Saturday, September 27, 2008

More Blue Kid! Also, The Snowman, Bad and Good Adaptations

More Blue Kid!

Here it is. I know it's been a while. They should be posting this next story in two parts. This is the first part. There are at least a couple of my favorite pages here. This one is 22 pages in all.

At the moment I'm working on pg 58 and 59, and I should be wrapping the whole thing up in another couple of weeks. Phew. This is my longest sustained effort in comics.

My next project is most likely a longish illustrated children's book, and to keep my hand in comics, some wordless comics stories. The last Blue Kid Story is also wordless, and I think I've been building up to this with the previous pages, depending less and less on words to tell the story. The last story has some interesting formal stuff going on, some novel solutions to the problem of telling a story without words.

I've been really excited about Raymond Briggs lately. Have I already mentioned that? I've yet to read The Snowman but I really liked The Bear, and The Puddleman, and Ethel and Ernest.

There was this incredible animated film made of The Snowman that, as you can see, is gorgeous:

I haven't seen the whole thing in years, but I remember coming upon it by accident when I was a teenager, never having heard of it before. Briggs is huge with the brits, but it seems like we're quieter about him over here. Maybe it's because there's a lot of very English stuff in them when it comes to what people eat and how they talk and what they do with their free time, and American kids can't relate, I don't know.

There's this stage show too, and though the art direction looks decent enough, it kind of freaks me out for some reason:

Some stuff just isn't meant to be live-action, you know? Like all these recent Dr. Seuss train wrecks--32 pg books that weren't intended to be stretched out into 90 minute movies, let alone acted out by comedians with Planet of the Apes prosthetics. There's something very grotesque and frightening about these movies and their horrible all over the place merchandizing.

The worst piece of merchandizing I've ever seen was this book called, "Dr. Seuss' Cat In the Hat Storybook". It was drawn in a Dr. Seuss style almost identical to the original, but it wasn't The Cat in the Hat. It was a storybook based on the movie, The Cat in the Hat. It was this totally counterfeit but officially Seuss estate sanctioned Cat in the Hat book that could easily be mistaken for the real thing by someone unfamiliar with the original. It was one of the most disturbing things I've ever seen.

I've always wondered how much merchandizing and adaptation dilutes the original. Alice In Wonderland is a good example: It's getting harder and harder to find the unabridged Tenniel illustrated version and some people are only familiar with the Disney Film. Winnie The Pooh is a similar casualty. Some people don't even know that there were books in the first place, and the Disney versions are so different than the source material that they don't even resemble the original characters. The original books are also very British, and when my dad tried to read them to me as a kid, I just didn't get them. It didn't look like the Winnie the Pooh I knew. The Disney version is more modern and accessible I guess. At least to the kid I used to be.

Now there were some perfectly good and very faithful animated versions of Dr. Seuss' books done with Seuss' involvement in collaboration with Chuck Jones and Ralph Bakshi and others, the running time stretched out to 25 minutes or so with songs with lyrics by Seuss. But people love these books so much they're gladly willing to smother them, and I'm a little worried about this upcoming feature length live-action Where the Wild Things Are movie. Maurice Sendak is involved, but he was also involved in the Where The Wild Things Are indoor theme park at the Sony Metron in San Francisco, with an In The Night Kitchen themed pizza parlor. My impression last time I was there was that it was a very bad idea, which goes to show that sometimes the artist's aren't the best custodians of their own work.

At least the original is always there to be found if you look hard enough. But how many awful movies were made based on very good books that people who have seen those awful movies won't have anything to do with?

Then there's stuff that far exceeds the source material, like The Godfather. The book is fun, but very pulpy. I saw David Cronenburg's Spider after reading the book, and I hated the book, but loved the movie. And I'm sure there are other examples, and I'm sure the authors have more faith than I do in the quality of their own books.