Son Of Filling The Big Shoes, by Mike Gold
Remember my column last week ? I’m sure you committed every hallowed word to memory. Well, this is a sequel. Fittingly, it’s about Hollywood.
I’m staring at this massive schedule of movies of interest to your average ComicMixer that are due to be released in the next 12 months or so: Iron Man 1, Indiana Jones 4, Incredible Hulk 2-but-1, Get Smart 1, Hellboy 2, The Dark Knight 6-but-2, X-Files 2, The Mummy 3, James Bond 22, Harry Potter 6, The Day The Earth Stood Still 1-but-2, Star Trek 74, Will Eisner’s The Spirit 1, and Green Hornet 1 (serials don’t count). I’m looking forward to about half of them, which is a pretty good average for me. But there’s one that I’m looking to with trepidation.
No, it’s not The Day The Earth Stood Still, the original of which is the Citizen Kane of science-fiction movies. Let them take a shot; I wish ‘em luck. Nor is it Star Trek 74: The Reboot-To-The-Rear. I’d scoff at this attempt but, frankly, after the majority of Trek movies what the hell, maybe it’ll work. It did for James Bond in Casino Royale 3. Nope, I’m trepidatious about Will Eisner’s The Spirit. Make that Frank Miller’s Will Eisner’s The Spirit.
There’s absolutely no slight here against Frank. Of all the folks in comics, he has been one of the most publicly and most aggressively pro-creator rights activists around. His passionate arguments about the Comics Code and about the way Marvel treated Jack Kirby still ring loudly in my inner-ear. In fact, I’m glad to see The Spirit in the hands of a person who knows how to make comics work yet also has a solid background in movies.
No, I’m afraid of Hollywood.
Let’s take that promotion art that Frank did (above). Upon seeing it, I suspect my reaction was the same as most Eisner enthusiasts: this is just wrong. We should be seeing Will’s stuff here (right), not Frank’s. But that was an emotional response; I understood why Frank did the art.
In Hollywood, you must always lead with your most commercial foot, and at that moment in time, Frank’s reputation was based upon three solid hits: 300, Sin City, and Batman Begins (Hollywood is now über-hip enough to believe that this movie was based upon Miller’s Batman while Schumacher’s were based upon indigestion).
Here’s the problem. Will Eisner’s The Spirit is neither 300, Sin City, nor Frank’s Batman. Believe me, Miller will be the first to say so. Those three movies didn’t have the wit, the personality, or the humanity of Eisner’s creation. Those three movies were a lot more violent than Eisner’s creation. That’s not a criticism; I likes my mega-violence a lot, when it’s appropriate. Like in 300, Sin City, and Batman Begins.
I don’t know the budget for Frank’s Spirit movie, but I’m sure it’s more than I’ll earn in, oh, maybe the next several millennia. And Hollywood likes to “protect” its investment – as in second-guessing, overruling and interfering with the director’s work. So I’m afraid… I’m very afraid.
There is cause for hope. Will Eisner’s The Spirit’s producer is Michael Uslan, the former comics writer who produced or executive produced the Batman movies, Swamp Thing, National Treasure, the forthcoming Shazam!, and a lot of other movies and teevee series. He used to be a big muckety-muck at United Artists. He was the production attorney on Apocalypse Now, which had to be quite a learning experience. When it comes to protecting both Frank’s vision and Will’s, he’s the right man for the job.
If anybody is.
Mike Gold is editor-in-chief of ComicMix.