Comic Book Villains (2002)
I'm actually kind of surprised how obscure Comic Book Villains is. It has a lot of known actors, and it's relatively recent. I'm even more surprised that Comic Book Villains is a black comedy with an interesting plot rather than just a shallow plot that tries to use a bunch of comic book references as jokes.
- Raymond the comic shop owner, played by Donal Logue (the dad from Grounded for Life)
- Archie, Raymond's customer and friend, played by DJ Qualls (the dorky one in Road Trip)
- Norman, owner of a comic shop that rivals Raymond's, played by Michael Rapaport (Phoebe's cop boyfriend on Friends1)
- Judy, Norman's wife and comic shop co-owner, played by Natasha Lyonne (the main character in But I'm a Cheerleader)
- Carter, the town criminal, played by Cary Elwes (Dread Pirate Roberts from The Princess Bride)
- Mrs. Cresswell, owner of the coveted comic collection, played by Eileen Brennan (Mrs. Peacock in Clue)
- Conan, a instigating comic collector who shops in both stores, played by Danny Masterson (Hyde from That 70's Show)
Conan tells Raymond and Norman that Mrs. Cresswell's son has died. The son had collected comics his whole life and had many entire series including the obscure. He kept them in mint condition. Mrs. Cresswell is elderly and lives alone. Raymond and Norman both make plans to try to buy the comics from Mrs. Cresswell before the other does.
Judy doesn't understand the big deal until Norman tells her how much the comics are worth. At this point it's clear that Norman and Judy are motivated by money. Raymond love comics to the point of unhealthy obsession.
It's revealed that Raymond doesn't have any money. He attempts to bargain with Norman and Judy. He says that he'll help them sell the comics, but he doesn't want any money. He just wants the credit for the discovery in an attempt to be on a panel at San Diego Comic Con. Judy tells Raymond to leave because he has no money. It's at this point that they become bitter enemies.
Norman first tries to buy the comics from Mrs. Cresswell. She refuses to sell them. Raymond then tries the same, failing. Later, both men help Mrs. Cresswell maintain her house, doing chores such as cleaning the gutters, in an attempt to coax Mrs. Cresswell into selling the comics. They repeatedly sabotage each other vindictively, trying to injure each other. Judy even goes so far as to run Raymond over with her car. Everyone has contrived reasons why each doesn't call the cops about each other.
Raymond has to tend to the comic shop, so he sends Archie to deliver Mrs. Cresswell's groceries. While putting them away, he asks Mrs. Cresswell about some of her pictures. At first she doesn't believe that Archie is genuinely interested. He explains, while he does buy and read comics, he's starting to realize that there is more to life than just comic books. She tells him all about her life in Spain, specifically Barcelona. Over time, Archie and Mrs. Cresswell become friends.
Raymond realizes that he's never going to get the comics, so he decides to call upon a man who bullied him in school, Carter, to steal them for him. Because Carter lives in a seedier part of town, Raymond buys a gun. Archie tries to point out that this situation is going entirely to far, but Raymond doesn't care. After propositioning to him, Carter agrees to steal the comics.
Norman and Judy know the Raymond is planning something, but they don't know what it is. They hire Conan to find out. Conan eavesdrops on Raymond mentioning his plan. After reporting back to Norman and Judy, Judy decides to get serious and buys a gun. Norman says they should get something small, and Judy wants something larger, specifically mentioning something .45 caliber. They compromise on a 9 mm.
Later, Carter ties Mrs. Cresswell to a chair and starts loading the comics on to his truck. He mentions that he has to kill her to get rid of witnesses. Archie and Raymond barge in on the scene. Carter and Raymond turn on each other, guns drawn, as Archie tries to untie Mrs. Cresswell. Norman and Judy also run in, creating a Mexican standoff. In the ensuing chaos, Carter throws a knife at Raymond, accidentally hitting Mrs. Cresswell's stomach, and Judy accidentally shoots Norman in the shoulder. Carter escapes.
Archie applies pressure to Mrs. Cresswell's wound and asks for someone to call for an ambulance. They all say, in one form or another, that there's no time; they have to catch Carter because he has all the comics, and Mrs. Cresswell was old and would die soon anyway. They all leave Archie sobbing over a dying Mrs. Cresswell. Her last words to Archie are to look in her son's closet.
Raymond goes to Carter's house and finds Carter's girlfriend. He binds her and interrogates her for Carter's location, beating her with a hammer.
Judy, rather than bringing Norman to a hospital as he requested, drives both of them to Raymond's comic shop. They search for a address book in hopes of finding Carter's address. Norman goes to search by Raymond's desk, but the desk is broken and lands on Norman's foot. The cigarette falls from Norman's mouth onto a pile of comics, starting a fire. Judy is too weak to life the desk. Norman starts to cry that he doesn't want to burn. Judy shoots and kills him.
Raymond finds Carter and a fight ensues. Carter tries to drive away, but Raymond stays with him. Carter swerves to throw Raymond from the truck, succeeding, but he loses control and crashes into a lake. All the comics are destroyed by the water. Carter wades onto land. Raymond kicks Carter down and holds him at gunpoint. Carter tries to persuade Raymond to not shoot, claiming to love comics like Raymond. Raymond quizzes Carter. Carter, in Raymond's opinion, gets a question wrong and fires repeatedly, emptying the gun into Carter.
Raymond goes to Judy's comic shop. They both mention how they've killed people today. Judy asks if Carter deserved to die. Raymond says yes. He asks the same about Norman. Judy doesn't respond. The police arrive. Raymond says that he has to leave. "My ride's here." He draws his gun in front of the police. The police respond, killing Raymond in a hail of bullets.
The conclusion of the movie shows Archie revealing the contents of Mrs. Cresswell's son's closet. Besides collecting comics, the son also collected baseball cards. The cards, like the comics, are valuable. Archie never liked baseball and sold the cards, becoming rich. He decides to leave home and travel the world like Mrs. Cresswell. He eventually settles down in Barcelona.
Maybe it's because the movie went direct to video, but I think Comic Book Villains deserves to be more well known. I've seen a lot of movies where "The bad guy is driven by money, and that's evil! The people who have passion for [MacGuffin] are the good guys!" I like seeing a movie where both sides are too extreme.
The comics are a MacGuffin. It's possible to watch this movie with no knowledge of comic books and still enjoy it.
Even though I enjoyed the movie, there is still one problem, and it's a large one. This movie is classified as a black comedy. The point in the movie that seemed like there was the most humor was when Norman and Raymond were sabotaging each other while doing Mrs. Cresswell's house chores. This segment was practically slapstick comedy resulting in injuries. By the end of the movie, all semblance of comedy is gone, becoming closer to a drama. Because of this, Comic Book Villains doesn't do enough in either genre to be very memorable. Fans of either genre will be left wanting more.
I think Comic Book Villains would have benefited had it removed a little bit of its "comedy" and became a drama. This movie is definitely worth watching once and is worth knowing about, but there's not enough substance to keep going back to it.
Final Verdict - 3/5
Comic Book Villains has the potential to be better, but falls short. It is an average movie that is worth watching once.
1 Michael Rapaport has been in many movies and TV shows. Some are more notable than "Phoebe's cop boyfriend," but I tend to remember an actor as the first character I ever saw him portray. Also, if someone ever mentions "Gary" on Friends, I wouldn't have a clue who that is, but I'll know who "Phoebe's cop boyfriend" is.