The Wednesday Waffle: Issue Twenty Five - Adapt...

March 20, 2019

A new Firefly comic hits the rack today, and the arrival of Farscape to streaming services has made me want to dig out my old Farscape comics. We see many adaptations of comics into movies and TV shows - how do we feel about franchises that go the other way?

Firefly of course is a special case. Much beloved by fans, the show was cancelled half way through the first season and while the subsequent movie Serenity was some consolation having to cram half a season of telly into a hundred and six minutes meant that we missed out on a lot of stuff we should have seen.

 

So the comics - initially published by Dark Horse and now with BOOM! - fill a Firefly shaped hole in a lot of our lives. It helps that they're also pretty good and considered canon by the series creator - and of course considering them as canon is easy because there's not very much of the show so there's less chance of continuity errors contradictions.

 

The same cannot be said of most of the other popular screen to page adaptations. Sometimes the IP owner doesn't seem to care -  the pre-Disney Star Wars comics being a case in point. Many stories in the various comics, cartoons and novels in the eighties and nineties flat out contradict not just with each other, but things that occur in the movies. (Which is why I tend to roll my eyes at people who insist that George Lucas had a plan for six Star Wars movies right from the start. He demonstrably did not, or he would have cared more about the things people did with his characters.)

 

Of course Disney very much does care about what people do with it's characters - hence the relegation of all the pre-Disney stuff that's not the movies to "legend" status. These days if you see a Star Wars story in any medium, it does have certified canon status - because Lucasfilm now scrutinises and approves every word and every image. I can only imagine how much time that takes, and now I come to think about it the extra staff hours involved in that might explain why Star Wars collections are generally more expensive than other Marvel trade paperbacks.

 

But in a way, making all the comics canon when a movie or TV series is still ongoing can be problematic. For a start, what if you're a big Star Wars fan, but don't want, or can't afford, to get all of the comics. Does that mean you're missing out? What if something that happened in a comic becomes an important plot point in one of the movies? 

 

Now, with Star Wars you probably don't need to worry about that kind of thing, because I doubt that Disney - who know what their main revenue stream is and won't do anything to jepordise it - would ever allow that to happen. 

 

Other franchises have been less careful, however. It's no surprise that a showrunner like J. Michael Straczynski would want there to be a comic series based on his Babylon 5 TV show - the man loves comics!

 

But the first couple of issues came out before season two of the show aired, and they totally spoilered the end of season one clifffhanger, which had left the Minbari Ambassador to the B5 station in some kind of coccoon. What she'd be like when she emerged was a key piece of speculation in the opening episodes - but anyone reading the comics already knew that she was now a half-Human half-Minbari hybrid.

 

 

I confess that as a twenty something geek I was more than a little irritated. On the upside however, the comics allowed Straczynski to properly explain the departure of Jeffery Sinclair, who had been the station's commander in season one. We know now that Machael O'Hare, who suffered from schizophrenia, was having a severe mental health crisis and so was unavailable, but at the time the character's sudden appointment as Eath's Ambassador to Minbar seemed more than a little rushed. The comic was able to flesh the story of Sinclair's departure out in ways the show never could.

 

In fact, the ability to show the characters from a movie or show without needing the actors who play them to be available is something of a strength that is unique to comics. It means that Sarah Michelle Geller can still be a teenaged Buffy in the comics* when she herself is just breaking into her forties, and Luke Skywalker can still be a youthful rebel commander in the comics when Mark Hammil is well into his sixties. While it's true that actors can be de-aged in movies these days, the spooky young Princess Leia at the end of Rogue One and Agent Coulson's oddly stretched face in Captain Marvel demonstrate that for the forseeable future, the comics are going to do that kind of thing better.

 

So - how do you feel about screen to page adaptations? More of a good thing, or annoying apendages you could kind of do without? Is there an adaptation you never miss - or do you refuse to pick them up on principle? Is there a franchise that you reckon has really pulled the adaptation trick off better than others? Or one that has failed so spectacularly it put you off the whole thing?

 

More to the point, is there a movie or TV franchise that hasn't been adapted that you wish would be? Let us know - I mean it's not like we could do anything about it, but it could be an interesting discussion.

 

 

 

 

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