Comics and Hollywood

I don’t much care for movies. There, I said it. Given a choice between seeing most movies and anything else, I’ll usually opt for the “anything else.”

On the contrary, I like comic books. I have found myself reading comic books that deal with topics or genres I wouldn’t normally be interested in. I love the spy thriller book Queen and Country but wouldn’t pick it up if it were regular prose fiction.

So it’s no surprise where I’m headed with this entry, in which I discuss my constant amazement at comics fans wanting their favorite books turned into movies.

Let’s be honest, folks. You can count the number of good comic book movies on one hand. Opinions may differ on what those four or five movies are, but I think damn few people can name more than five movies based on comic books that are worth seeing.

I’m not surprised that Hollywood would want to turn comics into movies – that’s what they do. Hollywood thinks everything would make a great movie, because, for the most part, Hollywood has a taste for crap. But comics fans? People who love the medium, the characters, the writing, the artwork?

How does someone close the cover of Watchmen and say, “Wow, that was really good, but it would be so much better if it were a bunch of people on a big screen wearing tights.” I don’t want to see a Watchmen movie. Watchmen has already been done, and it’s been done right. What about Hollywood makes anyone think that such an enterprise would have good results? What improvements would a big-screen version of Watchmen make?

Don’t get me wrong, I liked the Hellboy movie as much as the next guy, but given a choice between watching it again or re-reading Seed of Destruction, I’m going to opt for the latter in a heartbeat.

Books such as Sleeper, Sandman, The Losers, and more are already garnering mass critical acclaim. They get attention both within and outside of regular comics readership. Yet for many people, this isn’t enough — the books won’t really be successful until they have a chance to bomb at the box office. (Some folks are talking about turning Brian Wood’s Demo into a TV series — because the only thing better than movies of comic books is TV shows of comic books, right?)

Many folks will point to the spike in Hellboy trade paperback sales and say that, whatever you feel about the movie, it seems to have driven some folks to try out the books, which is a good thing. I don’t deny that. But isn’t it sad when people point to a third-rate version of a first-rate comic as a sign of “success”? I’m reminded when Frank Miller rode the success of the original Dark Knight Returns — a modern masterpiece of comics work — to slum in Hollywood doing scripts for crap like Robocop 3. Why? Because being one of the best comics writers is still not as good as being one of the crappiest Hollywood screenwriters. And that’s sad, and that doesn’t do any favors towards getting people to “take comics seriously”.

The god-awful League of Extraordinary Gentlemen movie, I may remind you, was based on a fantastic book by the incomparable Alan Moore, with a screenplay written by the very talented James Robinson. And the result was so bad, it made Doctor Doom cry.

You all can keep your Watchmen movies and Sandman starring Johnny Depp and Maus starring that guy from American Pie and some random blonde chick. Keep reaching for that rainbow with the magical pot of gold at the end of it that will dazzle everyone and convert all the heathens to the wonders of comics. I’ll be happy reading some damn fine books and appreciating them for what they are.

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