With the release of Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez's Sin City: A Dame To Kill For so close at hand, and comic books on everybody's mind with the San Diego Comic Con, just around the corner (won't somebody please buy me a plane ticket!?!) and blasting us with all the comic book to movie coming attractions, I feel an inclination to address what I feel to be some missed opportunities. What I loved so much about the original Sin City, as well as Miller's other "graphic novel" to silver screen adaptation 300, was that the directors wanted to see his artistic voice, as well as the story he told, translated to the silver (or maybe we should say green) screen.
With the breadth and depth of technology today, there is now room for every kind of movie imaginable, from super realistic dramas, to films that bring actors into digital paintings that move. So, why not bring more of the original artist's intent into the films that are based on their works, like the Frank Miller movies dare to do? Maybe, not all audiences are going to be ready for it, but what's progress without being adventurous and taking a risk? I still believe that new vocabularies can be invented in the visual story telling mediums, and with the affordability of ever improving digital cameras, computer programs, and a whole internet full of the DIY spirit, anything might be possible for an indie film maker and comic book creator, ready to go on an adventure together.
So, in no particular order, here are 5 creator owned comic books that I feel would make great indie films.
A major player in the Marvel universe, his influence felt on such titles as Daredevil, Alias, Moon Knight, and even painting for the Amazing Spider-Man 2's opening credits, and providing non-Marvel related shows like Showtime's Dexter with painstakingly hand animated stories, artist David Mack always returns to this creator owned title that got him started on the path to comic industry fame.
If a film maker could figure out how to translate the title character's metaphysical journey to self discovery, through Mack's lavish world of watercolors, collage work, photography, and hand written prose, then audiences in movie theaters would be treated to a mind blowing experience that would be talked about for years.
On the other end of the spectrum, but of no less intelligence, Eisner Award winning writer and artist Batton Lash brings wit, insight and charm, to his tale of Lawyers who represent the creatures of the night, in Supernatural Law. Yes, he's heard all the jokes already. You can save them.
Lash's stories are always cute, in the way that he seems to be able to turn any particular ghoul's characteristic traits into a cause for litigation, but what really makes Supernatural Law screen ready, is his ability to bring out the human side of these stories. Each one is a perfect blend of engaging personalities that are easy to get behind, within a charming tapestry of the fantastic, in an otherwise every day world.
Master of the painted Noir comic, Dan Brereton is probably best known for his covers for the 90's Neil Gaiman story Lady Justice, his 1960's style Batman: Thrillkiller with Howard Chaykin, and his more well known creator owned title The Nocturnals (which I think would also make a breathtaking film) but out of all of his works, the story of a giant monster fighting even bigger monsters with a samurai sword just couldn't be passed up. Part Stephen King's The Mist, part Japanese monster movies, part H.P. Lovecraft with a White Zombie soundtrack, some people might look at this book and think that it would lend itself more to big budget CGI fair, like Pacific Rim (which post dates this comic), but I see another way.
I believe that it could be executed brilliantly with classic practical effects, blending scale models with puppets, green screen, and live action. Bathed in Brereton's colors and lighting style, and unhindered by the studios that consistently like to play things safe, Giant Killer would promise to be an insane, over the top, thrill ride of an action movie.
There's nothing on Earth to compare to Dame Darcy's comic book series Meat Cake. Even if I said a movie version would be like David Lynch directing The Young Ones in a fairy tale land, set within a circus freak show, I still wouldn't be close enough. Darcy's vision of a circle of friends, consisting of a witch, a human Pez dispenser who can only talk to you by making you read the words on the giant candy that comes out of her slit throat, Siamese twins, a man with a wolf's head, a mermaid, and a prawn, just to name a few, is as charming and original, as it is bizarre.
Her stories are often dark, dream like, sad, funny, and always thought provoking in a world where ideas are the story, and anything goes. Probably, the film version wouldn't be for everybody, but it just might be a classic for a new generation of young Bohemians.
THE DEEPEST DARK
I guess I'm a sucker for all things supernatural, with samurai swords, or maybe I just love it when artists take the time to do painted work, but I couldn't pass up Billy Martinez's ghostly demon filled adventure. Again, this painterly style just feels so rich, that I can't help but imagine what it might materialize as, projected in light on a giant screen. From this animation, I feel like Martinez has wondered the same thing, too.
Billy now works as an art teacher, live painter, and publisher, out of his company Neko Press Comics, but the fact that he originally came from a music background also lends itself to his work, simultaneously giving it a rock and hip-hop vibe that infuses the look and feel of everything he puts in front of his readers.
There are many other creator owned comics that I think would also make great indie films, that I didn't include here. These just happened to be the ones that have been on my mind for awhile, because I keep encountering these artists on my trips to comic book conventions, and have even had the pleasure of interviewing quite a few of them.
If you'd like to read more about them and other artists, please check out my free publication Moonlight Art Magazine.
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