At DC Comics’ Meet the Publishers panel at San Diego Comic-Con International last Sunday, DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio revealed that the company had elected not to adapt director Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy into comic books or graphic novels, in part because the adaptations they’ve done have historically not sold particularly well.
(Listen to audio from the panel here, featuring DiDio, fellow Co-Publisher Jim Lee and moderated by DC’s SVP of Sales, Bob Wayne)
In doing so, DiDio and Lee appeared to be telling the fan who had asked about comics based on The Dark Knight Rises that he was out of luck–and that’s really a shame, since it would be a great idea.
Perhaps not an adaptation, no–all those tend to do is to spoil the movie for people who haven’t seen it yet and disappoint readers who go in hoping for better. Rather, a series of the kind of digital-first publications that DC has been publishing for a number of its identifiable media properties (think Smallville Season 11) might serve the Dark Knight “Nolanverse” well and, if done soon while the trilogy is still on everyone’s mind, may drive some traffic to ComiXology.
“Our data has shown that forty percent of the people who are buying Smallville, that that was their first comic book purchase,” Lee said at Comic-Con, seeming to suggest that, for the first time, DC has figured out a way to bring new readers into the comic book medium by way of making mainstream commercial properties with brand recognition into inexpensive digital products.
Nolan’s Dark Knight films obviously fit into that category, as arguably one of the most successful and recognizable iterations of one of comics’ most successful and recognizable characters. To miss out on that potential readership seems ill-advised. The only real question is whether Nolan could be presuaded to endorse the comics, or at least to ignore them rather than distancing himself from the project. That seems pretty likely, since to a filmmaker on Nolan’s level, the 100,000 or so readers that a comic book will get probably seem like a relatively small number to worry about.
Of course, even if he was worried about it, DC has shown this year that if you’re offered the job and say no, their perception is that you have no room to complain when it comes to work that you created but they own. Just ask Alan Moore.
There’s also the fact that while Tim Burton’s Batman films changed Batman for a generation and influenced the comics in a number of ways both positive and negative, Christopher Nolan built his trilogy around concepts, themes, stories and imagery borrowed from the source material, integrating comics and film in a way that engaged and invested comic book fans in his vision of Gotham City. The idea of expanding on Nolan’s stories in the format of comics would make a lot of sense, and it could be fun for fans to see just what some of their other fan-favorite villains might look like, reimagined for Nolan’s world.