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July 23, 2009


Ten Comics-Related Projects I'd Develop In Other Media, Or Hurry Along

By Tom Spurgeon

Comic-Con International in San Diego formally gets underway today, after last evening's Preview Night. A big part of Comic-Con International over the last dozen years is the pursuit, purchase and the public development of comics-related material into lucrative cross-platform media properties. That was basically the subject of yesterday's ICv2.com conference. Although comics-related media projects is hardly my purview, I'm all for the world making things for my benefit and entertainment, in comics and out of them. With that in mind, here are ten comics-related projects I'd like to see become film and television projects over the next few years. If they don't have deals, deals should be signed. If they do have deals, the development should be accelerated. Studio folk, lawyers and licensing agents: hop to it.

*****

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1. Dr. Strange, created by Steve Ditko with Stan Lee
I went on about this one ad nauseam to honor the great NeilAlien's latest blogday. It still makes sense for there to be a Dr. Strange movie sooner rather than later, for all the reasons I stated then: great origin (Marvel's second best), potential fascinating visual texture to the movie, fine supporting characters, a compelling princess from another world romantic subplot, and the sweet spot of several of the most popular major motion picture actors being just about the right age to play the title character.

While some folks reading that original post thought I was hinting at Johnny Depp being best suited for the role, the actor I was thinking of was actually Leonardo DiCaprio. A number of you probably just vomited, but DiCaprio is already 34, he can act, he's as believable as Downey Jr. -- albeit in a different way -- as someone who once had a glamorous career, lost it and has seen tough times since, he's a major motion picture star, he has considerable onscreen charisma it's fun to see him embrace rather than flee and he's adept at playing romance. But so many actors would do.

*****

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2. Reid Fleming, World's Toughest Milkman, created by David Boswell

Hello, Zack Galifinakis star vehicle. Okay, maybe not, but you know what I mean. It would have worked for Jack Black and Danny McBride once upon a time, too, and still might for McBride. The nice thing about a Reid Fleming movie is that there's already a script. We used to have a copy in The Comics Journal's library. My understanding -- and this could be total rumor -- is that a lot of folks thought well of the project but the guy who was really into it was Jon Lovitz, and no one was going to fund this movie with Jon Lovitz as its lead. (I also heard a rumor once that there was a reading of the script to drum up interest with Lisa Kudrow as Fleming's paramour and Ed Asner as Mr. O'Clock, but I have no idea if that's true, either). At any rate, a strongly stylized, visually stupefying movie about insane strongman in a pedestrian job Reid Fleming is definitely the kind of thing that would get me into a theater between the months of January and May. The games would be fun, too.

*****

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3. Zot!, created by Scott McCloud
Three of the many things that would work about Scott McCloud's meditation on superheroes Zot! in another medium are 1) the comic works in visual broad strokes that would work well onscreen, 2) the characters I think are sturdily designed, and 3) there's an appealing and structurally sound undercurrent to Zot! regarding the role that fantasy plays in kids' lives. I think #3 in particular would work over the course of a longer effort -- a series -- and lend the entire project rare resonance for this kind of thing.

*****

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4. Scene of The Crime, created by Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark
The best thing about this early Ed Brubaker effort is that it suggests members of Generation Younger-Than-X would go about the act of being a detective more like Jim Rockford than David Addison, which who knows if it's true but sure feels right. If the mysteries were half as intricately plotted as the one in the original comic book series, Scene Of The Crime could be like one of those cute USA Network shows but also, you know, actually good.

*****

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5. Anne Freaks, created by Yua Kotegawa
A lot of manga obviously qualifies as material that would translate into other media, as much of it already does, and successfully. It seems to me there aren't as many transportable ideas as one might think, however. The strength and weaknesses of so many manga series are in the details that might not necessarily work on screen in anything other than a lengthy, literal translation. Mess with that, and you risk ending up with this year's Dragonball movie, which was rightly treated by fans of the comic like the kid who walks into the high school cafeteria on Monday wearing an "I called the cops on your party" t-shirt.

I think there are a few manga series that would be better off mined than adapted, and one of them is ADV's aborted Anne Freaks translation. It featured a killer movie hook: the travails of kids who were adopted at an early age from a failed apocalypse cult who now find themselves acting out on deeply ingrained habits and behaviors instilled during their time there. My memory is the book doesn't do much with this idea: it starts far away from it, and even after it's brought up, Anne Freaks quickly moves into specifics that don't flatter that plot point. But the idea is a nice one for a movie. Deciding which manga might work because of the central idea and which ones might work because of specific execution of those ideas would be a tough, tough game. Until then, I'd like to see more of a based-on approach, like filmmaker Akira Kurosawa's take on an Ed McBain story in High And Low.

*****

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6. The Badger, created by Mike Baron
Someone out there will eventually do the regional superhero movie, so it might as well be one of comics' finest existing costumed crime-fighters linked to a non-big city setting. A Badger project would likely have to be pared to make movie sense. I love the inexplicable '80sness of dark ages transplant Ham the Weather Wizard, but I don't think I could explain it five graphs of script or in 30 minutes of screen time to the point where most people I know would see it as something other than ridiculous. (I also think a standard investment banker from the modern era that practices animal sacrifice for stock tips might be funnier than a medieval transplant.) But the core idea of a superhero choosing to fight crime in Wisconsin (as opposed to New York City) and his persona coming out of some sort of stress-related mental disorder sounds to me like it could work pretty well, and the fighting could be fun to watch.

And let's face it: Seann William Scott and Bob Hoskins could use the work.

*****

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7. Mr. X, created by Dean Motter
This sometimes almost-forgotten but never completely made obscure 1980s indy-comics icon is one of those concepts that at its core has become much more appealing than the way it played out in the comics. "Architect returns to super-city he built to try and fix its psychologically damaging aspects despite being very disturbed himself" works for me, not just as an item of interest, but as a unique hook around which to build action and drama.

*****

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8. Thriller, created by Robert Loren Fleming and Trevor Von Eeden
This book, currently receiving a second look from a lot of people due to a recent Trevor Von Eeden interview in The Comics Journal, already plays like the best Sam Raimi-produced television show that comes on at 5 PM on Saturdays ever. Why not make one? The only change I might make is to the central character. I always thought the central character was Gary Sandy weak compared to the eccentrics which surrounded him, and not in an interesting, straight-man way, either.

******

9. Gorgo, created by Gilbert Hernandez
There have been hints about Los Bros Hernandez having a movie made from their works or even doing one themselves, but in most cases with their comics I can't imagine a better version in film form -- I guess the model would be Persepolis, a straight-up and attractive adaptation that calls attention to the original. There are elements of work that's appeared in Love & Rockets I think might make better movies than the main storylines. Chief among them is Gilbert's Gorgo character, a slow-to-rise, hyper-violent and largely indestructible crime figure with a family weakness towards women clients. As much as cartoon fans seem blown away by a lot of stylized action I find super-boring, the stark episodes of violence that would punctuate an animated Gorgo film might be a revelation.

*****

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10. Grimwood's Daughter, created by Jan Strnad and Kevin Nowlan
Soon to be re-released thanks to the good folks at IDW, this is Kevin Nowlan's first stop-and-stare work but may be better-served for adaptation purposes by its stark script from Jan Strnad. It's coming out so soon I don't want to talk about plot details, but Grimwood's Daughter is a sturdy take on the general fantasy idea that the lack of magic and magical people around us right now indicates that something perhaps not pleasant happened to rid our world of these things.
 
posted 4:15 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
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