Your Fucked Up Childhood #2: ‘The Adventures of Mark Twain’ A.K.A ‘Comet Quest’


So I’m watching the Oscars Sunday night… Nah, I’m not. For one, I live in England, so I’d have to stay up until midnight just to see what ridiculously price-tagged fabric some people who ‘play pretend’ for a living decided to adorn their gorgeous torso-with before dawdling on a red pile tongue. Secondly, no one starts winning anything significant until 2am GMT, then it’s about 4 before I get to see the people I think are moderately deserving of an anthropomorphic golden dildo get overlooked.

I think the last time I managed to stay the distance was when David Lynch was up for Best Director for ‘Mulholland Drive’. You just know in your bones that nomination was a token gesture from the Academy pretending they ‘got it’ so as kid themselves it wasn’t they who were the focus of Lynch’s insinuated criticisms in that film. I remember seeing Lynch immediately engaged in conversation with Robert Altman after the inevitable snub, which put it all in perspective. Think about it, Robert Altman and David Lynch enjoying a consolatory chuckle while the eventual winner collected their little figurine. I can’t even remember who won in the end, which is telling. No offence to the winner, but you can bet they’d probably be the first to admit they weren’t as deserving as these two grand masters of the art, laughing the whole farce-off in the aisle.

So, anyway, I’m not watching the Oscars, but about a month ago I was watching Best Picture Winner ’12 Years A Slave’ and thinking “…apart from these historical CGI skylines, this feels like a film that was made 20 years ago…No, that’s not it, it feels like a film that should have been made 20 years ago, at least.” But what can you expect from a country whose greatest work of literature still gets summarily banned from many of its classrooms?

The Great American Novel, banned. And they say they don’t get irony in the Land of the Free…

David Lynch describes the infant mind’s susceptibility to shaping by external stimuli as a period of time in which “the window is open”. According to Lynch, at a certain age, post adolescence, the window shuts, and the adult has all the information it feels it needs in order to deal with practically any experience, though the window might, he adds, periodically open a crack every now and again.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s ‘Your Fucked Up Childhood’.

The window is now open.

When I was about 10 years old or so, before bed my father read The Adventures of both Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn to me.  A year-or-so later, he orders us a video cassette rather than Friday Night’s ceremonial rental.


‘The Adventures of Mark Twain’ (released in the UK as ‘Comet Quest’) is a ‘Claymation’ film directed by Will Vinton, that has in recent years garnered a small amount of notoriety due to a particular scene that began doing the rounds on the internet a couple of years ago. The scene in question depicts a vignette based on Twain’s posthumous novel ‘The Mysterious Stranger’, a book coloured by a 13 year period of depression toward the end of the author’s life in which he lost his wife and two of his three daughters. In an age in which animated features are undergoing a renaissance as regards digital animation, not to mention the resurgence in popularity of stop motion, Vinton’s chronically overlooked feature which screened in theaters in only seven American cities, not only remains an astonishing technical achievement that puts the comparatively lazy undertakings of digital animators to shame, but is also surprisingly the greatest adaptation of the vision of ‘the Father of American Literature’ yet committed to film.

While largely sidestepping any overt references to the potentially problematic issue of race that has dogged Twain’s legacy to this day, ‘Comet Quest’ is an expertly woven narrative travelogue of Twain’s body of work and life story, aimed-at and made palatable-for the younger viewer…for the most part. While the film humorously tackles the absurdity of organised religion, racism, the battle of the sexes, and mortality, it’s crowning glory (and the belated focus of this rambling piece) is the aforementioned scene which has fostered it’s internet age infamy. In either an act of bravado, or perhaps mishandling, the scene in which Tom Sawyer, Becky Thatcher and Huckleberry Finn travel through Twain’s living library of works and land themselves in the presence of Satan is profoundly disturbing (or disturbingly profound) not only in the context of the film, but it would seem latterly, in its own right too.

Wait until the British Oscar fan’s optimum disappointment hour, dim the lights, maximise the video to full screen and watch as Finn, Thatcher and Sawyer are given a five minute education in the futility of existence.

If you managed to simulate those conditions, and found that video hit the agnostic spot and tripped your atheistic switch I highly recommend you read ‘The Mysterious Stranger’, the only book to leave me adrift in a ten minute limbo in which I pondered the validity of my own existence with a slowly dissipating intellect.

Chester Whelks

Chester Whelks

Chester Whelks is a peripheral figure on the fringes of existence. Predominantly bothering the local music scene of his native Manchester, England, he has a very finely attuned Justice-button, and knows how to call a spade a ‘Multi-Purpose Murder/Concealment Device’.

3 Responses to Your Fucked Up Childhood #2: ‘The Adventures of Mark Twain’ A.K.A ‘Comet Quest’
  1. Shawn C. Baker Reply

    I had never even heard of this before. Believe me when I say – and this is not an exaggeration – you just changed my life.

    • Chester Whelks

      Chester Whelks Reply

      And thus, the ‘Your Fucked Up Adulthood’ column was born. Take it away, Bakes!

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