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: Infinite Kung Fu by Kagan McLeod
The Premise: Former soldier Yang Lei Kung must stop the evil emperor’s armies by defeating each of their cruel generals using a mix of kung-fu, deception, and quick wits. As he learns the techniques needed to defeat the emperor, he must also determine which of the people around him are his allies, and which ones are just out to thwart his quest to save the world.
The Pitch: A blend of horror, martial arts, and classic western saga, Infinite Kung Fu is one of those rare projects that would seem equally at home as a live-action movie or animated series. McLeod’s epic graphic novel is an ode to the classic kung-fu cinema that inspired movies like “Kill Bill,” but it’s impressive length – 464 pages of globe-trotting, chopsocky action – would likely make a multi-film franchise a necessity if a studio’s willing to take a gamble.
While an “Infinite Kung Fu” animated series would likely draw comparisons to projects like “Samurai Champloo” or “Afro Samurai,” the source material offers a different tone than either of those two series. Where “Samurai Champloo” was inspired by traditional anime and “Afro Samurai” offered a Westernized version of that same animated style, Infinite Kung Fu draws much of its style and tone from classic, live-action martial arts films of the ’60s and ’70s.
No matter which format is chosen for an Infinite Kung Fu adaptation, one of the most important elements is already there: a compelling narrative. In his hero, Lei Kung, McLeod has created the martial-arts equivalent of an everyman character who’s thrust into a role he wants no part of – and a quest that seems well beyond his abilities. He’s also faced with all manner of threat from kung-fu experts, ferocious animals, and yes, even zombies. Fortunately, the pacing of the story and Lei Kung’s role in it allows the audience to grow with the kung-fu hero and discover the wild world McLeod has created through his eyes.
Of course, with all this talk of format and story, I’d be missing the point if I didn’t stress the importance of action in any Infinite Kung Fu adaptation. As its name implies, the story puts a lot of focus on the many styles of martial arts wielded by its hero, his enemies, and all of the supporting characters.
While the bulk of the fighting styles displayed in the story wouldn’t require more than a heavy dose of wire work and choreography in a live-action format, there are also many kung-fu styles that verge on the magical – necessitating some cool effects if the project went the live-action route. This might be seen as a negative, but it could also be a great way to differentiate the film – or animated series – from other recent martial arts projects, and a smart studio could promote the project’s one-two punch of epic story and never-before-seen fight effects.
The Closing Argument: Pressed to name-drop some well-known projects for the sake of comparison, I’d describe the perfect Infinite Kung Fu adaptation as having the basic architecture and tone of “Kill Bill,” the over-the-top horror and pacing of the “Evil Dead” movies, and the epic scale of “The Lord of the Rings” films.
It’s an ambitious blend, I know, but Infinite Kung Fu is nothing if not a tremendously ambitious story.