visualize, and said scripts are brimming with fun things to draw. I highly doubt I'll ever get a dull script from him.
Nrama: What all will we get to see in the series?
Powell: A little bit more Jack Burton backstory, and assorted crazy mess.
Nrama: And you got John Carpenter providing some guidance. What all does that entail, what is that like, and how have you managed to interact with him without spontaneously combusting, because I would?
Powell: He's been super cool and laid-back to deal with. I'm honored to be able to pick his brain for this. He definitely has helped direct the feel of the book.
Nrama: Now I'm gonna get real honest with y'all: This film has a big reputation in my area, to the extent it's on the big screen at a revival house at least once a year and the owner of my local comic shop once had me get him an autographed pic of James Wong as Lo Pan. They're going to want to know this book's in the right hands.
Therefore, express the degree of your fandom to this movie, up to and including merchandise ownership, favorite lines and possible completion of the notoriously bad Commodore 64 computer game.
Churilla: As previously stated, I've sat through the film hundreds of times. I'm a huge fan of Carpenter's films, especially his films of the 1980's. He had a huge run of amazing genre flicks.
What I love about BTLC is that it fools the audience into believing that Jack Burton is the hero. He's the main protagonist, sure, but he's just a walking, talking John Wayne caricature that bungles his way through the entire movie. The real action star is Wang, and Jack is just his oafish sidekick. Jack is iconic though, from his sweet mullet all the way down to his ridiculous Uggs.
Powell: All I gotta say is… everybody relax. I'm here.
Nrama: What is the great and enduring power of this film and the greatness that is Jack Burton?
Powell: I think it's uniqueness. Can you really think of something similar?
Churilla: Dangnabbit, I think I kinda answered that.
Nrama: What other great and classic 1980s films would you like to do in comic form? Also, I kind of want Jack Burton to team up with Ash from Evil Dead.
Churilla: Maybe They Live. Cross-overs? Jack Burton vs Critters.
Powell: Porky's II: The Next Day.
Nrama: Sell this book hard as you can.
Churilla: It's 10 times funnier than the movie.
Powell: Every page has a nude photo of Katy Perry.
Nrama: What else y'all got comin' up?
Powell: I've got a Goon one shot coming out in June called One for the Road. And then in July the new mini-series Goon: Occasion of Revenge starts.
Churilla: I have a creator-owned series from ONI Press dropping in the fall. (Newsarama Note: After this interview was conducted, the title was confirmed as Hellbreak with Cullen Bunn, premiering in October).
Nrama: One final question: What does Ol' Jack Burton do when the earth quakes, and the poison arrows fall from the sky, and the pillars of Heaven shake?
Churilla: He copy and pastes movie quotes from IMDB.
Powell: Usually he doesn't notice because he's eating a pork sandwich.
Prepare to run, run into the mystic night when Big Trouble in Little China comes to comics this June from BOOM!