Hank McCoy (Before the Fur)

So I hear they’re making Buckaroo Banzai comics.

Who is Buckaroo Banzai? That’s a VERY good question.

There was a single film in the 1980’s called The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. The film had an ELABORATE cast by today's standards: John Lithgow, Peter Weller, Jeff Goldblum, Ellen Barkin and Christopher Lloyd, among others.

It was the ONLY piece of work EVER created for the character Buckaroo Banzai.

So what was the movie about??

I’ve watched it so many times and I still don’t think I could succinctly answer that question.

Here’s what I guess was going on with this film. At the time that Buckaroo was released in theaters, trilogies of movies were big. First Star Wars. Than so many others followed: Star Trek, Back to the Future, Indiana Jones, Lethal Weapon

It’s sort of like someone, somewhere, decided to kind of ‘rebel’ against this trend. And Buckaroo Banzai is kind of like the first indie, science-fiction film ever created, I guess?

It’s a…parody…of a franchise.

The film is written as though you, the audience, should just understand the character, Buckaroo, and who he is. The fact that he’s a neurosurgeon, and a rock star, and has a traveling rock band known as the Hong Kong Cavaliers who double as his bodyguards/adventure team.

It’s like watching the SECOND part of a trilogy. With no explanation of what came before. The movie remains completely unapologetic about this every step of the way. You watch as Buckaroo’s allies gather around to help him stop some sort of intergalactic hostile takeover.

Buckaroo drives race cars, has a bunch of radio enthusiasts who alert him to serious threats, can call on the help of a rug cleaning company/armed civilian strike unit when he needs help. It just goes on and on like that. It’s as if this character has existed for years of stories that have led to this film, to this point, and you, the viewer, were supposed to have already KNOWN what Buckaroo’s M.O. was.

Just as surely as you know that Dick Tracy has a watch communicator or Batman has the Batmobile. The entire exposition of this abusrd, illogical, pulp action hero--who epitomizes the EIGHTIES no less--is just not in the movie. There’s no explanation or origin. Just a movie about a guy named Buckaroo Banzai.

I’m not sure what was happening here! Were they trying to sort of start a mythology and seeing if they could just pick up in the middle? Was this a spoof, with no intention of ever making any more films?

Well, nothing else was ever made, regardless of the underlying intention of this film. There were no comics, no novels. I don’t think there were even Buckaroo action figures. The film closed with a "Coming Soon: Buckaroo Banzai Vs. the World Crime League" teaser, but no such sequel was ever made.

I still can’t make up my mind if this was a serious idea someone was floating or if that was just another part of the joke, that this movie was supposed to represent some piece of a media franchise that didn’t exist! It’s tough to tell.

Depending on who you ask, Buckaroo is either: A. the biggest travesty in pop culture or B. a brilliantly executed farce of pop culture that was way ahead of its time.

Well, these days Buckaroo is kind of getting the treatment he WOULD have gotten if that character really HAD been part of a big media franchise. Moonstone books gave Buckaroo an ‘origin’ story in comic form in 2009. More than that, Adamant Entertainment is releasing a tabletop roleplaying game.

If you’re in the mood for something that skirts the line between comic book style action and just sheer absurdity to a point where the two become indistinguishable, I highly recommend you check out the film and its recent follow-ups. I’m not tongue in cheek when I say that either: it’s that there’s something to appreciate here, the way you appreciate Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead. It’s this kind of brilliantly executed parody of an 80’s franchise, so much so that you (and maybe the writers) lose track of whether or not it is a parody.

Check it out…


  1. There was actually a novelization that came out with the film. Staying true to the character of the franchise, the book read more like it was an original novel that was later adapted to film. Much more detail, including footnotes referring back to previous adventures. Check it out.


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