10 June, 2012

Let's Mutate Comic Books!

As much as it's nice to commercialize comic books (as, let's face the facts, they normally aren't),there is something obnoxious about some studio exec looking down a list and saying "Let's go adapt that" or, more and more likely as time goes on "Let's reboot that."

If you heard that Battleship was being turned into a movie ten years ago would you have done anything but laugh? At least it flopped, proving that while America is stupid enough to keep watching Pirates movies, at least they aren't going to fall for a movie adapted from a boring board game.

There's a line and I don't know who said it (so sorry, dude), which is that movies are no longer allowed to be good, they have to be awesome. Adapting comic books has a lot to do with this idea because most comic books are awesome. They're basically budget free blockbusters. They're stories where you can burn down Europe, go to space, have the devil fight an alien, and enlist a cast of thousands without any larger of a budget than a kitchen sink film. In a way they're basically free screenplay idea and, while I don't want to get into the pitfalls of that whole end of movies, it's something to consider. I don't want to be accused of just hyping comic books to be turned into movies because, as artifacts on their own, they do not have to be anything else than good stories. Comic books are great as comic books. They are not always good as films.

But, who the hell wants to fantasize about things that should not be? Let's leave that to the religious fanatics, shall we?

So, what should be made before we get our unwanted Defenders movie, here is what I would like to see if I have to see it--

100 Bullets

It's hard to think of a crime book that's as byzantine or involved as 100 Bullets and while cramming it all down into a two hour (or God-forbid three hour) film would almost certainly be a disaster there is something to be said about seeing the b-movie schlock premise of the book, which is that a man in a suit named Graves shows up with a gun with one-hundred untracable bullets and tells you that you to go wild, turned into an adventure on the big screen. The world is full of great characters and dialogue as well and while film is full of noir crime stories it would be fun to see old man Graves encouraging a righteous killing spree or two.

It's a smart enough B-movie premise to get people in the doors and with the right actors and behind-the-camera talent it could be a pretty successful film (then again, you could say that about most movies, couldn't you?). Just throw Bruce Willis at it. He's great at this sort of thing. He doesn't even need to try any more, either.

Ideal Directors: David Fincher, Nicholas Wending Refn, Michael Mann.

Elevator Pitch: It's the ultimate crime caper mixed with the ulimate vengeance tale. It's smart, it's funny, it's got sharp dialogue, and, better yet, none of that matters because all of the bad people die in terrible ways. It's everything a crime movie should be and what's that? Oh, yeah, sequels. Franchise.

(Apparently David Goyer might have beat me to the punch on this one. Or not, you know how these things work.) 

The Damned

The Damned is one of the most refreshing books I've read in a long time.What sounds like a terrible idea in the abstract (in an alternate or after-life version of the 1920's the cities crime syndicates are all run by demons and curses are as deadly and as real as tommy gun bullets), but the idea comes to life because of the sharp dialogue and twisting plotting of Cullen Bunn and the sharp and expressive artwork of Brian Hurtt. It's everything a hard-boiled comic book should be with that little bit extra that should keep it from blending in with the rest of the uninspired genre dreck that plagues our shelves (though comic book noir, I feel, doesn't really fit on that list, does it?).

It's a wonderful comic book. It's funny, it's gory, it's creepy, and it's an original idea that executes as well as you could ever hope.

There's also a second volume of The Damned, but my shop is always sold out of it. I guess I could have them order it in for me. . . Hmmm.

Ideal Directors: Guillermo Del Toro, Rupert Wyatt, Tim Burton.

Elevator Pitch: Monster meet mobsters.

Desolation Jones

Desolation Jones is what happens when you film a remake of The Long Goodbye if the cast of characters consisted entirely of citizens of the Island of Misfit Superspies. . . which is literally what the book is. In Warren Ellis and JH Williams III's arc we're introduced to insomniac ex-spy Jones (the sole survivor of the mad science project) who is exiled to Los Angeles, which acts as an Elba Island for unusual spooks such as himself. From there Jones is hired by a retired (and probably insane) army officer to recover his private stash of porn staring Adolf Hitler. From there it gets weird.

It was a great book when I read it the first time and it was great when I read it again recently. Besides the wonderful art and layouts of Williams, Ellis has managed to create a world of spies and intrigue that doesn't feel at all rehashed or cornball. The world has a ton of potential and, unfortunately, this one trade is all we're ever going to have.The second arc was never completed, so, if there is any chance at a continuation it'd be on film. While most of the titles here I would rather see instead of Avengers 3 or Superman: King of All Monsters, in this case I'd like to see it simply to keep this weird little fucker of a story alive.

Read it if you can, because apparently no one else did (Hey, I detect another theme in this article!)

Ideal Directors: Joe Carnahan, Steven Soderburgh, Ken Loach.

Elevator Pitch: It's the Maltese Falcon if it cut open and wore the skin of In Like Flynn. It's the kind of movie Red grew up watching and decided to become a spy because of. Also: Stolen Hitler porn. Let's pull this trigger, shall we?


As much as I loath relaunches and the very idea of a reboot Hellblazer is a book that deserves proper treatment in the eyes of the public.Whether you know it or not Hellblazer is one of the longest running books on the market which is incredible when you consider that it's about a Cockney wizard in modern times. He's one of the great icons of comic book history and considering that even Swamp Thing got a movie it does feel a bit odd that old Johnny Boy has been left out in the cold (then again so has most of DC's TV and film projects).

Of course Hellblazer was already adapted in what amounts to a not very good movie.What movie was that? Constantine, which, while not terrible didn't set the world on fire.

First of all they can't even pronounce the character's name right (even though how "Constantine" is supposed to be pronounced is stupid. . . ).

Secondly making John Constantine an American is incredibly bizarre. It isn't as though Americans won't watch a piece of media if it has English accents. Stupid people think that. Studio executives think that. As a result we're expected to believe that, but it simply isn't true. Guy Ritchie made his career selling accented shlock to the American people and Harry Potter is the highest grossing franchise of all time. People are ready for white folk with accents. To remove that is absurd at best and immensely and impenetrably retarded at worst.

He's Cockney. He speaks in that language and he's a part of that world. As bad as mid 2000's Guy Richie is he would have been much more at home than the guy they got. Toss in Eddie Marsan and Ray Winstone and you might have yourself an actual picture. Or at least the color of one. Making Constantine American is like making Sherlock Holmes into an American. Or Colonel Blimp for that matter. It might not be a terrible idea, though the odds are: It is probably a terrible idea. The reboot would need John Constantine to be American. Like he is fuckin' supposed to be.

Lastly Neil Gaiman was right: The movie would have been better if he had a tan trench coat. Nobody knows why, it just would have been better.

And, let me play the Internet's Advocate briefly and air out the idea that Benedict Cumberbatch play the titular detective. Hey, it worked before!

Ideal Directors: Matthew Vaughn, David Yates, Alejandro Jodorowsky.

Elevator Pitch: If Humphrey Bogart went to Hell and had an accent, he'd be the Hellblazer. Now give him all your money, would you? There's no better property in the DC canon to reboot than this bad boy.

Sgt. Rock

For whatever reason DC relaunched this book during its "New 52" and decided that there was a market for garbage.

It also added superhero elements to the book, which isn't inherently a terrible idea (Punisher used to and still does fight superhumans and that seems to work just fine), but my thought is: If you're going to relaunch a character and have him fight supervillains why would you choose Sgt. Rock? A character famous for fighting in WWII exclusively? And don't we have Stormwatch for that? Also the book was called Men of War. I mean, did they even try?

After the failure of Men of War (just hire Garth Ennis, will you? Or Greg Rucka? Or Chuck Dixon? What's wrong with you idiots?) they started up GI Combat, which is the most comic booky of comic book ideas: soldiers fighting dinosaurs. Only Darwyn Cooke has ever made a worth a damn story about dinosaurs fighting GIs and that only lasted about a dozen pages. It's a terrible idea. There's nothing wrong with straight WWII stories. There's never been anything wrong with that. If you have to change the premise of something good either you have a brilliant concept or you're an idiot who doesn't know a good thing when he sees it. You can only round the wheel so much and that's Sgt. Rock if there ever was an idea.

It's simple, clean, Nazi killing fun. While that's not a great pitch to anyone outside of myself-- fuck you, this is my blog, damnit!

Ideal Directors: John Woo. No other names. Just John Woo.

Elevator Pitch: Quentin Tarantino proved that people still love a good WWII yarn and there's a million different ways to tell them. In short: Sgt. Rock kills Nazis. Let's let him. Also, fuck all of the DC 52 military relaunches. The fuck are they doing over there?

The Winter Men

The Winter Men is one of my favorite comic books of all time. Every aspect (but its tragic release schedule, which I'll get to in a bit here) is nailed perfectly by the writing and by the art.

The Winter Men takes place in a world where super heroes and super science once ran rampant, but has since fallen to the wayside, forgotten and abandoned like so many once mighty creations of the Soviet world. The main story isn't so much about those great colossi as they exist to set up the background of the world. They were then, the corruption and intrigue of post-Soviet Russia is now. From the accents to the background artwork The Winter Men feels like an incredibly well thought out and fleshed out world that we're only getting to see a sliver of one panel at a time.

Then there's John Paul Leon's artwork-- which I realize would not make it to the big screen-- which works excellently with the writing. He gives it just enough detail to flesh out this world and to feed back into teh realism of it and yet he can also draw robotic supermen and atomic children without it feeling silly. It's not so much of a strange book, it's a unique one. It's exactly the kind of weird jewel that I follow comic books for.

Maybe, at least it'll get people to buy more of these books. And if the creators get a nice piece of the pie, well, that'd be dandy. Overall, though-- and this is the fan in me speaking-- is that a movie could conceivably deliver a final and finished ending to a story that truly deserves it.

Ideal Directors: Duncan Jones, Martin Campbell,Werner Herzog.

Elevator Pitch: Fuck you, this book is a wonder. Give me the money I need to make glory. Fuck all the bodies who will not wish this so!

Honorable Mentions:
The One Trick Rip-Off
Onwards Towards Our Glorious Deaths
The Other Side
Queen and Country
The Sixth Gun

Alright. That's enough of that. I'm going to go watch Prometheus now and then wonder later unironically why nobody seems to do anything original any more.