Netflix is slowly becoming a presence in the comics market, and Space Bandits is the next project looking to cement that. The streaming service is betting on the new female-led series to join the ranks of upcoming TV shows based on Mark Millar’s line of creator-owned comics, along with Jupiter’s Legacy, Empress, and Huck.
Space Bandits follows the universe’s most-wanted criminals, Thena Khole and Cody Blue. Their reputation precedes them as master thieves that leave no moonstone unturned and no valuable untouched. After their crews betray them, Thena and Cody scour the galaxy hellbent on getting their just revenge. Millar describes the series as “a female Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” with more space trekking.
Millar is joined by Matteo Scalera, whose work in Black Science (written by Rick Remender) shows just how fluent he is in all things science fiction. Scalera’s approach to storytelling is very kinetic, with a sense of urgency present in each of his action sequences. It’s a style that keeps the intensity constant, even in the less hectic moments. For fans of Millar’s previous work, this pairing makes sense and promises to result in some pretty outrageous setpiece sequences.
Space Bandits joins series such as Hit-Girl, Empress, and Reborn in featuring female leads thrust into hostile worlds that are a metaphor or two away from becoming reality. Not to say that Millarworld is where you should go to get your feminism on. Millar’s had an inconsistent history with female representation and is not always specific as to what he wants to say with certain characters (Hit-Girl comes to mind, a character that embodies ultra-violence but also has to find out what being a girl is really all about). His earlier Marvel books, Ultimates in particular, treat characters like Wasp and Scarlett Witch as either love interests or bizarre personalities with strange family relationships. Let’s see where Space Bandits fits in as it gets more entries under its belt.
The book has generated some controversy since it was announced. One of its variant covers, illustrated by Howard Chaykin, bears a striking resemblance to another sci-fi comic called Oh S#!T It’s Kim & Kim (2016), created by Magdalene Vissagio and Eva Cabrera. Both covers feature their two protagonists with their backs leaning against each other’s in similar poses and composition. Vissagio reached out to Mark Millar via Twitter to discuss the similarities.
— oh shit it's magdalene (@MagsVisaggs) April 15, 2019
The tweet led to various users making the connection between both comics, stating not only how similar their covers are but also how alike they feel overall, given they both fall back on the aesthetics of futuristic young women going on space adventures.
Just where the line between rip-off, borrowing, or coincidence falls is a discussion that requires closer inspection, especially when we’re looking at big ideas that are open enough to result in numerous versions of the same concept. I mean, the idea of two women on an intergalactic mission fueled by revenge isn’t necessarily what you would call a unique setup that caters to a niche audience. Then again, interpretation is key, and it’s not the same as copying.
As the conversation continued on Twitter, the thread eventually led to one user digging deeper into both comics and how they play with their story ideas by adding Kurtis J. Wiebe, Leonardo Olea, and Mindy Lee’s own sci-fi story Bounty (2016) into the mix. This comic tells the story of two women who roam the galaxy stealing from the rich to give to the poor. That book’s cover features its two main characters in the middle of a shoot-out, guns at the ready, invoking sci-fi adventure. Kim & Kim’s story follows the titular Kims, one of whom is trans, as they take up bounty hunting to make some much needed cash while enjoying an intergalactic road trip.
I mean pic.twitter.com/FfAnLWTkw5
— DANNY DJELJOSEVIC (@djeljosevic) April 16, 2019
A more in-depth look at how these three titles differ or borrow from each other can shed some light as to whether they could be considered copies, rip-offs, or reinterpretations of the same concepts.
Space Bandits is slated for release on July 3. Variant covers will come with a 75 cent price tag, honoring the price Mark Millar paid for his comics when he was a teenager.
Ricardo Serrano is a Social Studies teacher with a Master’s Degree in Comic Books from the University of Dundee in Scotland. He’s also the co-creator of Se Habla Comics, a Puerto Rican podcast geared towards Spanish-speaking comic book readers.