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The process of adapting comics into films has become standardized. Passe, expected, and formulaic. It’s no longer a steep gamble or left to chance. All it takes, it appears to be rapidly seeming, is to create one’s very own 20-24 page pitch. A small prep, a log line with panels as it were. Nothing more than a storyboard with color and a dollar sign stamped onto the cover.
That is the sort of complaint lodged against so many various indie comics. That the vast umbrella that “indies” encompass now has no more weight than to be vehicles to movies and television. In the eyes of readers these are being seen as worse than comics for the lowest common denominator, as they are cast as objects not even meant to be comics. Pretenders to the sequential graphic throne. They are cast-offs and are “bringing the medium down”. It’s not hard to see why these accusations have such fervor, as there is not a small amount of truth to them in the least.
With the advent of the massive mainstream impact that the television adaptation of The Walking Dead, it’s become a siren call for creatives and producers alike to look at what was one considered so very “niche”. The comic book media boom is underway as we speak, and it’s not hard to tell that everyone is trying to cash in their chips. From the expansive number of “comic book tv shows”, such as the successively announced Flash, Constantine, Gotham, and even cult iZombie have been shuffled out the door and sent flying toward pilots. Little engines that could are even getting in on the action, such as the long in development hell Chew adaptation finally having some forward motion with a recently announced animated film starring Felicia Day and the aforementioned Walking Dead‘s Steven Yuen. Of course this is all stuff that were comics before they were being molded into other stuff.
It’s not hard to see where the ones that readers hold ill toward come into play. Things like Robert Kirkman’s own Thief of Thieves which came off the heels of Kirkman’s big splash and read in a style that just begs to be adapted since it brings nothing solid on its own. Still, there has been no more widely a well known perpetrator is none other than Mark Millar – from whom another piece of news prompted his very feature. It’s not a secret that many of his comics are nothing but proof of concepts, and many of his characters nothing but pastiches. This has probably been talked about on end, but for a recent exmample his latest venture, Starlight, when put into log line format is “Flash Gordon meets The Incredibles“. A statement that he himself has voiced a variation or two, until the actual people behind Flash Gordon came a-calling.
Millar currently has maybe half a dozen of his properties optioned, with no end in sight. His upcoming series with Duncan Fegredo, MPH, was even optioned this past week. Barely a month until the first issue has even come out, perhaps a first for Millar since Kick-Ass back in 2008. Not even Starlight had a turn around as fast, even though it was optioned within the week of its own debut. The primary thing that people see to get cheesed off about Millar’s works (and this goes for “glorified pitches” as a whole, since many uphold Mark’s to be the prime example) is that they utilize a very loose variant on the “Marvel Method”. For those not versed, that means that the artist is given notes and a brief layout of the story and then is let loose to actually envision the comic at the visual level.
While that might sound like the brunt of the work is placed on the artist, when the writer and artist are in sync it can be a very well done collaborative experience. That is, only, if they are in sync. Millar’s use, as shown by examples of his scripts and the process that it takes to create one of his series, has become more or less widely known for scripts that have no more than a line a page that amounts to “Something cool happens here”.
Not to say that it is indicative of all of Millar’s works, but once he went “indie” there was a definite drop off in dialogue and words on the page, Millar even saying that he gets top name artists so that he can let them go wild. It’s not something that has garnered him good will as the comics themselves gain a tone of fluff per issue. Funnily enough one of Millar’s confidantes, Bryan Hitch, has also followed suit with his very own Real Heroes – that he does both the art and writing on.
On the other side of the spectrum there are series like “last chance” comics, which stride the line in the eyes of others. Some seeing it, like Aronfsky’s graphic novel versions of Noah or The Fountain, as the last fall back because they wanted to do have higher (ie: cinematic) aspirations for it. It’s along the lines Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Dune movie, where he shuffled along ideas to his Humanoids projects – most notably The Metabarons and even the rumored reason for Mind The Gap.
So, after going through this whole road trip of various sorts of “storyboards”, it comes down to one thing. Their style. Thief of Thieves is something like Nemesis, it brings nothing to the table on either creative front – but at least things like Superior, Starlight, and Noah excel in one area or another. They’re diversions and pitches and all these other names, but they’re digestible stories and that is pretty much the lowest bar – but not a bad bar.