On Reading Graphic Novels discussion

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From paper to cellulose

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message 1: by Pinky (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:41PM) (new)

Pinky | 4 comments So, I don't know how many are aware, but Watchmen is coming to film in 2009, and it has really got me thinking about what I think of the film adaptations of graphic novels, and comics in general. For the most part, I can get a little fangirlish about it, but I'm almost always dreadfully disappointed in the end.
They rarely stay true to the feel of the novel, more than the usual departure from the veritas of all literature.
But Watchmen is going to be directed by the same man who did 300 (Zack Snyder), which I was surprizingly happy about. Almost as happy as I was about the visual direction of Robert Rodriguez' Sin City.
But I don't know how I feel about Alan Moore on the big screen. V for Vendetta is one of my all time favourites, and while the movie was pretty good, it fell horrible short when it came to comparison, at least in my checks and balances, it did. The mood and the feeling, like a foggy night with someone just out of sight following you, it did not translate. Is this because I know what it looks like? Because I know already how the scene looks when Evey was standing on the roof top, in the rain, a scrawny version of her former self, shaven and starved, holding her hands up to the sky, crying out? That film just did not get it right?
So I ask, what are you thoughts and feelings about these transistion from paper to cellulose? Who do you think succeeded and what novels do you feel may not be best applied to the moving visual medium?


message 2: by David (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:43PM) (new)

David Forsythe (jerkface) | 4 comments I can't think of too many good examples. Sin City and Hellboy were pretty recent examples that succeeded in different ways. Sin City because it took so much of the comic and translated it verbatim. Hellboy because it took the most cinematic elements of the book and abandoned the rest, without having to make too much up to create a good filmic narrative.

From Hell was the biggest abomination. They took out all the intrigue, combined 2 of the opposing characters into one and added a love story? WTF?!

I think one of the best comic and movie synergies was probably the Matrix. The comics that came out of the movie were for the most part really good, and I think the movie was a better product from having 2 really great comic story tellers involved in the look and pace of the story (Steve Skroche and Geoff Darrow)

I think just about any movie made from material that I am familiar with already is going to have a strike against it to start with. If I already have the narrative built in my head, I have an expectation of how it should look and feel. I think that's why comic movies based on established characters that have had a plethora of interpretation applied to them already succeed better in my mind. Take Batman and Spiderman for example. Although they both have a core mythos behind them, they have been subjected to the the interpretations of hundred of creators already. I think I'm more accepting of twists and turns to their stories than I would be for something more singular in its interpretation, like V for Vendeta and Watchmen.


message 3: by J-Lynn Van Pelt (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:44PM) (new)

J-Lynn Van Pelt | 5 comments Pinky,

As you mentioned, 300 was brilliantly adapted. When I read the GN after I saw the movie I was shocked to see how much of the dialogue came directly from the book, not to mention the artistic vision.

If more movie adaptations used the GN panels as their story boards, I think there is a lot of potential for great movies. I tend to favor on the side of making the movies, hoping to catch the one that is spectacular.


message 4: by Ryan (new)

Ryan Sherwood (ryansherwood) | 1 comments Only recently has the comic to movie adaptations been worthwhile. Sin City, 300, Batman Begins, (anyone else get the feeling Frank Miller's trying to storm Hollywood?) & Spiderman to name a few are good examples. God the list of broken terrible comic book movies before the turn of the millennium was morose. Only since Hollywood started realizing why the comics were popular and started to mimic that writing did we see movies worth paying for. Even with V for Vendetta, which is still one of my favorites, I didn't mind the changes because hell, I've read the book might as well see another version. In the back of my mind I know its gonna be worse, how can it be better? But hey, I'll support with my dollars filmmakers that give it their best shot. Sure that support leads to crap like the Hulk but I'd rather watch a bad comic movie than any other bad movie.
Also, short series make the best movies. Something bound to be a concise graphic novel rolls up nicely into a movie. Or a series like the Preacher is going to be on HBO.


message 5: by Alexander (new)

Alexander | 5 comments I think it's the other way around, with Hollywood storming Frank Miller for stories that feel, to their minds, ready-made for film.

I actually felt 300 was destroyed in the process of making it a film---that it is in fact a fairly quiet story and it was turned into a kind of macho war anthem. Structural elements were preserved---and the famous attempts to make it faithful to the look obscured the evacuation of the homosexual relationships.

I have a terrible feeling about the Watchmen film, partly because it is a book constructed out of layers of texts, and so I don't know that it could be made into a film easily. It's a profoundly dense reading reading experience, a very demanding read. But I'll keep my fingers crossed.

I'm hoping someone will do something brilliant with Ronin. And while I know James Cameron has signed up Battle Angel Alita, I haven't heard anything about it recently.


message 6: by Purple (new)

Purple | 13 comments I sort of agree with you on 300. It was a fantastic looking film, but take that away and there's not much left, really. I think Watchmen will look brilliant as well, but I honestly don't hold up much hope for it. The material couldn't possibly make a mediocre film - it'll be awesome or atrocious; sadly, I feel the latter. The story works so well in the comics medium that change can't be a good thing.

Generally I think it's people trying to keep close to the source material that screws things up (Sin City being an obvious exception) and I think a story like Watchmen would benefit more from perhaps a Japanese director.

I'm waiting for a Y: The Last Man film - which is on the cards apparantely.


message 7: by Bryan (last edited Feb 25, 2009 02:07AM) (new)

Bryan I am one of the minority that thinks that Sin City and 300 were better as movies than as comics. I have developed a hatred for Frank Miller's later work. I thought 300 was laughable as a comic but an enjoyable fantasy romp in the theaters. What the films gained in the transition to the screen was women, actual women with thoughts and feelings and not big-titted plot devices and round-assed sexual objects. The movies also highlight how ridiculous and camp his over the top style has become.

That said, a film of Ronin would never be allowed to keep the ambiguity and narrative difficulty of that GN. In the aftermath of the Matrix, ideas that were original and interesting in the early 80's have become cliches. It's the same reason a film will never be made of Snow Crash.


message 8: by Darcy (new)

Darcy | 11 comments I haven't read Ronin, so I can't say anything about that one, but I could see Snow Crash being made into a really great film. Yeah, the stuff about the Metaverse is probably not as prescient as it once was, but a hacker/samurai protagonist, an Aleut harpooner for a "villain," and a complex intellectual thriller to back it all up would still make a pretty good film. Maybe the problem is less about cliches, and more about how you would make the Sumerian myth/language/religion plot cinematic.


message 9: by Pinky (last edited Feb 03, 2008 10:03PM) (new)

Pinky | 4 comments One of the wonderful things about living in this day and age is the ability to find those old TV shows on DVD and rewatching them, and so I have been doing with some of the great Classics. I am a HUGE Wonder Woman fan, and I don't think that I will ever be disappointed with her. The show was great, and for the most part, all of the animated adaptations of her have been great so far too. She is just pretty much impossible to miss.
Not so much so with the TV series of Swamp Thing! Holy crap in a bucket! While visually beautiful, following Totleben's art I think, it really messed up in the introduction of everything else. It doesn't explain what is going on, who these people are, what the plot is...nothing. Seriously one of the worst comic to screen adaptations I think that I have ever seen!
I also reread The Crow and then watched the movie. I forgot how much I like that film. The mood really fit the book well, although certain details were added, like Sara, whom is supposed to be a random street kid, a five year old or about at that, named Sherri, but hey, it still was a great film. One of the things that made the comic for me was the integration of music. The Lyrics are just as important as the rest of the writing, if not more so, and the movie kept with that. It is one of the very rare text to audio adaptations that I found fit perfectly.
So when my boy finally got The Man Who Laughs I drooled over that thing and I really have to wonder, WHAT are they going to do in the next Batman with the Joker. The Joker, I have found, has been well represented but poorly reproduced. They just don't have the dark twisted "kill them all" attitude that I see in the Joker, but so far, I seem to be happy with what I see in the previews with Heath Ledger. So how is the next Batman going to play out? I don't know, but it better be damned good, for Ledger to have died, it better be a legacy piece.
The next Hellboy? Oh my, I drool there too! It looks even better than the first one and Mignola, baby, I am so glad that you kept with your friend as the director because with the bigger budget, you really get to play! Oooh! *claps hands in glee* I really like del Toro for Hellboy. And with pretty much all the cast coming back (Selma Blair really does fit Liz) as well as them continuing to do the animated short films (if you haven't seen them watch. Great fun!)
Which brings me to one of my final thoughts. A lot of the animated stuff has been translating well, even when they specifically use a different artist (as seen in the Hellboy shorts). Most of the time, it isn't dark enough, but hey, what ever. Darkness doesn't always translate well into moving visual. My final final thought is, there seems to be an upswing when it comes to celluloid adaptation of comics lately. Stardust, while a novella, still had the Gaiman feel with the artistry, though Mirrormask was better. I think of Gaiman as a new age Gaudi, really.
So while my last post seemed for fatalistic, I really do have hope, and I will probably post more about other comics to screens here, continuing my own inner dialog on the events. I love all the comments and I find it interesting that for the most part we seem to be in agreement. I would have expected less so, just because of the volatile nature we usually have when talking about comics at conventions (my lord! *squeeks*) but keep them coming! What are all your favourite adaptations? Dinna be shy!


message 10: by Danielle (new)

Danielle (destobie) | 4 comments When it was said that it will look brilliant, I think that is an important distinction. I will go watch the film because I did so love the graphic novel. I will probably find it as faithful to the graphic novel as another format can be. It sounds like the director is treating the source as precious material.

That being said, I have to agree with Alan Moore's feelings. It is a graphic novel that explored the range of the format and will suffer the sea-change. The inset story, the use of framing and juxtaposition. The overlapping story arcs that were so wonderfully postmodern and fragmentary (finally coalescing in some brilliant fashion.) The movie cannot be the same, cannot be as brilliant. And while I'm not worried that it will end up like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, it can just not be as good.

I'm not some format purist. It's just such a unique comic that I think it will lose something in the telling. But hopefully, as with other films, it will also increase readership of the graphic novel itself.


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