Thursday, July 1, 2021

Thursday Morning Superhero: When your favorite books become shows

I have been blessed to share some of my favorite comics with my family as two series that are in my top five of all-time have graced the small screen recently.  While sharing Locke and Key and Sweet Tooth with my family has been an absolute delight, it has been an interesting experience removing myself from my comic fandom to a show marketed to a mass audience. I want to be clear that I really did enjoy both shows despite the editorial changes that make sense given the new target audience.  Not all adaptations can be Invincible and deliver the over-the-top cartoonish gore with one of the best casts assembled.  Having said that, I think I prefer the adaptations to the direct translation from page to screen.

How can you not immediately fall in love with Gus

Moving from an R rating to PG-13:

Given the content of both Sweet Tooth and Locke and Key, these were shows that I wanted to screen prior to sharing them with my kids. After reading more about the Sweet Tooth adaption and seeing the tone of the trailer prior to its launch, we actually gave that one the green light even though my daughter never gained interest.  Both series have scenes related to sexual assault and have moments that are extremely violent. The decision to tone these down might not have resonated from the hardcore horror fans, but I think it is savvy decisions like this that allowed Locke and Key to get renewed for a second season.  In addition, the call to make Gus' dad more likeable and less crazy than his comic book counterpart also maintained the more lighthearted feel to this series, minding that it does take place after millions have died to an incurable virus, children are being born as human/animal hybrids, and you can't trust anyone.  When I first started watching these shows I felt a little disappointed, but as the series progressed and my family was able to share in these stories that had such a huge impact in my life it made sense and I was able to enjoy them in the medium these changes were made for.

I cannot wait for season 2!

Leaving out a lot of detail:

With any adaptation, there are going to be moments from the pages that have to be cut.  There is no avoiding it for a multitude of reasons. I am not one to cry foul if a scene I enjoyed in a book doesn't make it to the screen, but the amount that it occurred in Locke and Key compared to Sweet Tooth took some reflection for me to understand.  There are moments from almost the entire Locke and Key series in one season of the show.  This was jarring, but it did a nice job of providing closure in case the series wasn't renewed, and allows for those scenes to be incorporated in future seasons. This is less of an issue with Sweet Tooth, but it did impact the character development of certain characters in Locke and Key.  Prior the the show launching I also remember reading an interview with Joe Hill where he talked about the need to maintain some relatively strong differences between television shows and comic books, as it allows for the reach of a larger audience and keeps those who enjoyed the comics on their toes.

The end credits:

It is easy to get reactionary when an adaptation is different than what you expect, but valuable to reflect on the differences and to appreciate it as a separate entity from the material it was derived from.  There are times where the adaptation falls flat and leaves you disappointed (NOS4A2), but at least it encouraged me to reread the book and that was a positive experience.  Despite the editorial changes that are necessary and the varying levels of influence from the original creator, there is value in trying to judge each work of art separately and I hope that other comics that I have enjoyed find their way to the small or big screen in the near future, particularly the Sixth Gun and the Underwater Welder.  I cannot recommend both of these series enough (and Invincible to the right audience), but will hold off on sharing the books with my son until he is a bit older.

POSTED BY MIKE N. aka Victor Domashev -- comic guy, proudly raising nerdy kids, and Nerds of a Feather contributor since 2012.