In his argument about the film “American Splendor,” Hight (2007) seems to propose that adaptation of the comic into a film overcame most of the challenges and barriers that face such an attempt. In order to prove that Hight brought about this argument, there is a need to look into arguments by other writers with regard to adaptation of comics into films. This paper does so by looking at arguments by two film analysts. It will first look at the challenges associated with adapting a comic into a film. With this background, the paper will then look at how the producers of the film “American Splendor” overcame these challenges.
Lefebvre (2007) indicates that there are four main challenges that hinder successful adaptation of a comic into a film. He further argues that three of these four reasons are related to the nature of the medium used in comics themselves. These three factors sharply contrast with the characteristics of a film. Leferve (2007) goes ahead to make the comparison between the two. In comics, the panels are arranged on the same page, they are static, and are accompanied by no noise or sound. On the other hand, films have a screen frame, moving photographic objects, and a soundtrack.
Given the difference between the two, Laferve (2007) indicates that adapting a comic into a film could have disastrous results. There are several factors which can lead to this. First of all, the film has to be edited so that the spaces between a panel of the comic to the next can be covered. This implies that editing is a must. Secondly, sound has to be incorporated. A film has to have a soundtrack or noises made by the characters.
The last challenge as observed by Laferve is that films are prepared by teams of people while comics can be designed by as little as one individual and as many as teams. This, therefore, indicates that the budget for doing a film is much more than the budget for a comic. This could well explain why it is hard to adapt a comic into a film; it would be more costly. Furthermore, there is the likelihood that the film might not capture the interests of the comic lovers. Laferve (2007) indicates that comics such as Spiderman lost some of their touch with their fans after they were adapted into films. Too much animation removes the naturalistic aspect, making the films look more artificial than real (Harvey, 1996).
Harvey also agrees with Laferve that comic production is different from film making. He argues that the two are different types of art and it should not be assumed that one has an effect on the other. He goes ahead to argue why this is not possible. His reasons tally with those given by Laferve that comic adaptation into film is quite tough.
In his argument, Harvey (1996) employs many examples all of which seem to assert his point. First of all, he argues that different sets or sub-plots can be produced on the same panel in a comic. This allows the reader or viewer to follow the story-line and get the fun in it. He does this by using the example of Krazy Kat where eight different scenes are seen on the same panel. This helps the audience in easily following the story and catching the humor. By using this example, Harvey (1996) indicates that this layout cannot be reproduced in a film. In order to fit these scenes on one screen, the camera would have to be moved so far away that it would be impossible to see the characters. This is a great challenge in adapting a comic into a film.
Another aspect that Harvey (1996) captures has to do with the timing in comics. He argues that time in comics can be controlled such that scenes seem to have continuity. However, if adapted into film, there would be time differences between the events depicted in the comic and their film presentation. Here, Harvey (1996) agrees with Laferve (2007) that editing is inevitable. This makes the film lose the original touch.
The last issue that Harvey (1996) has with adapted comics is that they tend to have a lot of animations. The settings end up being unnatural and unrealistic. He, therefore, argues that comics should remain as comics while films should be more original.
Having looked at these challenges, it would be assumed that successful adoption of a comic into a film cannot be possible. However, Hight (2007) indicates that Shari Springer Berman and Bob Pulcini effectively adopted Harvey Pekar’s comic into a film. All through the article, Hight (2007) compares the film with Pekar’s original work with the aim of showing how the successful adapting came about. The factors of success in the venture are as indicated below.
First of all, Hight (2007) the film producers used multiple characters to represent Pekar. This was not an easy task though. Pekar’s work had been written by himself but was illustrated by different artists who brought out different styles (Hight, 2007). This made it hard to have one character acting for Pekar in the film. Therefore, the idea of using many Pekar’s made it possible for the film makers to capture this aspect.
Other filmimg techniques were used in making the film a success. Hight (2007) indicates that among the revisions made on the film included telescoping of some events. Furthermore, the names of some characters were changed in order to protect the real personalities. Furthermore, there was editing of some parts of Pekar’s biography. This made it possible to move from the comic idea to the creation of a story through the film.
Hight (2007) in order to get the sense of continuity, the film producers had to find a way of bringing about continuity. Therefore, they applied the drama-documentary genre. This implies that they could get the different events from the comics and make them into a kind of series. In the long run, the film takes the same structure taken by the comic. It gives that autobiographical aspect that Pekar had in mind when producing the comic.
Another great factor made the producers attain such success is the use of naturalism. Hight (2007) indicates that this sense of reality is so pronounced that it is only one part of the entire film that is highly animated. Otherwise, the other scenes and characters were taken live on location. This implies that the film and the comics had a great deal of resemblance and consistency. Furthermore, they used Pekar’s real voice-overs in bringing sequence to the film. The reader of the comic can have the same touch and effect on watching “American Splendor” as the film does not deviate much from the original work. Characters seem to be the same, they use similar costumes, and act the same way as those in the comic. This aspect appeals to the comic lovers. It also indicates a deviation from the situation described by Laferve (2007) where lovers of ‘Spiderman’ comic were disappointed by the change in the Spiderman’s costume. It was also the frustration that lovers of “X-Men” in which the costumes of the characters were changed. ‘American Splendor’ overcame this challenge. However, as Hight (2007) indicates, this was not a mean task. The film producers had to invest quite a lot into the film production.
In conclusion, it is evident from Laferver (2007) and Harvey (1996) arguments with regard to comic adaptation into film that this is quite a challenging task. This is due to a number of factors such as the inherent differences between the comics and films. One has continuity and noise whereas the other is static and does not have a sense of continuity. It is also to control time in comics such that a given activity is delayed until it is considered appropriate. This is different for the films as they have to be realistic in terms of time and continuity. Due to these factors, Laferve (2007) and Harvey (1996) indicate that adaptation of a comic into a film is such a daunting affair. However, Hight (2007) seems to argue in the opposite direction. He uses the movie ‘American Splendor’ to show that it is possible to adapt a comic into a film. Through this argument, Hight (2007) asserts the fact that the producers of the film overcame the challenges predicted by Laferve and Harvey.
Lefèvre, P. (2007). “Incompatible Ontologies? The Problematic Adaptation of Drawn Images.” Film and Comic Books. Eds. Ian Gordon, Mark Jancovich, and Matthew P. McAllister. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2007. (4,419 words) pp 1-12
Harvey, R. (1996). “Only in the Comics: Why Cartooning Is Not the Same as Filmmaking.” The Art of the Comic Book: An Aesthetic History. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1996 (3,922 words) pp 173-178 and 188-191.
Hight, C. (2007). “American Splendor. Translating Comic Autobiography into Drama-Documentary.” Film and Comic Books. Eds. Ian Gordon, Mark Jancovich, and Matthew P. McAllister. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2007. (1,038 words.) pp 180-187.