If you were here for the last exciting installment of this four part series, chances are that you’ll remember this screen:
Since the Mortal Kombat II: Music from the Arcade Game Soundtrack has already been showcased, it’s time to shift our focus towards the other two items that were up for grabs, namely the comic books.
The Mortal Kombat and Mortal Kombat II Collector’s Edition Comic Books were one-shots exclusively available by mail order from the Midway Manufacturing Company (at least initially; the first issue was later allegedly made available through regular retail outlets). The former had a wraparound cover featuring all of the major characters from the first game (minus Shang Tsung), while the latter’s front cover was a photographic composite version of the “lighting strike dragon logo” from the second game’s title screen. Both featured artwork by series co-creator John Tobias.
As the content of these one-shots is extensively covered in the Mortal Kombat (comics) entry on Wikipedia and complete scans of dubious legality have been made available for download online, I’ll forgo any detailed summaries here. What really makes them interesting, however, is the fact that they expanded upon events only mentioned in passing in the characters’ biographies and endings as well as in the attract mode’s plot summaries. The end result was an elaborate backstory that tied the histories and destinies of all the combatants together to form a complex whole, a level of complexity that its rival for arcade fighting game dominance at the time, Street Fighter II, couldn’t hope to match. (At the time, anyway. Capcom has greatly expanded upon the fictional universe of their flagship series over the course of numerous sequels and with the help of myriad official sourcebooks since those days, though retcons, revisions, and the piecemeal manner in which said backstory was revealed has made continuity rather complicated, to say the least.)
In the nearly twenty years since these comics were released, the first comic book has managed to retain its canonical status while the second one has more or less lost it. Not that the latter was on solid ground to begin with: it contained plot elements that were directly contradicted by Mortal Kombat II‘s biographies of Scorpion and Sub-Zero well before Johnny Cage‘s summary of the outcome of the first tournament and the events immediately following it were completely contradicted by the game Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks. It’s a shame, really, considering that the Mortal Kombat II Collector’s Edition Comic Book made some interesting contributions to the series’ mythology, such as featuring the only appearance of Goro‘s father King Gorbak, a rare depiction of Shao Kahn without his trademark horned skull helmet, and Sub-Zero mentioning the increased use of technology by the Lin Kuei, the last of which would become a major plot point in Mortal Kombat 3 when it came to the origins of the cyber ninjas Cyrax, Sektor, and Smoke.
Of course, all this may be a moot point considering that the ninth Mortal Kombat game is a reboot of the series, wherein the future version of Raiden’s dying act of contacting his past self creates a revised timeline where events unfolded differently from what we’re familiar with. As of this writing, no one’s sure exactly when the point of divergence occurs, so it’s still anybody’s guess as to how much of the original Mortal Kombat Collector’s Edition Comic Book is still canonical. I guess we’lll find out in 48 hours, won’t we?
On a lighter note, the comic books contain a number of in-jokes in the form of references to Midway’s then-current staff:
- Johnny Cage’s shares his real name, John Carlton, with a graphic artist who worked on NBA Jam, among other things.
- Series creators Ed Boon and John Tobias and Mortal Kombat II background artist Tony Goskie appear on the set of the “Cage’s Cologne” commercial as the director, cameraman, and set designer, respectively. The latter even humorously laments about how the sudden appearance of Shang Tsung’s interdimensional portal is “wreckin’ his backgrounds”.
- Series art director Steve Beran makes an extensive appearance as Major Jackson “Jax” Briggs‘ partner, a lieutenant in the United States Special Forces, who ends up being murdered by Mileena on Shang Tsung’s orders (and whose death prompted Jax to participate in the second tournament) . Based on the fact that all that was left of him was a pile of bones, we can safely assume that he fell victim to her infamous “Man Eater” Fatality.
By the way, for those of you who’re wondering, the John Tobias autograph on my copy of the Mortal Kombat II Collector’s Edition Comic Book is not a standard feature; it was sent to me as a special thank you due to the lengthy processing time for my order, as the following document attests to:
That was a pretty nice gesture, don’t you think? 🙂