Actor John Rhys-Davies is no stranger to the peripheries of geek culture. Thanks to repeat performances as both Sallah in the Indiana Jones films and Gimli in The Lord of the Rings, the British actor has spent decades on the comic convention circuit. But now, after the release of his latest return performance in Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, the star is about to venture into the world of comic books proper for the first time.
“By the way, I’m also doing a comic book,” Rhys-Davies informed audiences recently at London's MCM Comic Con. “Two young men approached me and said, ‘John, we would like to make a comic book of your life.’”
Rhys-Davies refused that initial offer on the grounds that it would interfere with a long-gestating prose autobiography he was planning (“‘Oh my God,’ I thought, ‘I’ve got to quell this one instantly,’ he reflected). But the actor had an intriguing alternative to propose: “I said, ‘we can do a comic book of the imaginative lives of some of my characters.’ And that’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Rhys-Davies’ comments left unclear precisely what sort of book he plans to produce. Copyrights for the actor’s many feature film and TV characters are divided between a plethora of film studios and production companies, some of whom are already licensing the characters (if not necessarily Rhys-Davies’ likeness) to comic publishers – although, somewhat surprisingly, the Disney-owned Indiana Jones franchise does not currently have a comic tie-in despite its imminent sequel.
It is possible, from Rhys-Davies remarks, that the "imaginative lives” in question belong to characters of the performer’s own creation, in which case the book would mark his first foray not only into comic books, but into fiction writing more generally. Whatever the case, Rhys-Davies was mum on details surrounding the project, mentioning neither a publisher, artistic collaborators, nor a publication date beyond his promise that it would be arriving “in the not-too-distant future.”
Despite having never made a comic per se, John Rhys-Davies has brushed up against the world of comic book IP more than once in his career. In 1989, he became the first actor to embody the role of Kingpin Wilson Fisk in the live action The Trial of the Incredible Hulk TV movie. Six years later, he became a series regular on the animated Gargoyles (currently appearing in comic form at publisher Dynamite Entertainment), and revisited the world of Marvel Comics as Thor in both the Fantastic Four and Incredible Hulk cartoons.
Rhys-Davies also appeared on no fewer than three separate DC Animated Universe cartoons, each time in a different role: as mobster Waclaw Jozek on Batman: The Animated Series, as the god Hades on Justice League, and as Edgar Mandragora on the oft-forgotten Zeta Project. And he has seen his likeness appear in multiple licensed adaptations of his more noteworthy film roles, being rendered for the first time by John Buscema and Klaus Janson in the 1981 Marvel Comics adaptation of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Even so, the actor remained largely unfamiliar with the comics form in general until being approached for his new project, though he had tolerant words on the medium for his MCM crowd. “I should be embarrassed, being an English lit major and holding a doctorate as well,” Rhys-Davies said. “But you know what? Lots of intelligent people really like comics, and good for them. I’m all for a real democracy in literacy, and if comics is what turns you on, and makes you read and think, by all means, read comics.”