Bauer Brings Marvel Comics to Life in Fantastic Fashion

If you ever picked up a comic in the 80’s, you are in for a treat, courtesy of one overachieving Marvel Comics aficionado. Chicago filmmaker Harry Bauer has been perfecting his craft of transforming 1980s Marvel mags into fully realized motion comics. His latest, most ambitious video just debuted on his YouTube platform Geek-O-Riffic, and Harry stopped by SCREEN for an exclusive interview and look into the project.

Bauer turned to his love of classic comics, particularly the Fantastic Four, with an intent to bring a comic book to life, while solely relying on all of the original comic panels. Under the fan film umbrella, he ventured to create a non-monetized, volunteer product that would be a fun way to experiment and put creative material out there.

And the fan fervor has been growing with each video. “The comments that I get the most is that my videos make people feel like they are back reading these comics again for the first time or watching the old 60s cartoons or listening to Power Records,” Bauer shared with SCREEN. “So, if you ever picked up a comic in the 80s or a comic from the 80s, I hope these videos give people a little sparkle of how that felt. And maybe with a little something extra.”

With that, let’s get to the motion comic. In this latest, most ambitious video by Harry and his team… Susan Richards (aka The Invisible Girl) is pulled away from NYC towards the Arctic Ocean to assist Canadian Superheroes Alpha Flight tangled in a conflict with a mysterious villain called The Master. Hoping to peacefully return home from that adventure, she only finds that her husband Reed (better known as Mister Fantastic) is missing and taken far from Earth.

And here it is… enjoy!

Behind the Scenes of This Ambitious Effort

To say this project was a massive undertaking would be an understatement. Bauer worked on putting the art at the forefront. While other online comic book dramatizations use the comic book pages as-is, Bauer opted to go through the painstaking steps of removing the word bubbles and text boxes. He did this by drawing in all the “missing” art by hand, working hard to replicate the style of John Byrne, the iconic writer/artist that Bauer pays homage to with each video.

The end product created panels of only artwork that can completely fill the frame. The original videos are comprised of clever pans and zooms on the comic content. As Bauer kept moving forward, he started adding little bits of animations that continued to use the panel art in its true original form. With each video, Harry has challenged himself to push his methods a little farther.

Artists Assemble!

And Bauer recruited a talented team to collaborate with him throughout the effort.

This latest production is Bauer’s biggest, employing the most animation yet and packing four comics together (with a cross-over by Canadian superhero team Alpha Flight) into one jam-packed 41-minute video. Enlisting a full cast to perform the comics like moving radio plays, he was able to use a lot of Chicago talent. Meanwhile, the freedom of having actors record on their own and provide him with audio files also allowed him to use actors in New York, LA, Georgia… and as far as Serbia and New Zealand.

The cast of Karyn Morris Brownlee, Michael Brownlee, Clare Cooney, Jon Collins, Anthony Cummins, Craig Dingle, Greg Hardigan, Scott Barkley, Scott Illingworth, Anish JethmalaniMelanie Keller, Elizabeth Kline, John Luzar, Chris Mathews, Mike McNamara, Al Mega, Mark Nocent, Ryan Oliver, Jenn Plotzke, John “Ray” Proctor, Noah SimonAnne Sheridan Smith, Anthony Tournis, Joseph Wycoff and even a cameo from Bauer himself are bringing the heroes, villains and other characters to life with great flair.

Add in the wonderful work of musician Joel Lederer to score the piece and you have all of the ingredients of his vibrant moving comic book videos. 

“The initial interest was a means to stay creative during the pandemic and stay connected to creative friends,” Harry shared with SCREEN. “Putting that together with my love of comics felt like an easy choice. Going forward became a simple challenge for myself with each new video – How can I do this better? How can I make this something more than the last one?”

What’s So Fantastic About That Fantastic Four?

You might be asking what led Harry to choose a particular storyline or superhero track. “These Fantastic Four stories were the very comic books that hooked me as a kid, and turned me into a collector,” Harry reminisced with SCREEN.

“Plus the MCU had not touched the Fantastic Four yet (although that movie is coming soon) and the other film attempts of the FF were not super successful. So, there was nothing deeply ingrained to compete with, like ‘Why doesn’t Iron Man sound like Robert Downey Jr?’ Mostly, there wasn’t a deep actor association to who Reed, Sue, Ben and Johnny were. Adapting the same first comics that I picked off a spinner rack, as a kid at the Jersey shore was personal. So, once I started, I wanted to just see the storyline through. The Alpha Flight cross-over was already built in. I could have only used their single-comic appearance with the Fantastic Four, but I really love the Alpha Flight characters and that comic. So, I decided to pack in the whole storyline that leads up to the cross-over. It gives full context and turns the whole thing into this mini-epic of sorts. It felt like a lot of fun.”

What’s Next for Bauer

“I plan to finish this storyline. So, that’s one more video right there,” Harry shared with SCREEN. “I’ll be looking to do some adaptations of other comics and possibly even some original content in the same format.”

And beyond the comic book excursion, Bauer also has a few screenplays in development. “I’ve made an indie pilot and two short films – all scripts of my own – partnered with Corey Gilbert and other talented folks from the p3 mediaworks team,” Harry declared to SCREEN.

“So, my eye is also definitely on what my next film project could be.”

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