For the Adherent of Pop Culture
Adventures of Jack Burton ] Back to the Future ] Battlestar Galactica ] Buckaroo Banzai ] Cliffhangers! ] Earth 2 ] The Expendables ] Firefly/Serenity ] The Fly ] Galaxy Quest ] Indiana Jones ] Jurassic Park ] Land of the Lost ] Lost in Space ] The Matrix ] The Mummy/The Scorpion King ] The Prisoner ] Sapphire & Steel ] Snake Plissken Chronicles ] Star Trek ] Terminator ] The Thing ] Total Recall ] Tron ] Twin Peaks ] UFO ] V the series ] Valley of the Dinosaurs ] Waterworld ] PopApostle Home ] Links ] Privacy ]

Episode Studies by Clayton Barr

"A Tomb With A View"
Buckaroo Banzai: Origins
Story by Earl Mac Rauch & W.D. Richter
Art by Amin Amat
Cover by Ed Hannigan

A young Buckaroo Banzai chronicle taking place shortly after the death of his father.


Story Summary


In 1950, Dr. Masado Banzai climbs into his experimental jet car to test its ability to travel through solid matter. However, as soon as he hits the ignition switch, the vehicle explodes, killing him instantly in front of his wife and son.


Just days later, some suspicious people from the Far East come to Mrs. Banzai saying that they would like to take responsibility for young Buckaroo's education, in exchange for not taking away the Banzai Ranch in lieu of $85,000 owed to them by Dr. Banzai which went toward his experiments. Buckaroo eavesdrops on what is said and heads out himself to save his mother's ranch.


The boy rides out on his horse Buttermilk and uses his natural gifts and honesty to find Big Jack, the pawn broker in nearby Silver City who holds the deed on the ranch. When he arrives in Silver City, Big Jack's pawn shop is on fire and the man himself is trapped inside under his own safe. Buckaroo rides into the inferno and uses a rope to pull the big safe off Jack with Buttermilk.


Jack is safe, but now he wants his safe. Buckaroo says he can have it, but he must sign a paper sparing his family's ranch. But Jack keeps trying to grab the safe, which is still tied to Buttermilk, so Buckaroo leads him on a chase through the desert. Jack eventually tricks Buckaroo off the horse and tries to get on himself, but his immense weight breaks the saddle strap and the startled horse takes off with the safe, leaving both behind.


Jack thinks they're both dead in the heat of the desert sun, but just then a helicopter piloted by Jack's Asian cohorts arrives. Unfortunately for Jack, they only want the boy, shooting Jack. Then Mrs. Banzai shows up on horseback with some Native American friends, firing rifles at the copter, scaring it off. Jack dies, telling Buckaroo if he finds that strongbox again, he can tear up all the I.O.U.'s in it and keep the cash.


Mrs. Banzai decides to have Buckaroo stay on the nearby Indian reservation with the Chief and his family for his own protection.


Sometime later, Buttermilk finally shows up back at the ranch, with the safe in tow.



Didja Notice?


The title of the story is a play on the title of E.M. Forster's 1908 novel, A Room With a View.


The year of Dr. Masado Banzai's death in the first jet car seems to change from version to version. Here, it is said to take place in 1950. In Across the 8th Dimension, it is said to be in 1954. In Pinky Carruther's Unknown Facts subtitle track on the DVD of the movie, he first says it was 1953, then later says 1955!


Dr. Banzai's test site is described as being near the ruins of U.S. Cavalry outpost Fort Disgusted, Texas. This is a fictional Cavalry outpost that has never existed in the real world. 


The test vehicle that ends Dr. Banzai's life is an obvious precursor to the jet car successfully used to test the OSCILLATION OVERTHRUSTER by Buckaroo in the movie Across the 8th Dimension. (In the extended version of the film, the jet car does not appear to have been built from a truck but possibly from a jet plane hull; the novelization of Across the 8th Dimension suggests it was built on a 1950 Ford truck.) The look of the base truck seen here does not quite match any Ford trucks I can find.
1950s jet car 1980s jet car


On page 1, panel 4, we see two scientists on the left of the panel. After Dr. Banzai says he's not going far, one of the scientists says, "You never know. It's all relative," to which the other remarks, "Right for once, Bohr." This identifies the two scientists as Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein, who were well-known for their good-natured scientific arguments in the early half of the 20th Century. Einstein developed the general theory of relativity which, in part, states that the measurement of time and distance (among other things) changes relative to the viewer of the phenomena; hence, Einstein's agreement here with Bohr when the latter tells Dr. Banzai, "It's all relative." The presence of the two scientists also serves to indicate Dr. Banzai's importance as a U.S. scientific researcher. (In the extended version of the film Across the 8th Dimension, these two scientists do not appear to be present.)


Buckaroo's age is not given here, but in "Of Hunan Bondage" Part 1, he is described as having been 4 years old when he witnessed his father's death, as happens here. But the boy presented here seems at least twice as old as that. In Across the 8th Dimension, he is described as having been 5 years old at the time.


On page 1, Dr. Banzai mentions Casimir refractors mounted to the jet car. This is a reference to the Casimir effect, describing a force that exists between particles at a sub-micrometer scale.


Also on page 1, Dr. Banzai mentions his family could become richer than Croesus if his invention works. Croesus was the king of ancient Lydia (within modern-day Turkey) from 560-547 BC, who was known for his enormous wealth.


Dr. Banzai's jet car explodes at the mere touch of the ignition switch, suggesting his death may have been foul play. This depiction is a bit different than seen in Across the 8th Dimension; in that film, the jet car looks different and Dr. Banzai is accompanied in the car by "the fastest man alive", British race car driver George Campbell. Campbell appears to be a fictional character.


In this story, Mrs. Banzai survives the explosion. In most other sources it is said she was killed trying to help her husband get out after the explosion.


The far east representatives who want to take responsibility for Buckaroo's education are probably members of the World Crime League working for Hanoi Xan.


Page 4 suggests that Dr. Banzai preferred the Mongolian custom of open burial, on top of the ground and pointed north towards the old gods.


On page 4, young Buckaroo speaks over the body at his father's funeral saying, "For thou art Freedom's now, and Fame's, one of the few, the immortal names that were not born to die." This is a quote from the 1825 poem "Marco Bozzaris" by Fitz-Greene Halleck, about a real-life hero of the War of Greek Independence from Turkey in the early 1800s.


Also on page 4, Buckaroo then says, "Sleep, soldier, still in honored rest, your truth and valor wearing. The bravest are the tenderest, the loving are the daring." This is a (slightly modified) quote from the 1863 poem "The Song of the Camp" by Bayard Taylor.


On page 6, Einstein tells Buckaroo he hopes he'll come visit him at Princeton. Einstein taught physics at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey from 1933 until his death in 1955.


Buckaroo asks Einstein if he's read Faraday's lecture on a candle. This is a reference to a series of lectures given in the early 1800s by English chemist and physicist Michael Faraday called The Chemical History of a Candle.


There are a number of subtle bits in the art in regards to Buckaroo. The below may all be indications that adventure, danger, intrigue, mysticism, etc. have a tendency to follow Buckaroo around, partly by his design and partly by fate. He's a strange attractor or weirdness magnet.
  • As Mrs. Banzai looks for Buckaroo on page 7, notice that he's hiding on top of a dresser, behind the open door, in panel 4. He appears to be wearing an American Indian headdress and something around his neck.
  • On page 12, panel 4, notice that two scorpions are crawling up Buckaroo's leg. Nothing is ever said about them afterward. Is it supposed to be an indication that he even has a certain rapport with animals such that they like and generally won't hurt him?
  • On page 15, panel 3, the rifle he's carrying is smoking, indicating he just fired a shot to get the angry crowd to stop throwing things at Big Jack.
  • On page 18, panel 6, he appears to be tamping tobacco into his grandfather's pipe.
  • Although not so subtle, on the very last panel of the story, he comes across a human skeleton in the desert while riding with his Indian friends. We're not told if the skeleton is part of a new mystery he's about to get caught up in or if it might be that of his father or Big Jack, both of whom were left unburied in the desert per their requests.


Page 8 reveals that Dr. Banzai had owned a samurai sword collection which he sold to get money for his experiments.


   On page 9, there is a poster on the wall of Buckaroo's room that may be of Buddy Holly, who was one of the most influential pioneers of early rock and roll. Only problem is this story allegedly takes place in 1950 and Holly did not emerge onto the rock scene until 1956!

   Holly may have been one of Buckaroo's musical inspirations; as an adult, he even looks a bit like Holly while playing, especially in the trademark glasses they both wore.


There is also a poster that says "Bambino" on it. Possibly a reference to Major League baseball player Babe Ruth (1895-1948) who had multiple nicknames, including "The Bambino". It does appear that the figure in the poster has just swung a baseball bat.


On page 11, Buckaroo asks some local Indians how he can find Big Jack. After the conversation he says, "Ihe edn." This is Apache for "thank you".


Throughout the story it is indicated that Big Jack's pawn shop is in a town called Silver City. Since the Banzai Ranch is in Texas, it may be that the Silver City referred to is the tiny rural community by that name in northeast Texas.


Big Jack Mathers seemingly dies in the desert in this issue. But in "Of Hunan Bondage" Part 1, Rawhide mentions a Big Jack Matters in the Banzai Institute's legal department...almost the same name.


Back to Buckaroo Banzai Episode Studies