Earlier this week I was thinking that I’d write this weekend’s Weekend Dump with the subject being that Amazing Spider-Man 2 trailer. Then I figured that the trailer wasn’t really worth talking about more than I had already. Which was not much. Instead I decided to stick with the subject of comics, more specifically comics that should be made into films. Or more precisely, comics I’d like to see turned into films. Some of these are comics that, at some point, have been in the production pipeline in either a film or television format, but the key feature is that none of them have actually made it to film. And that just won’t do. Sort it out Hollywood! Click the jump for my lazily planned out list.
As usual with my crappy lists, this is in no particular order. That said, I will be numbering them because it’s fun to mess with people like that. This won’t include an individual stories from within a particular character’s comic series if that character has been on film. So no Batman, Superman or Spider-Man comics. Although if I did allow them Year One, All-Star Superman and Kraven’s Last Hunt. This also means no Judge Dredd in The Cursed Earth, even though I want to see that turned into a film more than any other comic ever. Anyway, without further time wasting here’s my list!
Preacher has one of those back-stories to it that you could easily disregard as student grade wank. A priest by the name of Jesse Custer has the spirit of a supernatural being called Genesis living inside him. Genesis was born from the unholy union between and angel and a demon. This creature is the living embodiment of both pure good and evil and, upon becoming possessed, Jesse decides to make it his goal to travel across America to literally find God. You see, ever since the creation of Genesis God has kind of abandoned his post as divine ruler of all things. On his travels he is joined by his ex-girlfriend Tulip and an Irish vampire named Cassidy. All a little bit silly, especially when you consider that Custer seeks knowledge from an apparition in the form of John Wayne. It’s also really very cool.
The comic is essentially a modern Western crossed with a road movie with heavy religious symbolism, as was the trend in the 90s when Garth Ennis first launched the series. There’s plenty of reasons why this hasn’t been made yet. The comic is dark, violent and liberal with it’s attitudes towards taste and decency. There has been attempts to launch it as a film and a TV series over the years but none have ever come to fruition. The latest attempt is being headed up by Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen, of all people, who are planning to shoot a pilot for AMC, likely as a show to chuck alongside The Walking Dead. If it comes into being, and a full series is produced then that will be great, although I can’t help but think that AMC’s aversion to nudity and their habit of taking the less troublesome route, as they have done with The Walking Dead a number of times, could lead to a version of Preacher that’s lacking some of it’s bite.
If you’ve played the recent Tell-tale Games produced game The Wolf Among Us you’ll already be familiar with Fables. Also, if you’ve seen Grimm you will likely think the premise of Fables is a little familiar. Keep in mind that Fables came first and was, at one point, in development by the studio that makes Grimm. In Fables a district of New York has been hidden from the regular populace with a magical seal. Within this seal is a place called Fabletown where characters from old fables and fairy-tales live out their days. Stories regularly flip between characters and genres but often focus on Snow White, now divorced from Prince Charming, and Bigby, The Big Bad Wolf, who has reformed and gained a human form. He’s also the town’s Sheriff. Any fables unable to blend in with regular humans, or Mundanes as they’re called, are sent to live in a place called The Farm. Quite an interesting concept with plenty of storytelling potential.
The comics strength comes from it’s twisting of traditional characters and stories and presenting them in the confines of a gritty, just to the left or real, setting. You can easily see the potential of this as a film. I’d imagine if a film did happen it would either focus on Bigby and Snow White or take on a format similar to that of Sin City by being a series of short stories, each with a distinct style and tone. The TV series potential is also obvious, although I suspect we’d end up with a show that maintains one tone continuously with certain characters being the focus all the time, rather than switching away from the main cast to tell side stories as the comic does. Either way Fables would be a visually interesting sight to behold with its mixture of humanoid characters mixing with anthropomorphic characters such as the Three Little Pigs and Chicken Little. It would require a pretty hefty budget to fully realise and likely would have to be toned down enough for younger audiences, but I could certainly see Fables working on film.
No.3: Lost At Sea
Yeah, I’m getting all indie comic on you here. There’s a good chance you haven’t heard of Lost At Sea. It’s a comic published by Bryan Lee O’Malley before he went and blew everyone’s collective minds with the awesomeness of Scott Pilgrim Vs The World. It is also one of my favourite comics. The story follows a quiet girl named Raleigh as she joins a few classmates on a road trip. She’s not really friends with them but they’ve always seemed nice. Along the way back the group she’s with attempt to get to know her better while stopping at a motel. They learn that she believes that her mother sold her soul to Satan in exchange for career success and that is why she cannot connect with other people her age. She also believes that her soul is living inside a cat she has seen wandering around the Motel, which she remembers may have been where her mother sold her soul. The group then spend the night trying to catch the cat to see if it does have Raleigh’s soul within it and in the process bond over the experience.
Despite how I have described this there is 0 supernatural elements to this. As you read you’ll come to realise that this is merely Raleigh attempting to explain away her social awkwardness because she can’t believe that her inability to connect with others is just a normal part of growing up. At the same time elements of her story suggest that maybe she had visited this motel with her mother and something may have happened that she blocked from her mind. In my interpretation it was something pretty bad, but I am probably drawing conclusions that are not there. What the comic feels like is the middle act of a dramatic film. We’re dropped right in at the start of the road trip and when they leave the motel the story ends. What matters is the arc of this story, which is the bonding of a group of people in an attempt to help Raleigh not feel so aimless in the world. But you could easily attach a pre and prologue to the story where we learn more about her before the trip and follow her as she confronts her mother over her memories. Elements are left hanging at the end of the comic on purpose, because at the age of 18 Raleigh herself doesn’t have the answers. Regardless of how the story plays out what you have a poignant, beautifully told story that I’d love to see get exposed to a wider audience as it serves as a great counter-point to the external conflict of Scott Pilgrim.
Here’s my second comic pick that features no violence or dark content! Blankets is a biographical comic written and drawn by Craig Thompson. It tells the story of his youth as a teenager and into his early twenties as he falls in love for the first time and how his feelings and urges for the girl conflict with his strict Christian up bringing. Craig wrote the comic as his way of telling his parents that he was no longer a Christian, which seems like a hell of a lot of work for what could have been done with one phone call. I’m glad he wrote Blankets though because I considering one of my favourite comics that often trades places with Watchmen as my favourite of all time.
What would make Blankets a great film is that it tells a story that many people can relate to, regardless of religion. It is about finding a conflict in your beliefs and your desires. You want something but you’re worried you could lose part of yourself in the process due to some aspect of your life pushing against the thing you desire. Simple enough story really. The religious aspects would likely mean it would be a hard sell in the U.S. as they do not seem to keen on films that end with the main character realising that religion may not be for him, but that also means this is a story that deserves to be told. Throughout the comic Craig’s relationships with his parents, his girlfriend Raina and his brother Philip are the focus of the narrative. His brother is a strong part of the story as they share a bond in their drawings and the flights of fancy their minds would create. As they get older they drift apart a little, which parallels his gradual drifting from Christianity, telling a story of change and growth of character in the journey to adulthood. Blankets would, of all the comics I’m listing here, be the easiest to develop into a film.
No.1: Black Hole
Have you ever read Black Hole? It’s an incredible comic by Charles Burns and it boggles my mind that it has never been turned into a film. It also makes a lot of sense because the comic contains a whole tonne of sex and nudity and we all know how much the MPAA is scared of that. The story concerns a group of teenagers in a fictional version of the 1970s where a sexually transmitted disease is being spread around that causes people to have physical mutations. Unfortunately these aren’t the sort of mutations that give you metal skin or bone claws that pop out of your fists. They’re more of the variety of facial growths, tails and in one case an extra mouth with a mind of it’s own on a character’s throat. The characters all experience different repercussions of contracting the disease, some hide in the woods out of fear, some attempt to cover their mutations. One character willingly gets himself infected because he finds a girl irresistible.
The filmic potential of this comic is obvious to anyone that has read it. Charles Burns evokes a tone and imagery that can be directly compared to the works of Davids Lynch and Cronenberg. The comic is black and white with an emphasis on black. Mutations remind you of the body horror of Videodrome whilst Burn’s trademark dream sequences will remind you of the broken narratives and symbolic images used by Lynch. David Fincher has attempted to make the film in the past but was met with resistance due to the potential content. It would certainly be an 18 certificate in the UK, probably NC-17 in the US. That film production has been in limbo for some time, although some recent rumours suggested Fincher may be pursuing it again. Hopefully he is because if he proved anything with his version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo it’s that the studios are happy to let him make whatever he wants with whatever content he wants.
So that’s my list of comics I’d like to see turned into films. Almost any story can be adapted to film, despite what Alan Moore will have you believe, and I’d be happy to see some of these get the treatment they deserve. Of course there’s plenty of other comics that would make for cool films. The only reason I didn’t include Y: The Last man is because I believe that would work far better as a TV series than it ever could as a film. What this list, I hope, proves is that there’s more to comics than superheroes and many of these non-superhero centric stories should have their chance to shine on film, and in the process be exposed to an audience that would likely never have picked up the comics. Story-telling has always been about passing a tale from one generation to the next. The mediums change the but core of the stories is what we can pass on. Remember, if you don’t believe non-superhero comics can make good films, I’d kindly point you towards American Splendor, Oldboy and The Road To Perdition. Now, hows about sharing your picks in the comments?