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Comics for Other Media

Greetings, Maniacs, and welcome to another week of The NoFly Zone! Last week, we talked about some of the mechanics and quirks of adapting comics for movies and televisionand the other way around. It was the usual art school stuff we like around here, about how you translate static images into moving pictures and the like. This week, we’re going to get into some even headier territory when we take on prose, video games, and even verse. Now, there have been a lot of prose adaptations of comics, most of it being superhero stuff. There are a lot of novels featuring Batman, Superman, SpiderMan, and the like. Some of them are original stories, and others are adapted from comics. Both 52 and Crisis on Infinite Earths were rewritten as novels in the past few years. If someone wears a blue costume in an image, we see it. It doesn’t need to be stated outright. It’s not just a comic by Garth Ennis or Warren Ellis. We’ve all seen wellwritten comics with bad art, and viceversa. They’re only responsible for the skeleton of a story and some snappy dialogue. If you can’t write prose, it shows immediately. If you suck, your readers will catch on quickly (unless it’s Twilight, which is apparently beyond reproach). But, any story can be good. Comics are great, but you can’t fill up every page with captions lest it become an illustrated novel. There are comics like this (David Mack’s work comes to mind), but they’re different than reading a series of sequential images with dialogue and limited descriptive passages. You either shine or fail. You can’t hide bad writing. A prose adaptation of a comic could, if done well, really elevate the experience by giving us a more internal look at the story. For a comic to cover a comparable amount of storytelling ground as a novel, it would have to be unrealistically longer. Imagine sound effects spelled out. Like all art, 99% of writing isn’t very good. A decent comic, when gracelessly transferred to prose, can expose the story’s shortcomings very quickly. Granted, publishers can always try original stories featuring comic characters, and then it’s anyone’s game. But, those aren’t really adaptationsjust original stories with comic characters. Regardless, prose doesn’t always have the same impact as striking images. It has other strengths that comics do not share this site (far be it from us to beat up on books), but in comics, things are intended to be seen and not described and imagined. Some mediums work with images and others with words. Some use both and we are meant to experience them that way. Neither is inherently inferior.

The Other Way Around:

Comic adaptations of novels have become surprisingly popular in the past few years. Marvel has its Anita Blake books. Stephen King’s work has made its way to comicsincluding the fourth book of The Dark Tower series, The Stand, and The Talisman (which he cowrote with Peter Straub). The publisher Graphic Classics only adapts novels, short stories, and poetry (more on that later). It’s common enough in comics, going all the way back to Classics Illustrated. It’s fun to read them our world gem codes generator in that we like seeing the artist’s vision of the story, provided we can set our own aside for a bit. On the down side, a lot of booktocomic adaptations are painfully condensed. We’ve seen Dracula done in 48 pages and it wasn’t pretty. And, part of the enjoyment in reading a novel arises from the writing itself. The story doesn’t actually matter as much as the telling. It’s how you serve it to the reader. Comic adaptations too often take the skeleton of the story, illustrate it, and throw in some of the dialogue. It can be done well, but it’s best when the adaptation stands on its ownas if the original story hadn’t existed.

Video Games The Gist:

Video gamesat least the narrative, immersive sortare a strange medium in that they often mesh a story with a game. It’s not like playing chess. Video games, oftentimes, have a narrative that the reader helps play out by making the right choices in sequence. Yes, you, the player, can take varying routes in a lot of the openended games these days, but the paths to the final goals are sethowever many of them there may be. And yes, there are games like Wii Bowling or whatever, but most games adapted from comics are going to have a narrative format (or be fighting games with comic characters, but you follow). The argument about whether video games are artalong with their general fight for respectabilityhas been going on for a while, and it likely will settle out in their favor. They’re popular and the masses usually get their way. But, a comic is a story played out with still images and words. The creators have control of what you see, though you can interpret it after however you want. With video games, you have more control over your experience of the story. Granted, every game has boundaries. But, if you want SpiderMan to just stand there on the street corner for 23 hours staring into space, he will. Every movement is unique to your experience. When a video game adapts a comic, it rarely uses a particular story or arc (though it’s happened before) in lieu of taking a character and creating a new story. Rarely do game players get to relive Grant Morrison’s run on New XMen. There is something joyous about assuming the role of a beloved character and interacting in a fictional world. With the right mechanics, sound effects, and balance between story and gameplay, it can be a lot of fun. Video games can be an immersive, enjoyable experience in that they dole out novelty faster than a nickel slot machine. Push the button and something cool happens. You are part of the story. They’re addictive and they’re fun, when done well. They are games that follow a path. You can follow a series of motionsgather resources, solve puzzles, and kill things to advance the story. But, you can’t experience it the exact way a creator could dictate in another format. The designers can set a series of paths and potential outcomes, but every single time you play a game, it’s different. The guiding hand of the creators is restrained to allow the player more choice in the experience. That may sound cool and it may be fun, but it doesn’t adapt a comic so much as allow you to play a game with a similar character and setting. Given that most video games based on comics don’t actually adapt a particular story, this is even more true. You can run Batman through Arkham Asylum, but you can’t duplicate the experience of reading him as written by Grant Morrison and drawn by Dave McKean (understanding that, yes, the video game Arkham Asylum isn’t adapted from their book). The medium essentially forbids it. Some Maniacs will likely call for our heads for pointing this out, but playing a video game is different from experiencing a story via movie, comic, novel, or whatever. That makes for less of an adaptation and more of a gaming experience using the same imagery.

The Other Way Around:

There are quite a few comics based on video games. Resident Evil and Halo have both had pretty successful forays into comics. But again, we run into the same disparity between the mediums. Video games are meant to be played and experienced with you in control. Part of the pleasure comes from solving puzzles and killing things yourself. A comic book can just take the skeleton of a story that most video games need for speed no limits cheats hack have and write a set narrative around them. There’s no rule that says that a comic based on a game has to be bad (though most of them probably are), but it’s not going to duplicate the experience of playing. “Ghost Rider” by Suicide is a perennial favorite here at the secret NFZ office. That lovely song has been covered by Rollins Band and the Sisters of Mercy. If you go here, you can see a website soliciting poetry about superheroes for a poetry anthology. And finally, this is a pretty fascinating article on poems about superheroes. Needless to say, most poems and songs don’t directly adapt a particular comic. They address the characters and themes in broad strokes. They should express an essential quality of the character or story. Unlike novels, comics, or movies, poetry and music can serve as a visceral, illuminating experience that doesn’t just tell you the story, but makes you feel it with great immediacy. You won’t see “Watchmen: The Poem” anytime soon. But, there are certainly poems about Batman and Superman. You could certainly take a crack at casting a comic in verse, but it would either be of unwieldy length or so short as to rob the reader of much of the essential experience. But, like any other adaptation, the write creator can make something brilliant with any set of tools.

The Other Way Around:

This is much easier to write. There are plenty of volumes with poetry adapted into comics (not so much song lyrics, but that’s more understandable). Some of Alan Moore’s poetry has been adapted into comic form. There’s an entire volume of Victor Hugo’s poetry adapted into comics published by ComicsLit. Usually, the adapted version prints the original poem with corresponding illustrations. There’s actually more leeway for adaptation here because the comic has to adhere to the original work to a certain degree, but also has a lot of room to play around. If the poem leaves details to the imagination, then the comic artist can take the work into some really interesting placesinteresting or unbelievably inappropriate, depending on how it comes off. Unlike an adapted novel, most of the time the poem will be presented in its entirety with illustrations. This makes it less of a comic than, well, an illustrated poem, but an adaptation will be much more in sync with the original piece. Everybody can be happy.

That’s it for this week, Maniacs. Get ready for next week, because we’re pitting KickAss against KickAss! Comics and movies go head to head in next week!

Comics For Other Media