One of the main features of a superhero is the bright costume. Sure, there are superheroes who work in black or really dark grey, but the vast majority are in primary colours. Often, the costume will look like it was painted on, emphasizing the hero’s physique. Because comics are drawn, liberties can be taken with things like physics, so some costumes may be almost impossible to recreate in real life.
With comics being the popular source of adaptations today, studios have to figure out the almost impossible. Over the past few weeks, Lost in Translation has looked at a number of comic books adapted to a new medium, plus has reviewed others in the past. Josie and the Pussycats and Kingsman: The Secret Service get a pass here. The most unusual item the Pussycats wear are for on stage and is still in the realm of possibility. The wardrobe in Kingsman is based on high priced but still existing apparel found on London’s High Street.
Arrow, though, deserves a look. In the comics, the Green Arrow has worn a variant of a Robin Hood costume through most of his appearances. In the TV series, the goal was to create a costume that star Stephen Amell could wear and move in, going with a hooded cloak over dark green clothes. The costume is close to what the Green Arrow wears in the comics, and the producers are aiming at showing Oliver Queen becoming the hero.
Supergirl, on the other hand, starts with Kara Danvers embracing her Kryptonian heritage and catching a plane. The show is also lighter than Arrow; Kara is adorkable. So, hiding her costume away isn’t going to work. Fortunately for the producers, Supergirl has a number of costumes to choose from. On the show, the costume is a melding of a number of outfits seen in the comics, allowing Kara to have her own look while hinting at being Superman’s cousin. And Supergirl isn’t the only character with a costume from the comics. The Martian Manhunter in his normal guise is accurate to his appearances in the pages of DC Comics.
Both TV series can take advantage in advances in fabric thanks to man-made fibres. Older movies and TV series didn’t have the breakthroughs and it shows. The Batman serials of the mid- to late-Forties, having the added limitation of a low budget, tries to match the costumes from the comics, but between the war effort focusing on the needs of the military of both the US and the Allied Forces, the physique of the actors, and the lack of techniques, the result is “close enough but not really.” The costume looks like Batman’s, but it’s not the skintight version. The 1966 Batman with Adam West does have access to satin and nylon, but its approach to the character – played dead straight by West despite all the camp around him – meant that the more down-to-earth portrayal that Neal Adams and Denny O’Neil had wasn’t going to be seen. Adding to the fun, Cesar Romero didn’t want to shave his trademark mustache, so the Joker’s whiteface was placed on top. Yet, it worked for the series. The costumes did reflect what the characters wore, though.
The 1989 Batman by Tim Burton introduced a new twist – Batman’s costume was an armoured suit. All practical, the rubber suit allowed Michael Keaton to move, but not as acrobatically as in the comics. The change made some sense; Batman deals with people who shoot guns and he doesn’t have a power that will let him bounce bullets off his chest. His movement in the Burton film and subsequent sequels is more restricted. The costume looks right, compared to the Batman in the comics at the time, but the nature of the suit slows the actors down.
When practical effects won’t work, CGI comes into play. Over in the Marvel cinematic universe, characters that would be impossible to portray well have had their own movies. Marvel did try a practical effect for one of their characters in the past; Howard the Duck had many problems, and the appearance of the title character was one of the big ones. His appearance in the post-credits sequence of Guardians of the Galaxy is accurate. Guardians also gave audiences a proper Rocket and a proper Groot, two characters who would either be actors in costumes, puppets, or protrayed by a trained raccoon (in Rocket’s case) and a trained shrub (in Groot’s) before CGI.
Iron Man was the proof of concept. In the comics, Tony Stark has a number of Iron Man suits which he uses depending on mission requirements. The classic suit, the red and gold power armour, appeared in the first film and was as close as possible to being a recreation of the comic book version. Audiences accepted the premise of a comic book on screen. With Thor, the studio could build from the character’s appearance in the comics to present him on screen. Loki, when he appeared in costume, was resplendent in his green and gold. Marvel’s releases of today build from the comic books.
Marvel characters that appeared in films from studios other than Marvel Studios have had mixed success. The X-Men franchise, released via Fox, avoided using costumes, with an exception that will be named below. Instead, the films went with leather suits when the team broke into places. The Spider-Man franchise, even after the reboot, kept the costume best known to the general audience. However, the character’s 1977 TV series, The Amazing Spider-Man had problems; the suit didn’t quite work. Budget may have been the main problem there.
The comic book character who may have had his costume translate the best to film and television is the exception in the X-Men franchise. Deadpool went out of its way to make sure that the costumes were accurate. Colossus, being a CG character, had no problem with the transition. Deadpool’s, though, included having his eye coverings express his thoughts and emotions. Considering that his appearance in X-Men Origins: Wolverine completely missed the mark, the costume in Deadpool is a complete reversal and should be applauded.
While adapting from one visual medium to another may seem to be a simple process, both media may rely on shorthand unique to it that can’t translate well. Today, Lost in Translation looks at that process using Mark Millar, Dave Gibbons, and Matthew Vaughan’s Kingsman: The Secret Service.
Image Comics published The Secret Service #1 in 2012. The first issue opens with celebrities having gone missing. A Secret Service mission locates and rescues Mark Hamill from the kidnappers, whose ends don’t include ransom. However, budget cuts and faulty equipment turn a 007-style chase scene tragic.
In a South London housing estate, Gary “Eggsy” Unwin, a chav, is trapped by circumstances into a dead end existence, living with his mother, his younger brother, and his abusive step-father. His life revolves around hanging around with his chav friends, drinking, toking, and joyriding. Eggsy’s driving skills are more than a match for the local police, but a loose dog and Gary’s unwillingness to just run it over ends the chase. Enter Gary’s uncle, Jack. Jack is more than the Fraud Squad computer analyst he pretends to be. Jack is a super spy, one of the Secret Service, and he sees potential in Gary. He arranges for Gary to go to Gosford, the spy school.
A mass wedding in Hawaii becomes the test bed for Dr. James Arnold’s new device, leaving no survivors. Arnold is concerned about global warning and overpopulation. To save the Earth and one billion people, five billion must die. Arnold is hand picking the core of his future society, mostly notable actors and directors from science fiction and fantasy. He has managed to get people in top positions in many organizations, too. It’s how he found his bodyguard, Gazelle, a man with prosthetics below both knees.
Gary’s training progresses. He’s picking and excelling in the physical aspects of being a super spy. None of the other trainees can match him in firearms accuracy. Eggsy outdoes the trainee who stole a drug dealer’s Maserati by nicking Her Majesty’s Rolls Royce. His only problem is social; thanks to growing up in the estates, he doesn’t have the breadth of interaction or knowledge that his fellow trainees do. Frustrated, Gary wants to quit, but Jack manages to convince him to stay, promising an apprenticeship.
When Gary regains consciousness, he’s in a town in Columbia wearing his boxers and a bracelet. Jack has moved up Gary’s final exam. The goal, find his passport and airline tickets back to Britain, with the plane leaving at midnight. Gary’s solution is unorthodox; while he doesn’t make his flight, he does return to Britain in time bringing along a couple of souvenirs, a Columbian drug lord and his private jet, earning a pass and becoming Jack’s apprentice. The apprenticeship doesn’t last long. Jack seduces Arnold’s girlfriend, getting her to explain the nefarious plot. Afterwards, though, Jack is killed by Gazelle.
Gary discovers just how deep the conspiracy goes. Seeing that the top echelons cannot be trusted, he heads to the bottom of the hierarchy, his fellow trainees. They work out where Arnold’s lair is, a hollowed mountain, and come up with an assault plan, with limited time until Dr. Arnold’s cell phone signal . One of the trainees gets to take a hot air balloon up twenty-three miles to shoot down Arnold’s satellite. Two other trainees are tasked with finding the source of Arnold’s killer signal. Gary takes on tracking Arnold for himself. The satellite never appears, but the signal still goes out. The second group of trainees, instead of finding the shutdown switch, reprogrammed the signal. Gary finds Arnold and ensures that doctor cannot try again, ending the six issue story..
Vaughan wanted to make a fun spy movie after having seen a number of grim ones in recent years. He took the story in The Secret Service and adapted it as Kingsman: The Secret Service, released in 2014, becoming the movie’s co-writer and the director. With one of the original creative team on board in two key areas, it’s worth looking at the final outcome.
The film opens in 1997, with a mission in the Middle East to recover information going wrong after Galahad (Colin Firth) missing an explosive on a prisoner. If Lancelot, Eggsy’s father, hadn’t noticed and dove on the prisoner before the explosive detonated, none of the agents would have survived. As it is, Lancelot sacrifices himself. Galahad delivers the deceased agent’s Medal of Honour to the widow, Michelle (Samantha Womack) and young son, pointing out the telephone number on the back. If there is ever a problem, all either have to do is call that number and use the code, “Oxfords, not brogues.”
Seventeen years later, the new Lancelot, who looks a bit like George Lazenby, Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, takes a quick side trip for a rescue mission. The rescue plays out like the one in the comic. The difference is that instead of rescuing Mark Hamill, Lancelot is rescuing Professor James Arnold, played by Mark Hamill. The scene diverges before Lancelot can lead Arnold out of the cabin. Instead, he is taken by surprise by Gazelle (Sofia Boutella) and is cut in half by her, lengthwise. Gazelle covers her mess so that her boss, Richmond Valentine (Samuel L. Jackson, playing against type) can enter without being violently ill. Valentine believes in the Gaia Theory, where the Earth is a living organism and global warming is a natural response by the planet to get rid of an infection, and wants Prof. Arnold to help him.
Eggsy isn’t have a good life. He gets kicked out of the housing estate he, his mother, his baby sister, and his abusive stepfather live in so the parents can have alone time. At the pub with his mates, he gets on the wrong side of his stepfather’s cronies. Eggsy decides to let things be and leaves, but only after lifting the keys for one of the gangsters’ new car. The police give chase, only catching up when Eggsy crashes to avoid a dog in the road.
At the gaol, Eggsy refuses to give up his mates and, as a result, is looking at eighteen months behind bars. Eggsy uses his one call to dial the number on the back of his father’s medal. The voice answering the call thanks him for calling the Complaints Department and tells him he has a wrong number, but Eggsy uses the code phrase and gets his complaint registered. He walks out of the gaol, wondering what happened and is met by Galahad, Harry Hart. Hart offers him a chance to turn his life around. Eggsy was doing well in many subjects – school, gymnastics, even Royal Marine training – before dropping out of each. Hart still sees the potential in Gary.
Eggsy is the last to show up at the training facility. He joins eight other candidates to become the next Lancelot. Merlin (Mark Strong), the head of the technical branch and the lead trainer, explains how the training will work; trainees will succeed in tests or wash out. The training differs from the comic; what works as a montage in sequential art doesn’t in a film. Included in the training is the training of a dog from a puppy; Eggsy takes a pug thinking it will become a bulldog.
The cinematic Kingsmen were created after World War I after noble families lost several sons in the trenches. The Kingsmen are an independant intelligence agency, separate from political pressure, and pulled from the scions of nobility. Galahad, though, nominated Gary’s father, someone not from a blue blood line, believing that it is the man, not the family that is important. Eggsy is the outsider in the group of trainees, yet he is one of the final two, the other being Roxy (Sophie Cookson), after Charlie (Edward Holcroft) breaks under pressure in a test of loyalty. Roxy ultimately wins the position of Lancelot after Eggsy is unable to shoot his dog.
Meanwhile, when not training the next Lancelot, Merlin discovers Prof. Arnold walking around on a traffic camera despite having been kidnapped. Galahad heads off to discover why Arnold is free. During the questioning, Arnold’s head explodes. Examination of the video from Galahad’s eyeglasses shows that Arnold had a subcutaneous device on his neck that caused the explosion. Further investigation leads Galahad to Valentine. Valentine is offering a SIM card that will allow people to make calls and use the Internet for no cost. However, nothing comes for free. The SIM card is set to carry a wave that will trigger rage in the device’s owner.
Valentine’s test location is a hate group, the South Gate Mission Church, instead of the mass wedding. Galahad heads there to see what Valentine has in mind. Instead, he is caught up in the SIM card’s wave and gets involved in the fighting. There is only one survivor, Hart. Valentine, flanked by Gazelle and a couple of mooks, greets Galahad before shooting him in the head.
Eggsy returns to the Kingsman Tailor Shop to speak with the head of the Kingsmen, Arthur (Michael Caine). While talking about Galahad, Eggsy notices a scar on Arthur’s neck, much like the one Prof. Arnold had pre-explosion. Arthur, who had nominated Charlie, is very much a believer in maintaining class distinctions and sees Eggsy as a pretender. He tries to poison Eggsy, but the younger man sees it coming and switches the glasses around. Once Arthur is dead, Eggsy removes the chip in his neck and brings it to Merlin.
Merlin works his magic and determines what the chip does. First, it nullifies the carrier wave Valentine uses to turn people into unthinking, raging beasts. Second, it can get hot enough to superheat the implantees brain, leading to an explosion. With the countdown to the launch fo Valentine’s free cell network, capable of carrying the rage enducing carrier wave, started, there isn’t time to recall Kingsman agents in the field. Merlin has Roxy and Eggsy, the latter not officially an agent, to stop Valentine.
There are two steps to the plan to stop Valentine. The first is to shoot down one of Valentine’s satellites, giving more time to execute the second part, which is shutting down the signal at the source. Roxy is given the first part, going up with the aid of hot air balloons with a missile launcher. Meanwhile, Merlin flies Eggsy to Valentine’s mountain lair to use Arthur’s invitation to infiltrate and access a laptop, giving the technical branch head access to Valentine’s computer network.
Eggsy, now in his bespoke suit, purchased by Hart before dying, easily fits in with the crowd. He wanders through the main lounge and finds the Swedish Prime Minister on a laptop. A quick knockout dart, and Eggsy gets the laptop and Merlin on to the network. Unfortunately, Eggsy is discovered by Charlie, in the lair with the rest of his family. Valentine speeds up the countdown, but Roxy takes out his satellite.
Trying to escape, Eggsy is led back to the plane by Merlin. Unknown to Eggsy, Valentine borrows time from another satellite to re-establish his cell network, and the countdown is on again. The signal is sent through the network, causing mass riots around the world. Eggsy is sent back out, armed appropriately, to get Valentine’s hand off the computer. Back in the main lounge, Eggsy has to fight Gazelle before getting to Valentine and ending the threat once and for all.
For the most part, the movie follows the comic beat for beat, though some beats are moved around. The differences come up due to the differences in media. Comics, being a sequence of still pictures, have their own language. The reader is expected to fill in the gaps between panels. Movies can’t do that; being motion pictures, the film has to fill in those gaps. What can be a two page fight becomes a ten minute scene. Let’s take a look at some of the differences.
First up, characters. James Arnold went from main villain to villain’s henchman, replaced by billionaire philanthropist Richmond Valentine. Valentine, though, keep the motive, saving the Earth and one billion people by culling five billion. The method is the same, causing people to become raging monsters who kill each other. Even the lair remains more or less as seen in the comic. Eggsy is still the same, though his younger brother becomes a baby sister and his mother’s name changes from Sharon to Michelle. Minor change, really, one that doesn’t affect the storyline. Eggsy’s Uncle Jack, though, does change in a major way. Jack becomes Harry Hart, not related to Gary or his mother at all. The change came about because Vaughan saw issues with the My Fair Lady approach the movie plays with. If Jack remained, questions would come up why he didn’t do anything sooner. These questions get answered in the comic, but there isn’t time in the movie.
Time is another factor. The film runs 129 minutes. The same story ran six issues, giving the comic more space to expand ideas. Visual shorthands can make up for time, like letting Eggsy show what he can do instead of just hinting at it. But time in a film is still finite; audiences will only sit for so long before getting restless. Related to time is cast. Budgets can only go so far. The nature of training in the movie eliminated trainees, leaving just Roxy and Eggsy to deal with Valentine. In the comic, Eggsy leads ten trainees in an assault on Arnold’s lair, with another trainee, who isn’t Roxy, off to try to shoot down the satellite. Roxy doesn’t even get named in the comic, though there is a trainee who could pass as her.
Speaking of cast, the comic had artistic renderings of famous people who had been kidnapped by Arnold to restart society after his culling. Cameos, though, get complicated when using real people. The only person who appeared in both the comic and the movie was Mark Hamill, and he played a character other than himself in the film. Hamill’s first scene was much like his cameo in the comic, though his character survived the experience in the movie.
One other problem comes from a cultural difference. Mark Millar, Dave Gibbons, and Matthew Vaughan are all British. The comic and the movie have roots in the different classes in British society. These don’t always translate well to something that North American audiences can understand, though TV series like Doctor Who, Coronation Street, and Eastenders have helped introduce the concepts. Chavs and housing estates have equivalents in American culture, but the matching isn’t one-to-one. The movie had to make sure the concepts in use could be understood by an American audience without dumbing them down too much that the themes get watered down.
The end result, though, is that the movie Kingsman: The Secret Service is very much the comic, despite the differences. The story matches, though scenes differ. The clash of classes, the over-the-top villainous plan, the maturation and the understanding of what makes a gentleman, all of that remains. A Kingsman is a Kingsman, no matter the path taken.
For the last survivor of a doomed world, Superman has a large family. Many Golden and Silver Age superheroes had a “family” – characters who share in the main hero’s adventures as, if not an equal, as a sidekick. Batman had the various Robins, the various Batgirls, Ace the Bat-hound, Batwoman, and, at times, Catwoman. Captain Marvel, of Shazam! fame, had Mary Marvel, Captain Marvel, Jr., and Uncle Marvel. Superman had Superboy*, Krypto, Beppo, and Supergirl. not to mention the various Kryptonian criminals in the Phantom Zone. Supergirl, Superman’s cousin Kara Zor-El, was first introduced in 1959, though DC had floated the idea in 1958 with Jimmy Olsen wishing a “Super-Girl” into existence. Kara has the same powers as her cousin, thanks to being under Earth’s yellow sun. She arrived on Earth in a different manner, though.
In her first appearance, Kara wasn’t sent off from the dying world of Krypton on a rocket. Instead, she lived in Argo City, which had survived the planet’s explosion only to have the ground it sat on turn into Kryptonite. Kara was sent off to follow her cousin, but arrived in Midvale instead. She took on the the secret identity of Linda Lee, an orphan at the Midvale Orphanage.
Being the comics, nothing stays simple. Kara, as Linda, gets adopted, graduates high school and college, and moves to the West Coast to work as a TV camera operator. A second Kara, from the alternate dimension of Earth-Two and becomes Power Girl. However, after Crisis on Infinite Earths, a 1985 crossover event to try to clean up the DC Universe’s massive convolutions, not is Kara killed off, the universe is rebooted, removing both Supergirl and Power Girl from continuity. A third Supergirl, Matrix, is a shape changer, appeared in 1988, and a fourth, Linda Danvers, is an Earth-born angel**. Also, being the comics, no character stays dead for long. Kara began reappearing through the late 80s and is reintroduced in 2004 by Jeph Loeb, first in Superman/Batman and then in a new Supergirl title.
Rewinding back to 1984, Alexander and Ilya Salkind still had the movie rights to not just Superman but related characters, including Supergirl. Superman was in the top ten grossing movies of the 70s and is the movie that people associate with the character. Superman III, with Christopher Reeve and Richard Pryor, came out in 1983 to poor reviews. Supergirl was a chance for the Salkinds to rebound. There were several cuts, including a domestic cut for the US and a longer international cut for the rest This review uses the 2006 DVD release, which was the international version of the movie.
Supergirl begins in Argo City, the home of the last survivors of Krypton, tucked away in an alternate dimension. Kara, played by Helen Slater in her first role, watches Zaltar, played by Peter O’Toole, use the Omegahedron, a powerful power source that uses imagination for creation. Such a powerful device needs to be used carefully, lest it falls into the wrong hands. Zaltar hands the Omegahedron to Kara to let her explore her own imagination. Kara’s creation, though, gets away from her and pierces the wall surrounding Argo City. The power source is blown out through the hole; its loss means Argo City’s time is limited. Zaltar, because he “borrowed” the device without permission, will be sent to the Phantom Zone. Kara chases after the Omegahedron to make up for its escape.
On Earth, Selena, a vain, impatient sorceress out for world domination (Faye Dunaway) and Nigel, her mentor and long suffering lover (Peter Cook***) are having a picnic while discussing invisibility spells. The Omegahedron falls into the potato salad and is picked up by Selena. The sorceress senses the power within and claims the power source as her own. She returns to her home, an abandoned amusement park she shares with Bianca (Brenda Vaccaro) and experiments with the Omegahedron.
Kara arrives not far behind. Now under Earth’s yellow sun, she discovers her new powers, including flight. She heads to the nearby town, Midvale, where she finds the girls of Midvale High. Kara changes into a similar uniform and becomes the new student, Linda Lee. She name drops Clark Kent when she arrives, and, when the headmaster, Mr. Danvers, is distracted, types up a letter from her cousin to make sure that she’s accepted. Danvers shows her to her new room and her new roommate, Lucy Lane (Maureen Teefy), the younger sister of the Daily Planet’s star reporter, Lois Lane. Lucy, while not thrilled about having a roommate, perks up when she discovers who Linda’s cousin is. Linda also sees the school’s buff groundskeeper, Ethan (Hart Bochner), and is impressed.
Ethan also impresses Selena, who comes up with a plot to force the groundskeeper to love her as part of her plot to rule the world. Selena drugs him with a love potion, which will make Ethan fall in love with the first person he sees when he regains consciousness. Unfortunately for the sorceress, Nigel interrupts. While he’s not allowed in, Nigel is enough of a distraction to let Ethan stumble to an escape. The groundskeeper, walking drunkenly down Midvale’s main street, avoids being hit. Selena uses the Omegahedron to locate him and enspells a backhoe to retrieve him. Lucy and Linda, along with Lucy’s boyfriend from Metropolis, Jimmy Olsen (Marc McClure, the only actor from Superman to appear in Supergirl), see Ethan in trouble. As vehicles avoid both Ethan and the backhoe, chaos ensues, leading to spilled gasoline, downed electrical lines, and a tire fire. Kara disappears to the bathroom and appears as Supergirl on top of the diner. Supergirl saves the day, cutting the electrical lines with her heat-ray vision, blowing out the fire with her superbreath, and rescuing Ethan from the animated construction vehicle. Ethan recovers, and, to Selena’s chagrin, sees Linda first.
Selena escalates against Linda and Supergirl, never realizing they are the same person. The sorceress lures Supergirl into a trap by kidnapping Ethan. Selena twists the knife; she kisses the groundskeeper before sending Kara into the Phantom Zone. Kara, lost in the darkness of the Zone, loses her powers and, as she wanders, falls into an oily bog. Zaltar, in self-imposed exile, rescues her and helps her return to Earth through a small rift.
On Earth, Selena has succeeded in taking over Midvale through her dark sorcery and has plans for the rest of the continent. Lucy and Jimmy try to lead a resistance, but are arrested by Selena’s ensorcelled police. However, Selena and Bianca are watching what is happening in the Phantom Zone and are amazed when Supergirl returns. In the final battle, Selena summons a shadow demon to tear Supergirl apart. Kara turns things around on the sorceress, who is pulled into a whirlwind and trapped inside a mirror. With Midvale returned to normal, Kara retrieves the Omegahedron and leaves to return home.
Supergirl was not well received and failed to recoup its $35 million budget. Dunaway and O’Toole each received a Razzie for the film. Slater, though, was nominated for a Saturn for Best Actress. The problems may stem from having an almost twenty minute difference in running time between domestic and international. The longer version gives the movie time to set itself up, showing the rift between Selena and Nigel and showing Kara getting used to being on Earth. The chemistry between Dunaway and Vaccaro as Selena and Bianca is worth seeing. The main problem is that the movie went for camp at a time when camp wasn’t appreciated. If the movie had been made in 1979 instead of 1984, Dunaway’s over-the-top performance wouldn’t have seen out of place, following in the footsteps of Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor.
As an adaptation, Supergirl took the character and presented her on the big screen. Her powers were influenced by Superman’s from his 1978 movie, though without the time travel. In the comics, Supergirl helped people at a personal level, and this does come through in the movie. The plot itself would fit earlier Superman comics, though not as much in the 80s. Kara’s origins, while meddled with, still reflect her background in her comics debut. The film does look like it came from a comic without being a cartoon.
Supergirl, while meant to be a stand-alone film, still leans heavily on Superman. Other than the villains, each character has a connection to the Superman cast, with Jimmy Olsen being brought over. However, as a character, Supergirl wouldn’t exist without Superman, so the links are expected. There were plans for a Christopher Reeve cameo, but that fell through; the lack of Superman is explained in a radio broadcast early in the movie, one ignored by Selena she’s taking Nigel’s car to return home.
Overall, some changes were made, more to take advantage of the medium than anything else. Despite the movie’s issues, it made an attempt to be faithful to the character, making this a successful adaptation despite the lack of theatrical success.
* Sort of. Superboy was originally the young Superman in Smallville, but later the name got attached to a different character believed to be a clone.
** Soap operas don’t get this complex.
*** Cook portrays a Snape-like character long before Snape was created.
Best summary I heard “In Riverdale Anything Can Happen.”
I think there’s something to that. Archie in concept is tethered to certain ideas and characters who are archetypical. This in some ways is limiting, but as the characters are about very human situations, it is a human tether. Archie’s situations are human ones – love, school, life, death, food (especially in the case of Jughead).
But because Archie has this tether, you can then go hog wild with it in a way. It always has a ground, so go nuts. Team Archie up with the Punisher, have him fight Predator, explore alternate timelines, create the Legion of Archie. Whatever works – Archie and company are still themselves.
In turn the series own limited focus – wholesome teams in their rather nice town – provides a limitation. In some ways the best thing to do is go a bit nuts – and you can, as you have themes to work with and return to.
Finally the human-humorous grounding gives you fertile ground to experiment. The message of Riverdale is “Everyone belongs,” as we’ve seen with the groundbreaking Kevin Keller. Everyone is a pretty wide berth to experiment with.
Glad to meet the new Archie, same as the old Archie, a difference we can all be glad is the same.
– Steven Savage
Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach. He blogs on careers at http://www.musehack.com/, publishes books on career and culture at http://www.informotron.com/, and does a site of creative tools at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/. He can be reached at http://www.stevensavage.com/.
May had a lot of news about upcoming adaptations and remakes.
Farscape movie in the works.
Rockne O’Bannon, creator of Farscape, has confirmed the rumours that a Farscape movie was in production, at least as far as the script. The confirmation was announced at WonderCon.
Prequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in pre-production.
The movie brings back Michelle Yeoh and fight coordinator Yuen Woo-ping to present what Yu Shu Lien did before the events of the original movie. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon came out in 2000; the delay was caused by a rights conflict between the studio and the estate of Wang Du Lu, whose novels were the base of the movie.
Six issue Avengers mini-series coming from Boom!
John Steed and Emma Peel will be back in a comics mini-series called Steed and Mrs. Peel. The cover art in the article really does suit the show.
Casting started for the Jem movie.
After seeing how crowdfunding worked with Veronica Mars, the director of the live-action Jem and the Holograms turned to YouTube and asked for fans to sumbit video auditions for online casting.
Twin Peaks returns in fan-made web sequel.
Fans of David Lynch’s TV series Twin Peaks have begun the 25th anniversary celebrations by having a third season done on Twitter. The central repository for the fan series is Enter the Lodge, where the tweets are collected.
Hector and the search for a distributor.
Hector and the Search for Happiness, based on the book of the same name by Francois Lelord, has been picked up by Relativity. The movie, starring Simon Pegg and Rosamund Pike, tells the story of a psychiatrist travelling the world in search of happiness.
JK Rowling novel to become TV series.
The Casual Vacancy, JK Rowling’s first novel after finishing the Harry Potter series, has been picked up as a BBC and HBO co-production. The book will be turned into a mini-series, following the town of Pagford, England, after the local councilor dies.
More Jem casting news.
All the actresses have experience to some degree but aren’t major names. Hayley Kiyoko, playing Aja, has an EP, “A Belle to Remember“, on her resume. Aubrey Peeples, playing Jem, has performed as a singer, including on the TV series Nashville, but doesn’t have a release. The live action adaptation still has some hurdles, especially with the original creator Christy Marx not involved, but the casting of the core allows the movie to be about Jem and the Holograms and not furthering the singing careers of the leads.
SyFy getting in on the adaptation train.
Four new series on SyFy, all of them are adaptations. Letter 44, Pax Romana, and Ronin are all based on comics. The fourth, The Magicians, is based on the novels by Lev Grossman.
Dad’s Army to hit the silver screen.
The BBC sitcom Dad’s Army is being adapted as a film. Toby Jones will play Captain Mainwaring, portrayed by Arthur Lowe in the original. Bill Nighy will be Sergeant Wilson. The original TV series focused on a British Home Guard unit in World War II. The writer of the original show, Jimmy Perry, added a provision when he signed over the rights that he wouldn’t have to write anything in the adaptation.
Sailor Moon cast announced.
More on the Sailor Moon news from last month. The Sailor Senshi have been cast, with Kotono Mitsuishi is back as Usagi. The character designs for the new series are based on their appearances in the manga.
Toy and snack movies ahead!
First, Barbie. A live action Barbie comedy is in the works from Sony. It’s not too surprising a move; the animated /Barbie/ features have done well and the online series /Life in the Dreamhouse/ has gone four seasons. Mattel, like all toy companies except Hasbro, is also trying to recover from a drop in sales in the past year.
Next, Peeps. The pink and yellow marshmallow candies are following in the footsteps of The LEGO Movie. Adam Rifkin will helm the movie, basing it on the Peeps dioramas his niece and nephew made.
Another Disney ride gets tapped for a movie.
In celebration of the attraction’s 50th anniversary, It’s a Small World will be turned into a family movie. The earworm generating song will be part of the movie. Disney is batting .500 with rides turned into movies lately; while The Haunted Mansion stumbled a bit, Pirates of the Caribbean became a huge hit. It’s a matter of finding the right team. Or inserting a subliminal message into the song.
Minecraft, the movie.
The producers of The LEGO Movie will bring the digital version of playing with blocks to the big screen. Warner Bros, the studio involved, will also work on a live-action tie-in for the movie.
Scarface to be remade, too.
The remake will bring the story into the today’s world. The immigrant’s story will see Tony’s background change to Mexican from the original Italian as seen in the 1932 and 1983 versions. The filmmakers are looking to cast a Latino in the role.
Marvel’s Peggy Carter to get her own series.
Peggy Carter, who first appeared in Captain America, is getting her own spin-off series on ABC in the fall. The series will be set in 1946 following the events at the end of the movie. This comes in the wake of the renewal of Agents of SHIELD. Meanwhile, over at Warner, no news of a Wonder Woman movie.
Private Benjamin to be remade.
The Goldie Hawn movie about a spoiled rich girl who joins the Army is being remade, with Rebel Wilson in the title role. The update will see a redneck join with the rich girl.
Animated Flintstones movie to be produced by Will Farrell and Adam McKay.
The Stone Age family will return to the big screen animated instead of live-action. The movie will be the first animated film of the characters since the 1966 The Man Called Flintstone.
Go, go Power Rangers!
Lionsgate has licensed Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers from Saban for a reboot movie.
Didn’t see the Rosemary’s Baby remake? You’re not alone.
Maybe Mother’s Day wasn’t the best day for the airing. The remake was up against A Game of Thrones, the season finale of Once Upon a Time, and Cosmos.
Corner Gas movie being Kickstartered.
The Canadian sitcom about life in Dog River, Saskatchewan is being turned into a movie if the Kickstarter campaign is successful.
Blade Runner sequel may see Harrison Ford return as Deckard.
Ridley Scott may provide the answer to, “Is Deckard a replicant?” in the Blade Runner sequel. Ford himself showed interest during an AMA on Reddit.
Infamous Chick tract being adapted as movie.
Dark Dungeons, Jack Chick’s infamous anti-Dungeons & Dragons comic tract, is getting the movie treatment. Zombie Orpheus Entertainment will be treating the tract with the respect the company, staffed by gamers, think is due and will play it straight and accurate.
Some time back, I reviewed Spider-Man, the Sam Raimi helmed adaptations of the comics. Since then, the movie series has been rebooted, turning the new movie, The Amazing Spider-Man into an adaptation and a reboot at the same time.
The history of Spider-Man was covered in the previous review, but a brief recap of Amazing Fantasy #15 wouldn’t hurt. Nebbish, nerdy Peter Parker, a high school student, was bitten by a radioactive spider during a field trip. The venom interacted with Peter’s blood, giving him the proportional strength and agility of a spider and a preternatural sense for pending danger. As he learns how to handle his powers, he uses his knowledge and skills to create web-shooters; wrist-mounted devices that shoot out artificial webs. Peter then patrols the streets of New York as the Amazing Spider-Man.
For the movie, The Amazing Spider-Man, the writers returned to the classic stories instead of using Marvel’s Ultimate universe. The difference, beyond the source of Spider-Man’s powers*, is the love interest. The Raimi film used Mary Jane Watson, who, prior to One More Day, was Peter’s wife in the main line comic. However, early Spider-Man stories had Peter paired with Gwen Stacy, a fellow geek. The new movie explores their relationship, especially in light of the job Gwen’s father has, a police captain looking for the new spider-themed vigilante terrorizing New York. And, as in the comics, Spider-Man’s foe is someone that Peter has gotten close to; this time, the classic villain, The Lizard who is Gwen and Peter’s mentor, Dr. Curt Connors.
As mentioned previously in Lost in Translation, superhero comics tend to intertwine, making it hard to adapt everything the character has been involved in. Thus, the concept of various related-but-separate universes, such as the DC Animated Dini-verse and the Marvel Cinematic Universe of The Avengers. While Marvel Studios was busy with The Avengers Initiative, it had to work with Sony, owner of Columbia Pictures, to get the Daily Bugle into a shot in The Avengers**. Right now, Sony has the rights to Spider-Man and related characters, so cameos by other characters other than Ghost Rider is unlikely.***
The Amazing Spider-Man/ holds up on its own as a movie, without needing prior knowledge. All the characters are introduced, Spidey’s origin is shown again. This time around, the writers remembered that Spider-Man doesn’t just fight; he talks at his opponents. The comic version of Spider-Man always maintained snappy patter, in part to psych himself up and in part to keep his opponents off-balance. The rebooted version also had the patter, the insults, the taunts. The nature of the threat kept with the theme of runaway science that appeared in the comic; the Lizard looked to change the residents of the city into his subjects.
The movie does represent the core of Spider-Man well; the responsibility, the dangers of misusing science and radiation, and the heart of the character. Allowing the movie to create a new cinematic Spider-verse, separate from the prior Raimi films and from the Avengers-verse, allowed the filmmakers to explore what placing the duties of a superhero does to a teen.
Next week, the October adaptational news round out.
* Genetically altered spider versus radioactive spider. Both reflect the fears of the era the comics were created in.
** Ultimately, the shot wasn’t used.
*** Ironically, Spider-Man made guest appearances in every new Marvel title to establish that the book belonged to the overall universe and to bring attention to the title.
After wrapping up the Avengers Adaptation series last week, I started wondering what was in store for adaptations of comic books. If you’ve followed along here at MuseHack, you’ll have noted the posts about the movie meltdown coming. From Spielberg to Cracked.com, the current bubble is predicted to pop, possibly as early as 2015. Meanwhile, Marvel Studios and Warner Brothers have a number of big screen adaptations in planning. Add in companies like Dark Horse Comics, and the comic book movie looks to be a mainstay until the pop.
First, Marvel Studios has a number of sequels related to The Avengers, including Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Outside the Avenger titles, Marvel’s taking a risk with Guardians of the Galaxy, based on an older title of space-faring heroes. Another risk, though linking back to The Avengers, is the Ant-Man movie. Marvel did succeed with the movies leading to The Avengers despite the characters being lesser known. What may help is Marvel Studios using existing storylines from the comics. That still leaves the question on whether audiences are willing to give the non-sequel movies a shot. Summer of 2013 has audiences not turning out for the big-budget blockbusters as they had in the past.
Marvel Studios isn’t the only studio adapting Marvel titles. Fox has the rights to the X-Men and related titles and characters and have released The Wolverine and is working on X-Men: Days of Future Past combining the original X-trilogy with X-Men: First Class. Sony has the rights to Spider-Man and has rebooted the series.
Over at Warner, owner of Marvel’s Distinguished Competition, the success rate of movies depends on whether it centres around Batman. Man of Steel underperformed at the box office. The Green Lantern fizzled. Catwoman bombed. The Dark Knight trilogy did do well, though. The advantage Warner has is that it holds all the rights to the DC characters. If they need a character, they have the access. However, the lesson that Warner learned is that dark, grey, and gritty is the way to go, leading to Man of Steel. Warner’s next adaptation is based on World’s Finest, a Batman-Superman movie. Meanwhile, a Justice League movie may be on its way, thanks to the success of The Avengers, but this would put Warner into the position of catching up with Marvel. With The Green Lantern‘s middling success and the studio having no idea what to do with Wonder Woman, that leaves the rest of the classic team in limbo. Aquaman would need a Dini-verse makeover. The Flash would mean trying to pick which Flash* to use. There is a Flash movie in the works for 2016, though. The character does not work in a grim and gritty story. Other than Batman, the Green Arrow has had some success through the TV series Arrow
Adding to the movie implosion of 2013 is R.I.P.D., an adaptation of a Dark Horse comic of the same name. The comic doesn’t have the same name space in pop consciousness, so the failure of the movie shouldn’t impact the title. However, by being off the pop culture radar, the movie had to rely solely on marketing, a problem plaguing several releases over the past few years, including John Carter. While Marvel Studios, Fox, Sony, and Warner have the money to get word of a movie out to everyone if they wish**, a lesser movie won’t get the money behind it. R.I.P.D. did have marketing, but audiences stayed away.
Marvel managed to capture attention using the Avengers Initiative and high quality movies. Warner needs to play catch up without looking like a Marvel imitator, making the success of a Justice League movie difficult.
Next week, Blade Runner
* Jay Garrick, Barry Allen, and Wally West have all taken up the mantle of the Flash in DC Comics.
** For a counter-example, see John Carter. Please.
Superman, the superhero who started the entire genre, the Man of Steel who has been adapted many times to radio, television, and film, is returning to the silver screen in a reboot movie. Part of the movie will cover Superman’s origin. Which is great, except, well, if there’s one superhero whose origin is widely known to audiences, it’s Superman. The last son of Krypton, sent away by his parents as an infant as his homeworld exploded, landed on Earth on a farm in Kansas, raised by the Kents, then moved to Metropolis to become a mild-mannered reporter. The quick version can be, he was raised well by adoptive parents. How much time is going to be spent on Superman’s background? How do you show “raised well” when you have a limited time in the film. Spend too long, and you run into the problem Battleship did and lose a lot of energy, especially if the destruction of Krypton appears on screen. At the same time, Clark’s early years could be delved for great drama. In fact, Smallville was all about that delving. Why cover that same ground?
It may sound like I’m harping on origin stories, and I am. It feels like every reboot, remake, and adaptation of a superhero story has to spend time showing the hero getting his abilities. Lately, superhero movies have been focusing on the origin. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Some heroes, such as Iron Man and Thor have compelling beginning stories. With others, such as Batman and Spider-Man, the compelling feature isn’t getting powers (or, in Batman’s case, his wonderful toys), but why they turned to being heroes. Tony Stark created a suit of power armour to escape captors. Peter Parker failed to stop a robber who wound up killing Peter’s uncle. Bruce Wayne wanted revenge on the criminals who killed his parents in front of his young eyes. Clark Kent . . . was raised well. Something just doesn’t fit.
Don’t get me wrong. If a, say, Cloak & Dagger TV series were to be made, I’d expect the pilot to show how they got their powers.* Same with other characters like the Punisher, Zatanna, and Speedball. Not to mention, with television, there’s more time to set up longer arcs. In a movie, though, very few last longer than three hours, with most run times being under two.
Superman, though, isn’t known to just comic readers. He is arguably the best known superhero character around.** He’s been around since 1938. He’s been adapted to radio, serials, television, and movies. The most recent television adaptation, Smallville, was a ten season long origin story. Before that, Lois and Clark, the New Adventures of Superman*** managed to remind viewers of Clark’s humble beginnings by including Jonathan and Martha Kent as regular characters, even if they only appeared when Clark phoned home. The 1978 Superman movie with Christopher Reeve, the definitive Superman film for a generation, did spend time with Clark’s upbringing, but not in depth. However, remaking that movie shot for shot will leave people wondering why they just didn’t pop the 1978 film into the DVD player instead.
My hopes for the Superman reboot is that, if the director really needs to show the origin, then Clark’s background is done as a montage, quick enough to not lose energy, but long enough to show where Clark is from. The movie then should get to the heart of the plot.
Next week, despite the above, the Avengers Adaptation continues.
* In fact, how they got their powers – forcibly injected with synthetic drugs triggering their latent mutant abilities – is key to most of their comic runs, as they took the War on Drugs down to the pushers.
** Definitely in the top three, with Batman and Wonder Woman. Marvel’s Spider-Man and X-Men (as a group) fill out the top five.
*** Lois and Clark also took a different approach to Superman stories by examining the relationship between Lois Lane, Clark Kent, and Superman.
Over the past three decades, comic books have been mined for movies and TV series. The past few years have seen comic book movies bringing droves of people into the theatres. What makes for a successful comic to other media adaptation?
As mentioned many times in Lost in Translation, the bulk of the work is done. The characters are created, their looks are easily found, the setting has already been fleshed out. Many superheroes are well known to the general public, guaranteeing interest in the adaptation. A first draft of the storyboards already exists. There is a built-in crowd already in the readers of the comics. The balancing act lies in maintaining faithfulness to the original work while still making the adaptation palpable to the general audience. There are several ways to go about the process.
Creating an animated adaptation is a natural step. Most comic book adaptations have gone this way; comic to cartoon and manga to anime. The advantages of animating include being able to portray the characters as they appear in the comic, easy to predict costs as compared to live-action adaptations*, and ease of special effects. The drawback is falling into the animation ghetto, where people assume that, since the show or movie is animated, it is automatically for kids. The drawback could limit the size of the audience and how faithful the adaptation is.
With the proper backing and budgeting, a live-action feature film of a comic can be done. The mere fact of a cinematic adaptation can get the fans a-stir and, with a well-known character, might even get non-readers interested enough to see the movie. The catch, though, is that the budget needs to be large enough to cover the necessary special effects for the characters’ powers and to get a name involved to draw in non-fans. As well, fans will become more vocal about the portrayal of the adapted title. Costuming may become difficult or impossible**. Movies that are being touted for a major action blockbuster may also be limited to just the A-listers*** of the publisher to ensure that a return on investment is seen. B-list heroes have been used to various degrees of success, though.
Live-Action Television Series
Sometimes, the best format for a comic is a regular TV series, either on one of the traditional broadcasters or on a specialty channel. Viewers are more likely to give a show an episode or two to find its feet. While having an A-lister as the focus character will get people to watch, a B-lister or even a C-lister could pick up an audience. The drawback returns to budgeting for special effects, though a careful choice of heroes can mitigate the problem.
One thing that will come up in a superhero adaptation is the origin story, how the hero came to be. While some heroes have a well-know background – Superman’s flight from his doomed homeworld Krypton and being raised by the Kents; the death of Batman’s parents and his quest to keep the city of Gotham safe – others are only aware to comic book fans. Time will be spent on the origin. Ideally, the hero is an active participant in the origin; early conflict and drama will keep viewers hooked before the main plot starts. Spider-Man’s origin is a good example of the hero being involved; Peter Parker may have been bit by a radioactive spider, but his reaction after discovering his powers and the fateful choice to not get involved leading to the death of his uncle is all under his control. Superman’s origin, however, is more passive; he was rescued and sent off in a rocket as a baby while his world exploded and was raised right by a couple who couldn’t have children of their own. The conflict and drama are lacking in Superman’s case.
In most successful superhero movies, the villain either has a personal link to the hero (for example, Norman Osbourne in Spider-Man and Obadiah Stane in Iron Man), represents the diametric opposite of the hero (the Joker in Batman), or cannot be defeated using the hero’s main abilities (Lex Luthor in Superman). Sometimes, a theme starts appearing in a hero’s rogue’s gallery that emphasizes the hero’s abilities. Spider-Man’s gallery has a scientific bent with Doctor Octopus and the Lizard. Batman’s rogues run the gamut of mental health disorders. The catch, though, is that the villain shouldn’t be killed off by the end the episode or the movie. Very few villains die in the comics, and fewer still stay dead.
Historically, most comics are set in New York City. This came about because the publishers, writers, and artists were in New York City. DC writers tended to rename the city while Marvel kept their characters in a facsimile of the real world. The city becomes another character, lending its air to the work. The dark, foreboding atmosphere of Gotham City adds to the Batman stories while the brightness of Metropolis**** reflect Superman’s fight for Truth, Justice, and the American Way. Even the real New York City can present different atmospheres. The busy Midtown Manhattan, where Spider-Man fights crime and villainy, allows the Webhead to make snappy comments as he batters his opponents with verbal quips. Meanwhile, the rundown area of Hell’s Kitchen provides a backdrop for both Daredevil and Cloak & Dagger‘s fight for the disadvantages against the those who would steamroller them.
Bringing Things Together
To show how the adaptations could work, I’ll use several examples in parallel. First, an A-list example for a hypothetical live action movie – DC’s Wonder Woman. Next, for a live-action TV series, Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger. Finally, to go through the thought process that I hope gets used, one of my own works, Subject 13.
Starting off, I already know how I’m adapting both Wonder Woman and Cloak & Dagger. However, Subject 13‘s format is in the air. Given the strong language used by the main character, an animated adaptation is out of the question unless aired late at night on a specialty channel. A live-action movie won’t work as well as I’d hope because the character is practically unknown. That leaves the live-action TV series on a specialty channel, unless there’s a way to reduce the language without losing characterization.
The setting is the next. Wonder Woman is based out of two locations, New York City and Themyscira. Given those locations, she’s set for a story that combines modern sensibilities with Greek myths and the conflict between the two. Cloak & Dagger are based out of Hell’s Kitchen in New York City, suitable to tell stories about fighting for the underdog and of survival. /Subject 13/ is, at least at the beginning, also set in New Yotk City, a mix of working class apartment neighbourhood and a private school, allowing for a fish out of water backdrop to the main character’s discovery of her abilities and figuring out what she’s doing.
The origin of each will be dealt with. Wonder Woman’s is fairly quick – she was made from clay then given life after her mother prayed to the Greek goddesses. Cloak & Dagger’s origin can easily fill an episode as two teens from opposite sides of society are kidnapped and given an experimental drug that triggered their mutant abilities. Their origin can return as they deal with elements from the gang that was looking for a new street drug. Subject 13‘s origin is important to the storyline, as she escapes from an evil consortium, but the actual moment where she becomes a hero could be done during the opening credits of the pilot.
Depiction of powers needs to be looked at, mainly for budget issues. Since my hypothetical Wonder Woman adaptation is meant to be a summer blockbuster, her powers won’t have limits. However, since her powers include super-strength, the Lasso of Truth, and invulnerability, portraying them won’t be difficult, just using camera tricks and props. Cloak & Dagger might get expensive for television; Cloak is a gateway into a dimension of darkness while Dagger generates living light. Fortunately, decades of science fiction has made laser blasts easy to do and Cloak’s power can be simulated with lighting when needed. As for Subject 13, she has a powered punch that flares when she hits. The power isn’t used often as it tends to end fights when she connects; the budget for the power should be easy to control.
The villains for the adaptations now comes into play. Wonder Woman’s rogues gallery tends to come from Greek myth. Tie in the locations, and Ares trying to start World War III through manipulating the United Nations makes for a good baseline for a plot. For Cloak & Dagger, the general theme for the first season is survival and adapting to being on the outside of society. Villains can include various gangs and, if we look at later works featuring the characters, toss in D’Spayre, a demon who can resist both characters’ powers, at the end of the season. In /Subject 13/, the origin ties directly to the villains, an evil consortium who was responsible for her getting her powers.
To sum up, Wonder Woman, if done well, should get a good audience. The adapters will have to make sure that the costume reminds the casual fan of her classic one. Cloak & Dagger, being a lesser known title, could work on TV if the drama is played up. Meanwhile, Subject 13, even with the language issue, could work as a live-action series with its on going plot, though her complete lack of fame in the general population without any ties to an existing property could work against the show’s survival
Next time, more stuff!
* Crew, cast, computer equipment (having replaced cels, paint, and ink) vs costs of different special effects based on the needs of the episode/movie.
** Particularly for the women in the film. Some comic costumes defy the laws of physics while revealing more skin than most bikinis.
*** The characters that are known far and wide. DC’s A-listers include Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. Marvel’s are Spider-Man, Wolverine, Captain America and, as groups, the X-Men and the Avenger. A-listers get on the list by wide exposure through comics, animated adaptations, movie adaptations, and cultural drift.
**** Technically, originally modelled on Toronto.