I've been thinking about this a lot lately... Probably since this year's San Diego Comic Convention. Maybe longer.
First let me say that I enjoy most comic book movies a lot. I loved Ghost World. I've seen Superman II at least 30 times in my life. I saw The Dark Knight on opening weekend. I hate to say that I liked American Splendor a little bit better than I like Pekar's comics. And when The Hulk ripped a car in half and then used the two car-halves as boxing gloves to pummel The Abomination earlier this summer, I was in the front row with my jaw on the floor. I see all of comics movies, and I like a lot of them.
But Hollywood's new interest in "graphic novels" is bothering me...
At the San Diego Comic Convention this year, I was approached by no less than 5 production assistants scouting out "graphic novels" that would make "good movies or t.v. shows." I saw some of them at the Sparkplug booth, too. I never offered my book to them, but when one of them asked "What book did you do?" I pointed to The Blot and my other books. He picked up The Blot and flipped through it a little while asking "What's the story? Would you be interested in selling it as a movie?" to which I replied "No... It wouldn't work as a movie. It has to be a comic." He seemed a bit confused and shocked that I wasn't interested in selling my book to a movie studio. Then he put the book down and moved on.
The other day I was having lunch at my favorite vegan cafe in Silverlake. My fiancée and I were sitting outside eating next to a table with two typical hipster dudes. I overheard one of them saying "I've got this screenplay that I can't sell. What I need to do is make it into a graphic novel and then sell that as a movie. Do you know anybody who can draw comics?" I bit my tongue and rolled my eyes to my fiancée and she could tell I was squirming not to yell at these douchebags.
I have a friend who is a screenwriter. He recently asked me for advice about how to write "graphic novels." He's trying to get work writing graphic novelizations of classic Disney movies like The Black Hole and Tron. Apparently Disney has started a new line of "graphic novels" that will feature new stories with your favorite classic characters as well as new stories that might be made into movies someday. Guess what comics genius they hired to head this operation? Dweezil Zappa!?! The guitarist and son of Frank? What the... !?!?
The other day I was reading the latest issue of Mark Millar and John Romita Jr's Kick Ass. I've really enjoyed this series. It's fun. But I was really disapointed when I read the back page letter from Millar in which he mentions that the Kick Ass Movie is in production. And I ask myself "Why should this be made into a movie?" After that, so many elements of the story started to seem tailored for a movie. Yuck!
I think I read somewhere that Dash Shaw's brilliant Bottomless Bellybutton is being optioned as a movie (I hope I'm not accidentally starting a rumor- I swear I read that somewhere). My first thought was "Good for him!" My next thought was "How the fuck are they gonna make that into a movie? It'll be terrible!"
I actually recommended Shiga's Bookhunter to a few of the production scouts at SDCC. I think the premise would make a great t.v. series. If a cartoonist makes a great graphic novel, and then Hollywood takes an interest, I don't begrudge you that. It could turn out great. It could also be a terrible bastardization of your ideas. I hope you're ready to deal with that. Either way, you could make a lot more money off of one hit movie than a lifetime of comics.
i don't really know what I'm trying to say. I just really hate to see the artform of comics denigrated in this whole process. I hate to see people regarding comics as a tool to get a movie made. I hate to see "comics" continue to be misunderstood as a lesser artform to "graphic novels"* And I hate to see cartoonists chasing the Hollywood $ by tailoring their comics for movies. It's disgracing the artform of comics, that so many of us care deeply about.
Make comics because you love comics.
At least there's still this guy who continues to be awesome.
Though, I probably will see The Watchmen movie.
*Hey Mr. Hollywood- I'll let you in on a secret...
GRAPHIC NOVELS ARE COMICS!!!