In a recent Major Spoilers Podcast, I got to eat a little crow regarding my assumption that Marvel couldn’t create the same sort of “shared universe” as their comics with their various movie projects.  Still, even after that successful adaptation, I have a stubborn voice in my head telling me that an adaptation that DOESN’T suck is the exception to the rule.  For every ‘Avengers,’ it seems there are three critical failures, be they a live-action Underdog, a comic adaptation of Family Guy or a cartoon version of American Beauty.

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) is your chance to play king-maker:
What property would you choose to adapt and to what medium would you adapt it to convince me that I’m wrong?

(For our theoretical purposes, assume that you have financing and that getting the rights aren’t an issue.)
 

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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15 Comments

  1. May 26, 2012 at 1:27 pm — Reply

    I think Cowboy Bebop would make for an incredibly fun live-action film that would appeal to a very wide audience.

    But (allow me to throw some conjecture in here) I don’t know how me picking a possible adaptation is going to change your mind on the subject. If MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS is the exception to the rule that “adaptations suck,” and we live in a world that has Richard Donner’s Superman, Tim Burton’s Batman, Christopher Nolan’s Bat-films, as well as Sam Raimi’s first two Spider-Man films, as well as Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, Batman: The Brave and The Bold, Captain America, Thor, the Iron Man movies, the Blade movies, The Spectacular Spider-Man series, The Green Lantern Animated series, The Justice League, The Justice League Unlimited, the Hellboy movies, X-Men, X-Men 2, X-Men: First Class, the DC Direct to DVD movies as well as all the Disney adaptations . . .

    I’m not sure where this rule comes from and why it exists. Perhaps the rule needs to be done away with and replaced with the understanding that just because details change when we change mediums, it doesn’t mean the thing in the new medium sucks?

    • May 26, 2012 at 4:18 pm — Reply

      I’m not sure where this rule comes from and why it exists. Perhaps the rule needs to be done away with and replaced with the understanding that just because details change when we change mediums, it doesn’t mean the thing in the new medium sucks?

      Are you implying that I should accept change and allow things to grow? I’ll have you know that I’m a comic fan, and we don’t do that… :)

  2. The_Bear_Jew
    May 26, 2012 at 1:38 pm — Reply

    I would pitch a three season period piece Justice Society of America/Golden Age tv series for HBO, called The Golden Age.

    The first season would focus on the formation of the JSA, the first handful of episodes introducing a new core JSA member in each one, and how they end up joining the league through whatever adventure, eventually the first season shifts to them taking down their first serious threat villain, who ends up having ties to the Nazis.

    The second season would be the JSA in World War 2. Those little snippets of them fighting and dieing in The Golden Age else world comic would be expanded on. It would also show how the people back home respond to a lack of super heroes, and who try and take their place.

    The third, and final season, would pretty much just take the basic story line from The Golden Age else world and expand on it, while keeping everything that happens in it. There would need to be some minor changes, but it more or less be the same story, all culminating in that fantastic Silver Age style twist at the end (if you read the comic you know what I mean, don’t want to spoil it), the final fight scene, and the last shot of all the new Silver Age heroes that are America’s future.

    Note: I picked HBO because they are owned by Time Warner, who in turns owns DC, so they would have all the rights to the JSA characters.

  3. May 26, 2012 at 3:38 pm — Reply

    In terms of Marvel/DC many of those properties as comics have co-existed with various TV and flim adaptations since their inceptions some successful, some not. Those ‘adaptations’ in turn have often had direct impact on the comics from whence they came in sort of a weird cyclical/symbiotic relationship.

    I’d love to see an animated Buckaroo Banzai series that expands that particular universe. You could maybe even pull in at some of the principals to reprise their film roles as voice actors. Stay away from the Lectroids and the Eighth Dimension (that’s the overtapped well where many of the comic adaptations fall flat, I think), focus on Hanoi Xan as the big bad, hatching various plots with a bunch of crazy pulp style henchmen, hirelings, mad scientists and monsters, turn the Hong Kong Cavaliers loose against them and a bunch of fun could ensue. In the right hands it could work (but then that can probably be said for any adapted property).

  4. Chillidawg72
    May 26, 2012 at 4:46 pm — Reply

    I’m in theatre, so my idea is is a little wierd. I would adapt Knights of the Dinner table into a two act stage production.

    As the Knights sit and play their game, other actors stand on a raised platform behind them and act out the antics that are discussed around the table. Plus with all the satilite characters in the series, the entire thing could center around an upcoming RPG tournament.

    • May 26, 2012 at 5:02 pm — Reply

      As the Knights sit and play their game, other actors stand on a raised platform behind them and act out the antics that are discussed around the table. Plus with all the satilite characters in the series, the entire thing could center around an upcoming RPG tournament.

      That… is… RAD!

  5. Josh "Spaceboot" Treleaven
    May 26, 2012 at 7:45 pm — Reply

    I don’t know if this should count, but my recent revelation is that Futurama would make the perfect MMO. Recall Fry’s ecstatic cry of “I’m a delivery boy!” at the end of the first episode, and the endless questing that defines a game like WoW. Another exception to the rule, perhaps?

  6. May 26, 2012 at 8:18 pm — Reply

    I still firmly believe that they should have a Star Wars television series in an anthology style, similar to “Outer Limits” or “Twilight Zone”. Rather than focusing on one setting, each story could be set in a different period, a different area of space, etc. And instead of being forced to be either all live action or all animated, it could be a mix. Different stories might call for an all CGI episode, or one might be a story told that works in a humorous cartoony style as an old spacer tells his grandkids a bedtime story.

    I think Star Trek could work a series in a similar fashion equally well, but that’s not really adapting something to a new medium.

    I also think a Ben 10 comic could work reasonably well. They have already established that a multiverse exists within the setting, so they could have a comic that takes place in it’s own timeline (much as how the live-action movies technically don’t take place in the cartoon’s timeline but are still canon within the multiverse of the series). With new artistic takes on a reasonably established world, they could explore concepts that the series has only hinted at or even things they couldn’t do on TV for whatever reason. While the TV series does it’s own thing, the comic can take another path and tell new stories without either stepping on the other’s toes.

    Finally, I’d love to see an adaptation of something like Super Sentai, Kamen Rider or Metal Heroes for audiences outside of Japan. I don’t mean Power Rangers and I don’t mean subtitles. Have a mix of people who worked on those series with some Hollywood equivalents and a larger budget. Japan doesn’t have to be the only country that gets invaded by monsters/aliens/evil demons/mutants/etc and has to be saved by half-demon/alien/high-tech/reincarnated/etc warriors with giant robots.

    • KevinPBreen
      May 27, 2012 at 3:05 pm — Reply

      I’ve thought that that would be the way to go with STAR TREK. Its universe is richer than STAR WARS which is basically about Jedi vs Sith. On a TREK anthology you could do episodes with other starship crews, other time periods like ENTERPRISE or the “Yesterday’s Enterprise” episode of TNG or “Flashback” on VOYAGER (with Captain Sulu!), Klingons, Vulcans, colonists, doctors, traders, Starfleet Academy, people on Earth, and revisiting characters after their series ended (Captain Sulu!), etc. There would be real suspense because any character could die without affecting the series. You wouldn’t need those annoying time loop episodes that never really happened. And if any of the episodes were popular enough, they could do sequels within the anthology.

      • May 27, 2012 at 6:36 pm — Reply

        Actually if you look at the expanded universe, Star Wars has a lot of potential for stories. And even if you ignore all the novels and comics and stuff, and just examine the core of the franchise via the films, there’s a lot more than just “good force users fight evil force users”. There’s intergalactic politics and thousands of worlds upon which stories could be based. And let’s not forget the eons of history within that universe that could be explored.

      • May 27, 2012 at 11:20 pm — Reply

        I think saying Trek is “richer” is really only from a certain point of view. Trek has had more series and movies than Star Wars, sure. But given the Expanded Universe canon of Star Wars, there is a pretty rich cohesive universe to draw from there as well. Trek has a pretty rich EU as well, but it isn’t as cohesive (several novels contradict each other as well as the series of shows and movies and it was only fairly recently that they began to create a bit more cohesion there with some connected novel series).

        I’m not saying one is better than the other, though. They both have some pretty great stories, have had great creators working on them, etc. There is a lot to draw from both franchises that could make for interesting series for each.

  7. Oldcomicfan
    May 26, 2012 at 9:36 pm — Reply

    You don’t need to eat crow – until with the exception of The Dark Knight Films and the recent Marvel movies -the first two Spiderman films – and the Rocketeer, comic book to movie adaptations have blown chunks. We’re living in the golden age of comic book adaptations, and it took, what 80 years for them to finally get it right. That’s NOT a good track record. And movie to comic book adaptations have sucked just as badly. I’ve never seen a single one that was worth the paper it was printed on except as toilet tissue, and I am a comic book fan. The art is usually stiff and staid, the characters never look like the actors, and the comics rarely follow the script properly and can’t portray the action of the movie. I’ve always felt comic book adaptations of movies were a waste of resources.

    As for what would be nice to adapt – Taylor Anderson’s “Destroyerman” books would make great movies or comic books. I’d like to see the comic “Starstruck” done as a series of big budget movies. I think Courtney Crumrin would make a great TV show. And Alan Bradley’s Flavia DeLuce mysteries would make good comic books if done right.

    I wonder why it is that great books make great movies, but great comic books rarely do? Do movie producers just not “get” it, or do comics have fundamental flaws in the writing – so that once you separate the story from the art, it can’t stand alone? The success of the Marvel Movies and the DC animated movies argues that the problem is with the movie producers and not with the source materials, and the duds that were the Green Lantern and Green Hornet movies would seem to support this theory.

  8. Mdr
    May 26, 2012 at 11:04 pm — Reply

    I think the Legion would work well in a tv or film adaptation, live acion or (another) animated. They don’t have to have anything before them be done to make them possible, like avengers did, nd if they didnt want to make superboy a charactr they could do what their first show did nd hav them take supes the day b4 he leevs for metropolis

  9. Xian
    May 26, 2012 at 11:22 pm — Reply

    I don’t think its a matter of property or medium (expect insofar as reflected by the failures of the past) as it is a matter of execution. We’ve had a number of excellent “impossible to adapt” works over the past decade… but as in anything, excellency is by its nature rare; bell curve and all that.

    That means that mentioning any specific property and medium isn’t going to resolve your issue with adaptation except to the extent that you might intuit that the barrier to execution is lower in any particular combination (but that seems like a backwards way to convince someone that something can be great: trying to argue it needs only mediocrity to accomplish).

    Successful adaptation to me, probably comes down to a combination of four main factors:
    1) A personal understanding of the appeal of the source material and the ability to communicate that;
    2) A personal mastery of the medium (including an understanding of its appeal and strengths) and the freedom to exercise that mastery;
    3) Approaching adaptation as an art (rather than tolerating it merely as a necessity to exploit a license);
    4) Resources (all the love and understanding in the world won’t allow you to create certain types of content in certain mediums without the appropriate amount of money / time / labor).

    Even without the inherent issues involved with licensing and adapting, 2) and 4) are already arguably a big ask of content creators working with entirely original IP… how much stuff, in general, is excellent period? Adapting is just another hurdle but not one that’s impossible to overcome and blissful when it is.

    In general, however, the mediums I’d like to see more comic properties in more are AAA-quality videogames (rather that license mining), Disney/Pixar-quality feature length animations, and documentaries.

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