Hot Topic

Stand Up, Comics!

The Bruce Willis/ Samuel Jackson movie should lead you to the bookstore, says Ken Tucker

Comic books get a boost from ''Unbreakable''

Much as I enjoy reading comic books, I dislike the so called ''fan boy'' mentality epitomized most astutely by ''The Simpsons''' portly, picky comic book store owner character, who's forever pointing out mistakes in the comics he is excessively obsessive about. So when it comes to the comic book elements that pervade the new M. Night Shyamalan movie ''Unbreakable,'' I'm just going to say -- well, this is probably the best thing to happen to the comic book industry in years.

The movie begins with a text crawl extolling, as my colleague Owen Gleiberman put it in his review, ''the staggering popularity of comic books.'' Writer- director Shyamalan encourages this belief despite the fact that the comics industry has been in a commercial slump for the past few years.

Samuel Jackson's character runs an art gallery that exhibits and sells vintage comic book art, and one scene depicts the opening night of a gallery exhibition in which patrons swan around the joint in formal wear, sipping champagne. The movie is set in Philadelphia, an area with which I'm pretty familiar, and believe me, the day adults in fancy duds attend a display of covers from comics like ''The Mighty Thor,'' that's the day The Incredible Hulk will step in to make Amtrak trains run on time.

No review I've read so far makes mention of the fact that Bruce Willis, with his green security guard poncho hood turned up, looks more than a little like an actual comic book hero, The Spectre, a parallel the knowledgeable Shyamalan might reasonably be expected to be aware of, and steer away from, since it would only make the plot more obvious and/ or confusing.

But hey, no matter: If ''Unbreakable'' continues the box office success it showed in its opening weekend, its peculiar take on comic book subculture can only help that publishing industry. For any adults who may actually be moved to enter a comic book store in ''Unbreakable'''s wake, I recommend two very different works of comics art to get you started: the superhero deconstruction ''The Authority'' (WildStorm/DC) and Chris Ware's hardcover masterwork ''Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid On Earth'' (Pantheon).

Originally posted Nov 28, 2000