Comix/flix, Part 1
(I’ve sent in my acceptance of admission to the Northwestern MFA program in Writing for the Screen and Stage. So, naturally, I’m questioning the value of what I’ll be doing for the next 2 years.)
The comic book is the ideal form of a screenplay.
I first had this thought after watching Sin City, and I’ve been reminded of it recently watching V for Vendetta and reading Art Spiegelman’s Maus. When Sin City was released, there was plenty of talk about the movie being the most faithful comic book picture ever produced; it was a translation into a different medium rather than merely an adaptation; Richard Rodriguez reproduced the comic book nearly shot for shot and brought Frank Miller, the book’s creator, into the process of the filmmaking. It was a gorgeous bit of work—splashes of color against cold post-industrial steel—and I was sure I hadn’t seen anything this visually vigorous in a long time. The second time around (another 9 bucks to the box office), a hollowness started to sound, but the images of Sin City certainly retained their kick. It was brilliant, I thought: if screenplays are outlines, a comic book is a map. (I’m ignoring, for today, the other reason Sin City was revolutionary: its use of digital technology.)
It’s not that there’s anything new about making movies based on comic books (or graphic novels, whichever you prefer)—Superman, Batman, Spiderman: name a hero and you’ll find a movie (not to mention those indie normal-folks comix and their attendant flix, like Ghost World or the great American Splendor)—the trick is to realize (in the full sense) the multifaceted content of the source material. I mean translating not only the story and style of a graphic novel, but also the visual thrust of each frame by frame.
Perhaps I’m not at all original. Any film auteur will create a comic book of the screenplay, either on paper or in his mind. The storyboard is the logical conclusion of my line of reasoning. The Wachowski brothers, for example, who recently brought us the enjoyable V for Vendetta (an adaptation of an Alan Moore graphic novel), hired a couple of comic book artists to illustrate a shot-by-shot storyboard of the first Matrix in order to convince Warner Brothers to let them direct it.
This post boils down to a statement of the affinity between the graphic novel and the motion picture; the sequential frames of the comic book naturally expand into the 24 frames per second of film and make the standard Courier 12-pt of the canonical script scream out for something more.
But, for now, maybe I'll just work on classical dramatic form.