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Graphic novels inspire silver screen storytelling

In the last decade cinema-goers have been hit with remakes of basically all the superheroes.

There’s been Batman, Spiderman, Iron Man, X men . . . the list goes on.

Hollywood has also turned to the darker graphic novels. Turning Frank Miller’s film noir comics into the successful Sin City.

For 2ser radio’s Final Draft I talked about the graphic novels that have made the journey from the page to the screen – starting with the comic book, V for Vendetta.

It’s 1997 in England and there has been a devastating nuclear war. The country is ruled by the voice of Fate and is listened in on and watched by what’s called the ears and the eyes. In the opening of this Orwellian drama we meet Evey Hammond a 16-year-old girl, who is rescued and then becomes friends with V – an anarchist in a Guy Fawkes mask.

What follows is political commentary on how a fascist regime can take control and what happens to people when they give away their freedom in exchange for what they see as safety. We see relationships fall apart, Nazi-style concentration camps and people basically losing their integrity.

When the film V for Vendetta came out in 2006 we were living in a post 911 world. There were horror stories about Guantanamo bay and new laws designed to protect us were stripping away civil liberties. The world dreamed up by Alan Moore and David Lloyd in the 1980s suddenly wasn’t so hard to imagine.

The movie is a slick production of the book and takes a lot of creative license. Moore famously distanced himself from the movie and requested that his name wasn’t listed in the credits. And you can see why, there are significant plot changes and central characters have been removed from the story altogether.

And yes, the film lacks the subtleties of the novel –it’s a little more, well, Hollywood. There are longer action scenes and less emphasis on what drives people to live under a repressive regime.

The film also builds on a sense of people power – while in the comic – V shows a greater disdain for the general public.

“You have encouraged these malicious incompetents who have made your working life a shambles. You have accepted without question their senseless orders. You could have stopped them . . . all you had to say was ‘no’. You have no spine. You have no pride.”

I found both the book and the movie to be pretty cheesy. But there is no denying that V makes for a charismatic and unique hero with a flair for the dramatics. This comes across extremely well on the big screen.

The French graphic novel Persepolis deals with very similar themes but steers away from the superhero style comic.

It’s the autobiography of Marjane Satrapi depicting her childhood and early adulthood in Iran during and after the Islamic revolution. She gives a unique perspective as the only child of committed Marxists and the great-granddaughter of one of Iran’s last emperors.

We meet her as a child convinced that she is to be the next prophet. Then we follow her through the terrors of the revolution and on to Vienna where as a teenager she lives away from her family in order to receive a proper education.

Here she falls in love, grows up, battles with drugs, and even briefly becomes homeless. Although her story is remarkable, she is relatable and her sense of humour, strength, truthfulness and her lively imagination has you falling in love with her almost from the first page.

Persepolis is more emotionally poignant than V for Vendetta. You don’t feel like you’ve been whacked repeatedly over the head with a political or social message like you do when reading or watching V.

Like life there is tragedy and tears, mixed with humour and humanity.

The 2007 film is just as good.

Marjane co-directed the film with French comic artist Vincent Paronnaud. The film looks like the black and white illustrations have jumped straight from the page onto the screen.

The montages are particularly brilliant. In one Marjane rolls down hills in a state of bliss with her boyfriend Marcus. But once they’ve broken up these same scenes have him featured as a pimply, snot-eating, buck teethed boy reminiscent of the hunchback of Notre Dame.

Of course scenes have been shortened or lost in order to fit into a 90 minute film but Marjane is just as strong on screen.

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