Adapting a project from comics or novels is no easy feat. Unfortunately, some elements of the written medium do not translate visually, or specific descriptions do not make their way into the final show, despite its already lengthy runtime.
When people say, “The book was better,” it’s because the book allowed the reader to imagine the world for themselves in depth over hours or weeks. Film and TV don’t always have that luxury, and no creators are more aware of this than George R.R. Martin andThe Sandman author Neil Gaiman.
While speaking at New York City’s Symphony Space on Thursday night, Variety reported that Martin and Gaiman discussed the importance of the written material, which Martin says is a “controversial” issue in Hollywood.
'The Sandman'Credit: Netflix
“How faithful do you have to be? Some people don’t feel that they have to be faithful at all,” Martin said. “There’s this phrase that goes around: ‘I’m going to make it my own.’ I hate that phrase. And I think Neil probably hates that phrase, too.”
“I do,” Gaiman responded. “I spent 30 years watching people make Sandman their own. And some of those people hadn’t even read Sandman to make it their own, they’d just flipped through a few comics or something.”
Both creators understand certain changes have to be made for it to work on screen, but the changes made should still serve the story. As Martin says, some changes are “legitimate” and “there are other ones that are not legitimate.”
Some legitimate challenges that Martin has faced in his career included how HBO adapted his A Song of Ice and Fire novels. In the book, the Iron Throne is described to be 15 feet high and made of 10,000 swords, but the throne in the show does not resemble this giant power status because the ceiling of the soundstage was not 15 feet high.
'House of the Dragon'Credit: Warner Bros. Television Distribution
There are practical problems when bringing a story to life. Budgets, scheduling, tight deadlines, and lack of resources can create problems that have to be solved creatively. Whether that means scrapping an idea or finding practical solutions that fit into the budget, there is always a way to stay faithful enough to the source material.
Adapting a book or comic is hard work, but it isn’t impossible to make something that fans and creators of the source material would be proud of. What matters is that you understand what the story being told is about, and you make a project that reflects that story in the best way possible.
Is it possible to make a good film or TV adaptation of a book, comic, or video game? Let us know in the comments!