If you’re a subscriber to the Nintendo Switch Online service, have you had the chance to try out the addictive F-Zero 99? This fast-paced retro-graphic update of the original F-Zero on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System features 99 racers.

But if you have had the chance to play, perhaps you’ve also noticed that the game menus and loading screens feature some very stylish art. These are from a comic that was included in the original F-Zero instruction manual, which produced by Valiant Comics and was written by Jim Shooter, penciled by Art Nichols and inked by Bob Layton. Here’s how the work of these renowned comic book creators came to be included in F-Zero 99.

F-Zero 99 main menu. The F-Zero 99 and Mini Prix buttons both have art from the Valiant-produced comic.
F-Zero 99’s main menu. Photos credit: Nintendo.

F-Zero’s Super Famicon Instruction Booklet

For the original release of F-Zero on Super Famicon in 1990, Nintendo of Japan commissioned a cover and short comic from Valiant. According to a social media post, a draft of the original layout for the comic was completed by Takaya Imamura, who was the main art director, character designer and storywriter for both the Star Fox and F-Zero franchises and the creator of Captain Falcon. 

Captain Falcon in the F-Zero instruction book comic.

In 2012, Shooter posted an explanation for Valiant’s involvement with the F-Zero instruction manual on his website. The main topic of the post is a segment on “custom comics, made to order.” Shooter shares his extensive work on “custom comics,” or comics commissioned by a company or organization for any number of reasons, from advertising to education and beyond. You remember those Marvel Hostess comics (which yes, Shooter also worked on)?

Shooter writes that his co-founder at Valiant, Steve Massarsky, “was fond of making deals that personally benefitted him.” The post continues:

[Massarsky] was supposed to give up his law practice when we started VALIANT, but since he was sleeping with a woman who happened to be a principal of the venture capital firm that funded us, controlled the board, stipulations of his contract were not enforced. Therefore, as a lawyer, he represented Nintendo for entertainment, represented us, of course, and, being previously involved in the music business, had connections at MCA. With a couple of record producers, dealing mostly with himself, he put together a deal to produce for MCA a licensed Super Mario Bros. album. If that sounds strange to you, well, you have no idea how hot Super Mario Bros. was at that time. 

The album, White Knuckle Scorin’, included a booklet featuring a comic from Valiant. Based on the strength of this and other licensed comics Valiant had produced for them, Nintendo commissioned Valiant to complete the short comic included in the F-Zero instruction manual.

Valiant also created the cover for the Famicon release. Sadly, different art was used for the cover of the North American release of F-Zero in 1991. However, the comic was still included inside the instruction booklet.

F-Zero 99

As alluded to above, F-Zero 99, which is available to only Nintendo Switch Online subscribers, pits you against 98 other racers in an online multiplayer update of the classic F-Zero game. While there are only four available F-Zero racers to choose from, a plethora of unlockable customizable options keep things visually interesting in-game. 

Three options on the F-Zero 99 workshop menu. Two have images from the comic. These are Pilot Cards (Cap Falcon) and Records (Falcon Flyer).
The “Workshop” menu.

But when it comes to the menus, a different strategy was utilized to spruce things up. Art from the Valiant-produced comic has been repurposed to serve as menu button images for F-Zero 99.

While not every menu button features art from the comic, most of them do, including two of the three options on the “Workshop” menu (included above), “Pilot Cards” and “Records.”

Mr. Zero appears on the F-Zero 99 load screen.
F-Zero 99’s load screen.

In addition, art from the comic of the F-Zero race announcer, Mr. Zero, also appears on the game’s loading screen.

Captain Falcon’s comic

If you want to get a look at the comic from the manual, Shooter included several images in his 2012 post, linked above.

Have you had the chance to play F-Zero 99, and/or the original F-Zero on Super Nintendo or Super Famicon? Do you have a tattered copy of the F-Zero instruction manual squirreled away with the rest of your Nintendo treasure horde? What do we have to do to get a new ongoing F-Zero comic, or at least a Switch release of F-Zero GX?

The Beat wants to hear from you! Be sure and give us a shout-out, here in the comment section or over at our Bluesky page, and let us know what you’re thinking.

Learn more about F-Zero 99 by clicking here.