Stay tuned at the end of The Panel for more information on the LIVE! Event to be held at the UK’s Comic Expo (http://www.comicexpo.biz).
Welcome to SBC’s The Panel, a chance for you to put your burning questions – comics-related or otherwise – to a group of comics professionals.
The Panel lives or dies by your contributions; please email them to The Panel and we’ll add them to the list…
This week’s question comes from a reader whose name I lost (I am VERY sorry) and is as follows:-
“After watching many comic adaptations (book to movie), I pretty much figured that the reason(s) studios don’t learn from others’ successes and failures is pride and ego. Is that accurate? “
Mike Bullock Writes:
I don’t think it’s as simple as all that. Having recently optioned two of Runemaster’s properties, I’ve had a peek into the inner working of the movie machines and the number of variables and various factors that affect a movie’s creation are vast indeed. First, it depends on the type of deal struck to bring the story to the screen.
Some folks work deals where they give up a great amount of creative control in return for a large financial compensation. Others gain less financially in order to maintain more control. From there it greatly depends on the various minds guiding the ship. Reach a creative synergy with the right combination of talented people and you get films such as Spider-Man, The Incredibles or Batman Begins. Don’t achieve that and watch as another Catwoman or Phantom is born. As with anything where humans are involved, ego will play a part in the outcome, but everyone in Hollywood has the singular goal of creating the best movie possible, because they all know that’s what will bring in the most money. And we all know money is the name of that game.
Mike Bullock is a writer and co-creator of Image Comics’ Lions, Tigers and Bears. Bullock’s second book, The Gimoles, debuted in July of ’05. In addition to his comic writing, Bullock is also the promotion agent and President of Runemaster Studios, Inc. When he isn’t creating or writing his own material, Bullock acts as editor for numerous comic projects. Bullock is currently writing several new books for various publishers, including Lions, Tigers and Bears Volume II.
Kev F Sutherland:
Comic book adaptations have become so plentiful in recent years that the similarities and difference between them are the same as in any other form of adaptation (from book, stage play, previous film, whatever). There are good adaptations and bad adaptations, all for a variety of reasons.
The best comic adaptations I’ve seen are those where a truly original film maker, who has previously worked from a variety of sources, takes a comic book idea and works with it with a fidelity to his or her own style of film making as well as an appreciation of the source material. So good examples would be Ghost World, American Splendor, Spider-Man, A History Of Violence, Men In Black, maybe From Hell.
The rockier road to comic book adaptation is where a company is adapting a franchise, and the director is a small part of the jigsaw, who can get hired and fired as easily as the composer. That route leads to movie-making by committee, and it’s more by luck than judgement that a director manages to get anything of his/her vision across. The only really happy survivor of this process, for me, was Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 1 & 2, though I have a lot of respect for Tim Burton’s Batman, Batman Begins, Dick Donner’s Superman, Bryan Singer’s X-Men, The Crow, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, TV’s Smallville and Lois & Clark, and TV’s great animations of Batman, JLA and Teen Titans.
The most problematic movie adaptations of comics are when the comic is just not good source material in the first place. Regardless of how legendary a comic may have become, when you take it out of its 2D world and put it up on screen, those guys in tights can look pretty silly, and the premise of their fantasy world can seem just plain preposterous. Which is why, at their heart, such films as Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Tank Girl, Punisher, Catwoman, and Hellboy just didn’t work. Some of those ideas could have worked with a braver re-imagining, but that can also backfire, as in the case of Hulk and League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
Asterix The Gaul is a special case because, despite all evidence to the contrary, the French thought it was a good movie. C’est incroyable n’est ce pas.
And Manga to Anime seems to pass without comment. I have to plead ignorance in that entire genre. Is there bad anime and no-one’s bothered complaining yet?
Oh, and some comics are just unlucky. Judge Dredd was always a great movie waiting to be made. All you had to do was make it before someone made Robocop… d’oh! Okay, as long as he keeps his helmet on throughout … d’oh! Okay, last chance, just make sure it doesn’t feature that guy out of Deuce Bigalo Male Giga…. d’oh!!!
Writer and artist on most genres of comic from (currently) The Bash St Kids in The Beano, thru Tarquin Hoylet He Has To Go To The Toilet in Viz, to Star Trek and Dr Strange for Marvel, plus Dr Who, Red Dwarf, Gladiators, Goosebumps and heaps more.
I don’t believe so…I think a lot of the decisions are based on logic, historical achievements and a playing it safe mentality. You have to remember someone is ‘gambling’ a $50 million dollar budget on any given movie and they want a return on their investment. If you go completely outside the box, you can get ‘completely out side the box office’.
Having said that I believe the ‘formula’ is still there, but doesn’t have the same power it once had.
Sean Patrick O’Reilly is Editor-in-Chief of Arcana Studios, and the writer of their book, Kade.
Is this a question or a validation of the concept of “Total Depravity” as presented by John Calvin?
I’d say the observation is reasonably accurate. Not that I have a great deal of experience in actually having any of MY work “adapted” to motion pictures, TV, etc. I have been involved in the pitch process, but never actually had my work adapted per se. But here is a little insight I can give you about the process; while working rather hard to have DoorMan optioned a few years ago I did come across one intriguing attitude that seems to be common at studios, that is, “can we use it to sell _____?” (Fill in that blank with “coffee tables”, “cars”, “soda”, “beer”, “magazines”, “computers”, etc.) The point being, is that DoorMan as presented to the studios and networks seemed an intriguing idea, until they realized that they couldn’t seem to figure out how to do product placement in the series. So they passed.
Was ego involved? Sure. But the real problem was that they wanted to place the studio’s darling product in the center of the screen, and if the concept got in the way, well, forget the concept. So I suspect this is a lot of the problem too. At least SOME of the guys who have had their ideas ruined by the movie studios got some money in return. I guess that’s a bit of consolation.
But I think it’s perhaps best to think about the adaptations that didn’t stink. The ones that may even be said to have added something to the concept. Which were those again? I forget.
James E. Lyle is a cartoonist and illustrator, including co-creating titles Escape to the Stars, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. and DoorMan, plus work on Fright Night, Cynicalman Sells Out, and the accurately-spelt Wiindows. More recently Lyle worked on Turok, the “missing” Paul Gulacy T.h.u.n.d.e.r. Agents, and DRASTIK #1.
Pat Sullivan Writes:
I would say studios approach each movie according to what they think the mainstream audience is going to like, not what the comic book audience wants. Where it works best is where they stay at least true to the idea of the comic.
Pat Sullivan is the main man of Diamond Comics this side of the Ocean and will appearing on the LIVE! Version of SBC’s The Panel at Brighton’s Comic Expo – http://www.comicexpo.biz
There’s a whole lot of things and factors surrounding making a movie. Pride and ego could be one possibility, but at the end of the day it boils down to the vision of the studio, the vision of the director, and time available. I could talk for hours on the possibilities and the things that can and do go wrong during the making of a movie, but what it boils down to usually is what the studio wants for the particular property and making money. Sometimes their vision works for the project and/or the director or actors can persuade the direction of the film into a good direction. X-Men, Batman Begins, and Blade come to mind. Other times the studio takes it a bit too far and it doesn’t come out so well… Catwoman and the other Batmovies comes to mind. But even with Catwoman as an example, though the concept was different from the version we know, their version could have worked if given more time and attention to doing it well. There are multiple writers on the project- did you notice how the first 20 minutes of Catwoman was actually pretty good, and then it took a turn for the worst. I’m sure that was where one writer’s script inclusion ended and another one’s began.
Moving on. The point is that making movies is hard and it’s tough at every level- the studio, the director, the actors, the producers, the writers, the original creators, and the fans. With so many cooks in a kitchen you can have a 4 course meal masterpiece or you can have a big old inedible mess. You never know… it’s all about planning, time, focus, and love of what you do. More often than not, if they stay true to the source material, they should have a hit. But sometimes you have to know where and when to deviate from the source material as movies is a different medium from comics (and what works in one doesn’t necessarily work for the other- blue and yellow spandex, anyone?).
I’d have to say that Hollywood is learning… keep supporting the good movies and they will take notice. Whatever makes money, they’ll keep doing.
Bart Thompson is the founder of Approbation Comics, creator of Vampires Unlimited, the Metamutoids, ChiSai, and Chaos Campus: Sorority Girls vs. Zombies while the publisher of Myriad from Approbation and writer/creator of Blood, Shells, & Roses coming soon from Arcana Studios!
I would say yes. I may be risking offending any Hollywood types who read this but I think all of the movie studios spend too much time and energy trying to reinvent the wheel when it comes to adapting other creators’ properties. If you look at the success of Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter or even Spiderman, one would learn that being as faithful as possible and loving what you’re doing are the keys to producing successful adaptations.
Vince Moore is the editor for DarkStorm Studios, a comics company started by Kevin Grevioux of Underworld fame.
“No, it’s fear. They fear that if they do anything different, they’ll lose lots of money. And of course, not doing anything different from something stupid causes a self-fulfilling prophecy. But — as I’d heard – the comic-book movies made oodles of money. Money from happy fans or fans who go to be pissed off or pissed on is still money — it doesn’t stink (pardon the pun). So what is it in the pattern that would lead the studios to change? And I’ve seen a few comic-book movies, and, considering they’re just silly b-movies, and succeed absolutely for the reasons silly b-movies succeed — where is the fault? Then again, I’m not a fan and only a member of the mainstream (“mundane,” if we must use those monikers) public. It looked all right to me.”
Donna Barr has books and original art at www.stinz.com, webcomics at www.moderntales.com, www.girlamatic.com, and has POD at www.booksurge.com Nothing she won’t try, at least once…including writing a column for SBC at this link!.
Well, either pride, ego or STUPIDITY. (I’m reminded of how the producers of the excellent FLASH TV series were approached by the studio execs and asked why the Flash couldn’t just wear a red jogging suit, instead of an expensive rubber-muscle suit, since it would save money. If you have to ask, you don’t get it.)
Jesse Leon McCann is a New York Times Best-selling Author. He’s currently editing the fifth Simpsons TV Episode Guide and writing comic stories for Bongo Comics, DC Comics’ Looney Tunes and Cartoon Network Block Party, and Smiles for Diversity’s Scrapyard Detectives #3.
I don’t know if that is a fair assessment. You’re assuming that the movie studios are greedy and don’t care about comics at all. That might be the case 50 – 90% of the time, but for every mogul, there’s got to be at least 5 true fans. I’ve seen plenty of bad adaptations, but not so much in recent years.
Besides, can you really fault someone for trying to make money? That is the bottom line in all forms of entertainment. Make money/become the trend.
Vito Delsante’s creator owned mini-series, “The Mercury Chronicles”, with artist Mike Lilly (Vampirella: Revelations), is now in development with Speakeasy Comics and will hit stands in June of 2006. He has worked with DC Comics, Marvel Comics, and others.
AND NOW… SBC’s The Panel LIVE! Will be taking place on the 20th of November at 3pm at the Comic Expo in Brighton, UK!
You heard it here first… 3pm is the time, Brighton is the place – make sure YOU come on down and get involved.
I am looking for questions to ask the panellists, so please if you have a new question OR even an old favourite from the archive. Email me at the link at the top of the panel.
If you coming down to the event – which you all should – bring along a question and ask it direct to the panel.
No subject is too small, no subject is too taboo… if you want to ask it YOU can!
The confirmed list so far for the LIVE! Panel is
Jack Lawrence – artist of Lions, Tigers and Bears for Image
Lee ‘Budgie’ Barnett – writer on X-Men Unlimited for Marvel, and the excellent ‘Hypotheticals’ live events with Dave Gibbons.
Pat Sullivan – The main man on this side of the Ocean for Diamond Comics
Tony Lee – Writer of The Gloom, Midnight Kiss and Shadowmancer.
I will have a few more names for you next week and hopefully I will be able to reveal some of the questions we will be tackling…
Make sure if you are coming down to the event you also check out http://www.portentcomics.com and come say hello at our table, and by some of our comics!
We have The Adventures of Rob & Ducky, Portent Presents, The Dead Forest, Cowboy Jack & More!
Thanks again for reading this week’s panel, I really liked this question (another good one), sorry to the reader who sent it in – I lost your email, but had pasted the question out earlier – Film and Comics are one of the loves in life (not the main love however). Most of my early comic writing came from Film scripts I was developing at University, I have a BA (Hons) degree in Media and Film Production, and having graduated and working full time I found I had no time to shoot these scripts let alone try and fund them – so they became some of the early Portent Comics scripts. Making that transition from film script to comic was just as hard as doing it the other way round – because all of a sudden I was able to triple the budget and then some.
Movie adaptations have to appeal to the masses, that’s why producers can’t stay completely faithful to the comic – what they most do though is capture the spirit of the comic and the characters – if they lose that then the movie is lost with the audience.
In other news, I hear DC’s new Superman Confidential title will be featuring unknown writers working with well known artists and such, I would just like DC to know I am available.
I thank you.
The views and opinions expressed on the panel are solely those of the panellist who has written them. They do not reflect the views or opinions of silver bullet comic books or myself. Freedom of speech is great isn’t it?
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