Ain't It Cool News (
Movie News

Ubergeek Donald Swan Destroys The CODENAME: COURAGE Script!! You Gotta Read This One!!

Hi, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab...

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Mark Hamill and Donald Swan for lunch. Most of you know Hamill as Luke Skywalker, of course, or as the voice of The Joker on BATMAN. But I doubt many of you know Donald Swan. He’s basically one of us... a lifelong geek who publishes a fan newsletter, ONCE UPON A DIME, about his favorite comic series, and who co-owns a comic book shop. Recently, Miramax Films bought the rights to distribute COMIC BOOK: THE MOVIE, a documentary that was made by Hamill about Donald Swan for Creative Lights Entertainment. I’m still working on my review for the film overall, but I can say this... parts of it really got to me. I felt for Donald Swan.

See, I’m not familiar with CODENAME: COURAGE, the comic book that Swan is so deliriously in love with, but that’s okay. There’s a lot of comic books I’m not familiar with. I love the medium, but I was a real particular reader as a kid. I liked Marvel, and that was it. Those characters at the particular time I was reading them pretty much did it for me, and older comics from the ‘40’s and ‘50’s just didn’t speak to me at all. Swan’s a little older than me, so these books are his childhood. He has a strong memory of growing up with these images, and when he heard about Timely Studios trying to make a CODENAME: COURAGE film, he decided to get involved, to offer some feedback to the filmmakers. Hamill, who had read Swan’s newsletter, decided to make a film in which he followed Swan’s efforts to reach or to influence the Hollywood company that was producing the film.

Today, I’d like to introduce you to Donald Swan in the form of a script review. You see, he got hold of the latest draft of the screenplay for CODENAME: COURAGE (I swear... I didn’t have anything to do with him getting his hands on it), and he’s decided to try and explain just why it’s shaken him up so badly.

And be prepared if you’re a fan of the original comic... you’re not going to like what you’re about to hear:


When it was announced that Commander Courage would be the latest comic book superhero to get the mega-budget Hollywood blockbuster treatment, this lifelong fan had one key question. Which version in the 60-year history of the character would the film portray? Though his supernatural powers have remained basically unchanged, the character has had a remarkable number of incarnations since his first appearance in All-Amazing Comics #9 (Feb. 1942) as the “Axis-Kicking Avenger” battling Nazis at the height of World War II. After a year of grim and somewhat dark, solo adventures, he jumped on the teen-sidekick bandwagon with the addition of Liberty Lad. Known as “that daring pair extraordinaire” in their long-running comic book title, most fans feel it was the imaginative writing that made series so enduring. Though it never strayed far from its’ action-adventure roots, the stories ambitiously embraced nearly every genre: mystery, science fiction, fantasy, horror, western and (however briefly) romance. In addition, the terrific twosome were the only superheroes whose secret-identities were that of high school teacher and student, an environment that readers could easily relate to. Fandom speculation has run high as to which approach the screenwriter would take.

Having just finished reading a leaked copy of the screenplay, I can confirm that the film will be based instead on a recent radical revamp, a cynical “adult” graphic novel entitled Codename: Courage. For fans of the original the prognosis isn’t just negative, it is an unmitigated atrocity! Ignoring the source material almost entirely, this effects-driven revenge saga is a relentlessly mindless, pathologically bloodthirsty assemblage of the worst clichés in the history of testosterone cinema.

Normally, this is where a Spoiler Warning would appear but it’s beyond me how this miserable piece of filmic feculence could ever be thought of as anything but spoiled.

It is not simply that escapist fantasy fare is awkwardly and irresponsibly placed in a real world, “rah-rah” war on terrorism scenario, but why must long cherished icons of the Golden Age be decimated in the process?

The plot involves a renegade, ultra-clandestine paramilitary elite project called the Covert Operations Unit: Reconnaissance And Guerilla Enforcement. Courage here is in the abstract, as a mere acronym, not as an attribute of human nobility. Likewise the cavalier gender switch as Liberty Lad becomes a delectable Lass not to alter and explore the dynamics of a partnership, but to augment the brutality with generous helpings of hot steamy sex. This is filmmaking as Nintendo game: an assemblage of increasingly elaborate action set pieces leading to the inevitable 3rd Act cataclysmic mother of all battles (in this instance involving an admittedly nifty giant spider, but never mind) provided the player, excuse me, viewer successfully passes prior levels. Rather than a human being as protagonist we have a weapon. More specifically, a genetically altered super-soldier wrapped in the most advanced high-tech fighting uniform our scientists and CGI have to offer or, a suit. A dazzling, state-of-the-art, jacked-up, sci-fi, invulnerable, computer-helmeted, stealth flight suit, to be sure, but a suit nonetheless. This then, is the Codename of the title, a face that’s never seen, a man with no name, much less anything as romantic as a duel identity. Indeed, he has no identity at all.

Why belabor this any further? The details are too depressing and incomprehensible to detail here and as I said I would have no dog in this hunt were it not for the false conceit that it is in any way related to the earlier, superior feature. The fact that if successful, Codename would obliterate any chance of a classic Commander coming to the screen makes my blood boil, needless to say and in that context I conclude: I loathed this script. Loathed, loathed, loathed, loathed, loathed this script. Loathed it. Loathed every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it. Loathed the sensibility that thought anyone would like it. Loathed the implied insult to a potential audience by its’ belief that anyone would be entertained by it.

I may be a hopeless optimist and call me old-fashioned, but it’s not too late for American fans to rise up and be heard. If the powers that be embrace the magic of the original stories…Why, the Commander n’ Bert will be in the Nimbus dimension fighting Desultor and his Banshee Battalion faster than you can say…courage.

I’m going to be writing a review of COMIC BOOK: THE MOVIE in the coming week or so, and before the film comes out, I’m going to try to sit down with Hamill and Swan to talk to them more about the film, what’s happening now with CODENAME: COURAGE, and more. Until then, my thanks to both of them for their time.

"Moriarty" out.

Readers Talkback
comments powered by Disqus
    + Expand All
  • June 27, 2003, 8:22 a.m. CST


    by iamguthrie

    I like old comics as much as anyone, but why not just make a better Captain America movie?

  • June 27, 2003, 8:32 a.m. CST


    by earthworm a character no-one's ever heard of and who sounds like the gayest (gheyest?) property yet, is going to be transformed into something that at least sounds watchable, although will probably be a dumbass Vin Diesel flick. Colour me unarsed.

  • June 27, 2003, 9:01 a.m. CST

    In the grand tradition of Hot Dog: The Movie and Hamburger: The

    by Lance Rock

  • June 27, 2003, 9:04 a.m. CST

    I don't know about this....[major geek alert here]

    by King Rhythm

    ..and I'm [unfortunately] a big Golden Age comic book fan. I'm going to leave aside the apparent non-existence of any title called "All-Amazing" [which just sounds like a "parody" of real GA titles: All-Star, Wow Comics, etc.]: First of all: I doubt they'd have used the phrase "Axis-kicking" - that's a little too risque in its intentional similarity to "ass-kicking". And second [and geekiest]: How big a fuckin' Golden Age fan is this Swan guy supposed to be? TNT and Dyna-Mite [from DC's Star-Spangled Comics] were teacher and student. Any GA comic book fan worth his salt would knw that. This smells like a spoof, or bullshit, to me.

  • June 27, 2003, 9:05 a.m. CST


    by Badtz

    I think this is fake.. the last thing I read about Comic Book: The Movie said it was an unscripted improv movie. I don't think Commander Courage is even a real comic book character..

  • June 27, 2003, 9:07 a.m. CST


    by earthworm

    That thought occured to me also. The one sounds nothing like the other. Sounds like some 60 year old virgin's got his wires crossed, and because someone else who used to be famous made a documentary on him he can now get a public forum.

  • June 27, 2003, 9:32 a.m. CST

    forgive me for not giving a shit.

    by JOCKO

  • June 27, 2003, 9:35 a.m. CST

    Wow, was that scathing. If I knew what half those words meant I'

    by CoolDan989

  • June 27, 2003, 9:52 a.m. CST

    All-Amazing Comics...

    by dp4m

    ... existed. You can find online reprints here: -- however, no mention of Captain Courage or the "Axis Kicking Avenger" is to be found for A-AC#9...

  • June 27, 2003, 9:54 a.m. CST

    Oh, and playing the Cap'n...

    by dp4m

    ... is rumored to be Bruce Campbell... ;)

  • June 27, 2003, 10:10 a.m. CST

    It's a hoax to promote "Comic Book: The Movie"

    by rev_skarekroe

    Unless of course they're talking about this guy or this one sk

  • June 27, 2003, 10:20 a.m. CST

    It takes Germans to wreck a great story...

    by Steev

  • June 27, 2003, 10:24 a.m. CST

    the whole thing seems fishy - like it's really satirizing

    by durhay

    geeks attacking comic book adaptations. And the line about the "third act featuring a giant spider" seems lifted from "An Evening With Kevin Smith". Also, this guy writes too well for a fan-boy.

  • June 27, 2003, 10:45 a.m. CST

    are you completely retarded?

    by jamawalk

    its not real. there's no such comic. you should all be ashamed of yourselves. oh, and thanks knowles for giving us no credit. much appreciated.

  • June 27, 2003, 1:08 p.m. CST

    by THE WALLACE now this is a movie I want to see...

  • June 27, 2003, 1:36 p.m. CST

    Donald Swan is Mark Hammill's CHARACTER in Comic Book:The Movie

    by Regis Travolta

    This is a brilliant ingenious internet publicity stunt. Props to everybody behind it, well done guys, you deserve an Oscar for Best Promotional Effort.

  • June 27, 2003, 2:32 p.m. CST

    Fuck you Mori.

    by theirishgeek

    This is absolute bullshit. This character didn't exist. It's a fecking publicity stunt.

  • June 27, 2003, 5:04 p.m. CST



    The documentary "Comic Book: The Movie", is actually a Mockumentary, ala Spinal Tap. It's a comedic spoof on comic book culture. In other words; IT'S NOT REAL!!! The comic book charcters are not real, they are not REALLY making a movie entitled, "CODENAME: COURAGE", etc. Nice try though, Moriarty! Fooled quite a few people!

  • June 27, 2003, 5:07 p.m. CST

    Nice try. Mark Hammill=Donald Swan.Easily found proof inside.

    by burningbabyfish

    Proof - from Creative Light Entertainment, who is partnering with Miramax for distribution. Web site: Taken from that site is the following: MIRAMAX FILMS SIGNS FIRST LOOK DEAL WITH CREATIVE LIGHT ENTERTAINMENT First Acquisition: Mark Hamill

  • June 27, 2003, 5:16 p.m. CST

    It's obviously fake... but it's funny and hits closer to home th

    by Psyclops

    How many times have we read about a beloved fanboy property making the transition to live-action movie... with the studio giving no thought or care as to what made it special in the first place? Yeah, I can relate too.

  • June 27, 2003, 5:28 p.m. CST

    I loathed this script. Loathed, loathed, loathed, loathed, loat

    by Billy Talent

    See Roger Ebert's review of 'North'. Methinks you be owing him a royalty check.

  • June 27, 2003, 5:33 p.m. CST

    Codename Courage

    by Dudeboy

    There was something about the studio on the F* site a few months ago. I think the studio is real - they were going to film the war in the middle east as a backdrop for this movie.

  • June 27, 2003, 5:53 p.m. CST

    Look, THIS is the truth

    by MrCere

    Comic Book: The Movie is a mocumentary about the very guy, Captain Courage, that this whole article is about................It uses the voice talents of a lot of really cool guys who work in animation and it is all about how this Golden Age character is being screwed up by "the big evil studio.".....This is a parody....this is a joke. How do I know? I was at freaking Comic-Con last year when they filmed it. I was in the room where they explained the plot, had the character in the article above come in and give a speech at a press conference to the cheers of the audience (me and a lot of other Mark Hammill curiosity seekers/fans). The good Captain himself shows up (Mark himself) and they lambast the studio. Now, this was all pretty funny and pretty fun. The movie might be pretty entertaining. BUT MY HELL THE ABOVE PRESS RELEASE IS A BIG PROMOTIONAL JOKE AND YOU AICN WERE TAKEN IN. I don't think they meant to dupe you as much as have you play along. But, YOU WERE DUPED! This is the truth. I was there. I saw it.

  • June 27, 2003, 6:59 p.m. CST

    Donald Swann (with two Ns)...

    by Schnorbitz

    is one half of the legendary British song-writing and performing duo Flanders and Swann. Their most famous song is "Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud", closely followed by "The Gasman Cometh", "I'm a Gnu", and the "Omnibus" song. Think Tom Lehrer, but with two of them, and less acerbic, and British. Actually, can one of the technical bods at AICN help me please? I'm about to leave University, so my current email address will be discontinued next week. Is there a way to cahnge my email address, but keep the user ID I've had for the last three and a half years? Thank you. Regards, Schnorbitz.

  • June 28, 2003, 2:34 a.m. CST

    gotta love talkbacks ...

    by Vic_

    An attempt is made at being clever in promoting a movie, everyone pisses on it instantly. It's like one of those stereotypical jerks at the movies that gives away every plot twist via a running commentary. I think if anyone was intrigued enough by Mori's story they could've looked up some info on their won and figured it out themselves and in doing so maybe got interested in the flick --theoretically. Just pissing on it straightaway is lame.

  • June 28, 2003, 8:41 a.m. CST

    how about you tell again why you like that steaming pile of bull

    by TheGinger Twit

  • June 28, 2003, 10:44 a.m. CST

    A well-written review on AiCN? It's the apocalypse!!!!

    by Rollo Tomassi

    A big part of me thinks "Oh well. This will be of particular interest to the seven people who kind of remember these comics." However, on those EXCEPTIONALLY rare occasions when AICN publishes a review written by someone who seems to grasp even basic techiniques of writing, and the fundamentals of the english beyond master of the various uses of the terms "fuck" and "boobs", it is cause for celebration.

  • June 28, 2003, 7:42 p.m. CST

    Yet another reason why Mark Hamill is a God Amongst Mortals

    by Tall_Boy

    hahahah. Fuckin' eh. That was original, Me dig. Alot.

  • June 28, 2003, 11:24 p.m. CST

    that was a hell of a lot more readable than the junk Harry passe

    by beamish13

    I'm sad to say that I've never heard of this comic book character. I'll have to do some research at the LAMBIEK COMIC BOOK DATABASE

  • June 29, 2003, 2:25 p.m. CST

    after surfing those websites I so wanna see this now.

    by Tall_Boy

    is it getting a direct-to-DVD release, cuz on the comicbook movie website it said something about a DVD or is it beeing seen in theatres. Anyway, Billy West rules and I wanna see him improv. Fuck the cynical fanboys screaming "FAKKKKKKKKKKEEEEEEEEE!!!!" that was somewhat apparent if you had clicked on one or two of the links.

  • June 29, 2003, 2:38 p.m. CST


    by shaolinkitty

    I think earthworm may be onto something.. Just think about it - Vin Diesel as the misunderstood comic book geek who really has a heart, who then overcomes great personal tragedy (paper cuts, post nasal drip, halitosis, etc...) to meet the girl of his dreams at - where else - the San Diego Convention..... Hillarity ensues!

  • June 29, 2003, 3:20 p.m. CST

    Are all the posters idiots?

    by 23Skedoo

    Mori is obviously in on the joke you dumbasses. Read it again....

  • June 30, 2003, 12:31 a.m. CST

    This reminds me of that Run Ronnie Run stuff

    by St.Buggering

    When Bob & David would put up little joke stories about "Product Displacement" and so forth, and several talkbackers would demonstrate the average intelligence level around here by falling into one of two camps; falling for it entirely, or pointing out that it was a hoax in a self-congratulatory manner as if we're supposed to be impressed. It's not a hoax,'s a joke. There's a difference. I doubt that anybody expected this to really be believed; it's a promotional stunt. Therefore, you do not get intellectual credit for spotting the "fraud", so stop patting yourself on the back before you pull a shoulder muscle. Now personally, I'm looking forward to this project. I like Mark Hammill; when people make fun of him for not finding work all these years, they fail to realize that he doesn't work because he doesn't have to; the guy owns a percentage of Star Wars. I don't know about anyone else, but if I owned a percentage of Star Wars, I'd never work again either. He comes out once in a while and does something because he feels like it or thinks it's cool. That's the life for me.

  • June 30, 2003, 5:35 a.m. CST

    Well I was taken in, but I'm not a Marvel geek so I don't feel *

    by earthworm

    Nice try. I'll always applaud anyone trying to promote their film in an original way. He's gto my money (unless I just download the fucker ;-) )

  • Aug. 11, 2006, 8:50 p.m. CST

    Commander Courage animation

    by John_Wade

    Will Commander Courage come to life next, Captain America like, however in animation motion?