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: The New Brighton Archeological Society by Mark Andrew Smith & Matthew Weldon
The Premise: After their parents disappear during a mysterious expedition in Antarctica, four children discover that their mothers and fathers were more than just great explorers — they were part of a secret society charged with protecting a library full of ancient magical artifacts. They decide to become the next generation of the New Brighton Archeological Society, and soon find themselves caught up in a terrible war over the library and its contents.
The Pitch: This one’s a no-brainer for the animated series treatment, as Mark Andrew Smith has created a strong cast of young characters and a world in which all sorts of fantastic adventures are possible. And much like the Harry Potter and Chronicles of Narnia series, New Brighton isn’t afraid to let kids save the world.
A good adaptation of the series would stretch the first volume of New Brighton into a season-long story arc, possibly with some additional material sprinkled throughout the season to provide more background on the society and the universe inhabited by the characters. Each episode could reveal a little more about the world’s secret history and their parents’ exploits, with other episodes focusing on the kids’ adventures as they attempt to stop the society’s arch enemy, Galomar, from controlling the library and all of the other magical artifacts scattered around the world.
Still, the most important part of a New Brighton Archeological Society cartoon should be the over-arching narrative that shows the children growing into the same roles their parents served as protectors of the world’s secrets. The popular Nickelodeon series “Avatar: the Last Airbender” did a great job with this type of long-form storytelling, and any network looking to adapt New Brighton would do well to draw inspiration from that formula.
As far as animation style and the visual elements of the story go, New Brighton artist Matthew Weldon did an excellent job of softening some of the darker, more serious elements of the book with an art style more suitable for young characters and readers. Any adaptation of the book should take cues from Weldon’s illustrations and give the series a bright palette, with big, expressive faces for the characters. One tweak that could be helpful for viewers, however, is to differentiate between the adult characters and children a little more clearly in the animated series, so the audience won’t be confused (especially during flashbacks).
The Closing Argument: Possibly the best argument in favor of adapting The New Brighton Archeological Society is that there’s never been an animated series quite like it. Equal parts magic, mystery, and globe-trotting, Indiana Jones-style adventure, New Brighton is a brilliantly imaginative, unique spin on the “kid hero” genre that gives us only the smallest peek at a much larger universe with heaps of potential.