With Hollywood turning more of its attention to the world of graphic novels for inspiration, I’ll cast the spotlight on a new comic book each week that has the potential to pack a theater or keep you glued to your television screens. At the end of some “Adapt This” columns, you’ll also find thoughts from the industry’s top comic creators about the books they’d like to see make the jump from page to screen.
This Week’s Book: Poseurs by Deborah Vankin (w) and Rick Mays (a)
The Premise: The lives of three high-school kids intersect in the Hollywood nightlife as cash-strapped Jenna lands a job as a professional party guest and becomes friends with Pouri, a wealthy “parachute kid” living it up far away from her parents, and Mac, a busboy obsessed with popular slang. What starts out as a life of clubs and lavish mansions eventually takes a dark turn, though, as the trio gets caught up in a kidnapping plot that takes them from L.A. night clubs to dangerous, underground hangouts of West Coast gangs.
The Pitch: The original pitch for this graphic novel from Los Angeles Times writer Deborah Vankin frames it as “‘Gossip Girl’ meets Bret Easton Ellis for the comic book crowd,” which is actually a pretty accurate comparison — though it offers a decidedly more PG-rated, young-adult take on youth culture than Ellis’ novels. And while “Gossip Girl” restricted itself to the teenage wealthy elite, Poseurs offers a more varied mix of backgrounds and social strata in L.A. culture, and takes readers inside (and behind) the glamour from each character’s perspective.
What sets Poseurs apart from the two elements in that pitch and makes it an even more attractive subject for adaptation, however, is the genuine sense of heart in the story that makes the characters feel more like real people instead of amalgams of night-life archetypes. With a film or television series based on Poseurs — and it could be a good fit in either format, really — there’s a real chance for character development and drama that spans social and economic classes, and a cool “party noir” tale that unfolds in a much broader environment than the typical young-adult story.
As I mentioned earlier, there’s no shortage of roles in a “Poseurs” film or TV series that could be culled from young Hollywood — and the ethnic diversity of the story’s cast would certainly give the series a more authentic, melting-pot vibe than most projects aimed at teenage audiences these days.
There are also ample opportunities for adult actors in the project, too — and it’s easy to picture any number of prominent character actresses playing Jenna’s serial-dating mother or her boss at the company that pays her to attend parties, Raz. While the adult characters occupy supporting roles in the book, the story leaves a lot of room for capable actors to put their stamp on each character and make them their own.
In many ways, Poseurs fits the profile of every good young-adult film or TV series, with its cast of high-school characters that appeal to a wide range of demographics and a story that has them dealing with very real (and dangerous) adult issues that transcend the normal high-school drama. (But don’t worry — there’s still quite a bit of high-school drama slipped in there for good measure, too.)
Finally, like any good project aimed at young audiences, the teenage characters are often smarter than the adults when it comes to solving their problems, but it usually takes some help from their closest friends.
The Closing Argument: Any network looking for something that ratchets down the glitz of “Gossip Girls” but offers a rougher edge and tighter narrative than the typical fare on The CW would do well to check out Poseurs. Vankin’s narrative manages to find the balance between teen drama and compelling, adult themes in a clever story that crosses age and cultural demographics.
And while the “party noir” tale that introduces the cast leaves room to continue the narrative beyond the first book, there’s also a nice finale to Vankin’s story that would allow it to do fine as a standalone film.