The big screen adaptation of The Walking Dead is one of the most eagerly awaited comic book flicks around.
YouTube is stuffed full of fan tributes and fake trailers like the one below. There's just one problem. No-one's making the movie.
Instead, Shawshank Redemption director Frank Darabont is turning it into a TV series.
We sat down with brilliant Walking Dead artist Charlie Adlard to find out why, what movies influence The Walking Dead, and what he thought of previous comic-book adaptations like The Spirit and Watchmen (clue: he wasn't a big fan of either).
What's your favourite zombie movie?
I just like the obvious ones, I haven’t got a really weird one that no-one else has heard of.
I like George A Romero's films. I particularly like Shaun Of The Dead.
Most zombie movies are fairly grim affairs, at least Shaun Of The Dead had a comedy element to it.
I’m not a massive zombie film fan. A lot of people naturally assume that I’m this big zombie buff. I like a good horror movie as much as the next person, but I’m not some sort of obsessive.
The artwork is very cinematic...
I just enjoy cinema. I’m not a fan of any one particular genre.
My two favourite movies this year were probably Frost/Nixon and Drag Me to Hell.
You can’t get two movies more different than that. I’m just a fan of whatever moves me emotionally in the cinema.
You could say that The Walking Dead is an amalgamation of the two...
Yeah, you’ve got a lot of talking heads! That’s kind of interesting, I hadn’t thought about that.
You’ve mentioned that most zombie movies are quite grim. Walking Dead, in places, is very grim indeed: How do you feel when you get the script in and you’ve got to kill a major character?
The worst part is reading the script and thinking, ‘I’ve got to draw this now.’ Especially when it's something like the torture issue, or the issue where Carl gets raped.
Thinking about it before you draw it is possibly the most challenging part. I don’t know if it’s the same for other artists but when I'm actually drawing it, I go into this zone where I'm literally just making marks on paper.
So I'm drawing something on page seven, I'm not thinking, ‘Oh my god I’m drawing somebody’s eye [being pulled out].’ I'm just doing black and white ink on paper. So it’s quite a desensitising process.
I remember specifically with the torture issue, it was the only time I phoned Robert and said, 'You’ve got to convince me to draw this, this is quite extreme stuff.'
Because I’m not a big fan of gore either. It’s fine in the right place, in horror movies or comics, as long as there’s a point and a reason to it.
I cannot abide stuff which is just gore to look cool. Apart from The Thing, which I love, some of my favourite horror movies are more subtle affairs.
In films like The Haunting, The Innocents, Halloween, and even in Texas Chain Saw Massacre, it’s all off-screen, it's left to your mind and it's a lot more powerful.
So when Robert’s proposing we do things that are explicit, I’m thinking, ‘I’m not really into doing this Robert.’ But he twisted my arm, made me see… sense (laughs).
Frank Darabont is trying to turn The Walking Dead into a TV series - why not a movie?
I’d feel better if it were a TV series, because I don’t think it would work as a movie.
I can’t see how it could be a movie, because they’d have to take a small section of it. Too much happens to fit into a two hour run-time.
And we haven't even changed the basic zombie template, we've kept Romero's design; it’s not like 28 Days Later or the remake of Dawn of the Dead, where you’re like, 'Ooh, they’re running.'
So it would work best as a TV series. Just like in the book, you’d have time to get into the characters. And I think TV is ready for something like that, especially in the last ten years where TV has become more ongoing.
Back in the ‘70s you could just dip into a TV show at any point and within one or two episodes you’d be up to speed with the characters, because they don’t change.
But The X Files came along in the '90s, and even some of the Star Trek stuff at the time, where you have a small arc but basically you can still dip in.
Now you’ve got things like Lost and Heroes, where if you try and start that in the middle you really are lost - you’ve got no chance. So it’s doable, it’s totally doable.
Which actor would you like to see play Rick?
To be honest, I’ve never thought about it. I’ve never thought in those terms, “I’ll draw him like somebody…” you know, we’re not doing it like Wanted, where the main character was drawn to look like Eminem.
It would be nice to see more of a character actor, because Rick is not exactly your true heroic sort. He’s just an ordinary guy that’s found himself in this extreme situation.
He behaves like an ordinary person. He’s not even a flawed hero like Jack in Lost. Jack might have a couple of problems but he's still essentially a good guy, whereas Rick is a proper human being.
You're a fan of Eisner and Mignola, have you seen Hellboy or The Spirit?
The first Hellboy was ok, but Hellboy 2 was great.
It had a real humour about it. The Barry Manilow song could have been so bad but it just worked, especially at the end, when it comes back again.
The characters were nicely edged, and that’s to the merit of Guillermo del Toro, obviously.
The Spirit I absolutely detested. It’s one of the worst films I’ve ever seen. And Frank Miller should not be given a camera ever again.
It’s crazy, they said it would be it’s in honour of Eisner, but it’s got nothing to do with The Spirit.
It’s just another Sin City riff, basically.
The Spirit with guns...
Yeah, and all of a sudden he’s indestructible. I don’t remember The Spirit having a superpower in the comics.
They feel obliged to give him a superpower because he’s a comic book hero.
Sam Jackson was just terrible in it. He was just directionless. He was obviously told by Miller just to go mad, which is probably the worst thing you can tell an actor, because their ego just goes vroom. I wasn’t a big fan of Sin City either, it was all style over substance.
You could argue that the comic book’s the same. If you take away the imagery, which was innovative at the time, you’ve the most cliché-ridden film noir.
When I heard they were making it into a film I thought, 'This is going to be awful!' We’ve seen enough film noir in the '30s and '40s and we don’t need something that’s just going to take the clichés.
But they did at least bump up the visuals to an extent that made it worth watching.
And is that the kind of thing that makes you glad it's moving to TV instead of film?
I hadn’t really thought about that, but you’ve probably got a good point.
If you did make it into a movie everything would have to be condensed, including some of the more interesting dialogue, whereas you have more room to breathe on television, more room to be more realistic, the characters interaction would be more involved and detailed.
And what did you think of Watchmen?
Yeah, it was OK – but that’s all it was.
I kept saying to myself, 'Make sure you sit down and re-read the book before you see the film,' but I’m quite glad that I didn’t, because it's nice to see films pure, without the books getting in the way, or whatever they've been adapted from.
So I went to see the film, and came away thinking, 'That was OK.' But then I looked at the book again a week or so later, and realised it was exactly the same.
You shouldn’t get people that are so in love with the subject matter that they don’t dare to change it.
You get people who’ve read the book and go and see the movie and they’re like, 'Oh, it’s nothing like the book, the book was much better.'
And then the irony is you go and see something like Watchmen and you’re like, 'It’s not very good because it’s like the book,' so we’re never happy!
But you do actually appreciate that filmmakers do have to make changes, and that’s the problem with the film, Snyder didn’t do his own thing with it.
He was brave with Dawn of the Dead, with the running zombies...
But the original had a satirical element to it and a political element, whereas all that’s jettisoned in favour of, 'Ooh, look, running zombies!'
I think that’s Zack Snyder's problem. It was the same with 300, with an almost obsessive adherence to the subject matter. He is obviously a self-confessed fanboy – almost too much.
Next: Working Day
In the Walking Dead the art has so much emotion. Do you ever feel like an actor when you’re drawing? Or is it from memory?
No, I hardly ever see it in my head. I know so many artists who agonise over this and thankfully, touch wood, I’ve never had a problem.
Every morning, because I’m married with two kids, my working day is a normal Joe’s working day. Nine 'til five, kids come home, I have dinner with the kids and put them to bed. I rarely go back to work after that, I’m too bloody knackered most of the time.
So I’ll start off, I’ll sit down at the drawing board, start at the top left hand corner, and start drawing.
You hear that artists have to warm up, first by doing a little sketch, or something, and I just go… and that’s it. And thankfully it’s worked out. It’s probably what’s made me so fast, because I just go straight into it.
I look at the script and the visual just pops off the page and into my head as I’m reading it.
And I do think, obviously as we’ve been talking about lots of cinema things, it’s fairly transparent that I’m a bit of a film buff anyway, and I do see things in cinematic terms, it just pops into my head and off I run with it
So you’re more of a director than an actor, maybe?
Yeah, probably, I think I’d be an okay director, but I don’t know!
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