Friday September 7, 2012
Comics writer Andy Diggle talks about superhero movies
WORLDS OF WONDER
By NICHOLAS YONG
Comics writer Andy Diggle talks about the popularity of superhero movies and his favourites.
IT is a good thing for comic book fans that leading British comic writer Andy Diggle, 41, chose to ignore the advice of his teachers.
ďMy English teacher said comics are not literature and my art teacher said this is not art. My careers adviser said I should go and work in insurance or something,Ē he says dryly over the telephone.
Diggle, based in Lancaster, England, is probably best known for co-creating the award-winning comic series The Losers, which was adapted into a movie in 2010 starring Chris Evans and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Published by the Vertigo imprint of DC Comics and running from 2003 to 2006, it is about a Special Forces team that turns against the CIA after the agency betrays it.
Diggle also wrote Green Arrow: Year One, the basis for the upcoming TV series starring Stephen Amell, about the socially conscious superhero armed with a bow and arrow. Diggle is former editor of cult British sci-fi magazine 2000 AD, which is responsible for iconic characters such as Judge Dredd.
In our Q&A, Diggle talks about how his works have fared on the big screen and how comics are going ďmainstreamĒ now.
Were you happy with how The Losers movie turned out?
I can tell you now that there will not be a sequel, because the first movie didnít make enough money at the box office.
It was just unfortunate coincidence that once The A-Team was announced with big-name stars such as Liam Neeson and a much bigger budget, that started to overshadow it.
Originally, The Losers was going to be an US$80mil (RM249mil) movie, and it ended up being a US$25mil (RM77.8mil) movie.
If you want to make a big, impressive action movie, you need to be able to put it all up on the screen.
I canít be objective about The Losers because obviously Iím very close to it.
But they took all the politics and the dark, violent, cynical edge out of it. So they kind of turned it into bubblegum. I think if they had made a darker, tougher movie, it would have worked better.
But the cast was amazing, and worked incredibly hard under very difficult conditions.
With the increasing popularity of the San Diego Comic Convention and superhero movies coming out every year, are you surprised by how mainstream comics have become?
Iím certainly pleased and gratified. But Iíve always felt that comics were a wonderful medium that could appeal to ordinary people, the man on the street, and not just fans. Iím glad to see that thatís finally starting to happen.
Theyíve started making good movies about superheroes and thereís been a rise in the West of the popularity of non-superhero genres, such as zombie shows like The Walking Dead.
All of these things working together are helping to make the civilians, as I call them, aware that thereís more to comics than just superheroes.
What was your favourite comic movie this year?
The Avengers is probably my favourite superhero film of the year so far, because its director Joss Whedon is a genius. Iím also a huge fan of Christopher Nolan and Iím especially a huge fan of what he did with his second Batman movie (The Dark Knight, 2008), but it took itself so seriously.
When The Dark Knight comics came out in the 1980s, I remember there was a spate of articles in the media saying, zap pow, comics just arenít for kids any more. And it felt like comics were trying so hard to be taken seriously.
It was like comics had become a sort of sulky teenager hiding in his bedroom and complaining, nobody takes him seriously, and for me, Nolanís Batman is a little bit like that.
Whereas Joss Whedonís Avengers was the fun, party-going, upbeat teenager who knows how to talk to girls. It wasnít ashamed of being a fun, upbeat, colourful superhero movie, and it still did it with wit and verve and heart. It wasnít ashamed of being entertaining, itís a crowd-pleaser, a family movie that everyone can enjoy.
Given the success of the Batman franchise, do you think there will be more superhero movies with darker and more complex characters?
Letís not forget that The Avengers also made a billion dollars, and that was bright, colourful, funny and positive. So I think weíll probably see both. Basically, what Hollywood needs to learn is find a tone thatís appropriate for these characters. Batman works best dark, The Avengers works best light.
For example, I think that Green Lantern (2011) struck the right tone, they tried to keep it upbeat and funny, which it should be, but unfortunately it just wasnít good enough.
Although The Losers has Aishah, The Avengers has Black Widow and The Dark Knight Rises has Catwoman, there still seems to be a dearth of strong female characters in comic book movies. Why do you think this is so?
Thereís a received wisdom in Hollywood that films with female leads donít make any money at the box office. When it comes to action adventure movies that are mainly seen by guys and young men, they think they donít want to see female leads. Iím not sure thatís true Ė look at the success of all the Resident Evil and Tomb Raider movies.
Catwoman was the best thing about The Dark Knight Rises. Nolan has said they could easily do a spin-off movie about that character, and I would totally go and see that. But Hollywood producers have told me flat out they donít want female leads, which I think is a shame. But thatís the cool thing about comics, you can do whatever you want and you donít have to worry about someone elseís budget.
Apart from a handful, there do not seem to be many successful superhero TV series. Do you think the genre is just more suited to the big screen?
I think it probably is. TV works best, for budgetary reasons, when itís character-driven drama and doesnít require a huge outlay of special effects. Superheroes lend themselves to spectacle, and spectacle works best on the big screen with a big budget. With TV superheroes, they canít afford to be fighting 150m-high robots every week, much as I would love to see that.
What did you think of the decision to remake the Judge Dredd movie with a less-known actor, Karl Urban, replacing the bigger name of Sylvester Stallone?
It was definitely a good decision. The Stallone movie in 1995 kind of dumbed it down, whereas the new Karl Urban version is very much a dark, violent, gritty, hard arc. All the people who previewed it at San Diego Comic Con (in July) were raving about how good it was, because it doesnít pull its punches.
I havenít seen all of it, but itís got a similar feel to The Raid, an Indonesian action movie. It appears to be the kind of movie they used to make in the early 1980s, like early John Carpenter mixed with early John Woo before he came to Hollywood. It is the kind of film they donít make any more. Nowadays, everythingís kind of softened and dumbed down and CGI-ed.
How would you like to be remembered?
Iíd like people to remember my work the way I remember my favourite comics and movies, for those great moments. When you walk out of a great movie, you donít talk about the wonderful cinematography or the excellent use of theme and subject. You say: ďOh I love that bit where this or that happened.Ē
If I give readers just a few minutes of excitement and take them out of the real world just for a moment, then Iíve done my job right, and thatís what I want to be remembered for. Ė The Straits Times, Singapore/Asia News Network