Friday, September 19, 2008

random blathering: comics and movies

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...
You douchebag.


dylan sparkplug said...

The righteous anger of God shall be brought down upon all of them.

I actually don't get too fazed by it. I hate all that too and I have moments of total hatred. But, it is kind of funny. I just sell them books and move on. I think comics are growing and people are learning about it the way people learned about music or film or whatever. The only way to fight the idiocy is to do great comics. It actually works. And to take their interest in comics as something like a sign that more people are interested.

I don't care about what they want from comics or why they are misusing them. People misuse all mediums to produce horrible shit. We just have to focus on the good ones and tell ourselves to do that. I'm not too worried that Dan Clowes is lost in Hollywood, just happy that Clowes is making a living after having produced the best comics in history. Moore is really funny.

When those guys pitch to me or want me to pitch to them, I am just so confusing and straightforward that they always walk away. If they want to talk to me as a person about their lives and what they read then I really love talking to them.

But, yeah. Fuck the entertainment industry. I make comic books.

dylan sparkplug said...

I read through that whole Moore thing. He is right in a way. But I wonder what he would do if he heard that I lump him in with the dumbing down of comics. He is partially responsible for the stuff he talks about. Him and Frank Miller. He writes comics scripts as if they were films. In both form and function. But, I agree with him.

Anonymous said...


Dash told me (in an interview) that BBB is indeed in "talks" for a possible film, but Dash told his agent only if it's animated. He can't see it being made otherwise. "BodyWorld" is also out there, and Dash said he thinks it would be funny to see it as a live-action film. He also said that if these happen, it will have nothing to do with him, and that he only wants to do comics.

--Rob Clough

tom Neely said...

rob- thanks, that's awesome to hear. i had hoped that Dash would be smart about any movie deals. an animated version of Bottomless Bellybutton could be awesome!

and Bodyworlds would be awesome of David Cronenberg directed it.

Dylan- yeah, I'm on the fence about Moore, too. I love his comics, but they are hardly of the lofty "literary" level that people claim them to be.

tom Neely said...

kinda related...

Alixopulos said...

DYLZ, next convention, please direct any Hollywood sleazebags with pockets bursting with greasy cash away from Tom and over to me.