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: Runners by Sean Wang
The Premise: Roka Nostaco and his alien crew have managed to eke out a pretty good life as space-faring smugglers, but things get complicated when they discover a mysterious girl amid the cargo on their latest run. Pretty soon, they find themselves pursued by rival smugglers, government agents, and a host of other vicious enemies as they race to get the goods to their client and get paid.
The Pitch: Sort of like “Firefly,” but with more aliens and a more pronounced science-fiction vibe, Sean Wang’s Runners predates Joss Whedon’s space-western television series by a few years but offers a similarly fun, well-scripted saga. In fact, it’s probably more akin to a blend of “Firefly” and “Star Wars,” as the universe the comic book inhabits features a host of strange, alien races living and working together amid the stars.
Wang, who made a name for himself writing and drawing various comics based on The Tick series, clearly has a knack for the clever dialogue that made that series so much fun, but he grounds the world of Runners in some very real drama for Roka and his crew. And like all the great noble rogues of the sci-fi genre, Roka rarely lets his moral compass distract him from completing an assignment, and values the lives of his crew over any cargo they’re pursuing. Basically, he’s an alien version of Han Solo or Malcolm Reynolds, and like both of those iconic characters, you can’t help rooting for him and his crew no matter how sketchy their business dealings get.
While there have been some good, live-action space sagas populated with strange aliens in shows like “Farscape,” an adaptation of the comic would probably be best served as an animated series. To Wang’s credit, a “Runners” would likely find an audience among children and older viewers alike with its “Star Wars”-esque blend of high adventure, dangerous stakes, and heroic characters.
It’s also worth noting that I’m not the first person to see Runners as great source material for an animated series. Back in 2006, the Digital Animation and Visual Effects (D.A.V.E.) School created an animated segment based on Runners that — despite some voice-acting I’m not sure I agree with — manages to capture the series’ tone pretty darn well.
Here it is:
Casting Suggestions: Casting voices for animated characters is always a wide-open arena, but it’s easy to hear Richard McGonagle, who voices Victor Sullivan in the “Uncharted” video games, as the veteran smuggler Roka. Ideally, the rest of the cast could be filled out with actors like Kevin Michael Richardson (Panthro in “Thundercats”) as the massive, rock-bodied Bennesaud, someone like Nolan North (Nathan Drake in the “Uncharted” series) as the modified human Bocce, and “Chuck” actress Yvonne Strahovski, who voiced Miranda Lawson in “Mass Effect 2” and “Mass Effect 3” as Sky, the mysterious woman found among the cargo.