With Hollywood turning more of its attention to the world of graphic novels for inspiration, I’ll cast the spotlight on a cool 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 and other industry experts about the books they’d like to see make the jump from page to screen.
This Week’s Book: Memorial by Chris Roberson and Rich Ellis
The Premise: After staggering into a hospital a year ago with no memory of her past, Em (the name she takes from the single letter “M” on a necklace she was wearing) has rebuilt her life and has a nice job at a small bookstore. Things take a turn for the fantastic — and dangerous — when she wanders into a strange antique store and finds that all is not as it seems with her life and the world she inhabits. She soon finds herself caught up in a war raging on various planes of reality, forced to travel through strange lands on a quest for the truth.
The Pitch: Combine the fantastic coming-of-age tales of the Harry Potter series and “Labyrinth” with the sort of strong female character and magical worlds parallel to our own that authors like Neil Gaiman handle so masterfully, and you’ll understand the appeal of Chris Roberson’s Memorial. The recent miniseries offers a darker spin on the traditional, fantasy-fueled quest stories, and though its lead character is older than those of the Harry Potter books or “Labyrinth,” the blank slate of Em’s mind allows for a similar sort of growth and evolution of her character.
Over the course of the series, Em’s adventure has her crossing path with a long list of weird characters — human and otherwise — and visiting strange worlds that often share some similarities with our own. Nevertheless, an adaptation of Memorial wouldn’t need to bust its budget on digital effects, as many of the characters, creatures, and settings she encounters are simply skewed versions of their real-world counterparts. Much like the big-screen adaptations of the Harry Potter franchise, the real focus of the story is on the human characters, with Em’s quest driving the narrative forward throughout all six issues of the series.
While Hollywood has a history of shying away from action movies with female leads, the fantasy genre hasn’t had nearly the same trouble accepting women — and girls, for that matter — in lead roles. Although the tone of Memorial is far lighter than something like Guillermo Del Toro’s scary fantasy “Pan’s Labyrinth,” it’s also a bit more adult-oriented than Jim Henson’s playful, puppet-filled 1986 film “Labyrinth” and features a slightly older main character than both of the aforementioned films. These factors benefit a potential adaptation, because it means a “Memorial” movie could not only draw from the pool of popular young-adult actresses for its lead, but it also fits nicely in the PG-13 movie landscape.
Given the sort of demographic-spanning appeal Memorial already has in the comics world, it’s also easy to see why a movie based on the series could be a nice vehicle for a young actress to raise her profile. Chris Roberson has crafted an impressive, original story that manages to be both magical for readers and deadly serious for its main character — a formula that works just as well on the page as it does on the screen.
The Closing Argument: Now that the “Harry Potter” movies are in the rearview mirror, Hollywood would do well to look to the comics world for tentpole-movie source material, and Memorial is exactly the sort of story that could make an easy leap from page to screen. Given the series’ strong narrative thread and under-the-radar profile, there’s little need to pour the sort of budget-busting money into a “Memorial” movie that’s usually necessary to keep a well-known project’s fanbase appeased. The film’s director will be able to concentrate on bringing the story to life, while also having the freedom to be clever with the visual side of the film — something that Roberson and Ellis have had great success with in the comic itself.
In the end, it’s hard to argue with the potential of a project like this, as Memorial manages to combine all the best elements of some of the most popular examples of the genre, while also retaining its own, very unique identity. If Hollywood is looking for a ready-made adventure set within the fantasy genre with a dark, young-adult flavor, a “Memorial” movie offers all of that… and much, much more.