Episode 1: Bring Out The Canon!
Hello viewers. Welcome to the first exciting episode of “Prepared To Be Adapted,” a new column for Airlock Alpha. I know what youre thinking : “So, what is it about?” Good question.
In each thrilling episode of adventure I will be covering graphic novels (the “grown-up” word for comic books) that either have been adapted to television/movies or television/movies adapted to graphic novels. Heck, Ill even cover an occasional video game adapted to a television series or movie (heaven knows there are enough of those out there).
You will be entertained and educated. Yes, it shall be a happy time of edutainment for all.
So, enough blabbing, let us begin.
Adaptations of graphic novels for film and television are big business. Im constantly surprised by how many people dont realize their favorite movie was adapted from one. They are not just your usual superhero stories, like Spider-Man or Batman. “300,” “Men In Black,” “Timecop,” “A History of Violence,” “Crow,” “Sin City,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “V for Vendetta,” “Ghost World,” “Road to Perdition,” “The Mask,” “Constantine,” “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” “Judge Dredd,” “From Hell,” “Tank Girl,” “Bulletproof Monk,” “Painkiller Jane,” and so many more (fingers : tiring) come from humble graphic novel origins. Yes, the adaptation of graphic novels is big business and it aint going anywhere.
It really isnt that big of a surprise. One step of making a film is storyboarding and heck, the graphic novel has already done most of the work for you. You can see a visual style, which helps a director develop a vision for a film.
But adapting anything to a new medium always comes with criticisms. They either change a story to much, add controversial characters, remove popular characters, or (and Im often puzzled by this) change a characters name.
Ive only been studying/working in film for a short period of time, but it has been long enough to appreciate how different the rules are for film compared to comi : cough : graphic novels.
Graphic novels dont have to worry about budgets. This is one of the best things about graphic novels. They can show anything visually. Imagination and drawing skills are the only limitations. Ever increasing technology is helping bridge this gap, but it can get pricey. Actually, the technology now allows film to do just about anything, but the budget is what limits the possibilities.
Graphic novels have characters constantly talking to themselves, which may work in soaps, but not in films.
Graphic novels dont have actors. Actors are both a blessing and a curse. They can breath new life into a character, helping to take the character in entirely new directions that a writer may have never thought of without seeing the actors performance. But when actors perform badly, just doesnt look the part, quit or are fired, it also takes the character into unexpected directions that fans may not like.
The realities of costumes. What may look super cool on the graphic novel page often looks odd or just plain stupid in live action. It sucks, but it forces costume redesigns that are not always popular with the fans.
Blah, blah : I can go on. But I will talk about these issues and others in far more depth in later columns. Today I want to talk about canon.
Canon means official or accepted. In this case it means something that officially is recognized as part of the continuity of a storys “universe.” To most diehard fans, canon is king. If it aint canon, it aint worth their time. Anything else is either cheap fan fiction or expensive fan fiction.
Now continuity is a tricky beast that often gets ignored by writers when a series has gone on for years. Dont get me started on how many graphic novel writers get lazy on their research or how TV writers sometimes :cough : Enterprise : cough : ignore continuity.
But Im not going to get into all of that. No, Im going to talk about adaptations of television and film to graphic novels and where they fit in canon-wise. You see, there have been adaptations of television shows and movies to graphic novels (Star Wars, Star Trek, CSI, “24,” Predator, Aliens, GI Joe, Transformers, He-Man, etc) for decades. But usually these stories arent considered canon. They are ignored and snubbed by the TV or movie writers. Yup, basically just expensive fan fiction.
But Star Wars was one of the first to change the rules. Although some would argue the details, it was Alan Dean Fosters novel “Splinter of the Minds Eye” in February 1978 that changed everything. Considered part of Star Wars Expanded Universe, it and many future Star Wars novels are considered canon.
When Dark Horse acquired the graphic novel license in the early 90s, they went crazy with book after book of excellent graphic novels all considered official and adding to the Expanded Universe. Characters and events from the Expanded Universe have been weaved into Episode I-III (for example, the Twilek Jedi Aayla Secura was originally created for the Dark Horse graphic novels) and Im sure we will be seeing even more in the upcoming live-action TV series. Heck, most diehard Star Wars fans can tell you things like: who Luke Skywalker married, who the Yuuzhan Vong are, which major character dies post-episode IV, what is the Great Hyperspace War, etc. These are things that only someone who reads the Expanded Universe novels or graphic novels could possibly know. It has even expanded into video games and animation. The Expanded Universe is a great example of how a franchise can grow beyond just one medium of storytelling.
Currently Dark Horse has graphic novel lines that cover the time periods of the Old Republic, post-Episode III, post-Episode IV, and the Legacy years. In case you dont know, the Legacy years are more than 100 years after Episode IV.
Dark Horse is doing a first, a yearlong Star Wars crossover between all of their titles starting this January with Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic No. 25. It is titled “Vector” and Dark Horse has been pretty quiet about what it is about. All we know is that it is a galaxy-spanning story that will have repercussions for every era.
Star Wars may have been the first to buck the no canon bandwagon for graphic novel adaptations, but they arent the last. My man, Joss Whedon has joined in with “Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8” and the upcoming “Angel: After The Fall (Season 6)” graphic novel series.
They arent just set in the same setting they are actually officially continuing the stories of these fan favorite shows. If you are a Buffyverse fan, you have to check these out.
Here is a quick and brief run-down of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8” (Major Spoilers for the next two paragraphs):
The story starts roughly a year and half after the series finale. There are now over 1,800 slayers in the world. Buffy and the Scoobies have organized around 500 of them spread out into 10 squads all over the world. For Buffys protection there are slayers who volunteer to become Buffy impersonators, and we learn it was one of these impersonators who is dating the Immortal, not Buffy.
Elements of the U.S. government have labeled Buffys slayers as terrorists and blame them for the destruction of Sunnydale. An Intitiative-like government group has teamed up with two baddies from Buffys past, but they fail. In issue No. 5 we have a standalone story that shows us what it is like to be a Buffy lookalike. In issue No. 6 we start a story arc focusing on Faith. Written by Brian K. Vaughan, this story is based on the original script for a proposed Faith TV movie. Faith is sent by Giles to go undercover among British royalty and assassinate an evil Slayer. Meanwhile there is a mysterious recurring symbol and the word Twilight which is sure to lead to major trouble for the Scooby gang.
The upcoming Angel series from IDW starts next month and picks up right after the Season 5 finale. It is loosely based on the original concept for Season 6. Not much else is known except that we will see the return of characters like Gwen Raiden and Connor.
Needless to say Im loving this return to the Buffyverse and Im happy to see the Buffyverse getting their own Expanded Universe. I hope this new Buffyverse Expanded Universe continues to grow and hopefully we will see more shows that have been canceled find new, official, life in graphic novels.
But I still cant help but beg Joss, and whoever else will listen, to please create a new spinoff TV series, TV movie, direct-to-DVD, or Web series. “Babylon 5” and “Farscape” are both seeing new life with these new ways of distribution. Why not the Buffyverse, too?
Fade To Black
Well, Im done with my rambling for now. Only one thing left that I need to say. There is a graphic novel to film adaptation that came out this past week. It is a vampire flick called 30 Days of Night, about vampires that invade a town in Alaska that is so far north that during the winter the sun doesnt rise for 30 days.
So, there you go. I hope you enjoyed this first episode. Please tune in again for more rambling.
Until then : Marx out.
Marx Pyle is a staff writer for Airlock Alpha, contributing from Vancouver, B.C. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.