|Script: Ralph Macchio/Pencils: Gene Colan/Inks and colors: Tom Palmer|
But something good did arise out the ashes. Marvel Comics adapted Meteor for one of their Marvel Super Specials, and its genius editors assigned Gene Colan and Tom Palmer to draw it. What Colan and Palmer turned in is nothing short of amazing. Far from rush it even though they must have known the movie they were working on was a major turkey, they seem to have taken extreme care with the artwork, which includes globe-trotting scene changes from a Hong King suburb to New York City to a doomed Swiss ski resort and back again, detailed backgrounds in the computer command center, a double-page spread of a tsunami threatening Hawaii and another engulfing Hong Kong and—most spectacularly—two pages of rocks blasting and gouging Manhattan itself. The detail, the realism, the scope. It's also more than a little disturbing when you associate it with real world events from the years since, but I can’t help but think the movie Meteor might have been a Star Wars-sized blockbuster if only it had looked even half as good as what Colan and Palmer pull off in the comic.
The script is by Ralph Macchio (the comics guy, not the Karate Kid), and it’s serviceable. He had to work from the dumb-ass movie screenplay and there’s only so much you can do with something like that. Let’s just say he keeps the rocks rolling and benefits from this being a comic book, where our expectations for plot mechanics, dialogue and characterization are a fair bit lower than they are even for schlocky disaster films. Occasionally, I can’t help but detect a little tongue-in-cheek tone, especially in the panel based on a scene where the movie obviously went for pathos and found only derisive laughter.
Also, you have to consider this is the kind of story where the falling rocks manage to obliterate a familiar ski resort and then Hong Kong, a place most of the intended middle American audience had a vague awareness of as important or large, but still far enough away they could glean a kicky thrill from it before having to confront the horror of something bad happening to their own country. Gasp! Not here! Not in America, where everything of any real importance lives! You know, the same way terrorists or Mayan disasters always scorch picturesque landmarks in Paris or Tokyo before they come after God’s Country.
Which eventually happens here. New York City is where the bombardment climaxes, although for some reason the story confines its heroes to the same underground lair they've been stuck in throughout most of the running time and subjects them to-- of all things-- a mud bath. When you consider how the film could have directly involved them in some of the skyscraper smashings or had them out rescuing small children and their pets then you go a long way towards explaining why Meteor flopped so badly.
But that isn't the weirdest thing about Meteor or its superior comic adaptation. The weirdest thing about Meteor is the inside masthead credits Earl Norem for the cover painting, but one look at it and you know it’s not Norem. A Norem painting would have put this book over the top as one of those lost classics. Instead, we get something that looks more like a painting a precociously talented high school kid or community college art student would do in gouache or thin acrylics and then a quick pass with the class’ airbrush. It’s flat and awkward and it’s boldly signed by people other than Earl Norem. I know who they are, but mercy and niceness prevents me from naming them. Still, poor Earl Norem. He must have felt a bit like Enrico Palazzo did in The Naked Gun as he watched a disguised Frank Drebin sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" on TV, credited as Palazzo. I have no idea how this editorial mistake happened. Maybe they just lifted a pasted-up masthead from another magazine and forgot to replace Norem’s name. Norem couldn’t do something this flat and lifeless even if he had a single lunch break to hack it out.