Late last year it was announced that Lazarus, the Image Comics series co-created by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark, was in development as a new streaming series at Amazon. While there is no official release date attached, Rucka has confirmed the series continues to make progress in the series' letters columns. It's always exciting to see a great comics series picked up for adaptation. Even in a worst case scenario, creators make more money and there's additional attention paid to the source material. However, Lazarus feels like a uniquely well-picked comic to be transformed into a television series.
Transferring stories between media requires a perfect storm of elements. The story itself has to be solid, but that's only the very start. It also has to provide the necessary materials for an adaptation to expand or contract that story, whether it's for a 10-episode order or a single two-hour movie. On top of all that, visuals, audience appeal, writing, and a million other details must work in both versions. It's a tall order, but one Lazarus is more than ready to fill. Here's exactly why a Lazarus adaptation on TV is a great idea.
A Perfect Premise for Today
Lazarus takes place in a not-too-distant dystopian future where the world has ceased to be ruled by nations and is instead controlled by a limited number of families. It is a capitalist nightmare where resources and money continued to accumulate into the hands of a few until there was no one left to oppose them. Families rigorously maintain their advantages while the vast majority of humanity is referred to as "Waste."
This concept appeals to modern audiences for several key reasons. There's a growing interest in dystopias, providing a comfortable remove for viewers to witness how horribly wrong society can go. The popularity of series like The Walking Dead and The Handmaid's Tale are a testament to this. There's also a real interest in the flawed politics of series like Game of Thrones and Homeland. Both of these shows mirror the complex maneuverings and systems found in Lazarus to some degree.
Yet more than any of these other examples, Lazarus appeals to our current shared concerns about political tribalism and the tensions caused by wealth disparities. While it is technically a comic about the future, it is really about today when you consider the ideas being explored. Rucka and Lark offer a compelling narrative that allows their audience to grapple with complex concerns without having to delve into the horrifying headlines of the day. It's a series made to be read or watched in 2018.
A Sprawling Cast of Characters
One limitation in comics is space. Most issues of a series only contain between 20 and 30 pages, and they only arrive on a monthly basis at best. That restriction limits the focus of what can be said or done in a timely manner. It also means that most series have to emphasize one or a handful of characters. That's very different from a novel or TV show where the focus can jump between perspectives every chapter or week. Lazarus emphasizes the role of its protagonist Forever, who serves as the Lazarus (i.e. seemingly immortal assassin and enforcer) to the Carlyle Family. Her narrative is at the foreground of most issues, and when attention is shifted it is normally to a character that is important to Forever or her story in some way.
In spite of this necessary limitation, Lazarus has continued to explore as many new characters as possible and grow its world in a variety of interesting methods. The series occasionally features individual issues or storylines that share Forever's narrative with seemingly unconnected characters. An individual story about a nun or a family seeking to be removed from the hordes of Waste alter reader's perspectives for a few issues and help grow the cast in an organic fashion. A recent mini-series, Lazarus: X+66, delivered six individual stories exploring characters from across the world without slowing the core narrative of the comic.
Even with its focus on Forever, it's clear to readers that the world of Lazarus is fully populated with diverse Families, soldiers, servants, and Waste who all have their own motivations, desires, and personalities. A television series would be able to take many of these minor characters and expand on their own stories, providing more complete arcs. It could even take ideas for characters who never even reached the final form of the comic and reintroduce them to the narrative. There has been a consistent yearning amongst Lazarus readers to meet more characters beyond the central cast—a television adaptation is perfectly suited to make that happen.
A Mighty Mythology to Grow From
One of the benefits of adapting novels and series, like A Song of Ice and Fire or Harry Potter, is that they come with a rich mythos built into the package. Creators of a TV show or film can dig into the history and culture surrounding the story in order to develop their own ideas and recreate narratives in a faithful manner. This level of detail is readily available within Lazarus.
In addition to the comics, which regularly feature timelines, fake advertisements, and other excellent back matter, Rucka has also developed a series of source books. Each of the three installments released so far features a different family and allows readers to take a very deep dive into what makes the world of Lazarus tick. They trace the creation of families back into the politics and history of our own, creating touchstones and understanding of what these people and their beliefs mean in context. Each of these source books are a great read for readers and fans, and would make for an invaluable resource for showrunners seeking to better understand the story they are telling.
The greatest sign of success with Lazarus as a comic has been the consistent calls from fans for more. Even as a third source book, new collection, and return of the series loom on the horizon, Lazarus readers still want more. Just like fans of series like Game of Thrones, they might be able to scratch that itch with an alternative take of the story on television. More importantly, a television adaptation of Lazarus is already set up for success on its own terms. It features a story made for today, an enormous cast of characters, and plenty of information to fill out the world. For all of these reasons and more, we cannot wait to see Lazarus premiere on Amazon.