Archie's Metroid Comic: What Could Have Been, and What Should Be

Samus is a troubled character in more ways than one. How should she be depicted in a comic?

The video game business is an industry of "What Ifs" and "Maybes." Interesting ideas get flung into the ether all the time, and we only get to catch a faint scent of them years down the line.

Here's a recent example: Comic artist Steven Butler shared a few concept sketches he did for a Metroid comic six years ago. The series, which was proposed by Archie Comics, never made it beyond these sketches, and Archie opted to make a Mega Man comic instead.

Butler's sketches reflect the more modern interpretation of bounty hunter Samus Aran, i.e. "Zero Suit Samus" from Metroid: Zero Mission and the smaller, more delicate Samus who featured in Metroid: Other M.

Obviously, if these phantom Metroid comics ever materialized somehow, Samus' personality would be much more integral to drawing in readers than her looks (well, theoretically). That's not to say I'd be excited to Other M's waif-Samus in a Metroid Comic. The Samus who starred in ye olden days of the Metroid franchise was a bit of an amazon, and I think that's awesome. Outside of Metroid: Other M, she clocks in at 6 feet, 3 inches, and nearly 200 pounds without her Power Suit. When Solid Snake professes his, let's say, interest in Samus via Super Smash Bros Brawl's supplemental codec dialogue, there's a good reason why Mei Ling essentially tells him "She'd break you, little boy."

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I doubt Archie had much planned for the Metroid comic pitch beyond "Hey, we want to do a comic with Samus in it." It seems the idea was shot down early, and Archie quickly moved on. Given how nicely the publisher's Mega Man comic expanded on Capcom's established universe, though, I'd love to get a peek at the alternate universe where Archie does indeed print and publish a Metroid comic.

Maybe we'd get something akin to the Nintendo comics Valiant published in the late '80s and early '90s. Kevin "Captain N" Keene featured in several of these funnybook adventures, and so did a certain female bounty hunter who never appeared in the animated Captain N series. Valiant's Samus was pushy, large, and wholly in charge. Good stuff.

Also, she was an unashamed cougar.

Valiant's "Nintendo Comics System" isn't perfect, but for something forged during a time when supplemental story and character information wasn't widely available to English-speaking audiences, the comics' stories really aren't too bad. I still like how the Valiant comic portrays Samus as a money-hungry bounty hunter. Sure, she has a sense of justice – but she's also motivated by greed. Even female game characters who are celebrated for their strength aren't often allowed to single-mindedly seek profit. It's a refreshing take, and it pairs well with Samus' imposing size and strength.

That's not to say I necessarily dislike modern Samus, either. In fact, I understand what producer Yoshio Sakamoto was going for with his half-helpless depiction of the space huntress in Metroid: Other M. In the early aughts, Nintendo published an official manga that illustrates Samus' childhood, including the death of her parents at the claws of Ridley, and her tutelage under Commander Adam Malkovich. Part of the manga is dedicated to her suffering and overcoming the post-traumatic stress her parents' death inflicted on her. Sakamoto likely wanted to distill some of the manga's drama into Other M, but unfortunately, the delicate story points that had time to grow in the manga wound up a half-baked mess in the game.

Good thing this rivalry never came to blows. I'm pretty sure Samus would've planted Lana.

Nintendo seems to have a hard time drawing a bead on Samus' personality, a problem it doesn't appear to have with its other popular characters. Link's a quiet hero, Mario's a steadfast everyman, and Luigi's a well-meaning coward – but poor Samus gets pulled in every direction.

Maybe that's not so bad; it means the bounty hunter has a lot of potential as a complex hero. Regardless of whether we meet up with Samus again in a comic book or an actual game, I'd like to see a melding of her confident and "damaged" personality traits: A towering woman who doesn't hesitate to do what must be done, but also reflects on her past and confronts her demons (i.e. Ridley) when it's necessary.

If that means getting a Samus who leans a little closer to the one we saw in the Valiant comics, yeah, I'm OK with that. Um, minus her undisguised lust for teenage boys. Seriously, the way she just kind of picks up and handles Kevin Keene like a kitten when they're together is unsettling.

(Take me instead.)

Tagged with mega man, Metroid, Nintendo, Opinions.

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