Back in the day before I even knew what manga was I still found myself addicted to a certain comic. My mother was surprisingly up to date with the strange things her kids were into and thusly the year after my brother and I received our Nintendo 64, we found ourselves gifted with two very special comics: Super Mario Adventures and the comic adaptation of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Whereas I enjoyed the Zelda one greatly, reading about Mario going through those adventures from the old Game Boy games that I was too impatient to enjoy at the time really just interested me more. The vibrant colors, the jokes, the characters, just…everything was completely enjoyable. I’m only going to cover the main story here, but the compilation also includes a hilarious tale between Mario and his nemesis (who is around one hundred times more [sym]pathetic in this comic), Wario.
As expected, the comic follows the usual formula: Bowser invades the Mushroom Kingdom, Princess Toadstool gets captured, and Mario—plus Luigi, for once—must go save her and bring peace to the kingdom once more. We’re not breaking any new territory here: the audience knows that Bowser is going to be defeated and Mario will happily tromp back to the Mushroom Kingdom, princess in tow. No, the characterizations of these well-known figures is what makes the audience keep reading and damn if it isn’t one of the most brilliant characterizations of the cast (outside of Super Mario RPG) that I have seen.
Mario, our silent protagonist, is finally granted a voice and he is just about as happy and positive as you could imagine. In fact, he’s even so positive that he talks to a Big Boo until it becomes so happy that it just disappears. And there’s something really endearing about seeing Mario put in doctorate to work in a way that benefits not only himself, but the creatures around him (even if he was just trying to leave the ghost house). Luigi once more takes the roll of the cowardly comic relief, but he can still keep up with Mario. One of the great things I love about this comic is that it really shows the brotherly love between the two plumbers. When Luigi gets despondent, Mario is there to cheer him up and help him. When Mario is momentarily defeated, Luigi is the one who puts him back on his feet. With more modern games such as the Mario and Luigi series, their relationship is a little easier to understand, but before this comic such a thing was hardly heard of. It really was a breath of fresh air to see Luigi be more than just ‘Player 2’, finally.
This comic is also, in my opinion, a point of solidification for the characterization of the king himself, Bowser. As we have come to see in games like Super Mario RPG and Super Mario Sunshine, Bowser is about the least threatening bad guy ever, despite him being a huge, spiky turtle-man. This is how he is portrayed in the comic as well. He’s a goofy guy who is, for some reason, desperately in love with Princess Toadstool but when it comes down to business he can still turn all of your subjects into stone. He also really cares for his seven kids, for whom he seems to really bend over backwards for despite their reputation. Taking one look at his daughter, Wendy O. Koopa’s, room we find that it is decked out in pink and designer clothes. Honestly, where are you going to find that stuff in the middle of his kingdom? So, in some sense, they’re all just looking out for each other; when Bowser wants to marry Toadstool (which also has some desires based in the fact that Bowser wants his kids to have a mom), his kids are willing to do anything to make that happen. It’s rather sweet.
Finally, this brings us to my favorite character in this comic, Princess Toadstool herself. From this point, Toadstool (now known more commonly as Peach) is the character that has made the biggest change in characterization. Although she’s pretty cool now, I really do prefer her in this version. She’s a princess that doesn’t mince words. She doesn’t take any shit. She will kick your ass in heels and that pink dress. In fact, in comparison to the modern day Mariocharacters, this Toadstool is really much closer to Princess Daisy than Peach. She is the unorthodox princess of the Mushroom Kingdom, but she still has a soft spot for the two plumbers. In fact, in one part she even works with Luigi to hatch a rather cunning plan to save Mario proving in one fell swoop that 1) minor characters can do important, amazing things and 2)really, don’t mess with Princess Toadstool. I really could just gush on and on about her character, but I’ll just let this panel speak for itself as I fangirl in my corner over here.
If you can get your hands on it in any manner, I would highly suggest reading it. It’s a more than enjoyable read and it’s always fun to nostalgia about some of your favorite game characters.