I enjoy AMC’s “The Walking Dead”. I also used to enjoy the comic, up to about issue #75, when its story more or less stopped moving forward. Most importantly, I see no need for these two things to be alike. TV is a visual-audio medium. It requires constant movement, which means its storytelling will inevitably be different from that of a comic book (which is completely static, with several panels per page). That also means that the plot will likely differ as well. That doesn’t bother me one bit.
But still, a lot of literary and comic book fans are hellbent on the concept of “loyalty”, which I usually interpret as “carbon copying the source material”. “The Walking Dead” fandom is chalk full of this type of opinion, fans who cannot abide by the show introducing new characters, keeping characters who were supposed to be long dead alive, etc. I, personally, have never understood the mindset. If a book is great, why the hell do you want a watered-down attempt at replicating it on screen, which is fundamentally impossible? To me, the filmmaker’s lone obligation is to tell a good story. Whether they stick closely to the source material or diverge from it drastically is up to them.
I still remember some of the fanboy caterwauling about the changes Peter Jackson made to the story of “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers”, moving the beginning of the book (Boromir’s death) to the end of the “Fellowship of the Ring” movie, and making a much bigger deal out of the Siege at Helm’s Deep than it was in the book. Never mind that “The Two Towers” reads, not as a standalone work, but like what it is: a giant middle section of a very long story. It it was, it was unfilmable. Jackson did what he had to do to make a movie out of a book that had no business being one. Not to mention, in doing so he made my single favorite battle scene in the movies.
That’s not to say that more or less direct adaptations can’t work. The Coen brothers stayed loyal to Cormac McCarthy’s source material with “No Country for Old Men.” But then, that book is less reliant on McCarthy’s prose, and more built around the actions of a decidedly cinematic character (Anton Chigur). I’m a big fan of Robert Rodriguez’s “Sin City” and the Frank Miller comics it was based on. However, Miller’s comics are an exercise in pure style over any sort of substance. Rodriguez took a visual work and made it more so, using Miller’s comics as storyboards. The story was so spare in Miller’s comics that it barely mattered at all. The stories were rehashed film-noir cliches (a genre that already relies heavily on tropes). They acted as vehicles for Miller’s immense visual creativity. The challenge was getting the look and tone right; those were integral to the comic’s success, not the story.
There’s a lot of consternation about Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of “The Great Gatsby”. He wants to use 3D. He’s Baz Luhrmann, director of “Moulin Rouge” and “Romeo + Juliet”. How the hell can he make a loyal adaptation of this classic book, one of my favorites of all time? Well, truth is, I don’t really care how loyal it is, plot-wise (though, given the reputation of the material, I doubt he’ll diverge too much). As long as he doesn’t have a 3D shot of Gatsby reaching for the green light into the audience, I’m good.