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The Comic Book Origins You Maybe Didn't Know Behind Van Damme's Timecop
Timecop has some interesting comic book roots.
Timecop is one of the definitive sci-fi action films of the 1990s, as well as one of the strongest films in the career of action star Jean-Claude Van Damme. Even nearly three decades after its release, it's one of the most rewatchable movies of its era, a blast of action energy full of great action star work from Van Damme himself. If you love action movies, there's a good chance you've seen this one at least a couple of times.
What you might not know, though, is that the story of Timecop actually has comic book roots.
The story of Timecop actually begins two years before the film was released, when Dark Horse Comics founder and publisher Mike Richardson developed a sci-fi comic book story of the same name for his company's upcoming anthology series, titled simply Dark Horse Comics. After working out the story, Richardson turned the idea over to writer Mark Verheiden and artist Ron Randall, who began crafting a comic series titled Time Cop: A Man Out of Time. The story debuted in Dark Horse Comics #1 and appeared in each of the first three issues, giving birth to the title Timecop, Max Walker, and examining a major case with the Time Enforcement Commission (TEC).
After the story was released, Richardson and Verheiden began shopping Timecop as a movie, with a script they co-wrote, and eventually landed it at Universal Pictures. Despite the short timeline, though, there are some major differences between the comic book story and the film.
Both stories involved Max Walker, Van Damme's character in the film, journeying back in time to stop an event that will have a ripple effect all through the future, but the missions are quite different. In the comic, Walker goes back to the 1930s to stop a jewel thief from stealing a super-valuable diamond from a South African mine. He thinks he's stopped the crime, only to later find that the criminal actually brought a futuristic protection robot into the past with him too, and that robot is not quite as dormant as Walker thought. So, he has to go back and fix time again, this time changing the future just enough that South African Apartheid actually ends several decades early.
In the film, of course, Max is on a very different case, going back to the stock market crash of 1929 to prevent his old partner from making a killing off the market and, therefore, funding the campaign of a corrupt politician who basically controls government regulation of time travel. It's a more complex story, but it pays off in movie form, and gives Van Damme plenty to do as a time-hopping cop just trying to save the future.
So, the next time you watch Timecop, remember that it's part of a distinguished group that also includes the likes of Hellboy and Sin City, as one of the earliest Dark Horse Comics film adaptations.