Anthony Burch discusses Old Man Jack’s views on millennials and his plans to work with Barack Obama.
One of the greatest B-movies of all time, Big Trouble in Little China is an absolute gem of ’80s schlock. Martial arts action? Got it. Mythical monsters? Totally. A super mullety Kurt Russel? You bet your sweet ass! The movie is magic, so when BOOM! Studios announced plans to create a sequel series following Russel’s Jack Burton as an old man driving his semi across a nightmarish hellscape, I was all in. Hearing that BOOM! actually reached out to Anthony Burch, the comedic mind behind Borderlands 2 and the Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin’? series, really got my head spinning. Now three issues in, Big Trouble in Little China: Old Man Jack is a rollicking good time, fraught with crazy action and a zany sense of humor that is unmistakably Burch. AiPT! recently had a chance to speak with Burch about the series and his love for the work of John Carpenter.
AiPT!: I’ve seen online that you’re a huge fan of Big Trouble in Little China. What is it about the movie that has made it such a timeless piece of wonderful shlock cinema?
Anthony Burch: It’s got everything you want from a good adventure flick – martial arts, gunfights, comedy, monsters, demons, mullets – but it’s all wrapped around a character who is the antithesis of what you’d want from a good adventure protagonist. To this day, no other film has weaved together as bonkers a tapestry as Big Trouble does, and especially not with such a hilariously unheroic hero.
AiPT!: Given their fate in the film, I can’t imagine we’ll get to see the Three Storms in this series, but can we expect any other fan-favorites to pop up in the sequel series? Maybe Egg or Wang or even Gracie?
Burch: Well, Hell has literally come to Earth, so I wouldn’t be so quick to assume the Three Storms couldn’t one day return…
AiPT!: Though Jack is definitely an ’80s icon embraced by the fringe, him labeling the Hell of Minor Discomforts (my favorite part of the first issue, by the way) as a “millennial hell” suggests he may be a bit of a grouchy red stater. How do you get in the head of a heroic figure that stands pretty contrarian to your own personal beliefs?
Burch: Though I’m sure Jack and I wouldn’t get along if we ever had a conversation about, I dunno, fiscal conservatism, he’s easy to write for because (A) deep down he’s a guy who will put himself at risk to help people, and (B) he’s also an absolute idiot, so I can have him crap on millennials like me and still feel like I’ve won the argument because I’m objectively smarter than he is.
AiPT!: While there are definitely a few laughs in the original movie, your book pumps up the humor considerably. Was there any push to try and re-capture the Hong Kong B-movie vibe of the film?
Burch: My editors, Eric Harburn and Alex Galer, were totally on board with my doofy-ass brand of humor. We wanted to recapture the sense of fun and discovery, but not necessarily be beholden to making things feel like a Hong Kong chopsocky film–we basically plucked Jack out of a Shaw Brothers movie and threw him into a Mad Max flick.
AiPT!: What’s it like to work with John Carpenter? Is it weird to write with someone you’re a fan of?
Burch: It’s been incredible. John is spectacularly nice, and smart as a goddamn whip when it comes to how to tell a good story. That said, yes, it’s weird as hell. I once got off the phone with him and realized, Jesus Christ I was just on the phone with John Carpenter and he referred to Kurt Russell as “Kurt” – what the fuck and just started making a loud EEEHHHHHHHHH noise to my empty house.
AiPT!: Actually, from Hey Ash Whatcha Playin? to your work on the Borderlands series, you’ve had a pretty stellar list of collaborators. With an icon like Carpenter crossed off the list, who else would you want to work within the future?
Burch: Gosh, I dunno. How do you top John Carpenter? I’d have to start hanging out with, like, Obama or something.
AiPT!: I, like many, was a little surprised with how well Borderlands, an avid run-and-gun RPG, adapted to the point and click style that Telltale Games is sort of known for. I credit it to the strong characterizations and sense of humor that you bring to the series. Personally, I’d love to see you tackle a more traditional RPG, but are there any game styles you’d like to work on in the future?
Burch: I’d love to work on an immersive sim. There’s something about environmental storytelling that just scratches the exact right itch for me.
AiPT!: Finally, what’s next on the horizon? What can your fans look forward to?
Burch: If you’re not sick of reading comics I wrote, you can check out some of the League of Legends comics I’ve written at universe.leagueoflegends.com!