Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Sadhu And The Enigma

The idea behind the Virgin comics line seems to be to bring the world of movies and the world of comic books closer together. Of course, they could hardly be any closer - both are pictorial mediums, generally narrative in structure, and the genre trappings most popular in many comic books - superheroes, mainly - are now also the very same genre trappings most popular in many films.

Basically put however, the physical limitiations of each medium restrict them from coming any closer - see what happens, for example, if you try to turn the page of your local cinema screen to see what is coming next - but as media go, comics and movies are certainly much, much more intertwined than, say, TV and radio or Theatre and video games.

The two have been closing in on eachother for the best part of a decade, culminating in such successful hybrids as the hyper-noir expressionism of Sin City or the 'jump-cut panels' opening sequence of American Splendor. Sometimes, the distinctions between the two media are unwittingly exaggerated, such as Ang Lee's split-screen compositions and CGI transitions in The Hulk, which took the language of film further away from that of comics, not closer to it.

But this is all fairly irrelevant in Virgin Comics' plans for the two media. They want to bring comics and movies together not in any aesthetic sense - but purely in business terms.

Just announced is a big screen adaptation of their comics series The Sadhu. Created by Gotham Chopra, the screenplay adaptation is being written by his father, Deepak. To star, and co-produce, is Nic Cage who, in a strange father-and-son echo of the Chopra's collaboration, is also writing a comic for Virgin with his own 15 year old boy. It is, fittingly, going to be called The Enigma (as in "What were they thinking?", "What's wrong with Nicolas Cage?" and "How on earth did this get to a third issue?")

There is probably some massaging of egos going on here - an international, well-moneyed comic book publisher can't get somebody better to write on of their titles than Nicolas Cage and a teenage boy? A comic book needs to be adapted for the big screen and there's nobody more suited to the job than the writer's dad? - but mainly, I think it's a quite desperate and out of touch attempt at hype, at marketing through the drumming up of marquee names.

Cage is a misfire, though, to say the least. If there is such a thing as 'the comic book community' and if they do have any significant effect on box office for movies, their feelings for Nic Cage (running all the way from mild disdain to full on apathy, I expect) will be made abundantly clear when Ghost Rider flops dismally in the new year. And Deepak Chopra? Please.

Virgin Comics are sitting on some great unexploded bombs, however, in the shape of the unproduced Terry Gilliam films I detailed in a previous post here on film ick. Not particularly likely to get the tills ringing like a Las Vegas jackpot, the chances are that they could actually be very good. In fact, if the translation to comic book is handled properly, they could be truly amazing.

Gilliam's interest is in seeing these unproduced tales eventually be made as films, I believe. Perhaps some respectable sales on the comic book scale (where we're talking figures in the thousands, not millions) could convince producers to be a little more daring with him, but if any subsequent films then stand or fall at the box office, it won't have a thing to do with the comic books, just the films themselves, and - sadly, of course - their marketing.

Virgin should stop trying to milk lowest commom denominator comics with a pseudo-spiritual spin or half-baked tie-ins with disinterested filmmakers and simply set about the business of looking for good creators and letting them create. Where else did Spider-Man, Superman, Ghost World or American Splendor begin?


Big Al said...

not sure if you'd gotten this bit and written it off as pap, but apparently nicholas cage is attached to The Sadhu


Mark said...

I think Virgin Comics launching a title called "The Enigma" will get DC/Vertigo/Pete Milligan/Duncan Fegredo's lawyers' knickers in a twist. Now that was a comic, and still in print. Highly recommended.