Director Kevin Munroe Discusses Dylan Dog
Dylan Dog: Dead of Night played for about three weeks in the spring and is being released Tuesday by Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment on Blu-ray. In an exclusive conversation with ComicMix, director Kevin Munroe talked about the experience.
Munroe first came to attention with his revival of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, released in 2007 as TMNT and is absolutely no stranger to comics. “Yeah, I think I started with Sgt. Rock and then the European titles which I read growing up on the east coast of Canada. I read Tin Tin, Lucky Luke, Asterix then discovered Plastic Man, “he said.
An avid comic book fan, Munroe became an artist and found work storyboarding episodes of Nickelodeon’s Hey Arnold! before scripting and producing ABC Family’s Christmas special Donner. Comics weren’t far from his mind, though as he wound up writing Dark Horse Comics’ El Zombo Fantasma, with Dave Wilkins. His other comics work includes Olympus Heights from IDW.
Given his work with Dark Horse, Munroe found himself in consideration for the director’s chair at a fortuitous time. “That was happenstance,” he admitted. “I heard of the project, while doing my own project for Dark Horse. I saw they had just done the first issue of the American edition of Dylan Dog and I picked it up. The series had everything I liked about comics.”
His fan interests certainly informed his career choices and he’s perfectly happy finding ways to adapt comics to the screen. “I think comics are such rich world and it’s just so easy to do,” Munroe explained. “I’m a fan on a visceral level. I like how active it is to read a comic and see the pacing and hear the voices in your head. Personally, I get a kick out of it. Where are the best stories being told? In comics. Who has the best characters? They take their time; create an entire world and mythos.”
Despite Dylan Dog being a long-running feature in Italy and recognized around Europe, he was virtually unknown in the United States. Munroe had to find ways of adapting such a large mythos and introduce audiences to Dylan and the weird world he inhabits. “Yeah, no pressure,” he said with a laugh. “God, how do you do that? You have to identify the spirit of the material and what it is that makes it unique and find what people respond to. There’s a reason why a series is successful and you should figure it out. There’s a following so you have to focus on telling a good story. Some key comic elements get left out, and some that remain getting elevated more. It can be as simple as the color of his shirt; if it informs his character you keep it. It’s constantly a balancing act. Some people get bogged down; some fans are just not storytellers and are not aware of the impact of being beholden to things.
“It’s like my work with video games. It’s the same approach. What is the same spirit, the special thing about a property? If you can’t find it then it’s a good sign you should not be doing this work.”
Switching from red and blue tights to something more comfortable, Brandon Routh assumed the title role and Munro explained that the actor, also known more recently for his fun work on Chuck, was already attached to the feature when he signed on.
“Brandon brought a real sense of cynicism and more of a realistic approach to this world and what the world means and his place in it. He’s naturally really reserved while Dylan is comfortable with monsters and humans. After meeting with Brandon, I would cast him anyway.”
The movie earned just $4,634,062 worldwide, which was disappointing to the studio but Munroe was realistic about the box office and the critical drubbing it received. According to Rotten Tomatoes, it was just 3% fresh despite 32% of its readers liking the film.
“I think TMNT was a big learning curve, some people you can never make happy,” he said. “Some people get what you do, some don’t. You get lucky, and you get to work with George Lucas at Skywalker Ranch. I have a Howard the Duck poster in my office,” Munroe said, chuckling. “I was disappointed but knowing it opened with just 700 screens, and a low level of awareness, it is what it is. I think it’s a much more enjoyable movie than what the box office represented. It’s cool.”
Munroe, currently working on a new still-unannounced animated venture with Lucas due out in 2013, hopes people finally sample the film on disc. He thinks the “great resolution on Blu-ray” will make a big difference.