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LYING IN THE GUTTERS VOLUME 2 COLUMN 9

Sorry for the delay. E-mail cockups. All sorted now.

Blah blah blah rumour column. Blah blah blah gossip from the comics indusyry. Blah blah red light, blah amber light, blah green light. Blah blah blah…

52 COMIC PICK UP

[Yellow Light]

Hot from the convention floor is this little project from DC’s stables. Currently called “52,” though that might change, it’s a planned weekly comic from DC.

Hasn’t been one of those since “Action Comics Weekly,” and that wasn’t a barnstorming success. However, “52” ties in with the much anticipated One Year Gap.

Spread across the DC Universe, it will cover what happened in the Gap, chronologically, week by week, using a number of creative teams– which will naturally include Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison and Mark Waid along the way.

Should be a DC continuity fans’ dream– and an instant fillip for DC market share.

SLEEPER MOVIE SLIPS OUT

[Green Light]

At San Diego, DC peeps were talking about Tom Fontana (“St Elsewhere,” “Homicide,” “Oz”) writing a new “Batman” graphic novel.

What they didn’t mention is that Fontana is considering writing the screenplay for a movie adaptation of the Wildstorm series “Sleeper” by Ed Brubaker. More on that can be found at the end of this article.

Currently “Sleeper” is being prepped as either a TV series or a movie. But if either goes ahead, I reckon that’s another “season” of that comic book series commissioned right there.

THE V FOR VENDETTA SCRIPT REVIEW

Last week, a kindly insider sent me a script to “V For Vendetta”.

[Green Light]

Cards on the table. I consider “V For Vendetta” to be one of Alan Moore’s greatest comic book works, up there with “A Small Killing” and “From Hell” (and leagues above “Watchmen”). And I’m the guy who broke the story about Alan Moore taking “League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen” from DC, over a disagreement with Warner Bros over a fictional version of Moore’s reaction to the “V For Vendetta” movie being used to promote the film.

I also like the “Matrix.” A lot. And “Reloaded.” And “Revolutions.” I even really like the ending. Shut up, I really do. Yes you, shut up. No I don’t care, sit down all of you. I’ve got a hammer…

That’s better.

First, remember this is the script, not the movie. Always a big difference. Not only that, but it’s a second draft, dated September 2004. Things may have changed. And the act of making the movie will also change. However, experience has shown that this only exacerbates diversions, rather than trims them or brings them back to the original text. Also, the Wachowskis have been working on this since before “The Matrix,” so it’s pretty much far along the route. And with that, I think that’s the last of my cards on the table here. Obviously I’m some kind of purist who would only be happy with a camera panning over the panels of the comic book. Well, not in this case – and I also think “Sin City” didn’t work for that very reason.

So. “V For Vendetta” movie script– without any excessive spoilerage, what’s it like?

Well, as you might have guessed, it’s not the comic book. Sorry Natalie, I heard your lovely tones on from San Diego, expressing that “The script is very faithful to the comic book… it’s just been condensed.” You’re wrong. The script diverges incredibly from the comic.

Is that a bad thing? Maybe not for the movie. The movie may be great, may draw people to the work, but will be mistaken for the work. I know a number of people who won’t read “League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen” because the film sucked, or who won’t read “From Hell” because they know “whodunit.” While the film can’t affect the original work, it can affect the perceptions of those yet to read it.

But does that matter? You pay your money, you see a great film, so what if it’s nothing like the original?

Good points all, but you know, I just can’t let it go. Which means it’s going to be one of those nit-picking fanboy reviews that everyone hates so much.

The scripts start with the death of Guy Fawkes. which kicks off the first major problem with this adaptation. Once Guy Fawkes is in, it’s hard to get him out. In the comic, V dresses up as Guy Fawkes, but this is not often referred to – treated more as subtext. He dresses as Fawkes to echo the actions of an earlier terrorist, but that’s all. In the movie script, it’s text. V is reprising Guy’s role much more directly and the film talks about Guy a lot more. So something has to give, and that’s Anarchy. This is no longer V’s defining attribute and it’s been excised altogether. The Anarchy vs Justice conversation has to go, as does the Crowley references, as does the V sign representing the Anarchy symbol, as does the idea of anarchy being a force for good against such repression. And the anarchic idea of psychedelic drugs freeing the detective’s mind to successfully hunt down V? It’s all gone. The driving theme of “V For Vendetta” is gone, to justify the extended use of Guy Fawkes at the beginning.

And as one major theme drops, the rest seem to fall with it. V’s address to the nation through the television station he takes over is no longer from the point of God to his Creation, but to explain the whole Guy Fawkes thing again.

Also this plays into Evey’s story. In the comic, she’s a “lost soul,” a 16 year old who drifts into prostitution. Her parents are dead, killed by the state, but she’s a normal person, trying to get by. In the movie she’s already radicalised. She holds and expresses anti-state views and was as revolutionary as her parents. She can’t just be an ordinary person who becomes a terrorist, those seeds have to be more firmly sown using sledgehammer storytelling methods. Boom! She objects to the state media. Boom! She was a political radical before. Boom! It’s much safer for an audience to believe that terrorists have to be indoctrinated at an early stage, rather than be normal people who have it brought out of them– a much scarier prospect.

But even as a result of this– Evey being caught by the Fingermen for breaking a curfew rather than for being a prostitute on her first night out– the attempt rape of her blurs less moral boundaries in the audience’s mind. There is still a belief that prostitutes “bring it on themselves” which the original exploited, the movie script passes this by for straight black and white, good and evil. And despite participants in the movie stating that this film doesn’t do black-and-white morality, it’s ever-present in the script.

Some people have objected to the already-reported everyone-dressed-as-V crowd scene at the end. It is set up in the script, and since anarchy is no longer a theme for the character, what’s wrong with everyone wearing Guy Fawkes costumes?

And as for the costume– in the comic, it’s very much used as a way to show an idea made flesh. V is a political poster, he is a flag, a button, an icon. This script skims over that and seems more concerned with the “cool” aspects of the surface, a glamorisation of terrorism and its mythology.

So what additions do work? A worldwide disaster being brought about by plague rather than nuclear war, is much more believable– although as Moore later set, he was naive to think this is what it would take to knock a country into fascism. There is a cool fight scene. Well, the Voice Of Fate is now The Voice Of London, a shock jock, with a touch of Fox News. It’s better than it sounds, but does make the focus of media criticism more American– a willing accomplice to the state, rather than part and parcel of it.

Aside from these, I’m struggling to find a change that improves the project, rather than weakens it. But for me, the most haunting part of the “V For Vendetta” the comic book, is the Valerie sequence. A shaved Evey reading the words of a fellow prisoner. Much of it has been kept intact, and reading it off the script pages still tore my guts out as it did when I first read it in the comic book.

V’s home, the Shadow Gallery, that most juxtaposed of places seems identically described and used. Larkshill, The murder of Dr Surridge and the bishop. The roses.The power of the mask. All here, all working splendidly.

But throughout there seems to be that less subtle, blatant sledgehammer school of storytelling, when the original was far daintier. There’s less philosophy behind the action. More modern satirical twists than the addressing of the ever-present great themes of modern society and government. The mood seems to stay constant, where the comic made huge swathes in totally different tones to the rest of it. And the dialogue seems a mix between HBO American shows and Dick Van Dyke. Which means nice and snappy, but when it tries to be British it’s as authentic as a jolly ‘olifay wiv Mary.

The most annoying this is that in many ways David Lloyd’s art for “V For Vendetta” is a storyboard for a movie in its own right – far more than “Sin City” could ever have been. After the first, early chapters, Moore drops comics narrative tricks and the comic behaves like a movie in a way Watchmen, say, never did. Comparing like for like, there seem to be so many needless changes, reflecting what the Wachowskis believe is clever rather than what Moore did.

Oh, and Love Conquers All as well.

It’s a tragic thing to say that this is the most authentic translation of Alan Moore comics into movies, that I can see. But that’s only because the others have been “Swamp Thing,” “Constantine,” “From Hell” and “League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen.”

I think this will be a fun movie. I like the Wachowski movies. And unlike “From Hell,” “Constantine,” and “League,” I may actually feel moved to go and see this one in the cinema. This flawed, twisted mockery of a script may yet inspire a wonderfully visionary and startling movie that hammers home the unreality of modern life, of freedom and anarchy, of democracy and power, of abuse, of revenge of fulfilling our potential.

Oh bloody hell, Alan was right wasn’t he. Anyone for eggy in a basket?

How about a V For Vendetta mask from San Diego.

SIGHS OF A COW

[Green Light]

“Zombie King” 0, featured last week in LITG, has been made returnable by Image Comics.

Over on the Comic Book Industry Alliance forum, a number of retailers objected to what they saw as the surprise inclusion of a splash page featuring a zombie having sex with a cow. Some felt this would be unacceptable to their customer base, or their local legislation and objected to being put in an impossible position. After some discussion, Eric Stephenson, Executive Director of Image Comics stated that “Zombie King” 0 was now returnable and has stated that Image will try to give greater elaboration over content warnings to retailers in the future.

A position which pleased everyone. With the possible exception of the cow.

DREAM WAIVE

[Green Light]

Who wants to buy a trademark?

An ad in the Globe & Mail Newspaper will call for offers to purchase the inventory and trademarks of Dreamwave. All tender offers have to be submitted to the Trustee by August 2, 2005 according to the strict terms of the Conditions of Sale Document that the trustee Robert M Shier is making available to interested parties.

Up for grabs are the trademarks for “Warlands,” “Neon Cyber,” “Shidima,” “Echo,” “Fate of The Blade,” “DW & Design,” “Garden Of The Blades,” “Limbo City,” “Arkanium,” “Nekro War,” Dreamwave, “Dark Minds,” “Capsoul” and “Sandscape.” The inventory includes tens of thousands of trades and individual issues… but no “Transformers” stock whatsoever. Could Hasbro have already seized them?

For your copy, contact Stern Cohen Shier Inc. 45 St. Clair Ave. West, Suite 1200, Toronto, Ontario, M4V 1K9, tel (416) 967-6772, fax (416) 967-7662 and shier@sterncohen.com

BITS ‘N’ PIECES

Dennis O’Neil responds to an earlier LITG, about his coincidental appointment as “Batman Begins” novelist after making enquiries to DC that he hadn’t seen the script of the new film– and so many others had. O’Neil tells me, “As I see the situation, DC had no real reason to copy me on the film script and when I indicated that I was interested in it, they rather graciously supplied me with a copy. The assignments I subsequently got were, I think, a belated recognition that I might be the right guy for them.”

After the San Diego announcement of a new “Spirit” series and a “Spirit/Batman” project, one of my favourite (but rarely updating – maybe the two things are linked) bloggers Rodrigo Baeza refers to the much longer history of the Spirit at DC. Including a planned “Spirit in Sin City” project and Dennis O’Neil originally scripting “Spirit/Batman.”

For more in the continuing saga of Pat Lee, look for a five issue stint on “Batman/Superman.”

Titan Comics are publishing the IDW “Shaun Of The Dead” series as a graphic novel for UK audiences in October, moments after the last issue of the comic series is published. Expect a little grey importing on that one.

No, I don’t know what “King” is.

SMALL PRINT

For other comic and non-comic book related nonsense, check out the Twistblog.

Discuss this column at the Lying In The Gutters Forum.

And contact me on richjohnston@gmail.com

You can also write to me at 8 Robin Hood Lane, Kingston Vale, London SW15 3PU ENGLAND

Or call me on 0780 135082 from the UK or 01144780 1350982 from the US.

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