Thu, 07 Apr 2005

Apologies to all who attempted to call me last night. I muted the answering machine so that my computer repairs and early bedtime would go uninterrupted. I had a nice long sleep and woke up at 6:50 AM from a bizarre homoerotic dream where Batman was having anal sex with the Joker in order to bring about the second coming of Christ. Turned out I had no sandwich materials with which to make my lunch so, my morning routine being shortened by several minutes, I wound up arriving at the office early. I figured I’d be the first one here, but somehow I still wound up being among the last. Maybe all my co-workers had the same dream.

I wanted to say something about Sin City. It’s pretty good if you have a taste for dismemberments and eviscerations. I’m not slagging it; I don’t mind those things, and I thought the gore was handled quite artfully, if not exactly tastefully.

Frank Miller, who created the comic, is credited as the co-director of Sin City, even though he has no background in film. I imagine his involvement must have been less in the minutiae of camera placement and editing, and more in establishing the general look and feel of the thing. The result disproves the idea that art in one genre has to lose something of its character to make a transition to another genre – the usual justification of directors who wreck a good novel or comic book in transferring it to the screen.

Alan Moore, who created The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, had no involvement in making the film version of his comic book – which turned out to be an utter dud. I recall reading an interview with Moore just after the movie came out, where he justified his decision not to get involved. He quoted an old anecdote about how a friend had once asked Raymond Chandler if it bothered him how Hollywood was always “ruining” his books. Chandler took the friend into his library, pointed to his books up on the shelf, and said, “There they are, they’re fine.”

In a more recent interview, Moore confessed that he’d been naïve to assume that the public would draw a distinction between the comic book version of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and the movie blockbuster that was known, for inscrutable marketing purposes, as “LXG”. Regardless of how he tried to distance himself from the crappy adaptation, the public would assume that the source material was as crappy as the film. So his new policy is to forbid film adaptations of his work altogether.

But there is another alternative – which is to be sufficiently involved at every stage of the process that the screenwriter and director can’t ruin your vision. This seems to have worked for Frank Miller, and it worked for Daniel Clowes, who was closely involved in the adaptation of his Ghost World.

I think the point is that, while there’s nothing most of us can do to prevent Hollywood from producing boring, stupid movies, those lucky people who do have any influence should exert every effort to make sure that stupid movies don’t get made. Because movies are a large part of our culture, and a stupid culture makes every one of us stupider.

If that means going to Hollywood and arguing with the men in suits who want to cast Sean Connery in the lead role, then you should do it. If it means writing the screenplay yourself, then you should do it. If it means camping out next to the director and raising a fuss when he tries to slap a happy ending on your bleak story, then you should do it. These duties might be unpleasant, but you can’t get off the hook by saying everyone in Hollywood is cynical and corrupt, they can’t be trusted to adapt a work of literature – or even a comic book – faithfully. The truth is that they can make decent adaptations, but they usually don’t unless someone forces them to. To sell the rights to your creation and then say, “It’s out of my hands now,” is just laziness. To refuse to sell the rights to your creation at all is almost as bad. The sad truth is, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen would make a very good movie. Unfortunately, now we’re never going to get a chance to see it.

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Michael A. Charles is a writer, animator, and musician currently living in the Vancouver area. He used to be the singer and guitarist for the band known as Sea Water Bliss.

You can find a selection of his cartoons, music videos, and ads on the Gallery page.

Michael isn't on LinkedIn or Facebook or Twitter and won't be on whatever comes along next. If you need to reach him here's his contact info.

Garson Hampfield, Crossword Inker