Seeing Wall-E in theaters for the first time made me feel like a kid again. Yeah, in the whole childish wonder way, but it made me think of a specific memory. When I was really young, I loooooved 101 Dalmatians. I was obsessed with Dalmatians, terrified of anyone even whispering the name Cruella De Ville, and maybe even, once or twice, joined in on the howling scene. My parents, for our movie nights, would ask what I was in the mood to watch, gesturing to my short shelf of those big white Disney VHS tapes, which included a good amount of the classics. Every time, it was “Dalmatians!”
That was until I saw “The Lion King.” Seven-year-old me was awed by the movie, from the songs to the characters to the story to the animation. It wowed me in a way I didn’t think possible. I saw it in theaters many times, and mourned when my parents told me it wasn’t playing anymore. Not long after that, a movie night came around, and they asked me what I wanted to watch. Of course, my available favorite: “Dalmatians.” I took a bath, got ready to watch, and was dismayed when my father, his face taking on a faux-somber quality, told me that we wouldn’t be watching Dalmatians. He gestured to my shelf, where a shiny new copy of The Lion King – on glorious VHS – sat next to Dalmatians.
My new favorite.
In 2008, watching Wall-E as a twenty-one year-old, I was that little boy again. I had a new favorite in this tale of a waste-compacting robot with the seemingly unattainable dream of holding someone’s hand. I was moved by the film, and moved by how it made me feel.
My new new favorite.
So, of course, when I saw that Boom! was selling an original graphic novel starring Wall-E himself at New York Comic Con 2010, I knew I couldn’t leave without it.
The book, titled Wall-E: Recharge, is a direct prequel to the movie. It’s written by J. Torres with art by the immensely talented Morgan Luthi. Colors are provided by Digikore Studios, letters by Jose Mascasocol Jr, and Deron Bennet, design by Erika Terriquez, and editorial by Aaron Sparrow and assistant Jason Long. This was published under Boom!’s Boom-Kids imprint, before the successful Kaboom! imprint was a thing. It collects four mostly standalone issues – Working to Dig You Out, Looking Up, Going Down, and My Pest Friend – that, when read as presented here, flesh out Wall-E’s life before the film began.
The focus is squarely on Wall-E and, with no narration, it’s a primarily silent story. Sound effects and the occasional mechanical utterance from Wall-E (“E!”; “Hm”; “Heh”; and one well-earned “Waaaah-Lee!” among a few others) help the reader along. Luthi’s art boasts perfect storytelling, pulling off the physicality of the narrative well. The quiet nature of Wall-E still works best in film, but the translation to comics, despite a few slightly confusing panels, rarely misses a beat in this story.
We explore the abandoned planet Earth along with Wall-E. Some of the best parts of this book were watching Wall-E figure out how to navigate this world on his own, when the other machines like him begin shutting down. Alone, be begins to fill the storage truck he has come to call home with nick-nacks he likes, such as the Christmas lights. One of the most moving parts of the book is watching Wall-E discover a power source that allows him to turn on the lights. As his eyes shine, reflecting the light of those bulbs, he almost looks like he’s tearing up.
He’s not alone.
The best part of the book, though, was My Pest Friend. Hands down. In this last chapter, Wall-E his time trying to trap the cockroach – a character fans of the movie will remember as his buddy. It’s hilarious watching the Home Alone-esque traps Wall-E builds, and the eventual kindling of their friendship is a heck of a payoff.
Everything that works so well in Wall-E as a film does so in Wall-E: Recharge. It expands on the movie in a satisfying way with terrific art and a quality story that stays true to the character.
Now… for some reason, I’m suddenly in the mood for a 101 Dalmatians/The Lion King/Wall-E triple feature.
PAT SHAND is a comic book writer (Robyn Hood, Charmed: Season Ten, Grimm Fairy Tales) and pop culture journalist (Blastoff Comics, Sad Girls Guide) who, despite loving films about dogs, surrounds himself with cats that keep him up all hours of the night.