Arthur Smith

Assistant Curator

June 6, 2012

Beyond The Avengers: Comic Book Adaptations I’d Like to See

by Arthur Smith

The stupefying success of this summer’s Avengers, a pitch-perfect adaptation of the venerable comic book, offers yet more proof, as if any was needed, of the viability of comic book stories adapted to media that reaches far beyond what is, in print, still a pretty circumscribed audience. Of course, The Avengers offers many of the obviously appealing elements of traditional action blockbusters—there are plenty of awesome explosions and snarky quips—but I would love to see interpretations of some quieter, more idiosyncratic comics, work more indicative of a particular, individual creative sensibility. Below are some modest proposals for bringing some quirkier titles to the screen.

Love and Rockets
The Hernandez Brothers have been bringing their tales of densely interconnected, largely female-centric communities—Jaime’s Southern Californian punk rockers and Gilbert’s South American villagers—for over four decades, to massive critical acclaim and the universal respect, if not awe, of their peers. I imagine an ongoing television series on a pay cable network (there are liberal amounts of non-gratuitous sex in the brothers’ stories, obliquely and sensitively handled, but still, nakedness) that could fully exploit the episodic, intricately plotted chronicles of the many vividly realized characters’ complicated relationships and experiences.  Love and Rockets is firmly grounded in Latin American culture, still a novel sphere in mainstream entertainment, and the principal characters (Jaime’s pint-sized punk hell-raisers Maggie and Hopey, Gilbert’s Protean, mercurial Luba) offer a feast of dramatic opportunities and would seem to be the definition of star-making roles for the right actors. I imagine an atmospheric, layered, Altmanesque farrago, alternating scenes of the hectic punk rock demimonde with the Magical Realist village of Gilbert’s idyllic Palomar . . . a multigenerational celebration of the sacred and profane that brushes up against transcendent fantasy while pulsing to the familiar rhythms of mundane (if exotic to mainstream audiences) daily life.

By far the most interesting of the many X-Men spin-offs is writer Peter Milligan and artist Mike Allred’s X-Force, a satirical tour-de-force that mashes up superheroes with reality television culture. The creators take the reasonable premise that, if colorful, super-powered folk were actually among us, they would be celebrities, and at least some portion of them would be far more concerned with the perks of fame than fighting injustice. The members of X-Force interrupt their carefully staged, media-friendly battles to take calls from their agents, engage in all manner of deluxe debauchery, and, more often than not, die gruesome deaths in their ultraviolent grabs for higher Q ratings. It’s rude, funny, and razor sharp, full of cutting dialogue and outré action, and it solves the narrative problem common to so many super hero stories: saving the world all of the time gets boring. Imagine the Real Housewives and Jersey Shore miscreants equipped with fantastic mutant powers fighting to the death. I’d watch.

Paul Chadwick’s Concrete is one of the most literate and intellectually engaging comic books ever produced. It concerns the adventures of an erstwhile political speechwriter whose brain was, for reasons that remain mysterious, transplanted by aliens into a hulking, rock-like form of supernatural durability and strength. Concrete, as the entity is now known, devotes his strange new existence to chronicling his experiences as an explorer, taking full advantage of his wondrous new abilities to scale Everest, hike across the ocean floor, and work as a stuntman on a Hollywood action movie. Concrete is a gentle, spiritually questing soul, and his poetic ruminations on his strange, alienating fate, contrasted with his opportunities to experience life on a scale unavailable to normal humans, are lyrical, packed with surprising insight, and deeply emotionally affecting. I’m picturing an indie film treatment of the material, a sort of My Dinner with Andre if Andre were the Incredible Hulk with a post-graduate degree in the Humanities. 

What niche comics would you like to see onscreen? Eightball? Optic Nerve? Let me hear your dream casts, directors, etc. If ever there was a time Hollywood might be receptive, it is now.

  • Eightball has already been adapted to film, twice and by the same director! Terry Zwigoff adapted "Ghost World" and "Art School Confidential".

    Shorty, July 08, 2012 at 1:42 pm


Arthur Smith

Assistant Curator


Arthur Smith worked in a film archive and failed to earn a living as a professional musician before joining the Paley Center in 1997. He’s not bitter, but has unhealthy fixations on tweedy clothing and Marvel comics.


60s Pop Music, Comedy, Comic Books, Great and/or Terrible Movies, and Exotic Brunettes


Arthur Smith

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