Monday, May 17, 2010

SERENDIPITY AT THE LONDON BOOK FAIR

For a while now I have been vaguely contemplating adapting one of my specs into a graphic novel. I say “vaguely contemplating” in its loosest sense, pretty much the equivalent of a tortoise flirting with the idea of possibly entering the London Marathon before he gets too old. I’m not sure where the idea first came from, probably just evolved from countless industry-related stories absorbed over the years, certainly not born of any desire to emulate any graphic novels for the simple reason I’ve never owned or even read one* so I presume it’s just a case of head over heart.

I loved traditional comics as a boy and religiously read The Beano and The Dandy, along with some ancient Marvel and DC comics handed down from a family friend (which are still in my parent’s house… mmm, aren’t those things worth stupid amounts of money now?) but as I erupted into my teens and began devouring novels as fast as I could lay my hands on them, comics soon faded into the befuddled mist of childhood memory.

So, while attending the Selling To Hollywood panel discussion, it was with growing interest that I listened to Andy Briggs pushing the idea that graphic novels are definitely worth considering as a serious route to getting an original story picked up. It’s all well and good me thinking I already know that, but it’s an entirely different matter hearing someone enthusing about it as passionately as Andy. As I listened, my dormant vague contemplation rumbled slowly into life, like the stomach of that same tortoise awakening from hibernation, and it dawned on me that one of my specs not only fits Andy’s take on the current US market vogue for mega-bucks commercial projects, but also involves a character who could easily drive a graphic novel franchise. Cue light bulb moment...


That's me, that is. Looking at a lightbulb. 

I hung around after the panel discussion and hijacked Andy for a quick chat. He was very friendly and offered some great advice and support, after which, armed with my new and less vague plan of action, I trotted downstairs into the expanse of exhibitors to seek out the graphic novel stands and investigate what is it about these famed man-comics that makes so many go geek at the knees.

After walking around for what seemed an eternity and failing to find anything that remotely resembled a graphic novel, despite walking past all the graphic novel stands several times the previous day, I opted to repair to the bar (a decision made much easier as I was passing it for the third time) and there set about my newest plan of finding a map of the exhibitors arena. Armed with directions from the friendly French barman, and a nerve-steadying beer(s) coursing through my veins, I set off in hot pursuit of my destiny.

 

CUT TO:

 

I had some interesting and enlightening chats with some very interesting and enlightening people, and had my first proper glimpse inside these previously unexplored books. What immediately struck me is how cinematic they are, or at least the ones I flicked through were, with the imagery storyboarded using close ups, long shots, various POV, and it quickly became apparent these graphic artists are effectively directing the story on the page, just with much fewer shots. All blindingly obvious to graphic novel fans and probably any vertebrate over the age of ten, but it was all a revelation to this card-carrying member of the Dennis the Menace Fan Club.

 



Two graphic novel publishers claimed to genuinely like my idea and were keen to read the script. Interestingly, every graphic novel person I spoke to, after hearing what I was proposing, warned me off the Marvel stand on the grounds they are the one group in attendance who wouldn’t be interested in hearing a pitch. Fair enough, but for the record, never point at the big red button and tell me not to press it. Having absorbed as much graphic novel info as possible I headed straight for the Marvel stand (I say straight, in reality I got lost again) and on eventual arrival at the Marvel stand aimed for the most important/bored looking bloke in a suit, whose screwed up eyes tracked my progress towards him with the same disdain I reserve for those punchable grinning charity-mugger fuckwits that infest London’s streets.
 
Although he remained a little uncertain of eye, once he started talking about his side of the business he was quite forthcoming and informative, and we were soon having a good chat. I eventually explained my curiosity, and as I took my first tentative steps into the territory of pitching my script as having graphic novel potential, I could sense him beginning to mentally retreat, so I did the honourable thing and stopped before I really started. He explained that Marvel didn’t accept submissions and went on to offer some sound advice, and it was right there that the London Book Fair’s serendipitous climate kicked into overdrive. Mr. Marvel produced some literature for me to take away, to help me visualise the directions he was suggesting, and emblazoned across the front of all this Marvel literature was the very familiar yellow and red trademark of Panini.
 
“Aha!” I exclaimed. “Panini! What’s the connection?” He explained that Panini and Marvel were partners. I then mentioned that a while back I had written a screenplay for a Channel 4 project, a charming little story about childhood unrequited love, er, and Panini stickers. Lots of Panini stickers. Turns out that not only was Mr. Marvel also Mr. Panini but he'd also seen the film and liked it (hurrah!) He then asked me to elaborate on the project I’d just swerved pitching him and we had a very interesting chat about it, after which he produced his card and told me to contact him with a view to working something out. Ta da!

 
So, thank you Andy Briggs for giving me a virtual boot up the arse. I’m now off to read some of these graphic novel things and work stuff out. The future's bright. And glossy. And maybe got lots of drawings in it.

 
* POST EDIT: I have since read three of these graphic novel things, chosen from an online recommended list. One was so shit I wanted to rip my eyeballs out and smash them with a hammer; one was just very very very dull, and the last one was thankfully a page-turner (in fairness, compared to the other two a BNP manifesto written in Greek and covered in cat shit would be more of a page turner). Rather than invest in any more graphic novels for the moment, I think I’ll do what I should have done in the first place and drag my arse down to the wonderful Westminster library and therein take my sport.

A surprising development of considering this specific story existing outside the screenplay format is that I now sense a growing exciting possibility that this thrilling spec script could also give birth to a fantastic novel sans drawings. A tingle and glow rears up at the bifurcation of the novel. The future might still be bright, but maybe not so glossy, with no drawings and lots of words instead.

 

7 comments:

Geoff said...

What a brilliant and fortunate sequence of events - go Jared!

I too loved The Beano as a kid but stalled like a scared horse at the assumed jump to the likes of 2000AD. When the art of a comic strip condenses action and humour into as few frames as possible, it is a totally different language that allows an entire double-page spread for our hero to engine-rev and eyebrow-twitch his way to the shops.

I can't think of a quicker way to communicate your vision for a film though.

shannon said...

Fucking hell, you read preacher!
Good man.

now you just have the other 8 preacher graphic novels to read...

Vera said...

Congratulations Jared. Well done. x

Andrea said...

How exciting! Both/either the prospect of a graphic novel and/or a 'normal' novel. Good luck with it. And well done for being bold and schmoozing - sorry: networking - so well. :)

Denny said...

Preacher is excellent. Try also Transmetropolitan, FreakAngels, The Boys, and possibly Death and the first few collections of Lucifer (two spin-offs from Sandman, which I personally find over-rated in itself but I enjoyed the spin-offs for a while).

Jared said...

Thanks for the tips, Denny. Much appreciated. :)

The Kid In The Front Row said...

Judging by the passion underneath what you're saying-- I think you should definitely adapt it :)