sxswf: Fannish Fury

Rodriguez, Rucka ask who put a hit on the graphic novel adaptation

Whiteout and Sin City: The black and white of graphic novel to movie adaptations
Whiteout and Sin City: The black and white of graphic novel to movie adaptations (Images courtesy IDW/Dark Horse Comics)

It's a mystery. Seems like somebody has been giving graphic novels bad movie adaptations and a black eye to boot.

The boys upstairs called it a panel. Gave it the fancy-dancy name Of Fanboys & Fidelity – Adapting Comics For Broad Audiences. But everyone knew this was a who dunnit.

Up on the stage, the gumshoes were kicking over the traces. Robert Rodriguez knew what he was doing when he adapted Sin City. Frank Miller knew what he was doing when he wrote it. Sin City was all pug-ugly bruisers looking for redemption on the way to the chair, and dames that would make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window.

Greg Rucka knew the score, too. Lot of people didn't like how Hollywood left his big chill detective story Whiteout bleeding out in the snow. Didn't like it one bit. But he wasn't pointing fingers. Said that comics and movies are collaborative. Said they do things differently in Hollyweird. Said comics have it much rougher than real graphic novels. "A lot of superhero adaptations spend a lot of time justifying why they're doing a superhero adaptation," Rucka rumbled.

It may be hearsay, and would never stand up in a court of law, but Rucka said The Invicible Iron Man writer Matt Fraction told him a story. Seems one time some studio mook got him on the blower to ask him how they could make superheros cool. "If you don't understand that they're cool already, don't call."

"That's why I did Sin City," Rodriguez confessed. There was just one cool cat responsible for the book, and Rodriguez wasn't about to start apologizing for Mr. Miller. Some other schmoe had tried to adapt the first volume, but the script had languished on some studio guy's shelf. Rodriguez knew it wouldn't work. He knew the original, knew this wasn't some big action deal. When he was a kid over at the Daily Texan, working on the funnies, "I would walk into Austin Books and say, 'Is there a new Frank Miller, and if there wasn't I would just walk out."

Kid knew what he wanted from the film: The book, and nothing but the book. "Something I wanted to see was a direct translation of that, rather than an adaptation."

So who's the trigger man when it all goes wrong? Moderator Howard Gertler said graphic novels did it to themselves. Too complex, too many loyal fans, too much already laid out like a plugged gin runner at the morgue.

But Rodriguez wasn't buying it. "You have the same challenge if you're adapting a book," he said. He'd had help, though. Called Miller his "tour guide" so he didn't get lost in Basin City's back alleys, but that got him into trouble with the Directors Guild of America. Seems they didn't like these two bad, bad men teaming up behind the camera, so Rodriguez just quit their poker game. Like Miller told him, "I think it will say on my tomb stone, 'Does not play well with other children.'"

So what about Whiteout? There's a lot of DNA on that crime scene. The script ended up looking like a bad paternity suit, with ten names on it. "There are three scenes that I have finger prints on," Rucka said, "and they are not plot scenes. They're character scenes." He wasn't so bothered. Kept telling himself, "You're not making Whiteout. You're making a movie called Whiteout."

Problem isn't the film makers, Rucka said. Said it goes all the way to the top. Follow the money, he said. "Somewhere along the studio line … someone makes a judgment about the audience." That's the guy that decides to take the Greek myths out of Wonder Woman. May as well say, "Give me Billy the Kid, but no six guns and no horses," said Rucka. "Clark Kent wears glasses. Deal with it."

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Robert Rodriguez, Sin City, SXSW, Frank Miller, Greg Rucka, Whiteout

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