Up For Adventure
♦ Tripwire’s contributing writer Scott Braden gives us his latest in a regular series about comic series that never were. Today it’s the turn of Thom Zahler’s Up: Down Under…
Thom Zahler’s Up: Down Under
Cartoonist Thom Zahler is no stranger to bringing the world of Disney and beyond to four-color life. And, with that said, he almost succeeded in crafting a comic book sequel to a popular Pixar film with his lost tale, Up: Down Under.
“I loved the film [Up] and thought it ended so well for new adventures,” Zahler said. “Ellie tells Carl to have new adventures. His house is gone; he’s living in the zeppelin. He’s got a surrogate son. It’s basically Uncle Scrooge, where the old guy can take the scout on adventures.”
His lost tale begins where the movie, Up, left off. According to Zahler, “Carl and Dug are living in the zeppelin (since Carl no longer has a house) and is acting as foster-grandfather/father to Russell. And Carl’s renamed the zeppelin Ellie, of course.”
As Zahler’s story opens, Carl is reading through some of Muntz’s old journals, kind of his version of the Adventure Book. Zahler has him struck by some passages about Muntz’s time in Australia in the late 1920s, when he had become sweet on the newly crowned Miss Australia. As a historical fact: Australia’s first Miss Australia was in 1927. Unfortunately for Miss Australia, though, Muntz was more taken with his love of exploration.
“Over the years in Paradise Falls,” Zahler said, “Muntz started writing letters to Miss Australia, which he never sent. While Muntz did try to kill Carl and Russell, and had become a little Colonel Kurtz, he was still Carl’s childhood hero. So Carl decides to take the letters to Miss Australia. He gathers Russell and Dug and they head down under.
“Arriving in Australia, our crew finds that while Miss Australia has passed away, she did marry someone else and her daughter, Maddie (close in age to Carl) is still alive. Maddie is a nurse with the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Carl gives her the letters along with some photos. When Maddie sees the photo of Muntz and her mother in the Outback, it jogs something in her memory. Carl offers to take her to that spot.”
“When they get there,” Zahler wrote, “Russell spies an abandoned mine and, being bored by all the reminiscing and talk of the ‘30s, starts to explore. Carl follows him inside, and discovers a blocked off area with Muntz’s initials on it. They open it up and after going through an Indiana Jones/Uncle Scrooge type adventure path, find a hidden diamond vein.
“Unfortunately, they’ve also set up a ticking clock, too. They find a message saying that there are two other places they must now get to in the next 24 hours or they will all be destroyed/flooded.”
Zahler had Carl go through more of Muntz’s journals for clues, detailing the story of how he found this diamond mine. Zahler would also create a flashback with Muntz beating a rival explorer to claim the mine.
The second place they find, after another adventure path, is a closed-off gold mine, with a vein of gold still in it. Zahler would again craft a flashback with Muntz winning the gold mine in a poker game from the same rival explorer.
“As the adventures continue, Carl and Maddie notice a spark between them,” Zahler said. “They make it to the last place, a secluded cabin in Tasmania. In doing so, they deactivate the clock. It’s never been lived in, and they find a smelting set-up. That’s when it hits Carl. Diamond. Gold. A house. Muntz was going to ask Miss Australia to marry him. He was going to make his own engagement ring and give it to her, and then he built a house for her to live in. Because only a custom ring designed by him, and a custom house made by him, would be good enough for his bride.
“And further, he contracted his rival from the diamond flashback to build a series of challenges for him, so that creating the ring was as much of an adventure as anything else. So Muntz could say, ‘I braved all sorts of challenges to create this unique ring. And even as special as that makes it, it’s not as special as you, Miss Australia.’”
“But his pride and his career kept him from ever following through,” Zahler continued. “Carl gives Maddie the deeds to the mines and the cabin, which he’s also found in the journals. Maddie decides to use the money to help fund the Flying Doctors, using the money to fund another kind of adventure.
“And, while Carl and Maddie have some chemistry between them, Ellie is Carl’s one true love. He’s never going to try to replace that love, but he has learned the value of having new friends. So, Carl and Maddie part as new friends.”
At the end of the day, Zahler explained that the premise of his lost tale is similar to the movie, with some significant differences: “The journey itself is pretty easy, it’s what they find when they arrive,” said Zahler. “Also, the Muntz story is a great counterpoint to Carl’s story. Carl chose love, sacrificing adventure, but eventually found it. Muntz chose adventure and pride over love, and it drove him crazy.”
The project never materialized because, Zahler theorizes, it was caught up in the end of BOOM’s Pixar license – which may have led to a reluctance by Pixar to continue the Up story
Although Zahler’s lost tale didn’t come to fruition, he’s currently working on other projects, including Cupid’s Arrows on WEBTOON. He also wrote a story for Star Trek Waypoint coming out next month. And, he’s bringing back Love and Capes this summer.
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