The Anchor Panel: From Comics To Television
Here we are in the pre-pre summer (spring?) blockbuster period and we are already seeing tons of comic book related media all over the place (and no I am not talking about the Avengers... yet). The past month saw the return of the Walking Dead, a TV smash based on a formerly semi-obscure comic, and the release of Chronicle, a low budget comic book inspired movie.
You're lucky I even let you introduce this month's Panel. See your thunder? I got it right here. In my pocket.
Oh yeah, and Alex is here joining us (and busting my chops) this month. Basically, all of this comic book activity got us over here at the Anchor Panel thinking: What are some lesser known, semi-obscure comic book properties that are ripe for translation to the big or small screen?
I was told that we were here to discuss teen pregnancy.
Just... Could we...
Can we just get this started already? Yalla, come on.
Ok, let's start with TV shows. We've got the Walking Dead lurching out there, FX has been working on a series for Powers (think cop show but with super powered criminals), and while Fables isn't actually on TV there are a bunch of fairy tale based shows out there right now (Once Upon a Time, Grimm). What else you got?
Let's start with what, in my mind, could be the most easily adapted comic series: Ex Machina. Concept: a man who -- after a freak accident -- gains the power to command machines, decides to become a superhero (albeit short-lived), save one of the towers on 9/11 and become mayor of New York City.
I like where you are going with this.
So, Reynolds, you've read it and you can agree that what's most captivating about this comic series isn't in the super-heroics (because there's hardly any!), but rather, the more political aspects of the title character being the mayor of one of the most compelling cities in the world.
Oh yeah, there is definitely a hook there. I'm picturing a subtle flashback story structure (like in the comic) where the struggles of Mayor Hundred's political life are contrast with his previous battles as a crime fighter. I'm sold, but I'm still fishing for something new. We've got enough shows about politicians.
Fill your hands then, you son of a bitch! One word: Preacher.
Easy, John Wayne. This has been bandied around for awhile though. You'd think a show about a preacher who gets powered by the word of God, befriends a vampire (so hot right now!), and blasts his way around the odd and gross sides of the USA would be a slam dunk.
It's as if Tarantino made a Western and added supernatural elements into the mix.
Didn't his buddy Robert Rodriguez already do that?
This is one series I will stand by as one of my all time favourites. It's got the perfect blend of action and comedy with endearing characters you actually get behind (whether hero, villain or in-between).
As much fun as it would be to have a show with John Wayne as the hero's spiritual advisor, if they were going to make this show, they would have done it already. Why can't we make a show about something way out there like Jeff Smith's Rasl?
As much as I enjoy the book, it's a bit obscure, a little difficult for a general audience to follow and the title itself seems like it's missing a vowel.
Just let me finish! You've got a great noir tone, a combination of Tesla science and Native American folklore, some Sliders-like dimension jumping, and a whole love triangle in the background. You're telling me this couldn't work as a TV show?
Let's just say there's a reason why Sliders failed. I personally think it would make an even better movie, similar to the 90's classic Dark City. I'd prefer Jeff Smith's kid-friendly Bone. Umm... His comic book series Bone, that is.
Editor's Note: A bone joke about Bone? We're classing it up.
Fair enough. I'm just trying to push the envelope here. Sticking with my noir obsession: could something like Sleeper work as a TV series? What say you to that?
Tough to say. I almost want to say yes just to shoot down the chances of it becoming the much-rumoured Tom Cruise action flick. I could see it as a sort of Alias-type show with super powers but that's an odd combination for a television audience.
Oh yeah, I had forgotten that Cruise was onboard at one point to play the lead. You've got a problem with that?
Are you goading me into calling him a nutbag or something? I'm just not sure if he's got the chops for something as unique as Sleeper.
He does the tightly wound act so well, though! Come on, Minority Report! Collateral! Even Valkyrie! Let's just both admit that the only way anything about Sleeper ever gets turned into anything is if Tom Cruise is involved.
Yeah, sure. How about getting a proper Hellblazer movie off the ground? And by proper, I mean NO Keanu. Or Shia.
Now you are just straight hating. Let Hellblazer go, what's done is done and with that one it could have been much worse. I'm trying to talk up some new ideas here! There are plenty of big budget comic book movies nowadays but where is the new Ghost World or Persepolis? I recently enjoyed Craig Thompson's Blankets. Could that translate?
I think Blankets mostly hinges on Thompson's visuals but I wouldn't be surprised if someone was able to turn it into a Ghost World-type of success.
Exactly, but with less cynicism. Looking beyond the visuals (tough to do, but stick with me here), Blankets has got this great coming-of-age story, it creates some solid soft spoken drama and a provides a hopeful resolution. What more could Hollywood want?
How's this for an idea: a little boy with a pet owl, who is also a powerful sorcerer and wears round-lensed glasses.
Yes! I'm talking about Books of Magic. The similarities to Harry Potter can't be dismissed (especially since it predates J.K. Rowling's work), plus we know it's got a success rate of 100 percent.
Ok, I admit, I'm not too familiar with Books of Magic. I hear "It's like Harry Potter" and black out. However, apparently Neil Gaiman is involved and since we'll never see a Sandman movie (or TV show) this could suffice. But seriously, another bespectacled wizard? If you want a magic-themed movie, why not something fresher like Locke & Key?
No kidding? Even with the weird visual of people reaching in to their own half-opened heads? Alright, forget magic, how about a post-apocalyptic story in the vein of The Road or Book of Eli? Something like, say, Sweet Tooth?
Love it. Who do I need to pay to see it?
Looking past the main character being a kid with antlers, maybe I'm getting ahead of myself here? Sweet Tooth's greatest storytelling qualities shine through best in comic form. You could definitely translate the story to the screen but it would lose some of its essence.
But that's what almost any adaption runs the risk of doing. The most important thing is to maintain the most crucial elements of the story. For anyone who's seen or read The Road, you can pretty much gauge just how intense an end of the world type story could be. At least one that's monumentally better than "Jericho."
With comics though, there is something more that can be lost. I don't want to get too philosophical here, but you alluded before to that mystique of comics (such as it is) being tied up in a powerful juxtaposition of the static and dynamic, that crucial mix of layered dialogue, captions and visuals.
Should I remind you that we're already passed the allotted space for an Anchor Panel?
I guess my point is, even though the people attempting these adaptations must know the inherent risks, they still take on the challenge of transforming these works into something else whether successful (everyone loves the Walking Dead) or not (Frank Miller destroying The Spirit). At the very least, I like the idea of them reaching a broader audience and maybe encouraging people to discover the source material.
Just so people know what you're talking about when you ramble at them in person? How thoughtful of you. The curtains are falling now. Let's wrap this up.
Fine. We've tossed the ideas out there and more adaptation attempts are being made each year so who knows, maybe we will see some of these come to fruition. In the mean time, I'm off to read Sleeper again while pretending Tom Cruise is shouting out all of the dialogue.
Until next time, Reynolds... Don't call me again.