Superman II, The Empire Strikes Back, Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Aliens, Godfather: Part II, and the Dark Knight…hands down are all fantastic movie sequels. One thing is for sure, the sequel to the first of something is always harder to top, but today folks I present to you a sequel I am proud to promote and review, but not a film…but, a book! Last year we were sent a review copy of the A Matter of Time: the Back to the Future Lexicon from Hasslein Books and were just absolutely floored with the level of detailed information the book chronicled of the people, places things and events of the Back to the Future universe. Now, Rich Handley and Greg Mitchell have raised the bar with Back in Time: The Unauthorized Back to the Future Chronology, this seriously is a MUST HAVE for any Back to the Future fan. From the dawn of time approx 252,200,000 B.C. to 2,991,299,129,912 A.D. (nearly three quadrillion years into the Earth’s future!) this book takes highlights every time period that Doc, Marty, Clara, Biff, Einstein and every other member of the McFly, Tannen, Strickland, Brown, Baines,Wilson, Clayton, Berry and Statler family visited in and out of the space-time continuum. The books, the video games, the animated TV shows, novels, card games, Happy Meal boxes, theme park rides, comic books, television specials, the movies and more are ALL covered in this mind-numbing and astonishing 213 page bible to the complex timelines of Back to the Future. Click ahead fellow time-travelers for not just our review of the book but an exclusive interview with the author!
Wikipedia.com defines “Chronology” (chro·nol·o·gy – krəˈnäləjē/ ) as the science of arranging events in their order of occurrence in time. Consider, for example, the use of a timeline or sequence of events. It is also “the determination of the actual temporal sequence of past events”. Well that definition couldn’t nail the essence of Back in Time: The Unauthorized Back to the Future Chronology any better than if it came out of Doc Brown’s mouth.
As the Back to the Future Lexicon book was able to make me realize that I’m not as knowledgeable about some of the characters and events of the BTTF universe, well the recent Back to the Future Chronology has now made me feel even more underserving of calling myself a true-fan of the film franchise. Page after page of this book details so many adventures, encounters and happenings from Doc and Marty’s adventure through time and space that you’ll seriously ask yourself how it’s possible when all of these moments in time occurred without our knowledge. The truth is, while many of us are fans of the film trilogy, the Back to the Future universe has for years secretly still held it’s ground and found ways to seed, germinate and populate itself across many a mixed-media. Since the release of Back to the Future 3 in 1990, we’ve witnessed other key incarnations, most notably the CBS Animated Series and the Universal Studios theme-park attraction…but this book expands well beyond the events of all of those timelines and delves into references from video games, the film novelizations, comic books, music videos, made for TV specials, commercials, even photographs hanging in Doc Brown’s Chicken restaurant at Universal Studios. Wait…you never had “Heart Healthy Fried Chicken” from Doc Brown’s Chicken?!?!? It was known as “The Finest Chicken of All Time!”
The Chronology is easy to read and the illustrations by Pat Carbajal are awesome because sometimes they depict an image of something referenced in the films we never saw, or paint the picture with familiar characters in settings of the timeline that we may never have heard of. This gives the book a fresh and exciting feel because not only will most people be excited to recognize key moments from the films they do know, but peppered in-between are new facets of the timeline that are new adventures we’re now quickly finding ourselves checking the code key on the bottom to learn where and when this event took place. Again, I can’t stress enough how much heart, passion and dedication have gone into these Back to the Future books (the Chronology and Lexicon). As a Back to the Future fan, this book rejuvenates everything I fell in love with about the films growing up and now fills my imagination with not just the events I’m familiar with, but long forgotten or newly discovered adventures too.
Do you have some time? Cool, thanks for sticking around, let me give you an example of some of the events on the timeline you may or may not know…
Saturday, October 26th, 1985 A.D. – 1:20am
At the precise moment that the DeLorean achieves 88 miles per hour, the vehicle vanishes in a brilliant display of light, leaving only a pair of fire trails behind. Marty McFly thinks Einstein has been disintegrated, but Doc reveals that his dog has, in fact, become the worlds first time traveler. The DeLorean is a time machine, he says, and Einstein has been sent one minute into the future. [BTF1] = Film: Back to the Future
Saturday, September 24th, 1692 A.D.
Despite Clara Brown’s appeal to reason, Marty is bound and thrown into the bay. Before he can drown, Doc arrives in the DeLorean – which has undergone a floatation conversion – and reduces Marty underwater. Believing him to be dead, the Puritans declare him innocent of witchcraft. Marty and the Browns reunite and, with the DeLorean and repaired time train, head back to the future [BFAN-4] = Back to the Future the Animated Series, Episode 4
The last of Earth’s rain forests is destroyed. Upon learning of this development while visiting 2057, Emmett Brown travels back to 1990, hoping to alter the future by teaching mankind better environmental stewardship. [ERTH] = The Earth Day Special
Thursday, May 2, 1991 A.D. – 12:38PM
Emmett Brown provides some last minute information to the time travel volunteers, then launches the with passenger DeLorean and it’s occupants through time [RIDE] = Back to the Future The Ride – Simulator.
Once you get past the extensive timeline, the fun continues with an expanded set of Appendixes that then give you even more insight into historical moments in the BTTF universe. Well written and impressively researched details are shed on the history of Hill Valley, the evolution of the Hill Valley Courthouse Square, Exploring Hill Valley Genealogy, Charting the path of Temporal Travel, Historical Meetings and Celebrity Encounters and more! I could not put this book down once I started into it…I was so fascinated by not just what I knew, but all that I didn’t. You will be too.
Before we go, and we know you have things to do, we’d love if you could stick around a few minutes more. We were able to get a few minutes with author Rich Handley (Editor/Co-owner, Hasslein Books) to ask him some questions about the Back to the Future Chronology, this is a Q&A you’ll only see HERE on Beyond the Marquee…
Beyond the Marquee: Rich, tell me about the journey in making these Back to the Future compendiums…were you always a Back to the Future fan or was this something you just thought could be fun challenge to create?
Rich Handley: When I started writing the lexicon in late 2011, it was from the standpoint of someone who had always loved the films but who didn’t know the ancillary materials (the cartoons, novelizations, comics, video games, etc.) that well. Now, two years and two books later, I’ve come to know that material very well–and to my surprise, most of it is hilarious. For me, the big thrill has been in getting to know a lot about an Expanded Universe (to use the popular Star Wars term) for a franchise for which I didn’t even know there WAS much of an EU.
BTM: It’s great that you got Dan Madsen to write the Foreword to the book, there’s a guy who brought Back to the Future fans from around the world together when he created the official Back to the Future Fan Club.
RH: While writing the foreword, Dan said he was surprised at how much was in the book that he, as a long-time Back to the Future fanatic, didn’t know. I’d previously been a writer for Star Wars Insider and Star Trek Communicator magazines (which he founded) when he was still the publisher, so it was a nice case of coming full circle to be editing HIS work.
BTM: Reading thru this timeline book, I am simply amazed at how you managed to accumulate so many dates, some that as a Back to the Future fan, I’m shocked that I never knew about, and I thought I was pretty knowledgeable. What were some of the biggest challenges in gathering all the events and dates visited within that universe from the various media connected to the films?
RH: It was imperative that we be able to pinpoint what happened where, and in relation to other events. In some cases, that was obvious, as the DeLorean’s time circuits and Doc’s obsession with time provided constant reminders of the date, time and even day of the week. In other cases, however, it wasn’t so simple. Luckily, Stephen Clark, the owner of BTTF.com (the official Back to the Future Web site) and a consultant on the Blu-ray and many other BTTF products/events, provided a good deal of invaluable research assistance. This included looking through some notes he had about the amusement-park ride, enabling us to nail down specific dates for the dinosaur and Ice Age scenes (64 million B.C. and 1 million B.C., respectively). That was a big help. We also used a day-of-the-week calculator to figure out, whenever possible, when the events of the cartoons, novels and video games occurred. That was do-able for MOST of the dates in the book… but not during the prehistoric periods. Amazingly, it’s pretty much impossible to find a day-of-the-week calculator that will tell you if a given date 64 million years ago was on a Tuesday or a Saturday. 🙂
BTM: Talk to me about the connection of the Back to the Future Chronology book and Dwayne McDuffie the famous comic book writer and producer.
RH: In 2009, when I began researching the Back to the Future Lexicon, I contacted Dwayne regarding the BTTF comic books that he’d worked on for Harvey Comics. Dwayne was very friendly and courteous, which I greatly appreciated, and though he didn’t have the information I sought at the time, he did make the following request: “Let me know when the book comes out; my fiancee is the biggest BTTF fan in the world. If I’m mentioned in a book about it, I’ll be golden!” Sadly, he passed away before either book was published. In 2011, I came across his e-mail to me while looking back through my archive, and was reminded of his request. I, therefore, reached out to his widow Charlotte (Fullerton) McDuffie, told her about our conversation, and requested her address so I could honor his memory by sending her copies of both titles. She was very appreciative, as she hadn’t known about that exchange, and it felt good to be able to carry out one of his last requests. I knew he wanted her to have them, and I feel privileged to have been able to make that possible.
BTM: I’m sure with the help of the YouTube and such a vast collection of DVD”s available on Amazon.com and eBay it was easier to track down some of the content you needed for your timeline, but what were some of the biggest challenges, if any in compiling all the dates for the book?
RH: As far as challenges go… really, there weren’t many, much to our relief. Thanks to Greg Mitchell (my co-author on this latest book), I had managed to track down copies of the cartoons and comics while I was still writing the previous volume, and it turned out that everything else I needed to get my hands on was, as you mentioned, available online. Given Greg’s knowledge of and enthusiasm for the subject matter, I invited him to write the second book, which he gladly agreed to. When that turned out to be a bit more work than he’d anticipated, Greg asked me to co-author it with him. Greg’s an accomplished novelist, but he hadn’t done this type of non-fiction project before. Since I’d already written the Planet of the Apes books, I was a bit more comfortable writing reference books, so I was happy to take on the co-writing role–and I’m glad I did, as Greg and I made a great team. It really was a fantastic collaborative effort, with me and Greg writing the book and frequently discussing what we were doing, Stephen Clark pitching in and graciously pulling out his notes whenever we had questions, Pat Carbajal turning in around 40 amazing illustrations and Paul Giachetti (my Hasslein Books partner) expertly handling the book’s design and layout.
BTM: What are some things that fans of the Back to the Future films may not expect to find in the timeline but made it into the book?
RH: As readers pour through the book, they’ll notice that we referenced a number of BTTF-themed commercials and short videos made over the years, from Pizza Hut, McDonalds and Bud Lite to Nike, Microsoft and retail chain Garbarino. Well, just as we were going to press last month, a new commercial for GE showed up featuring what appeared to be Marty souping up the DeLorean with modern-day technology, and our jaws dropped. We’d JUST finalized the book… and only a day later, it was already obsolete. Arrrrgh! Luckily, we had time to make a quick addition, and the GE commercial made its way into the book. But if anything comes out now… well, it’s too late. The new casino game announced a couple weeks ago, for instance, had to be left off. It was unfortunate, but there has to be a cutoff point somewhere.
BTM: When it comes to writing a book based on events and characters of a movie as popular as Back to the Future, it certainly must help when you’ve got filmmakers helping you along the way to make sure you’re being as accurate as possible, tell me about that element of the book-writing process.
RH: Certainly. One of the coolest aspects of writing these books is that we’ve had the support of screenwriter Bob Gale. He and director Robert Zemeckis have copies en route to them as we speak, and I can only hope their reaction to it is as positive as Bob’s was to the first volume (he actually bought a copy of book one for Zemeckis, which was a rather surreal experience for us). There’s something exciting and terrifying about having the creator of a franchise read something you’ve written about it. If that creator doesn’t like it… well, there’s no greater rejection, when you think about it. Luckily, that hasn’t been the case so far. 🙂 Greg and I have both written for the licensed Star Wars franchise, but to our knowledge, George Lucas doesn’t even know we exist. So to have Bob Gale say he enjoyed the first book was the kind of thrill that words are inadequate to describe.
BTM: Rich, thanks for your time to talk a little bit more in depth about the Back to the Future Chronology, anything fun for the Beyond the Marquee readers you can leave us with?
RH: Well here’s a cool piece of trivia: Long-time BTTF fans may be aware that after the Universal Studios theme-park ride was shut down, it was replaced by a Simpsons ride. The Simpsons ride, in turn, acknowledged that changeover by featuring Christopher Lloyd’s Doc Brown being forced to sell the Institute of Future Technology (the building’s name before it became the Simpsons Ride) to Krusty the Clown. With that in mind… well, let’s just say that we hope our readers enjoy a particular illustration from Pat this time around. 🙂
BACK IN TIME: The Unauthorized BACK TO THE FUTURE Chronology is now available at BTTF.com (the official site for all things Back to the Future!)