If you happened to watch this week’s episode of TNT’s hit TV series Leverage, you’ll have seen one of the best constructed episodes of the series so far. The “Brains” Nathan Ford, played by Timothy Hutton, brings his team to track down his father, who broke into the federal patent and trademark office. Soon we learn everyone has been set up, and a small town’s worth of SWAT and local law enforcement surround the building. In strategizing the Leverage team’s way out, “Hitter” Eliot, played by Christian Kane, poses as a police officer to communicate with a cop outside the building–a cop played by Michael Paré (The Philadelphia Experiment, Greatest American Hero, Eddie and the Cruisers) already getting brow beaten by the local head of Homeland Security who has taken over the investigation of the break-in. As with most episodes of Leverage we get an ample dose of great pop culture references (“Hacker” Alec Hardison (Aldis Hodge) sports a tie and mimics Doctor Who saying “bow ties are cool”). Here Eliot maintains all his dialogue in the voice and drawl of Die Hard’s John McClane, just as Bruce Willis did, in order to get through his walk of the gauntlet in the original Die Hard movie. Die Hard interest is alive and well, after four movies in the franchise since 1988.
This winter Twentieth Century Fox announced that Bruce Willis will be returning as John McClane in 2013 with the fifth film in the franchise, A Good Day to Die Hard. Fox indicated Patrick Stewart (Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Captain Picard) as a possible villain, to play a disgraced Russian general plotting to assassinate the visiting president. John Moore is scheduled to direct a script by Skip Woods (X-Men Legends: Wolverine, The A-Team). Bruce Willis has stated he wants to bring back Bonnie Bedelia as his wife from the first two films. Shooting is scheduled to begin this month in Budapest, Hungary.
A Good Day to Die Hard is to follow John McClane as he goes to Moscow to convince the government of Russia to let his son John McClane, Jr. out of prison. Somehow his son gets caught up in a global terrorist plot, and the inevitable McClane getting-in-over-his-head story will emerge. It sounds like the story is in initial stages, but since the first and third movies were pretty good, maybe the curse of the even-numbered movie sequels here will get us back to the Willis we love to watch. Casting for McClane Junior has included auditions by D.J. Cotrona, who will play Flint opposite Willis in G.I. Joe: Retaliation, and Liam Hemsworth (Hunger Games).
But while we’re waiting until the scheduled release date of Valentine’s Day 2013, you can get a good dose of John McClane in comic legend Howard Chaykin’s graphic novel Die Hard: Year One. Here was BOOM! Comics’s blurb for the comic series spanning eight issues through April 2010:
BOOM! Studios is proud to present America’s greatest action hero translated into the sequential art form for the first time! Every great action hero got started somewhere: Batman Began. Bond had his Casino Royale. And for John McClane, more than a decade before the first DIE HARD movie, he’s just another rookie cop, an East Coast guy working on earning his badge in New York City during 1976′s Bicentennial celebration. Too bad for John McClane, nothing’s ever that easy. Join legendary industry creator Howard Chaykin on a thrill ride that’s rung up over $1 billion in box office worldwide and become the gold standard for classic action! Yippee Ki Yay!
Hype aside, as with nearly everything Howard Chaykin touches, Die Hard: Year One is pure gold. Twelve years before the Nakatomi building siege in Die Hard, Willis is a beat cop in Manhattan. He is working with a loud-mouthed training officer that might as well be played by Dennis Franz. The art by Stephen Thompson is well done, and McClane is drawn to resemble a young Bruce Willis, enough that you never doubt it with McClane’s trademark dialogue style.
In Volume 1, it is the Fourth of July, 1976. Writer Chaykin describes New York of 1976 almost as if he is there right now. But he does not sugar coat NYC of 1976. He describes an ugly place with ugly people, locals trying to rip off every tourist–locals trying to one up each other every chance they get. Here, a new immigrant to the Big Apple from Indiana witnesses two cops killing another man, they spot her and chase her down. McClane happens to get a detail as security on one of the tall boats in the bay, readying for the fireworks celebration, babysitting the wife of the third richest man in the world. All hell breaks loose as an odd jumble of locals, including the two bad cops, led by a local hippy terrorist, try to blow up the rich man’s yacht and escape in a mini-sub with all the money onboard. Plain clothes McClane hides below decks with the girl from Indiana, and McClane’s first big problem as police officer is underway.
Chaykin clearly knows the people of the 1970s and the streets of New York. His descriptions feel real and his storytelling is superb. We quickly get to know McClane, someone we already think we know, and the setting helps illustrate the put-upon cop we will later see on the big screen. I remember the look and feel of July 4, 1976, vividly, and Thompson here captures the sites, fashions, and images incredibly well.
Die Hard: Year One, Volume 2 follows the exploits of McClane in the black-out of 1977.
Both volumes are available for sale online.
Look for special covers by current popular cover illustrator Jock in the back of the hardcover edition.