It’s no secret that in today’s day and age, comics are king in Hollywood. Our favorite superheroes have been exploding onto the screen like never before, and with a seemingly endless supply of stories to pull from, we know it’s only the beginning.
So how do you take a comic book from page to screen? How can you create something fresh and original while staying loyal to the legend? We’re looking to the industry titans who have brought our favorite comic book heroes to life to give you some tips for tackling this mega-genre.
Here are seven tips for taking your favorite superhero stories off the page and onto the screen:
1. SELL YOUR STORY
You get one buy with the audience and — if the characters are strong enough and everything else works, the audience will buy it — and I think that’s true for superhero movies in general. You have to buy that a guy wears a suit and goes around fighting crime, and if you can accept that, then the rest of the world will work for you.
-Cort Lane (Senior Vice President of Animation & Family Entertainment at Marvel) AFF 2008
2. FIND THE BALANCE
You need light with the darkness. I mean… you need stakes but yet, you need humor. And the humor cannot comment at the sake of undermining those stakes.
-John Turman (writer Hulk, Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer, Ben 10: Alien, MacGyver) AFF 2008
3. CHANGE WITH THE TIMES
There’s something about them being flexible in that way when you keep the core bones of what resonates with people and then you make it updated for the time or the demographic… that’s what keeps it alive. It’s kind of the passing of the flame.
-Nicole Perlman (writer Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain Marvel, Detective Pikachu) AFF 2014
4. Don’t be a Slave to the Canon
They’re not about canon, they’re not about even the mythology of it all. They’re about the experience of being a person who is just trying to figure out who they are and what it is they’re supposed to do and screwing up in every conceivable way.
-Ashley Miller (writer Thor, X-MEN: First Class; writer/producer Fringe, Black Sails, Lore) AFF 2014
5. KEEP THINGS FUN
Let’s not be embarrassed that we’re making a comic book movie, you know. Let’s remember that this comes from a place that gave all of us a certain level of joy at a certain point, you know. Let’s not make the dark, gritty version, let’s not kill every puppy we can find… it’s still got to be fun.
-Christopher Markus (co-writer Avengers 4, Avengers: Infinity War, the Captain America trilogy, the Narnia films, Pain & Gain, You Kill Me, The Life and Death of Peter Sellers) AFF 2018
6. CHALLENGE YOUR HERO
Maintain their character, of course, but give them consequences for that steadfastness, right? Because your character’s flaw is very often your character’s strength.
-Stephen McFeely (co-writer Avengers 4, Avengers: Infinity War, the Captain America trilogy, the Narnia films, Pain & Gain, You Kill Me, The Life and Death of Peter Sellers) AFF 2018
7. LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT
If you don’t love the source material, you have no business doing it. I really don’t think that you should be messing with a big concept just because you can get paid and maybe you can do something interesting with it because you’re a very creative person. You know, you should really love at least the basic concept of what you’re after.
-Chuck Mondry (writer Doc Savage, Jekyll) AFF 2011
Visit onstory.tv for a closer look inside the creative process from today’s leading writers and filmmakers.
Want to hear these tips first hand? Join us at this year’s Writers Conference (Oct. 24 – 27, 2019) for a weekend of insider tips and writing advice from the leading voices of film and television. For more information on how to attend, click here.