A lot of people make their big break by taking an existing tale and making an adaptation out of it. Walt Disney did it, Don Bluth did it and so did many others. And I can't lie that one of my big plans in art is that I want to do for monsters what Disney did to the princess. I want to take the ones we know and reinvent them.
Is it bad to try to get out there like this? Does it make you any less original?
Why would it be? That's what's so great about public domain stories, especially the ones where there's lots of room for imaginative retellings. I do the same thing, albeit with fairy tales. And there's hundreds of people who do the same. Besides, just how many adaptions of Shakespeare's plays are there, or Jane Austen's novels? I mean, someone even took Pride and Prejudice and reimagined it during a zombie apocalypse, for crying out loud.
...For that matter, somebody else (I assume it was somebody else, anyway) did the same thing with Romeo and Juliet. Heck ton of creativity there, if you ask me. 0.o
Absolutely not! There is a reason why Disney does it, after all. And comic series too, superhero ones. Videogames, animated shows, cinematic universes... Actually, considering that you want to concentrate on monsters, it's somewhat hilarious in retrospect: the first cinematic universe was actually a series of monster movies like Dracula and Frankenstein, but it ran out of ideas too soon.
Nothing wrong with adapting a public domain story, provided of course you can put your own stamp on it.
For instance, what would you say about a virtually direct adaptation of J. M. Barrie's ''Peter Pan'', retaining original narration and dialogue - only using manga-style art? http://peterpan.smackjeeves.com/
I think adapting and reinventing a pre-existing story has its own set of challenges. Staying true to the spirit of the original while creating your own unique spin on the characters and events isn't easy, and there's no shame in getting big from it if you do it well (as long as we're talking stuff you're legally allowed to adapt, but most of the classic monster stories are firmly in the public domain.) Personally, I'm quite interested in reinventions of iconic horror stories, they're often seen as dated, but I think there's so much that can be done to make them appeal to a modern audience.
Something I think ought to be kept in mind is the role of new media. Disney succeeded not because they retold classic fables but because they were the first big player in a new medium. Most of their early work (the Alice Comedies, Silly Symphonies) was original, as were about half of their early movies (of the first five: Snow White and Pinocchio were adaptations, Fantasia was built around existing music, Dumbo and Bambi were originals). Adapting to a novel medium is a very difficult work, and it has innate audience appeal. Note that Disney's adaptations were more or less straight - they changed things, yes, but the appeal was not "see this story done differently" but "see this story as a cartoon".
We saw a similar thing in video games. Activision got their start with sports games. The NES library was like 65% sports games and tie-ins, many made by now-major developers including Nintendo itself (Donkey Kong started as a Popeye adaptation but getting the rights took longer than they could afford so they swapped Popeye, Brutus and Olive Oyl for Mario, Donkey Kong and Pauline). Some of the very first computer games, before they were even "personal computers", were based on Tolkien, or based on D&D which was itself massively derivative. These were likewise straight adaptations - changes made of necessity not as a way to distinguish.
Webcomics never really had that opportunity. The biggest difference between webcomics and comics is distribution and economics, not artistic. While online, you can do all kinds of things you can't do on paper... we mostly don't. 99% of webcomics are just comics on the web, taking no advantage of the medium. There's nothing wrong with that, but it meant nobody got a chance to make it big by taking old stories and doing them as webcomics. The appeal of every webcomic adaptation isn't "see a story you like, but now as a webcomic", but "see a fresh and bold take on a story you've heard a million times".
If you want to be the Walt Disney of webcomics, you would be adapting stories straight, but cramming them full of web tech. Animated panels. Hypertext narrative. Flash game sections. Music and sound effects. Homestuck my shit up. Push web technology itself - make a Chrome or Firefox fork that can show parallax-3D, high-dynamic-range images, and make people use it if they want the "full experience".
Push web technology itself - make a Chrome or Firefox....
The problem is, it stops being a 'webcomic' and starts becoming a poor substitute for whatever [bells and whistles] you try and add.
Motion comics is about as far as you can go and that's already like a poor-man's animation.
Webcomics are more a delivery medium, and as that, I've only seen shortcuts and none of this 'take advantage' of the medium all the artists keep claiming they can do. I also don't see any new freedoms [for the artist] either.
But back on topic. -
I think a pattern is what's important. And I say you'll hear it all by the time you're done.
Some will hate, some will love...some will give credit, some will subtract credit. There will be good points on both sides.
Is it bad to try to get out there like this?
No and what 'court' are you trying this imaginary case in? Public opinion, your artist peers? Your career potential, what?
Does it make you any less original?
Seems like an obvious question and I'm not sure how the answer can be anything other than YES, but that is the whole point so why need to ask?
Now loop back to the previous question's answer. lol
I don't think it's intrinsically bad, stories go into the public domain for a reason. Humans have been re-imagining stories forever, and if a story sticks the test of time, there's a reason it resonates with people. Maybe a case could be made that because people are already familiar with the story you have a built in audience, and therefore don't have to work as hard to convince them of your story, but I don't think that means it's not hard work re-telling a familiar story.
GMan003:If you want to be the Walt Disney of webcomics, you would be adapting stories straight, but cramming them full of web tech. Animated panels. Hypertext narrative. Flash game sections. Music and sound effects. Homestuck my shit up. Push web technology itself - make a Chrome or Firefox fork that can show parallax-3D, high-dynamic-range images, and make people use it if they want the "full experience".
I completely agree with this for more straight-forward adaptions. You don't have to go completely nuts, but if you're goal is to retell the story in a web-based medium, you may as well do something you couldn't do on print. Especially if multi-media stuff is something you're into. That in itself can be innovative even if you keep all the same plot points and characters.
Having some type of take on what you're adapting can make it feel more like your own work. When adapting something, especially public domain works that came from a different time where people saw the world differently, it can be necessary to update the work for a modern audience. Not to mention to give it your own spin. Like say I was doing a re-telling of Dante's Inferno, I'd probably cut out all of Dante's beef with people he personally knew, no modern day person cares that this guy who wronged him is now rotting in hell, references that modern audiences wouldn't get.
I don't think an adaptation has to keep the same spirit of the original, though that might put it on the line of parody depending on how far you go. If I was really adapting Dante's Divine Comedy, I could get a lot of mileage out of doing something more critical. I could re-work the whole thing into being more of an exploration of the theistic notion of an afterlife, one where questioning is actively discouraged by the guiding characters, suffering is glorified etc. At some point you might consider something like this more satire, but depending on what you adapt and it's original message, being critical of it can give you something new to say. There's lot of parodies of fairy tales, for example. I can think of several versions of Little Red Riding Hood where either the wolf wasn't evil or the wolf was the one that learned a lesson, and they only work because we are familiar with the original story.
I don't think adaptations are bad, as long as some effort is thrown in there to make audiences get something out of it that they can't get from the original, whether it be experiencing it in a new medium or getting a new spin or completely changing the plot. Otherwise they may as well stick with the old version.
Adaptions can be great but it depends on how much of the original story is followed.
Like say, if you were to do a Nutcracker story, lots of people will want the original outline premise of the story and see how it is retold. Some people would not mind having it set in modern day, or maybe having a robot instead of a nutcracker, but there still should be a girl who finds/ given an " __ " that turns out to be much more than what it seems, and " ___ " takes her to a hidden world and helps the girl/girl helps and saves the " ___ " from a rat king/ alternative to rat king.
What people do not like is "Here is a girl, here is a nutcrack, here is a rat king, but none of the plot or premise is anything like the nutcracker story, lets all just make them highschool buddies cracking unfunny jokes." This is when an adaption is not an adaption but a reinterpretation and those are often done veeeery poorly. Only few stories have been able to pull them off and pull them off WELL, most are "eh, it's alrightish."
Not bad per se, but maybe we should explore some of the reasons that adaptations, re-imaginings, and mashups have become so popular in recent decades.
The biggest advantage is that the characters in question are usually public domain. This means that a production company or publisher doesn't need to worry about royalties to either the original story/character's creators (long dead and no longer covered by the Sonny Bono Act, thus their descendants are not eligible to benefit). But it also means that the contemporary writer, if creating a work for hire, can't benefit from royalties either. An example would be Cthulu and the Daleks. If a Doctor Who story was being budget conscious, given a choice, they would use Chtulu, since the Daleks can only be used with permission from the Terry Nation estate. As far as the "work for hire" situation, Terry Nation, not being a BBC employee at the time, was an exception to the rule. A writer other than Gene Roddenberry created a significant number of the iconic elements for Star Trek; Klingons, Khan, Prime Directive, ect. But Lee Cronin's (aka Gene L. Coon) estate gets absolutely nothing for his contribution to Trek, as he was an employee of Paramount. Today's writers are more likely to know the worth of their ideas and strike better deals. So what this means is that the writers of Penny Dreadful can't spin deals to get royalties out of the usage of their versions of Mina Murray Harker, Victor Frankenstein, or Henry Jekyll. Same thing with many of the characters in Once Upon A Time.
Publishers and Studios have reacted to the fact that talented writers are being more assertive in recognizing the value of their own work. We all know some of the high profile shameful stories of creators whose characters have generated billions for a company while all the creator ever received was the wage paid at the time. So this might be why this trend has become popular in the mainstream. It's a solution that benefits the big companies more than the creators, whom they can still treat as work for hire.
Note: This is my own understanding of the Terry Nation situation. K9, I understand, is also under similar restrictions. Anyone with more accurate info on the legal wrangling in Doctor Who, feel free to make corrections if needed.
It's not just movies and Disney and plain old storytelling -- a LOT of singers have made big careers more out of cover songs and other people's songwriting in general than from their own songwriting. And then there's Bob Dylan who, in the classic Woody Guthrie/general folk music tradition, blatantly "steals" bits and pieces and entire melodies to fashion new works out of.
...so, no, it's not fundamentally bad. It's what you do with it. To extend the music metaphor, there's a difference between borrowing/covering and karaoke.
Don't let your comics be karaoke. I guess.
(Why do I always feel smarter BEFORE I've begun typing a response?)
It's ok, Caley. I am definitely not a karaoke machine when it comes to doing adaptations. I always do things MY way even if it's not popular, cool and just plain weird. I have lots of ideas and one of which involves Frankenstein which is unique.
For my part, yes.
Disney is literally the Hitler of creative world.
Even his signature is ripped off Will Eisner.
This road leads to a terrible nightmare of a reality where you get comics adaptations of Richard III. (blasphemy!) and crappy movie adaptations of great literary works that overshadow the original work by their sheer accessibility while missing all of its qualities (I'm looking at you, Blade Runner, and you, Peter Pan) and - oh, wait. We have this terrible future already.
The future that has 52 Tarzan movies.
I am a single voice among many (with the exception of Ari Folman; thank you for The Congress! xoxo), but I would implore you not to perpetuate this Human Centipede of a culture.
Edit: While I'm at it, "it" being the buzzkill - "if it wasn't good, it wouldn't be popular", what? Popular consensus is in no way related to quality, and if there was a relation, it would be inversely proportional.
If you want to sell your stuff, sure, this is the way to go; but this is exactly what got us into this dreadful mess.
Let me just point out that the greats in any art have one thing in common, and that is passion, not avarice.
Disneyland is a proof and fruit of monetary success, not a creative one.
To an extent, I see where you're coming from, but on the other hand, I agree to disagree on some parts. While one is an adaptation of another, it can be two different stories. While I agree there are flops, what about the ones that were good? Even when they weren't true to original? You can't blow off every reboot or adaptation because of the bad eggs.
For the record, I am not into doing what is popular either. If I was, I would be going by what was popular. While I do adaptations, I do them MY way and it's take it or leave it. Plus, I am not trying to sell my stuff. I am trying to get out there by showing I can write a good story. If you were to compare my adaptation to the original book, it's not the same story.
Plus, I don't think I'm disrespecting the original story. Disrespecting is when you openly mock something or use the source material as a selling point. I don't do that. Ever. I have nothing but respect for the original story even if I am taking a different road.
And the main female character is an adult and is really sexy and she has REALLY BIG BOOBS!
This concept has been done to death.
edit: I think you can't really top Angela Carter when it comes to "dark sexy fairy tale" retellings. The Company of Wolves cripples me.
I have to agree that I hate that trope too and not just because I think of myself as a progressive woman. Even from just the artistic standpoint, it gets tiring to see the same thing all the time. Now if you're making a big and diverse cast of female characters, one of them is going to be the buxom and shapely one (I know from experience) and it is possible to make a sexy character dignified and a character first hence my firm belief in classy fanservice. However, I think humanizing characters in general is the mark of good art and that includes giving them flaws. In other words, they have a mix of ugly and beautiful traits as well as showing a diversity in age. I can count on my fingers on one hand the number of protagonists who are over the age of thirty.
Children and old people will surprise you as protagonists. With that said, I'm sick of seeing the annoying child trope. Dorothy from Return to Oz is a beautiful example of a child protagonist who is well played and written especially when showing that she can be serious without being bratty or obnoxious. Moreover, I am equally sick of the useless or bitter old person trope. Take a look at Golden Girls which is about old women who are far from helpless and still live it up. I mean, Blanche had an active love life in which she dated multiple men at a time! I would love to see child and elderly protagonists done right.
I would say it's fine.
Adaptions can keep the classics alive for generations to come.
They can even become classics in there own right.
Also original stories are rarely 100% original themselves.
almost everything takes inspiration from somewhere else.
Like how Dragon Ball was inspired from Journey to the West,
Or how The Incredible Hulk was inspired by Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
Which is okay, because that's how art evolves.
As far as overshadowing, the originals.
It's not like everyone would be reading books instead.
but at least those people can still enjoy those characters & stories.
Some people tho, will discover there favorite books, because of a film they liked.
(Shortly after seeing Battle Royale, I went out to buy the book.)
I think web-comics have at least 4 advantages over published comics;
1) It's easy to read an entire series, that's been neatly archived online.
2) People are more likely to try new things if there free.
(You can always make money other ways, like Patron)
3) The Artist is not limited by a paper format.
(You can make each page any size or shape you want, & adding color wont cost extra.)
4) Anyone can put there work out there for the world to see.
(you don't have to convince somebody else to publish your work,
nor do you have to spend money to publish it yourself.)
I think web-comics have at least 4 advantages over published comics
I think you are comparing Webcomics to printed comics.
And NOT webcomics to digital comics. The distinction is important because any printed comic can become a digital comic and that eliminates 1,2 and 4.
3) The Artist is not limited by a paper format.
And that is challenged by the size of the mobile screen or computer monitor or kindle or...or....
That is not a hypothetical, that's a reality. Size is HUGE (no pun) concern for webcomics. Why look, 1 thread down is a discussion about page sizes.
At any rate, any other freedom is directly linked to traction, popularity, business, contracts, deals and fan interest.
If no one cares about your work, you are free to do whatever you want with your property.
If there is an invested or vested interest, there are strings to consider.
Other than that, we are going with personal preferences and pros and cons, which is all even and balanced - point for point.
I think it might be helpful to distinguish the different kinds of adaptations.
First is the straight adaptation. This is taking the same story and retelling it in another medium. It isn't necessarily unchanged - constraints of the medium might make you cut or add characters, scenes, all manner of stuff, but the core is unchanged. This is the only adaptation where changing the medium is necessary - you'll never do a straight adaptation of King Lear in play form, because that's what the original is. It's also very difficult to do more than one straight adaptation to the same medium successfully - who the hell is going to try adapting the Harry Potter books into movie form, after the ones we already got? In any case, the best way to know if it's a straight adaptation is this: is this what someone who wanted to read/watch/hear the original, but never did, would go for?
Second is the distillation. You're taking characters and plots, and mixing them up in ways still aligned with the original feeling. The Marvel movies are almost all this - the characters are the same at their core (although details and backstory can be changed), the plots are often made by chopping up multiple other stories, but the overall tone and feeling of the story is the same. You're taking the opportunity to trim the fat, clean off all the cruft.
Third is the update. Take the same plot, change the setting, then fix up any details that no longer work in the new setting. Heart of Darkness was a novel set in the Congo. For film, it was moved to Vietnam, laced with Vietnam War commentary, and renamed Apocalypse Now. More recently, a video game moved it to Dubai and borrowed from the War on Terror, under the title Spec Ops: The Line. There's also stuff like Treasure Planet (it's Treasure Island... in space!), or even that modern-day version of Romeo and Juliet (the one with DiCaprio). You're treating the original as a good story, just changing it, either for novelty (for an oft-retold story) or to make it more relevant to the issues of the day.
Fourth is the continuation. Take the characters, tell a new story without pretending the original didn't happen. This is basically just a sequel in a different medium. This often starts with a straight adaptation and then runs out of original to adapt.
Fifth is the refutation. Unlike all the above, this can be done by people who did not like the original. It can come in many forms but at its core is the impulse "I don't think the original did things right, this is how it should have been". It can be a parody - the film version of Starship Troopers takes the original novel's earnest pro-fascism and turns it into satire. It can dark-and-gritty it up - American McGee's Alice, for instance. You can throw out anything that didn't make sense, add in new stuff you thought it was lacking. The defining trait here is that you're assuming your audience is at least somewhat familiar with the original, otherwise your changes don't have anything to contrast with.
The straight adaptation gives the least space to demonstrate your skill. Not no space - there is still quite a bit of work involved. Adapting a novel to film shows off the trade skills of the actor, the director, the editor, the special effects artists, the costumers, the score composers... everyone but the screenwriter. Even if quite a bit of rewriting happened, if you did it well, people won't see it, and will just assume it was there in the original or, at best, was an obvious alteration. And it's worse the closer the two media are - adapting a visual medium to film (like a comic or video game) means the visual artists get less acclaim for their work, as the original already did much of it. Now, if you take the areas that weren't covered by the original and hit them out of the park, you can get wide acclaim. Disney might not have invented the story of Snow White, but they certainly made a beautiful film, and that's what won them respect.
The update, the distillation, and especially the continuation give you a bit more room to demonstrate story skills. It's still lessened but you're at least popularly considered to have done real work.
The refutation is a risk. If you do it well, you might even be rated higher than if you'd done a wholly original piece. If you do it badly, or perhaps even if you do an okay job at a sufficiently-beloved story, you're derided as garbage. It has as much to do with how people feel about the original. If they agree that, yeah, it totally needed to be gratuitously sexed-and-violenced up, you're gold. If they're like "no, why did you think a Seuss book needed more rape jokes, this is stupid and bad", you're screwed.
And now to finally answer the original question after two posts and about twelve million words... it depends on what you want to make it big as. If you want to make it big as an original storyteller, you really can't do that doing straight adaptations, or even updates or distillations. If you want to make it big as a comic artist, sure, do a straight adaptation a classic story and use everything outside the speech bubbles to show us how great you are. If you want to be the full package... an adaptation isn't going to get you all the way there, but maybe it'll get you halfway there.