Welcome back to AVQ&A, where we throw out a question for discussion among the staff and readers. Consider this a prompt to compare notes on your interface with pop culture, to reveal your embarrassing tastes and experiences, and to ponder how our diverse lives all led us to convene here together. Got a question you’d like us and the readers to answer? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week’s question was inspired by Comics Week and comes from copy editor Caitlin PenzeyMoog:
What non-comic creative type do you want to see make a comic?
I can think of half a dozen directors who should take a break from making big Hollywood bucks to pen some comics, but I’m going with J.K. Rowling for my fantasy pick. It’ll be interesting to see how her first stab at screenwriting goes with Fantastic Beasts, but it’s hard to imagine her creativity on the page won’t translate well to the visual medium of film. She’s also premiering her first play, Harry Potter And The Cursed Child, in London next summer, so with all this extra-curricular under her belt it’s not far-fetched to imagine an awesome comic series coming from her. Preferably it takes place in the magical world Harry Potter exists in, but her vastly underrated The Casual Vacancy demonstrates her world-building skills in the Muggle universe as well. As for illustration, this comic would be a good chance to see more of Mary GrandPré’s work, though I don’t know how Rowling’s drawing skills are—maybe she’d do her own. Regardless, the comic medium is one ripe for Rowling to enter, whether to expand Potter more to the page or to create a whole new world for readers to get lost in.
Earlier this month, Marvel Comics revealed the lineup for its “All-New, All-Different” relaunch in October, and it was a pretty disappointing assortment of titles severely lacking in creator diversity. It also didn’t feature a comic for Black Panther, a puzzling decision considering the character is receiving his own Marvel Studios film in the future. I immediately started thinking about who I would want to see on that book, and my mind went to Janelle Monáe, the R&B singer/songwriter/producer who has heavily embraced Afro-Futurism in her music and general aesthetic. She’s done some very strong world-building in her music, and I would love to see her apply that same kind of imagination and style to the world of Wakanda. Monáe’s creative background would most likely lead to a very different take on the character than whatever Marvel Studios has in mind for the big screen, but I want to see more experimentation and ambition in superhero comics, especially when it comes to a character like Black Panther that is full of untapped potential.
Although I admittedly don’t know much (and not nearly as much as the movie buffs on staff) about Park Chan-Wook, he immediately came to mind. The work of his that I have seen is always pristinely shot and full of black humor and quite often brutal violence. That right there is a comic book to me in the medium’s more traditional sense. And although Stoker, the first English-language film he directed, didn’t do too well critically or commercially, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I also find that his reasoning for being attracted to Wentworth Miller’s script moves beyond the traditional, acting as the reverse of the ever-expanding superhero universes—“I like telling big stories through small, artificially created worlds”—which could lend itself well to a self-contained graphic novel. Maybe one that picked up where Stoker left off, giving readers a concrete ending and allowing India even more of a life after her 18th birthday. But then again, I would be interested in his original writing spanning through a series as well, so really he could do no wrong in the world of comics—hey, Park Chan-Wook, hop to it.
Maybe this is grief speaking, but the impending end of Hannibal feels like a good excuse for Bryan Fuller to follow his peer (and frequent subject of comparisons) Joss Whedon into the funnies. That’s as unlikely as a fourth season of Hannibal, given Fuller’s other, comics-related priorities, but between that forthcoming American Gods adaptation and his busted pilot for The Amazing Screw-On Head (with Paul Giamatti in the title role!), Fuller clearly has an affection for the medium. And not to keep dictating the exact project I’d like to see Fuller pursue, how great would the comic-book adventures of Hannibal Lecter look under his supervision? Imagine the elegantly arranged splash pages, the lurid coloring, the panels of scintillating philosophical debate! And let’s face it: The first half of the show’s third season moved so deliberately, it could’ve been a series of still images in the first place.
How in the hell has Wes Anderson not made a comic book yet? He’s not my favorite filmmaker, but without question, he’s at the top of my list of people I’d love to see tackle the medium of comics with the same inventiveness he brings to his films. His movies are already just a series of dioramas with occasional moving parts—he wouldn’t even have to change his artistic vision, so much as do exactly what he’s been doing, flattened into a two-dimensional format. One of his most engaging films, Fantastic Mr. Fox, showed that he’s capable of changing up technique. And really, it has long felt like he was an indie comics guy who stumbled into the world of movies; time and again, his films have incorporated drawings, cartoons, and all manner of ink to paper. He’s past due to cut out the cinematic middle man and just go straight to the page.
He was the first person that came to mind, and the more I consider it, the more exciting the idea of a Tim Schafer-helmed comic book becomes. His video games, like the Dia De Los Muertos-inspired Grim Fandango and the heavy-metal wasteland of Brütal Legend, prove that he’s more than capable of creating rich, imaginative worlds and populating them with lovable characters. And given the design style with which Schafer made his name—dialogue-driven adventure games—the transition seems like a no-brainer. Just take a look at one fan’s long-abandoned attempt to turn Full Throttle into a graphic novel. It’s sloppy and amateurish, but there’s something about seeing Schafer’s dystopian biker drama broken down into panels that feels right. While I’d love to see him bring a new world to life in this hypothetical comic, a Psychonauts series done in the style of a psyche-diving cop procedural is high on my list of fantasy Schafer projects—just slightly below a new Psychonauts game, of course.
Given all the references to blood-drenched, puberty-baiting swords-and-loincloth brutality in his debut novel Wolf In White Van, I’d love to see John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats take the reins of a comic starring Conan The Barbarian. I imagine there’d be flashes of the gentle, nuanced emotions that crop up in his songs every now and then, but really, I’m here for the bloodlust Darnielle occasionally lets show from behind those genial eyes. Pair him up with an artist who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty—old-school Frank Miller, maybe, since we’re playing hypotheticals anyway—and let the viscera fly and the heads roll on the hot desert sand. Every cover will look like the greatest metal album ever, and every issue will come with a warning from the Comics Code Authority that anyone who cracks it open will be permanently branded as the worst sort of criminal deviant. Bring it on.
This is a harder question than it used to be before so many filmmakers and authors started dabbling in comics as side projects. But Colin Meloy of The Decemberists hasn’t made it that far yet: He hasn’t made it past writing novels as a side project. Those novels disappointed me a bit, but in ways that suggest he’d make an excellent comics writer: His Wildwood books tend to focus on description (which would translate nicely into art) and action (which would work better visually than in pages of prose) at the expense of character development. So maybe in a more visual format, the action-description content would get pushed outward into the art, and he could focus more on story and character. Besides, he favors highly colorful fairy-tale settings, full of talking animals and big fantasy elements, which would lend themselves to a visual element. No offense meant to his wife, Carson Ellis, the longtime Decemberists album cover artist and Wildwood illustrator—I like her quaint, idiosyncratic, detailed work, which complements the band’s tone so well. But for variety’s sake, I’d like to see him working with a more muscular artist, like Fiona Staples, or someone who could really bring every corner of his world to life, like Gene Ha.
Part of what made Edgar Wright leaving Ant-Man so heartbreaking for us Wright-Heads out there (okay, so Edgar Wright fans aren’t technically known as Wright-Heads or Wright-Ons, but shouldn’t such a big, intense cult have its own name?) is that Wright’s personality and sensibility is perfect for comic-book movies. Wright already proved that he could brilliantly fuse the worlds of video games, comic books and films in his much-loved if commercially underwhelming adaptation of Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, so I would love to see what Wright could do writing a comic book of his own devising. Though he’s not a particularly prolific filmmaker, Wright is clearly a man with a lot of ideas, energy, guile, and charm. A comic book would afford Wright an opportunity to express these ideas without having to worry about the meddling of a giant studio eager to protect its brand. I’ve always loved how tight and economical Wright’s storytelling is as a filmmaker. There is not a wasted moment in The World’s End—everything that is introduced pays off—and I imagine he would bring that gift to a comic-book series as well.
Having directed three comic-book movies (Blade II and both Hellboys), and being such an unabashed fan of genre material, I had to double-check to make sure Guillermo Del Toro hadn’t already written a comic book or two. But while his fourth horror novel is due out later this year, he’s never married the prose of his career as an author with the stunning, vividly imaginative visuals of his films. Even dealing with the realities of the filmmaking process and budgetary limitations, Del Toro has managed to capture the anything-can-happen sense of wonder of the most ambitious comic artists. Imagine what he could do in a medium where there essentially are no limitations to what can happen, or how it can be visually described. Especially after a frustrating stretch of several years that saw him replaced by Peter Jackson on The Hobbit films, and then saw his Lovecraft adaptation The Mountains Of Madness torpedoed by the studio, after spending years planning out visuals and character designs for each. Del Toro may welcome a medium where he can translate the wondrous images in his head directly onto the page.
One of the most impressive animated features I’ve seen lately is The Boy And The World, a brightly colored blend of fantasy and neorealism by Brazilian artist Alê Abreu. As far as I can tell, Abreu’s never done comics. Everything I’ve read about him describes him as a musician and illustrator who’s been making experimental animated shorts for years alongside his more commercial work. But he has a design sense that would be perfect for a comic book. His characters are simply drawn, while his backgrounds are dense and intricately patterned. The Boy And The World reminds me a lot of the work of the Irish animator Tomm Moore, who has done comics. With no dialogue, the film creates a rich universe, starting in an idyllic country village and then moving to an oppressive, almost post-apocalyptic urban landscape. Any succession of frames from The Boy And The World would work as panels on a comics page. They’re beautiful and immediate.
I’m going to piggy-back on some happy recent news and also risk redundancy by saying I’d love to see Berkeley Breathed’s work in a comic book. I know he’s a cartoonist, which is not so far removed from a comic-book artist, but they are distinct art forms in a lot of ways. Perhaps even more redundant, I don’t even necessarily need to see Breathed drawing 22-page stories; part of the fun of Bloom County, especially in its collected editions, is its four-panel rhythm, something I missed when Breathed went Sundays-only for his subsequent strips. No, I’d be happy to see Breathed simply collecting his strips (assuming he continues to draw them) and putting them out 22 or 28 or 32 pages at a time. This new/old delivery system would pay homage to his work’s newspaper-strip roots while acknowledging that it’s more or less a dead medium in terms of high-quality strips, and providing an alternative to the sterility of reading a comic strip on Facebook (convenient, but somehow not as thrilling). A monthly (or quarterly, or whatever) Bloom County comic could mix new four-panel strips with some more adventurous versions of the Sunday-style format. I’m sure it’s not all that financially viable, but I’d love to see any talented newspaper cartoonists ditching their shrinking homes and heading for a slightly more hospitable environment.
We often praise “chameleon” actors for their ability to disappear into diverse roles, but Todd Haynes is the rare director that deserves that moniker as well. Rather than stick to a recognizable visual style like David Fincher or Wes Anderson, Haynes’ aesthetic shifts dramatically to reflect and refract his subjects: Velvet Goldmine’s exploration of 1970s glam rock is a kinetic, abstract music video; Far From Heaven’s portrait of a 1950s housewife is shot as a Douglas Sirk melodrama; and the unconventional Bob Dylan biopic I’m Not There might as well be piece of avant-garde 1960s filmmaking. That ability to embody a genre while simultaneously commenting on it makes me endlessly curious about what a Todd Haynes comic would look like. Not only would he get to explore his favorite topics of identity and sexuality in a new medium, he’d also get to expound on the very nature of comic books themselves.
When you visit the website of the award-winning horror author Stephen Graham Jones, one of his FAQs is “Read comics?” To which Jones replies, “Religiously.” Yet Jones himself doesn’t write comics, unless you count a tiny contribution to the little-known anthology Zombies Vs. Robots: No Man’s Land. What makes this travesty even more confounding is the fact that Jones is insanely prolific, with over a dozen novels and hundreds of short stories under his belt. His most recent collection of stories, After The People Lights Have Gone Off, is a lean, chilling, bleakly humorous, grotesquely weird feast of ideas and imagery. It’s even more proof that he has the makings of a prose/comics crossover master on par with fellow frightmongers Joe R. Landsdale and Joe Hill.
Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya
I can’t speak to her writing abilities, but Hayley Atwell has become such a force in the Marvel community that I’d be all over a Marvel comic project from her brain. Agent Carter had its bumps in its first season, but Atwell remained its greatest strength throughout. She has settled so comfortably into the role that she basically is Peggy Carter. Hell, she even sometimes refers to herself as such. And who better to helm an Agent Peggy Carter one-shot than the woman who seems to understand the character the best? Atwell has called for more diversity in season two of Agent Carter, so I know she has the right ideas. And if she were to commit half as much of her energy to creating a comic as she does to lip-syncing, the results would surely be wonderful.
Rihanna has always had unmistakable style, but her directing debut for the single “Bitch Better Have My Money” is Rih to the nth degree. The video is graphic both in color and in content, unapologetic, and completely unconcerned with your opinion. The idea of going after the “bitch” who has her money was also entirely Rih’s. The way in which she and co-directors Megaforce told the story could be described as Spring Breakers meets Pulp Fiction, but Rih’s specific brand of “dare you to dare me” attitude is the unmistakeable driving force behind it. Honestly, I’d probably watch a Rihanna-made sandwich for hours if you asked me to, but I’d love to see what she would do with a medium as flexible as comics. And if it involved a diverse girl gang smirking over smoke rings and taking down rich white dudes, all the better.