Two weeks ago at WonderCon in San Francisco, Image Comics announced that the Eisner Award-winning monthly comic series Elephantmen had been optioned by Zucker Productions for major motion picture development. Elephantmen, which was created by writer Richard Starkings as a spin-off of his popular series Hip Flask, is a dystopic science fiction story featuring a unique cast of anthropomorphic human-animal hybrids. Here is a brief summary of the series.
“The story of the Elephantmen takes place in Los Angeles in the not too distant future — in a world where human/animal hybrids were created to fight a war between Africa and China. Scarred by their experiences in war and seeking to somehow find their own humanity, the Elephantmen are now scattered throughout the world amongst the humans they were created to kill.”
This past weekend at the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo, I had the opportunity to talk with Richard Starkings about the film adaptation of his series, why he’s excited to be paired with Zucker Productions, and his thoughts on the current world of film and comics.
Screen Rant: What are some of the difficulties you see in bringing Elephantmen to the big screen?
Starkings: I don’t think that the difficulties are as great as they once might have been. I remember when I saw Phantom Menace, there was a character talking to Obi Wan in a diner and he was a CGI character, and, at that moment, I realized that CGI technology had developed far enough that a character with weight and substance could function. I’m not talking about Jar-Jar, because Jar-Jar is a whole other kettle of fish, but that particular character I thought, “Well, I could see Hip Flash and Ebony Hide brought to life that way.”
We’ve talked also with the movie producers about men in suits, and I would have been very hesitant about that until I saw Where the Wild Things Are, which was a combination of men in suits and CGI, and it was extremely effective. The expressions on the faces were clearly part-animation (physical animation) and part-computer animation. And again, the weight and substance was there. So, I don’t think the difficulties are as great as they might have been 15 years ago.
But I did create Elephantmen with the idea that, if it was brought to the big screen, that there wouldn’t be too many characters to use up all the CGI budget. I think the only difficulty would be if it was overambitious. And I remember when I saw Chronicles of Riddick, I thought, “Okay, I get where you’re going, but you’re overambitious.” There’s too much CGI, and I fell asleep in the middle of the movie. As my mind often does when you’re in overload, too much is sometimes worse than not enough, so I really sought to strike the right balance.
You know, it’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Blade Runner, and Blade Runner was created before CGI was possible to the extent that it is now. So I don’t think there will be difficulties other than there are typical difficulties when you translate something from one medium to another.
Screen Rant: It seems like the comic book industry is very ripe for filmmaking. Hollywood studios swoop in and they lock up comic franchises as quickly as they can. Do you feel that, in general, that’s a very good thing for the comic industry?
Starkings: Yes, I do. I’ve said many times that I think the geek have inherited the earth, because Star Wars was 1977, so anyone who was born when Star Wars was released is 33 or up now, so you have a lot of people in the movie industry who have a great respect for the material. Science fiction and superheroes are not necessarily off to the right-of-center or left-of-center anymore, they are very near the center because people are pop culture enthusiasts. They are pop culture literate. It is part of their DNA.
You know, I grew up on the TV series Doctor Who. It’s still my favorite TV series. It’s part of my DNA. I can’t not love it, I can’t not watch it, and it’s so gratifying to see it taking off in America now. Because a series like Doctor Who was revived by people who grew up on it, it has this depth and resonance and respect that might have been missing during some of the periods in its history when it was made by people who were jobbing – writers and producers – and I don’t think you get that in comics anymore. People come here because they love it, they love their work, and that connects with people in Hollywood who also love their work. I don’t think there’s a movie producer who wants to make a bad movie.