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Director Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code) once was campaigning pretty hard to helm a Judge Dredd movie, but the producers were already sold on Alex Garland’s script. Jones was rumored at one point or another to be in the running for Man of Steel and The Wolverine, but now he’s working an adaptation of World of Warcraft, which has been the basis for graphic novels from Tokyopop and a comics series from Wildstorm. So he (sorta, tangentially, kind of) is finally getting his wish to make a comic-book adaptation.
He’s been musing on Twitter about the sort of pipe dream that gets fans enthused: The stream of consciousness started this morning with the doubtlessly sarcastic, “When are we finally going to get a Batman reboot?” and “I’m bored of Marvel films. Can’t Kevin Feige move to Archie comics?” This train of thought then came back to Jones’ native United Kingdom, with the joke “I’m in talks with Wayne Rooney to make a Biffa Bacon tv show for HBO.”
The footballer Wayne Rooney does somewhat resemble the comic strip character Biffa Bacon: Bacon and his thuggish family are a recurring feature in the U.K. adult-humor institution Viz. This gag obviously tickled Jones, but also sent him in another direction: What if the U.K.’s film industry started to get as excited about exploiting U.K. comics for its raw material as the United States has been with its comics for the last decade?
As Jones tweeted on the subject, others joined in, some of which Jones responded to, others he retweeted. Clearly warming to the subject, he was starting to show something of a crusading zeal on the matter.
This included challenging his peers to join in.
Well, he’s run this up the flagpole, and now I’m saluting it. I’ll remind everybody of the great work Steven Sterlacchini did on the Judge Minty short film: 2000AD essentially gifted him the rights to make a nonprofit production, and everyone involved was rewarded with tons of great publicity. Between this, and Jones’ proposed model, there’s a future for U.K. comics-to-film production. Sure, Jones is mainly joking here, but the U.K. film industry is full of comics fans. With a little generosity of spirit, and a lot of lightheartedness, these ideas could catch on. And if they proved popular, then all involved could start monetizing the process.
I don’t necessarily agree with Ron Abernethy‘s point about rights ownership: Sure, there are a couple of high-profile cases (Marvelman, Zenith), but mainly, the copyrights to almost any U.K. comics character belong to three or four companies: DC Thomson, 2000AD/Rebellion, Viz, and Egmont Publishing, which owns all of the Fleetway/IPC’s characters not sold to Rebellion with 2000AD in June 2000. There are, of course, some notable exceptions, such as Dan Dare, but again, there’s no great mystery as to who you’d have to deal with to negotiate rights — it’s Dan Dare Corporation Limited.
Anyway, cue a rush of comics and film types bombarding Jones with their own suggestions. My dream Biffa Bacon film would be directed by Shane Meadows: Now there’s a man who could handle the strip’s lurches between domestic comedy and extreme violence. Pressed further for my opinion, I find it amazing that 2000AD hasn’t been mined further by movie producers. Strontium Dog, Rogue Trooper, Slaine — all ripe for the picking. Every time I see a trailer for a movie like Real Steel, I can’t believe ABC Warriors hasn’t been optioned by an enterprising mogul. A remake of Seven Samurai, starring big CGI robots, set on Mars. It’s a license to print money, really.
Channel 4 has responded, and in keeping with the spirit of Jones’ brainstorm, it’s not being entirely serious.