Back before comic books and video games were taken seriously, the lowest form of either was the video game comic book. Absolutely nobody looked forward to reading all 17 pages of the gripping origin story of Bonk: Headbutting Cavebaby. But if there was a dollar to trick out of a sad nerd-child, Malibu Comics was there. It might surprise you to learn that Malibu somehow got the rights to the Mortal Kombat franchise, since Malibu’s company car was a bus transfer good until an hour ago, and they considered a power lunch to be one with food. But if it seems like Mortal Kombat should be out of Malibu’s league, that’s because you’re thinking of the games now. Back when Malibu first secured the rights for it, Mortal Kombat was just a shitty Street Fighter ripoff for problem children. And that was prime Malibu territory, son.
Now, I know that all fighting game plots are utter garbage. They’re exceedingly complicated nonsense there to explain why two people who entered a fighting competition want to fight each other. So I will try not to give Malibu too much shit for the story of Mortal Kombat, which is kind of like Lovecraft doing running commentary on a bathroom fistfight at DragonCon. That might legitimately be the story of Mortal Kombat, but the only way to verify it is to listen to some dork who cares about the Mortal Kombat story, so we’ll never know.
Malibu gets a pass on a lot of this shit, even though I’m pretty sure Sub-Zero doesn’t have a business card, like he sells ninjitsu door-to-door:
And I don’t think Sonya’s dad was really Herman Blade, no matter how hard it makes me laugh:
And it’s super crazy that their little trading cards list everyone’s legal status, like the organizers of Mortal Kombat are as worried about evil trees as they are about ICE raids. Especially considering that like 80% of Mortal Kombat fighters are ghosts from another dimension, or the soul of a guy possessing a ninja, or just the front half of a centaur.
Maybe that’s all canonical Mortal Kombat horseshit. So we’re not going to pick on Malibu for the story… not when we have their hilarious art to mock!
This is the cover of their very first issue with a hot new property, and Malibu hired their little brother who is great at abs but can’t do poses yet. Sonya’s giving firm grumpy mom energy, Johnny Cage and Liu Kang look like they’re fully cooperating with the Fist Inspector, while Raiden just heard the opening chords to “Y.M.C.A.” only he’s not entirely sure — it could be “Do the Hustle.” Just… nobody has any idea what to do with their hands here. It’s like a 6th grade school dance. It’s like the opposite of a crowded Japanese train.
It is frankly amazing how much trouble Malibu get themselves into:
Why do you fuck yourself so violently, Malibu? Can you not channel your self-hatred into drink or cutting? Why must you torture yourselves with your own art? You chose what to draw here! Why did you try to pull a bunch of cool tricks with perspective when you knew you couldn’t deliver on any of them? This doesn’t scan as “Goro is reaching out at you,” it scans as “Goro has three big hands and one small one, like a Chinese Rolex.”
This cover of, again, the very first issue of a spin-off series about Baraka…
Looks like it was drawn in the margins of a science test that somebody’s stoner friend definitely failed. It looks like it was colored by a meth addict who dreams of being a tattoo artist doing the very best they can with the shitty crayons they give children at Denny’s.
Apparently even Malibu got frustrated with this whole drawing business, and they asked the most regrettable question of the 1990s: “How hard could this whole computer thing be?”
That looks like a good first try at ReBoot fan-art. It looks like you made a racist meme with Garry’s Mod but the punchline got muddled because you’re more of a text racist. That’s the kind of art they proudly display in those for-profit Design College ads that run at 2AM.
A Malibu artist draws like they just found out a family member died halfway through every panel. This one forgot most of a dude in a panel featuring three dudes and nothing else.
Never ask a Malibu artist to draw something as complicated as a face. Sometimes Liu Kang looks like a stoned Asian guy, sometimes it’s bee-stung Keanu Reeves, sometimes he looks like a face you can kind of see in a potato if you squint, and sometimes it’s all three.
Here’s sexpot Sonya:
Looking like she’s transforming into the guy next to her. She looks like a Mad Magazine caricature of the guy who played the T-1000. Good job finding an excuse to not draw a background, Malibu, but what did you use that time for? Brainstorming six new Wolverine rip-offs to capitalize on the runaway success of The Ferret?
Also maybe don’t ask a Malibu artist to draw something as complicated as “environments.” Set a scene in a rainstorm and you’ll get…
A bukkake explosion inside a cocoon. You still won’t get a usable face, either, seeing as how Sonya has a Lego head and Jax looks like Handsome Quasimodo.
Here’s Baraka after they kidnapped his adopted daughter, which I’m sure seemed like a powerful emotional moment in the script…
But in practice it looks like Voltron mid-transformation when the little head just starts to pop up. These are fangs drawn on a paint can. Did Baraka anger a witch doctor? This guy gave Baraka flying squirrel flaps, ab-tumors, and 1/3rd of a head, and Baraka gave him the greatest gift one can give a Malibu artist: an excuse not to draw feet.
I’m not picking on a single artist, or even a single era. Malibu did Mortal Kombat adaptations for decades, and they never did find somebody that has seen human bodies before, and is aware of how they do stuff. Here’s Sub-Zero looking like a breakdancing crab.
And here he is with a backwards arm, a sideways leg, and missing half his torso.
If you can’t draw a jumpkick without committing an atrocity just ask to be reassigned to Malibu’s Deep Space Nine adaptation. Nobody ever jumpkicks and if you fuck up a face you can just say it’s Odo.
This total inability to remember what a human body looks like or does is most apparent when Malibu artists try to get sexy with things. And because we’re talking about comic books and video games and the ‘90s, we will be getting very needlessly sexy with things. Well, we’re going to try.
Here’s your favorite Mortal Kombat character, vampire Pamela Anderson, proudly displaying both her taint and one giant ogre foot.
A Malibu artist can draw up to two things, as long as one of them isn’t a face and the other isn’t a background. So you’d think they’d nail the comic book softball: masked woman doing sexy jumpkick through void.
But no, in their absolute desperation to get both tits and grundle into this shot they have obliterated that poor woman’s spine. She looks like she’s being wrung out by an invisible giant. If there’s some kind of human dishrag fetish, I assume somebody is cumming to this right now.
Here’s a fun optical illusion! Study this image and tell me which leg is doing what.
Oh wait, my bad, I actually do have an explanation for this one:
This article was brought to you by our fine sponsor and Hot Dog Supreme, Doug Redmond: Who has never had any problem getting both tits and grundle in the same shot.