Does A Story Need A TV Show Or Movie To Be Great?

Illustration for article titled Does A Story Need A TV Show Or Movie To Be Great?

Greetings, all! The village shaman claims another crab-wolf attack is imminent, so I've rushed through reading your letters in order that my wisdom might guide you in the upcoming week. First bit of wisdom: Try to find a job that doesn't cause you to regularly encounter crab-wolves.


Film Flam

Jeremiah W.T.:

Dear Postman,

This is a question that has been rattling around in my head for a long time, but it just resurfaced when someone recently asked about the possibility of a Ms. Marvel movie or TV show. I recently discovered that title and fell for it much the same way many other readers have, and I agree, it deserves all the praise it gets and more. But here's my question: Why do comic fans (and book fans in general) feel that a subject won't be fully realized until it's adapted for the screen? My friend and I used to talk about this, and we noted that it (almost) never happens to other genres. That is, you never hear people saying, "Oh, I can't wait until that song is adapted into a painting," or "Wow, that sculpture would make an amazing opera." And yet, any time a comic or book gets popular, people jump to the conversation about who should play whom in the inevitable big budget adaptation. Is this some sort of John Grisham effect where every novel is really just a treatment for a screenplay?

Don't get me wrong—I love seeing Thor and Hulk tear it up on the big screen, but I'm bothered by the implicit assumption that a story isn't fully realized until it's rendered in film. Comic books are (or should be) more than storyboards for eventual action sequences on screen. Hell, how many times do we hear fans complaining about what the film wasn't able to do because of time constraints or other limitations of the medium? I don't want to go all Alan Moore here, but when we revere film as the "highest" form of the story, don't we implicitly devalue the comics themselves?

First, briefly, you can't really compare graphic art that contains a narrative with art that doesn't. Neither sculptures nor paintings tell a story (don't get into the semantics, you know what I mean) and thus they can't be as easily translated into each other as say, a book, a comic, a movie or a TV show can. It's the story inside the book/comics/etc that gets told in a new medium, that's all.

But I'm not sure how many people who say they want to see such-and-such comic become such-and-such movie truly feel that the movie legitimizes the story in a way the comic doesn't. Oh, I'm sure there are a few people out there, but for instance, I am 100% confident that Doownuahsmai from last week, who was eager to see a Ms. Marvel live-action movie, doesn't feel that the currently outstanding comic is somehow a pale imitation of a potential film. Instead, he/she feels like the comic is awesome, and he/she wants to share that awesomeness with the world — and a big-budget movie is one of the easiest ways to achieve that.

But there's also a more selfish, often unconscious reason fans want movies and shows based on their favorite stories. When we read/watch/consume a great story, we have an experience that can't be replicated again. The story thrills us in a way no subsequent viewings or readings can — which is fine, because that's how things work. But seeing the story again in a new medium is usually the closest we can come to re-experiencing the first time we enjoyed it.

For instance, take Game of Thrones fans. Certainly when I was reading the books, well before the HBO show was announced, I was daydreaming of a fantastic, mature, decently budgeted TV series based on the series, and I feel confident I'm not alone in that. But I think you would have an extremely hard time tracking down the one contrary asshole who would willingly say, out loud, that the books were the "lesser" way to tell this epic story, and needed the TV show to do it properly.


And that's what most fans, I think, are really saying when they demand live-action movies and shows and so forth or their beloved characters and franchises. Sure there will be some people who snobbily suggest a story has to be told in another medium, but those people are generally snobs. Certainly, there are some stories can be told better in different mediums — sometimes you have a story to get out, but you don't have the means or the money to do it the way you truly want — but nine times out of 10 I bet most fans just want to share what they love to as many people as possible, and big-budget movies and TV shows are usually the best way to do that.

Illustration for article titled Does A Story Need A TV Show Or Movie To Be Great?

Dead Power


Hey Postman,

Long time reader, I liked the walking dead banter in this weeks post. Got me thinking of a drawing a did a while ago, back when TWD first came apon michonne...

So they come across this ingenious method of cutting off walkers hands/arms and their lower jaw/teeth - makes them into these harmless bodies of endless energy. 1) She uses them as sort of pets/camouflage but why did nobody else exploit this behaviour? 2) Could you not at some point use these zombies to power stuff by walking round in circles?

3) Or why didn't folk just roam the prairies on big contraptions like the one I drew above?


1) Because it's weird and gross. Now, granted, if being weird and gross gave me an advantage in the zombie apocalypse, I would be as weird and gross as I could be. But as an audience member of either the comic or the show, it would be very, very creepy to watch Rick and the others lead two dozen or so armless, jawless zombies around. Remember, being covered in zombie guts and gore is even better camouflage, but Rick and the others also don't do that because it's — wait for it — super-weird and gross.

2) You could theoretically use zombies as a power source, but I'm not sure you could get them to walk in a circle, like to power a stone mill or something. Zombies wander aimlessly unless they sense something to eat, which means you can only reliably make them go forward. I can't think of a way to give a group of zombies a single target that would inspire them all to travel in a circle instead of a straight line. You could put a zombie on a treadmill, and hang a baby in front of it, and then harness that energy, but even then you'd need a lot of zombies on a lot of treadmills (while endangering a lot of babies) to generate enough energy to run the electricity for a reasonably sized home.


3) The other problem with the zombie-mill is a problem that your admittedly awesome contraption has in spades — it would take a lot of time and resources to build such a thing, and people in the zombie apocalypse don't have much of either. This kind of device would be something that a group of people design 20 years after the apocalypse hits, once they've had a chance to recover. Which, by the way, is a zombie movie I'd very much like to see.

Illustration for article titled Does A Story Need A TV Show Or Movie To Be Great?

The Tooth Hurts


Bruce Banner grows quite large when becoming the Hulk, including his head.

If Bruce Banner had dental work, say a minor cavity filled in his late teens, what happens when he becomes the Hulk? Do they fall out because the cavity became bigger? Does he have to hit the dentist after each incident?

Hope he doesn't get stressed in that dentist chair...

Hulk's teeth grow along with the rest of him — which is good, because the idea of the Hulk with a set of tiny, Bruce Banner-sized teeth in his mouth sounds terrifying. But whatever dental issues Bruce Banner has, they're cleared up when he turns into the Hulk, and stay gone when he turns back. Remember in Avengers, Banner says he tried to commit suicide but "the other guy spat out the bullet"? (I feel pretty confident there's been a time or two in the comics where Bruce Banner was wounded, Hulked out, and came back healed, but I can't remember a specific instance. Anybody?) If turning into the Hulk heals a gunshot to the head, then the cavity creeps have no chance.


Illustration for article titled Does A Story Need A TV Show Or Movie To Be Great?

This Town Needs an Enema


It's clear you have a love/hate relationship with FOX's Gotham, often citing the campiness and ridiculousness of it. But couldn't in fact be shining a light on how crazy the Batman universe actually is? I mean Batman is nothing but a bunch of crazy people, including Batman, in a city that seems to exist solely to accommodate craziness.


Batman and his villains are crazy, yes, but they're more crazy obsessed: with fighting crime, riddles, stealing, etc. Whatever their damage, they have an agenda they work towards, including the Joker. And beyond their obsessions, they tend to make decisions based on some kind of rational or ethos, at least for the most part.

The characters on Gotham aren't obsessed, they're just weirdoes. None of them seem to have any grasp on reality, not even Gordon. They're frequently quite stupid. Hell, a lot of the time they don't even talk like regular human beings.


Or to put it another way: The characters on Gotham aren't crazy, it's the show's writers. They continue to make some of the most bizarre, inexplicable decisions I can imagine, and they force their characters to act the same.

Illustration for article titled Does A Story Need A TV Show Or Movie To Be Great?

The Right Fantastic

Brian P.:

I had a random conjecture regarding the Marvel Cinematic Universe with respect to Fox and the Fantastic Four franchise (alliteration not intentional), so I figured I'd see what your thoughts on it were.

The rebooted FF movie is coming in the next few months, and (at least to me), it really doesn't look that good. Beyond that, though, it also doesn't sound like it's going to perform all that well, box office-wise. (The lack of promotion and/or publicity from Fox – especially compared to, say, Avengers 2 or even Star Wars 7 – doesn't really seem to speak too highly of their confidence in the film, at least from where I'm sitting.)

On the other hand, Fox has expressed interest in developing one or more TV series out of the X-Men franchise; however, it sounds like they can't proceed with those plans without Marvel's approval.

So, given all that, how plausible/probable does this scenario sound? The FF movie underperforms at the box office. Fox or Marvel then offers the other party a trade: the FF rights for permission to make the X-Men TV show(s). (Possibly with some cash thrown in to sweeten the deal.) Do you think this could/would/will happen? Obviously, Marvel's not getting the X-Men rights back any time soon, but I think they'd be more than eager to get the FF back (especially now that they somewhat have Spider-Man), and (unless the new FF movie does really well) I can imagine Fox being willing to unload it back to Marvel for the right price. Given how much better the X-Men are doing for Fox than the FF, I'd think the ability to expand the former into TV could be (at least part of) that price.

What do you think? Am I completely off my rocker, or could things play out like that? (Or are there any fundamental factual errors in the theory?)


Things could indeed play out like that. Since Fox only has the X-Men movie rights, Marvel finally has themselves a bit of leverage in their negotiations with Fox, which could be useful in renegotiating the Fantastic Four movie licensing agreement.

But there are a few issues. The first is that The Fantastic Four would have to be incredibly terrible for Fox to feel that giving up the movie rights to the team is the right move, especially before the movie even comes out. I mean, they would have to be pretty much dead certain that the upcoming movie will bomb, and bomb hard enough that they no longer believe the property to be profitable in the future, meaning it no longer makes financial sense for them to bother with franchise. Even if they have a grim feeling of dread that FF is going to tank, chances are they'll at least wait to see how the film does first. Just in case they're wrong and people love it.


Second, it's not like an X-Men TV series isn't partially to Marvel's benefit, anyways. Even if Marvel doesn't co-produce an X-Men show — which is extremely unlikely – they'd still stand to make money off of it, with minimal effort on their part. And it's not like Marvel has any chance of getting the X-Men movie license back; Fox is making plenty of money off those, so it has no need to give it up. Marvel might as well try and make some easy cash by approving a show.

Basically, I don't see Marvel refusing to agree to sanction an X-Men TV show just to see how The Fantastic Four movie turns out, solely in hopes that Fox has screwed it up so badly they'll be willing to give the property up later. Certainly it's possible, but I think it's much more likely Marvel will agree to the X-Men TV deal, and then if the FF movie bombs, Fox will try to cut a partnership like Sony did with Spider-Man — at least before they're willing to offer to sell back the team. And if the movie does well, then, Fox probably won't give it up at all. (For the record, I believe the first new FF movie will be a moderate success, and the second one a flop.)


Southern Cross Comfort


Hello Mr. Postman. Hope the future finds you well.

I've been re-watching Robotech and enjoying every minute of it. That is, until I got to Robotech: Masters, the second installment in the trilogy. While I don't mind the series as much as many Robotech fans, I understand why it is universally disliked.

Reading the Wikipedia article on Super Dimension Century Orguss, I found out that initially this was going to be the third installment in the Robotech trilogy until Genesis Climber Mospeada replaced it.

That got me thinking: What early 80s anime series could Carl Macek have used instead of Southern Cross that would have successfully bridged the Macross Saga with the New Generation and have been more positively received than Robotech: Masters?


The glory of Carl Macek and Harmony Gold back in the '80s is that they were crazy and creative enough to pretty much fit any Japanese anime TV series into Robotech. Hell, they probably could have made Voltron work, even if it would have been extremely strange part of the saga (although I suppose King Zarkon could have made for a pretty convincing Zentraedi).

But as for the best '80s anime to replace Southern Cross? Well, Orguss is the obvious answer, as it was made by Studio Nue, and had the same look and the more scifi, less fantastic feel of Macross. To be more specific, it was more of a military drama like Gundam or Macross than a one of the many space fantasy anime TV series of the'80s, where robots fight things with swords.


So the other one that comes immediately to mind is Votoms, which is darker than Macross, but still has the same military/scifi bent that could be adapted into the Robotech saga. But I feel like I'm forgetting an even more obvious choice. Any suggestions?

Illustration for article titled Does A Story Need A TV Show Or Movie To Be Great?

Ewok n' Roll

Jonah B.:

My question pertains to ewoks. I have some love for ewoks, which might be explained by the fact that I saw the Ewok Adventure before I saw Return of the Jedi, or by the fact that I was under 10 when I saw Jedi for the first time. Either way, I like having the Ewoks as a part of ROTJ, yet I'm also well aware that many out there have an irrational hatred of all things Ewok. I was thinking about this the other day, and I do think that they play an important role by representing the billions (trillions?) of people who must be out there in the Star Wars universe that have nothing to do with either the empire or the rebellion. They don't care about galactic politics, all they care about is there are people invading their land, and they want them off. This is one of the few examples (at least in the movies) of an entire species that has no interest in who wins as long as they get left alone. Really, there's no guarantee that they would have even sides with the rebels if they hadn't been tricked into thinking that c3po was a god, I off here? Can there be a real grown up reason for me to like ewoks? Or am I just trying to hold on to my childhood?


Well, the reason George Lucas always gave for having the Ewoks as an integral part of the Empire's defeat in RotJ is because he liked the thematic idea of a primitive, seemingly innocuous alien race with virtually no technology defeating the better trained, better staffed and better armed bad guys. This, unfortunately, is kind of nonsense, because to really make the Empire representative of the hubris of over-reliance on militarization technology, te other movies should have stressed the Rebels' lack of technology in order to set the stage, which it didn't. So it doesn't work in the regard.

The real reason for the Ewoks, as admitted by pretty much everyone else, is that George wanted some good guys who were super, super merchandisable. He got 'em. So in that sense, it's kind of hard to make a strong argument for loving them as an adult.


However, there are two things you need to remember: 1) you were a kid. Unless you happened to be present at that Lucasfilm meeting where Lucas demanded an alien race he could make a ton of dolls for, you'd have no reason to guess at their mercenary nature. If you liked them then, it was genuine, and if you still like them now, it's based on your original, totally valid assessment, and it's fine.

2) The Ewoks are badasses. Not only did they take down a much better armed military force, including their massive vehicles of destruction, with literally nothing but sticks and stones, but they also cook their enemies alive and eat them. It's what they were going to do to Han Solo. Why wouldn't they do the same to all the delicious, delicious Imperial soldiers left after the battle of Endor?


These guys are badass killer cannibal teddy bears. They're legit.

Do you have questions about anything scifi, fantasy, superhero, or nerd-related? Email the! No question too difficult, no question too dumb! Obviously!


I think the desire to see Ms. Marvel in the movies isn't about believing that comics need movies to give them legitimacy; it's about believing that movies need to catch up with comics in terms of representation and diversity. We have yet to see a Marvel Cinematic Universe film or show that doesn't have a white man as its primary lead, and while a few are coming in the next few years, there's certainly room for more.

And I really don't like the idea that Batman is crazy. He couldn't function if he were. I prefer to think that he's made the rational, calculated decision that an eccentric, seemingly bizarre approach to crimefighting is the most effective way to protect ordinary people from the insane nature of crime in Gotham City, given his own exceptional abilities and resources and the ineffectuality of the conventional forces of law and order. And that's why Gotham's Bruce is by far the most effective and successful character on the show. As crazy and stupid as its decisions are about the other characters, Gotham really gets Bruce Wayne right. He's not a vengeance-crazed obsessive, he's a brilliant, thoughtful, tightly controlled person who has great empathy for his fellow victims of crime and injustice and who's made a conscious choice to dedicate himself relentlessly to serving their cause, no matter what extreme methods he needs to employ. The whole "Batman is crazy" meme is totally missing the point of what makes him an impressive and successful character, but Gotham has correctly made him, in his own wounded and driven way, the sanest, most self-aware character in the show.