A future full of bug-eyed monsters and square-jawed astronauts with ray guns returns in July, as IDW Publishing debuts its new line of “MGM Drive-In Theater” line with “IT!: The Terror from Beyond Space” #1. The three planned MGM series, of which only “IT!” has been announced, will reimagine classic sci-fi films as four-issue comic book miniseries. The original “IT!” film was released in 1958 and takes place in the “futuristic” world of 1973, when astronauts sent to Mars to rescue the crew of a previous shuttle that had crash-landed discover only one survivor, whom they believe to have murdered his companions. The survivor, however, Col. Edward Carruthers, insists that a strange creature is responsible for his the death of his crew. The IDW series, written by Dara Naraghi with art by Mark Dos Santos, will update the story but retain much of the 1950s sci-fi feel. CBR News spoke with Naraghi about “IT!,” what he’ll change, and what remains the same.
Naraghi confessed that, though he considers himself a big fan of sci-fi and fantasy, he hasn’t seen many classics of the genre. “Sure, I’m familiar with some of the more influential ones, and I’ve seen a fair share of the truly bad ones on ‘MST3K,’ but I actually watched ‘IT!’ for the first time before writing up my proposal,” the writer said. “The three things that struck me upon watching it were 1) how closely the plot resembles that of ‘Alien’ (which is no surprise, as Ridley Scott has mentioned it as an influence), 2) the skillful way the film makers used the confined spaces to generate tension and anxiety, and 3) the anachronistic elements that seem humorous to our modern sensibilities (like half the crew often sitting around smoking cigarettes…on a space ship!)”
Aside from the direct influence on “Alien,” Naraghi noted that many writers and directors of Ridley Scott’s generation grew up with sci-fi matinee films like “IT!,” often carrying some of the movie’s sensibilities forward into their own works.
“The horrifying, neigh-indestructible space monster had been a staple of the genre in books and short stories prior to these movies, but of course movies like ‘IT!’ provided the visuals to bring those elements into the forefront of popular culture,” he said.
As with many adaptations, Naraghi will be keeping the core of “IT!” intact while updating the particulars of the story. “As with the best of stories, the core of ‘IT!’ to me is the human drama. Sure, the monster is scary, the rocket ship is ‘futuristic,’ and so on, but ultimately the movie hinges on how the crew members can come together to defeat the creature,” Naraghi said. “Naturally, this is complicated by clashing personalities, jealousies, fear, anger and all the other elements that make us relate to, care about and ultimately cheer on the protagonists. So I’ll be hinging my update on the personal dramas, as well as the action. Oh, and people smoking on the rocket ship!”
Though he’s writing this in 2010 rather than 1958, Naraghi’s take on “IT!” will have a substantially retro feel. He described the process of crafting a story that feels like a classic but is directed at modern readers as part of the challenge – and the fun – of the series. “What I tried to do was keep the actual storytelling very straight forward, but make the story a bit more modern,” Naraghi explained. “So, for example, we’re going with a clean art style, traditional page layouts and panels, expository caption boxes and old-school thought balloons! But the story, and especially the characters, were updated to appeal to more modern sensibilities. I changed the all-white crew to a more multi-cultural one, moved the female characters into more prominent roles (in the movie they actually spend part of their time fetching coffee for the men!), and introduced a few additional layers of complexity, such as ulterior motives and conspiracies. But at the same time, I kept the overall tone of the story upbeat and adventurous.
“In fact, one of the lines in my proposal was ‘This is a world of sleek, stainless steel rocket ships and spirited explorers, not corporate oligarchies and blue-collar space miners.'”
Even with the changes, though, Naraghi said there would not be significant alterations to the plot. “Trying to modernize the technology and the look of the movie, in my opinion, would have just made it into a copy of ‘Alien.’ So my pitch was to embrace the B-movie aesthetics of the original movie, and even amp up the ‘retro sci-fi’ look and feel,” the writer told CBR. “Ray guns, fishbowl helmets, control rooms full of bulky monitors and switches and levers, the whole nine yards. The storyline keeps fairly close to the original, as do most of the characters, except I dropped a few of the extraneous ones, and as I mentioned earlier, made the women much more integral. The climactic battle with the monster is a bit different, though. Overall, I’d like to think it remains quite faithful to the source material, but with a more sophisticated and involved story.”
Though further “MGM Drive-In” series are planned, “IT!” will be the only feature written by Naraghi. While he wouldn’t spoil what IDW and MGM have coming next down the pipeline, Naraghi did say, “maybe I can just let it slip that the next drive-in movie is a twisted little horror tale…”