Hardly a week goes by that some film studio or producer doesn’t snatch up the rights to a comic book, intent on transforming the property into the next big Hollywood franchise. While it’s rare for one of those projects to move beyond the development stage, it’s rarer still for the people involved to go out of their way to stress what a movie isn’t based on.
Such is the case with Dodge and Twist, a sequel of sorts to Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist from Sony Pictures, said to be based on an idea by producer/actor/writer Ahmet Zappa. The third paragraph of The Hollywood Reporter announcement reads, “The project is set on an idea by Zappa and not on the more serious book of the same name by Tony Lee.”
That book would be Dodge & Twist, a graphic novel by Lee and Paul Peart-Smith announced as early as 2007 that at one point was targeted for release by AiT/Planet Lar (you can still see an unedited 19-page preview on the company’s website). Although the graphic novel was never published, Lee released Dodge & Twist in 2011 as a prose ebook set 12 years after the events of Dickens’ classic, with Oliver forced to assist the Artful Dodger in stealing in the Koh-I-Noor diamond from the Great Exhibition of 1851.
By contrast, Zappa’s Dodge and Twist, which will feature a script by Cole Haddon (NBC’s Dracula), picks up 20 years after Oliver Twist, with Oliver and the Artful Dodger now on opposite sides of the law and “embroiled in an affair to steal the Crown Jewels.” So … there.
The similarities, and the odd name check in The Hollywood Reporter article, doesn’t sit well with Lee, who contends he met with Zappa about his graphic novel in 2008 and 2009, when the latter was involved with Disney’s Kingdom Comics. “Apparently it’s suitably different enough to get away with it,” Lee wrote on Twitter. “The GN of DODGE & TWIST never happened but if you Google, you’ll see it’s been out there for years. Any copyright lawyers feel like playing? […] I’m not expecting to get anything on this, it’s based on a public domain work after all. Just sucks that I know it was discussed.”