This week’s question comes from Eric DeSantis who says “News always pops up about the latest comic hero making way to film or television. The latest blurb about a new Flash TV series includes info like “he won’t be seen wearing the comic’s classic crimson suit,” and “this Flash will originally be from Gotham City and not Central City.” Not gospel I’m sure, but all too familiar to regular readers and fans; they just gotta do something that has nothing to do with the core of the character.”
His question is:
“Why does hollywood feel it a necessity to put their own take or “stamp” on perfectly solid origins, characters, and stories?”
Or, as he says:
“What the f**k is wrong with these people?”
Craig Lemon: “Because they want to make them a financial success.”
Alan Grant: “Many reasons, not all of which are necessarily valid, or even sensible. They include: the need to appeal to a wider audience than comic book readers; the need for each and every creative person involved in a movie to feel that they “contributed”; the recognised superiority of the money people to the creative people; the recognised superiority of film writers to comic writers; the need for major studios not to upset various public groups; the need for film to leave no loose ends, and to tie everything up within the story; comic books and film are different disciplines–what makes sense in one doesn’t necessarily make sense in the other.
Sometimes it works (first Batman movie). Often it doesn’t (Judge Dredd).”
Terry Moore: “They think they’re improving on it. They believe the characterizations and stories in comics work best in comics, to a particular niche reader, and that the characters need to be remolded to interest the hot 18-34 demographic. This is total bullshit, of course. The countless people who made Spider-Man what he is today in comics devoted years of attention to perfecting the details, while a 20-something junior exec at a movie studio devotes 2 weeks of caffeinated chatter, brainstorming with others like him and ripping off every film and script pitch he’s ever heard to throw it into the “hotter, sexier, edgier” version he machine gun pitches to his boss. To me that whole town looks like a cage of chattering chimps. Television is a little better and independent film has my respect. Bottom line… people don’t write comics for the money (because if you can write you can make a lot more money writing something else, ANYTHING else!), they do it for the love of it, while people who write and rewrite big movies do it for money. The differences in the goals makes the difference in the story.”
Vince Moore: “The simple answer is that’s what Hollywood does. Film making is probably the ultimate collaborative medium. I’m no expert but it looks like hundreds of people work on the average film. That’s a lot of different voices with different ideas on how to get things done. That affects how a movie is done. Another way to look at it is that the producers and directors and screenwriters are all going to have their own take on a comic book property. That’s no matter how well done the comic itself is. The first League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was a great comic and the movie was, well, a movie, full of the things (special effects, dangerous looking stunts and fights, etc.) that one expects from an action movie. Meaning that it was a good bet none of the things that made the comic great would be in evidence, even taking into account that James Robinson of Starman fame wrote the screenplay. Just as with comics people having their views on how things are supposed to be done, so do Hollywood types. I can recall a conversation from my comics retailing days when I took to task a crew member of the first X-Men movie about why no one was wearing their costumes from the comics. His answer was that yellow itself wouldn’t film well, which meant that Wolverines costume was out. When I answered back that didn’t seem to affect the Dick Tracy film with yellow all over the place or Wolverine’s brown on tan costume, I didn’t get a satisfactory answer in return. I took that to mean the choice was made by those who could make them and that their vision of the X-Men would be independent of the source material. Hollywood has its own way of doing things. Stories have to tie into neat packages, so you get the Joker killing Batman’s parents who in turn creates the Joker. Costumes have to be cost effective as well as “realistic” looking; I don’t know about you, but I would think that leather is much more pervy looking than other fabrics, plus who can move around in it very well, The Matrix notwithstanding. Adventures have to fit a budget; oh I can’t wait to see the truncated Phoenix saga done for X-Men 3, the death of an entire planet replaced by the deaths of a busload of tourists, how wonderfully cosmic yet urban. I’m not saying those things are wrong per se, but just that they are different. The real trouble is when people who get hooked by the film start wondering why the comics aren’t just like the film. Which translates into a loss of potential new readers. I think that’s the bigger worry about the current love affair Hollywood has with comics.”
Lee Dawson: “With rare exception (Woody Allen) movies are made by committee. There are a lot of jobs that need to be justified on those committees and the best way to justify your position is to contribute something even when it’s not necessary. No script or idea crosses a producer’s desk without it needing to be “fixed”. This mind set is so ingrained in the Hollywood system that no matter how solid the idea, book, or comicbook is to start with, change “must” be made. Worse still, once the movie is made it is then likely subject to test screening where more changes are made based on audience comments. Sadly, it’s all about job justification and ego with little regard to the integrity of the property of origin.”
Alonzo Washington: “Most studios, creators & writers in Hollywood are idiots. They recreate the same idea over & over & over again. Therefore, when they find original source material they spend most of their time trying to turn it into something that we have all seen before. That’s why so many super hero movies & TV shows in the seventies were so crappie. Super Man the movie bucked this trend and the movie remained true to the comic book. I believe that is why Spider Man the movie was such a hit. That and the fact that I was an extra was in the movie (Seriously). All jokes aside. The more the movie captures the essence of the comic book the better movie will be. That’s why the Matrix films are so good. When you watch those movies it feels like your are inside of a comic book.
Hollywood does not truly understand the world of comic books. They just want to make a lot of money. I have had a number of movie studios approach me about making a movie about my African American super hero universe (Omega7). The first thing they want to do is turn the movie into the same stereotypical Black films that flood the market currently. I always turn them down. The more original the comic book & film is the better will do. The comic book does not even need to be famous at all. For example: Blade & The Crow. However, Hollywood is not about creativity! It about money! Therefore, we get these sorry Hollywood stylized versions of comic books like: Batman & Robin. I rest my case.”
Mike Collins: “You can’t isolate comics in this regard- Hollywood puts it stamp on EVERYTHING.
Movies of award winning novels like ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’ “improve” the ending, Tarantino’s ‘Jackie Brown’ guts the novel its based on. The adaptation of Grisham’s ‘Runaway Jury’ has gone as far as to change the major thread of the story- the collusion of the tobacco industry in knowingly selling a carcinogenic product,- and replacing it with the firearms industry. Now, did they do this because they depend on tobacco sponsorship or do they think guns make a more dramatic visual statement?
Dunno. Fact is, comics get off fairly lightly in the ‘tampering’ stakes… we remember the bad stuff (Captain America, Batman and Robin) but actually for the most part Spider-Man, Hulk, Daredevil, the Keaton Batmans, Superman) there’s been some peaches. Ghost World is damn close to the comic- what I’ve seen of American Splendour looks great. LXG is a disappointment, though.”
Evil Rick Shea: A lot of Hollywood executives expect to turn over a property without even reading the comic or graphic novel to see what makes these characters and situations so damn interesting in the first place. Then they get the credit for “creating” or worse yet “fixing” a property. I don’t think anyone is happy about the new Catwoman costume or the terrible sounding plot involving some Egyptian God and an evil cosmetics CEO. I’m almost glad that she will be “Patience Price” instead of Selina Kyle as she is pretty much unrecognizable. I think execs always take the “their way or the highway” approach and being surrounded by yes-men means no one will actually step in to tell them what a bad idea some of these changes are.
Sometimes they’re just dumbing things down for an audience they don’t believe has the intelligence to follow a story. Then said audience sees the movie and is usually underwhelmed because they’re bored to tears or the story is watered down taking out all the elements that made it a popular comic book in the first place. So many people with notes all need to add their input or it doesn’t look like they’re doing any work. So rather than let a perfect story run like the comic, they “tweak” it here and there to claim they “improved” it, just so they look busy. Then they want all the credit and none of the blame. Sounds like some comic editors want to work in Hollywood.
Alan Donald: “I have no idea. Superman was great, Batman was ok, Spider-Man was yet another great one. When the film is heavily based on the source material it’s a better and generally more successful film so goodness only knows what goes through these ejits heads when they start mucking about. LXG is a good enough film, enjoyable in a hokey kind of a way but nothing like the film it could have been and by killing them all off they’ve blown the chance of the really cool sequel LEG2 which would have been awesome on the big screen.
That said Blade was far superior to the comics and the film version of Hannibal was an improvement on the book.
Frankly I give up…in more ways than one.”
Summary: A real mixed bag of replies from explanations on the nature of the industry to a basic – because they’re arses…good fun.
Ok that is it for my last column. From next week my lovely wife Dawn will be taking over the bulk of the duties on this ‘ere section. I may answer a few of the questions but frankly she knows more creators than I and the teacher training course is a hell of a lot harder than I expected. Be nice to her, ok?
Next Week’s Question: “Do you feel that Diamond’s monopoly hold on comic book distribution is of benefit to the industry?”
Big Shout: The Panel need your questions so email them into me at: [email protected]
Previous Questions: Check out the message board where I’ve put up a list of every question the Panel has faced so far (neatly linked to the column it appeared in) to inspire you and let you know what to avoid.
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