I used to come to film adaptations of my preferred properties the way that Alan Moore did, skeptical and full of righteous fury. And the RED happened. RED is the Bruce Willis movie that came out a few years ago, and it was based on a three-issue comic book by my man, Warren Ellis. It was intense, violent, hardcore, and pretty damned serious. And then they made a movie out of it. Like the book, the movie was about an old CIA assassin, Retired Extremely Dangerous, whose main concern was getting his pension checks, and he was brought out of retirement by scores of CIA assassins. And subsequently, a whole bunch of faceless men die creatively. But the movie version added John Malkovich as a wacky fellow retiree, as well as Helen Mirren and Brian Cox as star-crossed Cold War lovers. It was laid back and goofy, in that “Aren’t old people just so cute” kind of way, and I was furious. How dare they take such a simple, serious premise and turn it into something so fluffy? I screamed, I shouted, and I put a pox on the studio’s houses for allowing this to happen.
And then they made a sequel, which further enraged me. But right before it came out, Warren Ellis got on his blog and implored his fans to go see RED 2 because he bought his daughter a horse with the royalties from the first movie, and it was really expensive to feed. Suddenly it became crystal clear that he had made his book, and he did the Warren Ellisiest job he could with it, but it was out in the world. If someone else saw it and made a different interpretation, that was their business, as long as Warren Ellis got paid, which he did, handsomely. His reputation wasn’t ruined by this silliness, just like Alan Moore’s reputation wasn’t ruined by that not-very-good Watchmen adaptation a few years back, or by the prequels comics DC did a few years later. (It’s okay to get mad about how badly DC screwed over Alan Moore financially and legally, though, but getting worked up over Zack Snyder’s gratuitous slowmo and costume alterations kinds of misses the point.) Adaptations are going to happen, and they will, by necessity, make some changes. One day, if I ever get over my crippling exhaustion with the black hole of the publication/marketing process, they might want to do adaptations of my works, and they will be so very different. And if I don’t like the changes, I will just remember that it’s not my interpretation anymore, and I’m getting paid. Unless they whitewash or straightwash the characters. Then I will say something. Otherwise, I look forward to seeing what fellow creative minds might make out of my genius ideas. And perhaps I will buy a horse with the royalty check. I will name her Peanut Butter and she will eat apples and carrots.