Robot 6

Image publisher argues independent comics as movie pitches aren’t a bad thing

Robert Kirkman and Eric Stephenson at Comic-Con International, 2004. Photo by Jonah Weiland.

Ever since Image Comics Publisher Eric Stephenson launched his blog in 2010, it’s been home to some well thought-out essays on comics as the longtime pro sees it, and this week is no different. In a post titled “A Good Idea,” Stephenson addresses the perception some fans have that many comics created today are merely back-door pitches for movies or television series. And while he admits that’s sometimes the case, even at Image, he argues it’s not a bad thing.

“Let’s pretend for a moment that virtually everyone writing and drawing creator-owned comics is only doing so because they want to shop their ideas around to Hollywood, so they can be turned into television shows and movies. Or both,” Stephenson writes. “Let’s say these creative people are so driven by ambition that selling comic books simply isn’t enough. They don’t just want their stories to reach comic book readers – they want them to reach the world. They want as many people as possible to read their stories, to look at their artwork, to experience their creativity.”

“Is that so wrong?” he asks. “Is wanting to expand the audience for your creative endeavors beyond the  relatively limited horizons of the comics market really a bad thing? And have we seriously arrived at a place where it’s okay to cheer corporations on as their comic book properties are adapted for film and television, but any and all attempts by individuals to do something similar is scoffed at?”

Stephenson explains that it’s no different from companies using comics as a pool of ideas for potential film and TV projects, saying fans who lament that some independent comics are deceivingly made to become movies a “pretty disgusting” double standard. And it’s something he notes is unique to comics.

“If you look outside comics, there is original new fiction of all stripes – and novels are adapted into films and television shows even more frequently than comics – but are the writers behind those books being accused of generating new ideas simply to pitch to other media?” he points out.

Read the full essay on Stephenson’s site.



ohhhhh, Flood gates open.
I agree that if there’s a good idea within a property, that it should be exploited. At the same time, it shouldn’t be the focus of a comic book series.

Somewhere Mark Millar is smiling

“At the same time, it shouldn’t be the focus of a comic book series.” Why not?

I think our community is too fixated on “this is our medium and we won’t stand for outsiders invading it and we won’t stand for our heroes to go outside of its borders.” Fans get upset when “outsiders” start writing mainstream books (example: Hollywood writers). Fans get upset when “insiders” start writing for “outside interests” (example: Mark Millar.) Let go of this “siege” mentality. This medium is very special and will continue to be special regardless of how folks interact with it. More exposure is better.

Books will stand on the quality of the writing and art. Anything else is irrelevant. Furthermore, it is very tough to do comic work economically. If an artist can continue to do great work in the medium because he is supported through tv/film options or licensing deals– that’s great.

The problem, in my opinion, is that in order to make material that is percieved as more adaptable/valuable the creator customizes/ limits their story in ways that fail to take advantage of the comic medium: art that is more storyboard than innovative, character compromises that look just like every other tv/movie character… Is it too hard/expensive to have a 2 headed character on a tv show? Well, I better not include that in my comic, instead I’ll make that character a sexy blond with an attitude! Movies set in LA don’t do well, I’ll make the setting NYC, even tho it’s about Surfer Culture …. I guess I’ll make it about bike messengers instead, but no ones ever had a movie about them … Hmmm, well let’s just set it in an law office instead, and male the lead a guy instead, cuz no one would believe a girl working I the mail room–she’d be a secretary right? And instead of making it about how he compromises in order to follow his dreams while working, I’ll have him quit his job at the end and win the tour de France!

if its a good comic, who cares? if its blatantly just a storyboard with some ‘elevator pitch’ high concept twist, than hey, good for them-but i dont like subsidizing peoples pitchs, and dont want to be one of the buyers that allows them to get meetings based off of ‘multiple sellouts/printings/buzz’ etc

I can’t really understand this discussion, it seems to me that nobody is talking about the same thing.

I have no problem with a succesful creator-owned IP that does well in he movies and makes his creator rich… I do have a problem with any material that when read, makes you feel as if you could retro-engineer the formula with which it was created.

Lack of authenticity (as in, “this is a story I want to tell”), in the creators translates into the material and makes it very formulaic and boring.

If anyone understands spanish…


June 15, 2012 at 10:39 am

In his pretend world we can expect a Prophet movie starting at #21 :P

I think the point he’s missing is that the creators of the works most consider “movie pitches” are just doing it to get a foot into the Hollywood Club door. If they had any concern for creativity or any of the other things Stephenson wants us to pretend then there wouldn’t be as much of an issue.

The “movie pitch” comics are transparently trying to look like stills from a movie aren’t even pretending to try to utilize the comics medium to it’s full potential. Though to be honest I think it’s just comics going back to it’s pre-super hero roots of churning out mounds of disposable garbage to make a quick buck.

‘In his pretend world we can expect a Prophet movie starting at #21′

i very much want this, yes.

I just want comics that are meant to be comics. If they get made into movies, great. If not, great.

I do think comics as movie pitches are a problem though. Comics have become increasingly decompressed. We get less and less story per issue. Hell, we get less and less panels per page so they can fit as many widescreen moments as possible.

I think his criticism of the big 2 is a little off. While they both have tons of movies of their characters, the books are written as movie pitches. The movies are culled from past stories sure, but the writers aren’t writing movie pitches. For example, I don’t think Jeff Lemire is thinking about how he can get Animal Man on the big screen each month when he writes the scripts. I do think some of the guys writing some of the indy mini-series for various companies think about this though.

However, I do like some of the titles that get criticized for this. Like Stephenson says-a good story is a good story. I’m just saying I don’t read Grant Morrison comics and see potential movies. I read comics like his and think “wow, this is a great COMIC BOOK”.


You’ve hit the nail on the head.

I also agree that comparing, say, Mark Millar’s comic/movie properties to Marvel’s movies is apple and oranges, and Stephenson probably knows it. With the Marvel movies, it’s not necessarily a particular story or trade that’s being adapted, it’s just the property. For something like, say, Kick Ass, it IS the story that’s being adapted, not just the property.

Then again, that’s Stephenson’s tired schtick isn’t it? He has to take a jab at Marvel and DC seemingly every time he makes a public statement. As Image is growing in prominence, it’s only becoming more bush league.

Conversely, there’s a ton of properties that were first movies or tv shows (Star Wars, Muppets, Buffy) that have been warmly embraced as successful comic book properties. The media shouldn’t determine the message, but that cuts both ways. A well told story has to work in the medium its presented, or else its not well told.
Granted, I’m not buying any Marvel comics right now, other than Muppets and some Icon books. I’m getting about 10 Image comics a month, including some that very clearly were launched toward Hollywood. But its not like they suck, or aren’t enjoyable, or else no one would throw development money at the creators.

“The problem, in my opinion, is that in order to make material that is percieved as more adaptable/valuable the creator customizes/ limits their story in ways that fail to take advantage of the comic medium”

I totally agree. Call me a fanboy, but I bristle at the idea of the comics medium as just being a stepping stone. It feels disrespectful to the medium, especially when a story doesn’t take advantage of what makes comics different from film or television.

On the other hand, I can understand not wanting to be dirt poor. :-) But if you’re going to make a comic with a constant eye on how to easily explain your high concept to studio executives rather than tell a fully realized story then the story is going to feel hollow. Of course that’s never seemed to put off a producer…

Charlie Kaufman (who wrote ‘Being John Malkovich’, ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ and so on…) recently gave a great lecture on storytelling. The entire lecture is worth listening to, or reading (link: ), or both – but this discussion reminded me of one of his points specifically:

“It’s very important that what you do is specific to the medium in which you’re doing it. And that you utilise what’s specific about that medium to do the work.”

That’s all that really matters. You can make a comic that will utilize the wildest possibilities of the comic medium, and it can still be a great movie pitch as well. The movie can then utilize the wildest possibilities of the film medium, address the passage of time in a completely different way, it can significantly change the storytelling…what matters is the intent we, creators, put into the creation itself.

We can take however many paths we want.

If you write comics to write movies, don’t write comics. Write movies.

I don’t really get why that’s difficult.


June 15, 2012 at 12:31 pm

“If you write comics to write movies, don’t write comics. Write movies.”

Because it’s so easy to write a successful screenplay and just walk through the front door of a studio and get a movie made, right?

My biggest problem with most comics that are written like movie pitches (or, more egregiously, are just failed movie scripts handed off to an artist to draw) is the pacing is way off. Most movies spend their first 30-40 minutes on setup, but you can’t do that in a comic book series released as floppies: if I drop $6 or $8 and get nothing but setup, I’m going to be bored to tears and I’m not going to buy the rest of the series, no matter how amazing the conclusion is.

If you care about getting a movie made, you’ll get a movie made. Maybe not at a major studio or even a mid-scale independent one but if there’s an artistic project you have, there are no real barriers to getting it done anymore besides time, money and energy, which has always been the case. If I have a story I think would be told best as a film, I’d write a screenplay and try to shop it around however I could. I wouldn’t try to get Image fucking Comics to get my movie made for me. If I wanted Image Comics to tell my story I’d write a comic script.

Writing a comic script so you can write a movie script devalues both things. If your comic gets turned into a movie? Congratulations, that’s awesome. But if you wrote a comic so that you could turn it into a film, you are a toxic presence in the medium and should work in the field that best suits your creative aspirations.

K-Box in the Box

June 15, 2012 at 12:58 pm

“Because it’s so easy to write a successful screenplay and just walk through the front door of a studio and get a movie made, right?”

Who says you’re entitled to get a movie made?

Good point, if the person’s movie idea is no good, then it’s no good. Stop clogging up the comic shelves with unreadable trash with pseudo-photorealistic art that are just transparant motion picture proposals. Just so that they can step up to some Hollywood producer and say “look how many fans our hot property has!”

Bug off, get out of comics, get out of movies too.

Comic book creators should absolutely think in broader terms than comics, because there is very little money in comics, period. Most of us out there writing for comics dream of seeing that work adapted to film. The key word here being ‘adapted’. I agree that comic creators shouldn’t limit themselves by writing a comic script specifically for film, because if it’s a great story then it can always be adapted to film later. I say go nuts on the comic, and then be willing to make some compromises in the screenplay. But to suggest that comic writers should focus their goals entirely within the comics medium is pretty unrealistic and unfair, given the harsh realities of the comics industry.

“Because it’s so easy to write a successful screenplay and just walk through the front door of a studio and get a movie made, right?”

Because it IS.
It is SUPER EASY to make a film nowadays. The technology is ever present. The other assets of films are EASY to scrounge up as well (actors etc). Distribution & promotion are a few mouse clicks away.

This is when we need to look at rap and reflect. Are you doing it because you love the art or are you just trying to get made?

Stephens argument also comes from the perspective of a writer. It’s easy to switch mediums when all that work is dependent on your writing. What about the visual artist? This is thing the fucking infuriates me. Its always always always from the writers perspective nowadays. Never from the visual artists. Sure their visual designs are translated, but their actual work is never seen nor cared for. It also makes me go into a mind seizure when considering hollywood generally credits the director, NOT THE SCREENWRITER, for the storytelling credit. But who gets the storytelling credit in comics? The writer. It makes look like a bunch of idiots and failures when we can’t even credit the one special asset to our medium, the one whos is telling the better-half of the story. (I say it’s the better-half, because without them, it wouldnt be comics now would it?)

(taking a few deep breaths, calm thyself.)

Love your art as it was supposed to be. Anything else is delusional and insulting not only other artists, but to yourself.

I think there’s a difference to what Robert Kirkman does, what Mark Millar does, and what (insert actor “writing” comic book) does involving comics. One has his ideas adapted because they’re unique, one has his ideas based on established concepts but with his own twist and he in turn markets them to people in the film industry that he knows, and one is (usually) trying to make a television pilot or movie based on a comic with their name attached to it. Nothing really wrong with any of the three but Kirkman’s is the preferred way for me. Millar uses the Hollywood angle to prop his name more than anything, and how many of those actors and a co-writer comics really have much of a shot from either media?

By the way, I tend to think that Stephenson is extremely full of himself on much of his blog (with his hipster ways and Big Two bashing) but he can sometimes start some great conversations among comic book fans.

I think the point has been made, but I’ll say it again: as long as a creator can tell a good story through his comics, I don’t care what else gets done with it. But it has to start with the story and, if you’re telling your story in comics, it has to be good comics! Good comics and good film are not the same thing. But if someone is publishing a GOOD comic book with the hope (or even intention) of being able to shop it around and turn it into a film, I say godspeed to them. It’s a tough world out there, and if you can make it on your own creativity? That’s pretty amazing.

So, according to him, it’s bad for comic fans to supposedly wait for Hollywood to “validate” comic properties in order for them to buy them. But it’s okay for creators to publish comics with the sole intent of seeking Hollywood “validation,” even though it doesn’t happen often? I think I need to start reading his blog more often. It’s entertaining, in a way.

Hollywood Studios making films and tv shows from properties that are intended by their creators for a wider, expanded audience in “the world” instead of merely being “Comics” for “Comics readers”?

Sure, why not.

But why do I have the feeling that reading a Comics Adaptation of those works would be a BETTER experience than either reading the original comic books or the film/tv show spun off from them?

Looking forward to the line of IMAGE’S SUPER SPECIALS devoted to such adaptations.

To me its not about whether a story can be told better in comics or in movies.

Its not about wanting to turn your comics into movies, its about ignoring your comics at the expense of the movies.

Look at War Heroes by Millar (since he’s the best example). Only 3 issues done. He claims Harris has the scripts and isn’t working on them, Harris states he has no scripts from Millar and therefore has nothing to do.

But in the end, Millar doesn’t care, because he sent the entire pitch into the studios and it got green lit. The studio knows how its going to end so they can make the movie, Millar gets paid. Those of us still waiting for the other 3 issues? Well, we seem to be screwed and Millar doesn’t give any indication that he cares.

Cause if he did, he’d make sure Harris had the scripts one way or the other and get the book back on track. But he got his money for the movie, and that’s that.

Will he do that for other ICON projects? Well at this time, no. But that’s cause with them really coming out from Marvel, he’s got more eyes on him if he’s unprofessional so he’d rather make sure he actually finishes the comics there.

But that’s what Stephenson needs to focus on. We’re fine if you want to turn the comics into movies. But you better make sure you FINISH THOSE COMICS!

Chin up @Evan. With all these “rumored” Millar movies (War Heroes, Nemesis, Hit Girl), none of them are even in production

A lot of interesting comments for what was a rather poorly argued piece to begin with. An example: equating people in comics wanting to make a living from their work with people gettting into comics to make money. The first is true, the second, at best, terribly misguided. He also equates comics created solely as a vehicle to sell a movie pitch, the point he is supposedly addressing, with creators wanting to see their ideas developed in other media. Not the same thing at all.

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