How inconsistency in writing, art, and a movie obscured a potentially good item

August 2, 2010

By Avi Green

Back in 1996, Dark Horse Comics, in their attempt to enter the film business, had one of their products, Barb Wire, turned into a movie starring then Baywatch co-star babe Pamela Anderson. The movie was poorly received and vanished at the box office faster than a motorcycle can travel, and Anderson certainly didn’t get very far in a movie career.

Oddly enough, Barb Wire may have been undermined even before that, as it featured tie-ins with at least 2 other books Dark Horse was publishing during the 1990s.

I found a blog post about it here, reviewing the omnibus compilation, which tells that the property had some form of interference. For example, a story that led in to another book called Will to Power, and the artwork and writing were uneven to boot. It was about a femme bounty hunter in a futuristic USA location called Steel Harbor, which may be set in the vicinity of Seattle, Washington, and for all I know, it may have looked great on paper, but the end result leaves much to be desired.

Yet this book was seen by the Dark Horse executives as some kind of a potential moneymaker in celluloid, so they turned it into a vehicle that would star Pamela Anderson (and even derive its plot from Casablanca), back in the days of her Baywatch stardom. That’s where you know something must’ve gone wrong. After all, not many would deny that Baywatch, which ran for at least 11 seasons – one on network and the rest in syndication – was simply an escapist drama set in Malibu, California, chronicling the lives of beach lifeguards and featuring plenty of babes with hot bods, and certainly wasn’t filmed or viewed for acting talent, which it certainly didn’t have, even if it was still entertaining in a cheesy way.

And Barb Wire as a movie obviously wasn’t produced for real art either, but as a cash-grab based on Anderson in name. As noted above, it didn’t work. The movie practically left theaters after barely 3 weeks. What’s really troubling is that the story may have been disrespectful to conservatives, and the enemy were called the “congressionals”. Could it have been some sort of a form of Chomskyism from the mid-90s?

A funny thing about the star lady: even after the movie, Anderson kept the barbed wire tattoo she'd gotten specially for the film on her left arm for many years afterwards, and you could see it on her even in one episode of Baywatch and in VIP, the adventure caper series she'd starred in for 4 seasons; she didn't even try to hide it!

At one point, I probably thought the film was done badly on purpose, perhaps to destroy the source material; there are some terrible people in showbiz today who’re willing to do that. But the same may need to be said for the original source material, if DH’s editorial has any blame to shoulder for leading to such awkward scripting and iffy drawing. As the omnibus review I found says, the source material was declared toxic.

It’s a real pity something that could’ve been a worthy escapist fare was wrecked for the sake of…gee, I dunno, what could it have been?

Copyright 2010 Avi Green. All rights reserved.

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