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 various comic creators about the books they’d like to see make the jump from page to screen.
This Week’s Book: Smoke and Mirrors by Mike Costa, Jon Armstrong, and Ryan Browne (IDW Publishing)
The Premise: Stage magician Terry Ward finds himself transported to an alternate world in which magic has replaced technology as the energy fueling civilization, and he must use every trick he knows in order to survive.
The Pitch: Co-created by illusionist and sleight-of-hand artist Jon Armstrong, Smoke and Mirrors only recently debuted on shelves, but its concept already begs for adaptation as a live-action film or television series.
Imagine a world in which Steve Jobs gets on stage to unveil the latest line of motion-based tools for casting spells, or a new line of compact incantation books that let you do more with your home computer or stereo. That’s the world of Smoke and Mirrors. Add the stranger-in-a-strange-land element of someone from our world who ends up in this magic-based alternate reality, and there are endless storytelling possibilities and lots of opportunities for eye-catching tricks of the real and manufactured varieties.
Given that there’s only been one issue of Smoke and Mirrors released so far, it’s hard to say where the story is headed at this point, but if The Walking Dead has taught us anything, it’s that a comic and its adaptation don’t need to sync up precisely. As long as the basic story is strong and both projects keep a consistent narrative tone and theme, they can each find new ways to explore the world created by the source material.
And it’s that world that makes Smoke and Mirrors so appealing for adaptation. From its opening scene, in which the alternate-reality version of a Steve Jobs-like figure introduces a new line of “Gesture” spells, Smoke and Mirrors offers the promise of a universe unlike anything we’ve seen on the big or small screen lately. Magic is as commonplace as electricity, and the story doesn’t unfold in some medieval fantasy world where magic is thrown around by pointy-hatted wizards and wielded against dragons and other creatures. It’s a world in which you change the channel on your TV by reciting a simple spell, and Siri really is a magical entity bonded to your phone.
While we still have a lot to learn about the protagonist of Smoke and Mirrors, the character of Terry Ward also presents quite a bit of cool narrative potential. Seen through his eyes, the magic-powered world will be more easy to absorb, and the mystery of how he got there can provide a strong over-arching thread that propels the story along.
Terry’s presence also allows for some exploration of the world of illusion and sleight-of-hand tricks, as the audience will be privy to the stunts Terry must pull in order to protect himself in this new world. While we can’t expect to learn the secrets of every magic trick, an adaptation of Smoke and Mirrors could provide a nice opportunity to go behind the scenes and get a better understanding of what goes into a stage magician’s performance.
The Closing Argument: Smoke and Mirrors is equal parts magic, science-fiction, and a compelling over-arching mystery all wrapped into a single package that will catch its audience’s attention from the start with its original twist on the world we’re accustomed to living in. Casual audiences will love the easily digestible premise of a world in which magic is real and electricity is fantasy, but the story will also appeal to sci-fi fans and anyone who ponders the broader implications of a world powered by magic instead of our current energy resources. Throw some magic tricks in there for good measure, and… Presto! You’ve got yourself a hit.
This Week’s Comic Creator Recommendation: Dames in the Atomic Age by Chris Ryder (Art of Fiction)
“Of everything I’m reading right now, I’d love to see Dames in the Atomic Age adapted into a feature film. It’s an homage to B-movies and pulp magazines, but told with a brilliant modernist spark by it’s writer, Chris Ryder, and the amazing art team. It’s a small indie from an up-and-coming small press called Art of Fiction, and both should be on everyone’s radar. Most fun I’ve had reading a book in a LONG time.”
– Joshua Hale Fialkov, Eisner and Harvey Award nominated writer of Last of the Greats, Echoes, Tumor, and DC’s I, Vampire.