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"Wintry February night, the present. Order of events: a phone call from a frightened woman notating the arrival of an unidentified flying object, then the check-out you've just witnessed with two state troopers verifying the event, but with nothing more enlightening to add beyond evidence of some tracks leading across the highway to a diner. You've heard of trying to find a needle in a haystack? Well, stay with us now and you'll be part of an investigating team whose mission is not to find that proverbial needle. No, their task is even harder. They've got to find a Martian in a diner, and in just a moment you'll search with them, because you've just landed in the Twilight Zone..."
Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up? is a 2009 graphic novel adaptation of a famous Twilight Zone episode written by Rod Serling. The story was adapted by Mark Kneece with art by Rich Ellis. It's a snowy February night in the small town of Hook's End and State Troopers Perry and Padgett are sent to investigate when a call comes in from a terrified woman who claims that something crash-landed near Tracy's Pond. The troopers find the crash site and evidence of wreckage but the whole thing is very puzzling and not easily identifiable. In fact, it looks as if it could an unidentified flying object of some kind that has crashed to Earth on this cold night. The only lead comes in the form of footprints in the snow which trail away from the wreckage and to a tiny remote diner where a small group of people are huddled inside. The group were on a bus bound for Boston but were forced to disembark and take refuge in the diner while they waited to hear if the bridge up ahead was safe to cross. It turns out though that according to the register there is one more person in the diner than was on the bus. Someone is not who they claim to be. "They loaded in the snow at Hook's Landing. To tell you the truth, I don't know who got on," shrugs the driver. It will be up to the State Troopers to work out who the imposter is and until they do everyone will be forced to stay. Is there an alien amongst them?
This is a fairly straight ahead adaption of one of The Twilight Zone's more successful mildly comic stories. The story is more whimsical than many Twilight Zone scripts but it was strong on atmosphere too and not without a few spooky incidents. The troopers realise something very strange is going on when the lights and jukebox start to go on and off of its own accord and sugar and salt shakers keep exploding. The clever thing about the story is that it presents a nice Twilight Zone twist on the country mansion Whodunit where characters are trapped together until a resolution to the mystery is found. Here though the country mansion is a snowbound diner and the question is not who is the murderer but rather who is the alien. Just like the television episode there are a few red herrings abounding. While the story sticks fairly firmly to the source material I can't say I wasn't terribly knocked out by the art here. It seemed a bit cartoony and loose compared to the stylised and crisp art that featured in The After Hours adaptation in this series. These books are aimed primarily at younger readers but hopeless Twilight Zone completists might find the illustrations (and by consequence the tone) of Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up? rather juvenile. It's a problem I never really had with the others in the collection I've read so far so I think the art is the main culprit.
The best part of the book is actually the troopers out in the snow investigating the crash site with their torches. The rendering of the scene at night with the artificial illumination of the troopers cutting into the darkness is excellent and perhaps this is why the art seems rather flat and uninspired when it does go inside. One thing I did like here (and it was something they couldn't do in the television for obvious budgetary reasons) was a panel of a fleet of flying saucers amongst the stars. Good pulpy retro fun. The characters are never drawn to look exactly like the television counterparts in these books (I don't know if that is a legal issue relating to the use of a likeness and about saving money) so it's a slight shame that we don't get a cartoon representation of bug eyed Western actor Jack Elam as probably the most memorable character in the television episode. An old man who sits at the bar and seems to find everything incredibly amusing in eccentric and slightly drunken fashion. "Six humans and one monster from outer space. You wouldn't happen to have an eye in the back of your head, would you?" The character is happily present here and on hand to irritate everyone again but he is just drawn to look like a more generic old character rather than the wild eyed Elam. The concept of the story is clever. A group of very different people trapped together in highly unusual circumstances until they all get on one another's nerves. The dialogue sticks to the source material in a relatively faithful fashion although they've chopped certain elements here and there. I didn't notice the old man's line about Ray Bradbury, presumably because the producers of the graphic novel thought that the target audience would probably have no idea who Ray Bradbury is.
One of the nice things about the book though - and it's something they do in all of these adaptations - is insert Rod Serling into the story at the beginning and end to present his introductory and closing monologues a la the television. The rendering of Serling is not bad at all and it's a nice mark of respect and recognition for someone who changed the face of television with the series. It does help to add some authentic Twilight Zone atmosphere to the comic. Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up? is sometimes said to be predictable but the first time I watched the television series I did not spot the ending coming a mile off so I think the element of surprise will work here for those who aren't familiar with the original incarnation. One thing I do love about these books is that they are really big and just feel attractive and novel to hold or have on the bookshelf. Maybe younger readers might yearn for a bit more action or something more fantastical but the mysterious nature of the story and the knowledge that one of the people in the diner might very well be an alien should be appealing anyway. This is a decent adaptation and very readable but personally it was the art that stopped me enjoying this as much as the others I've read in this series so far. Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up? runs to 72 pages and at the time of writing is available to buy for around £7.