Back in the spring of 2015, IDW reached out to me (and other writers) to pitch a 4-issue limited-series based on the Back to the Future movies. They were in the process of obtaining the BttF license, and Universal Studios wanted multiple writers to pitch them ideas.
I initially had a hard time coming up with a story, but decided not to stress it too much. If I couldn’t think up an interesting pitch, so be it. But then, as these things often do, the pieces fell into place on their own. I remember laying in bed one morning, in that lucid state halfway between sleep and being awake, when the core concept of my pitch just came to me. I spent a few days fleshing it out, and then sent in my proposal.
Unfortunately, this particular pitch didn’t go anywhere, as the studio and IDW eventually went with Bob Gale, the co-creator and screenwriter of the film trilogy. But I always look on these things as learning experiences. Plus, I don’t feel too bad losing out to the guy who wrote the films themselves!
Anyway, here’s my pitch, for those of you curious about the process behind creating comics:
Back to the Future: “Joyride”
Treatment by Dara Naraghi
When Doc’s children Jules and Verne seemingly take his time travelling locomotive on a joyride, zigzagging through time, he enlists the aid of Marty and Jennifer to find them before they create a temporal paradox. But is it really Biff who is both the instigator of, and the solution to, this fiasco?
Fun, Fast-paced, Humorous, Brain-twister, Suspenseful
At a Glance
Mere moments after Doc, Clara, Jules, and Verne fly off in Doc’s time travelling locomotive (as seen in the closing scene of BttF 3), Doc and Clara reappear in a another time machine, in the form of a family minivan from the mid-80s. As Marty and Jennifer pile in, the panicked parents explain that their children have stolen the locomotive and are travelling around in time, unsupervised.
Marty: “Doc, the DeLorean and locomotive I get, but are you telling me that you built a back-up time machine… out of a minivan?”
As Doc fiddles with an instrument that will help him track the whereabouts of the first time machine, he rationalizes that every growing family needs sensible transportation. Our intrepid gang then sets off on a series of misadventures, visiting various timelines, but always a step behind the children. Doc blames himself for the entire mess, explaining that an argument he had with his sons drove them to run away. However, Clara believes that the boys are not that irresponsible, and suspects foul play.
Sure enough, we soon discover that the two boys were merely playing in the locomotive when it was hijacked by what looks like 1955 Biff, who now has them imprisoned in the back. He is seen visiting different time periods, tracking down various ancestors of his Tannen family. After each visit, the Tanners are left changed, but not necessarily in a positive manner. Jules and Verne, meanwhile, manage to free themselves, and using their own scientific acumen, fashion a sort of “early warning beacon” that will transmit their next intended time jump to their parents, hoping to be rescued.
With the helpful signal from the boys, Marty and Doc are finally able to intercept the locomotive in 1955. They spot Biff getting off the train, carrying a handgun, and heading to the high school’s Enchantment Under the Sea dance. After being reunited with the boys and taking in their account of Biff’s travels, Doc hypothesizes that this isn’t really Biff after all, but an alternate time paradox version of him.
Marty: “But where did he come from?”
Doc: “Don’t you see? By manipulating his own past, he made it possible for him to exists in the first place. He’s his own creator!”
The gang catches up to Anomaly Biff, and realizes his plan is to kill the “real” 1955 Biff, who he sees as a born loser, unable to ever create a positive future for himself, despite even the temporal manipulation from BttF 2. As he holds the gang at gunpoint, he explains that he’ll then insert himself into original Biff’s place in history, prior to the seminal events of BttF 1 (George punching Biff) and BttF 2 (Marty taking the sports almanac away), avoiding both of those events, and then forging a successful future for himself on his own terms. It’s at this point that he notices Jules and Verne have slipped away, and prepares to kill the remaining interlopers.
Just then, Anomaly Biff is startled when a voice from behind him proclaims “Hey, Butthead!” Turning around, he is sucker punched by Real Biff, and is knocked out. Real Biff then looks on in amazement as Anomaly Biff fades out of existence. He looks at the can of beer in his other hand, shrugs, and leaves. Meanwhile, the gang flees back to the two time machines, careful to avoid their previous visits to that point in time. Jules and Verne explain on the way that they had sought out Real Biff outside the dance and told him that a rival for Lorraine’s affections planned to kill him, and led him to Anomaly Biff.
Jules: “After all, who better to fight a bully–“
Verne: “Than another bully?”
Doc surmises that by foiling the final step of Anomaly Biff’s plan, Real Biff disrupted the very complex time paradox that allowed Anomaly Biff to exist in the first place, causing him to be erased from existence.
Boarding the time machines, the gang go back to the future of 1985, dropping off Marty and Jennifer back at the wreckage of the DeLorean from the end of BttF 3. As Clara and the boys board the locomotive, and Doc gets behind the wheel of the minivan, Marty suddenly remembers a remark Doc made earlier in their adventure. (Marty: “Hey Doc, what did you mean by ‘every growing family needs sensible transportation’?”) Doc simply smiles and looks at Clara, who in turn gives Marty and Jennifer a wink while resting a hand on her belly, before both machines rise in the air and disappear in time.
So there you have it. In this industry, most pitches get rejected. It’s part of the process. But I’m still pretty pleased with my take on the BttF concept.
By the way, the BttF comic is now actually an ongoing series. There’s also a limited-series adaption of the BttF video game, called Citizen Brown.