Even though this will be an article about making (or, rather re-making) comics, I’m going to be talking about TV shows and short films quite a bit. This is because they provide some of the best examples of good “gritty” re-makes and because there are a lot of lessons that can be learnt from them which can also be applied to comics.
At the time of writing this article, I’m watching the short-lived re-make of “Bionic Woman” and I finished watching the excellent modern version of “Battlestar Galactica” a week or two earlier. Although I haven’t really seen that much of the two shows that these remakes are based on, both shows are a lot gloomier and more serious than their original 1970s counterparts apparently are.
However, shortly before writing this article, I happened to see a really interesting unofficial fan film (starring Katee Sackhoff) based on a cheesy 1990s sci-fi/action TV show called “Power Rangers” that I used to love when I was a kid.
The fan film, which is very slightly NSFW, can be seen here (there’s also apparently a very slightly censored version on Youtube, which is about two or three seconds shorter but is still -to use an American phrase – a “R-rated” version of “Power Rangers”).
This film re-imagines “Power Rangers” as a “gritty” modern mega-budget thriller movie and, for an independently-made fan film, it’s still better than most Hollywood remakes are.
In this case, the “gritty” remake works really well since “Power Rangers” was originally a slightly futuristic action series, so to make a modern version of “Power Rangers” seem as badass now as it seemed when we were kids, it pretty much required slightly more realistic violence, characterisation and dialogue.
This brings me on to my first point about making “gritty” re-makes, you should only do it if the original story has the potential for grittiness. If there isn’t so much as a hint of darkness in the original story, then don’t re-make it – because it’ll just look silly.
For example, although the original “Battlestar Galactica” was a fairly ‘family friendly’ sci-fi adventure series, the storyline of the show revolved around the last vestiges of humanity searching for a new home, whilst fighting an army of evil robots. To make the modern re-make “grittier”, all the writers had to do was to handle these same themes in a slightly more realistic way. So, the story you’re retelling needs to contain themes that would be considerably darker if portrayed realistically.
The second thing to remember with “gritty” re-makes is not to over-do it. The goal of a “gritty” re-make is to make a slightly unrealistic story seem a bit more realistic. This means that your characters’ reactions, personalities and dialogue should be as realistic as possible. This means that violent or shocking events should be depicted in a more realistic way (and their consequences should be more realistic too). The key word here is realistic.
In most circumstances, covering every page of your comic with blood and/or punctuating literally all of your dialogue with four-letter words won’t make your remake “gritty”. It’ll make it hilariously cartoonish (even if you’re using a realistic art style, which you don’t have to – more on that later).
For example, a good rule with violent scenes in your “gritty” comic remake is to portray them in a way which would be dramatic or shocking even if there wasn’t any blood and then to add a small to moderate amount of blood. You need less than you probably think.
Likewise, with the dialogue, just try to keep it realistic. In other words, try to make it slightly more like subtle understated everyday speech than melodramatic theatrical speech. Yes, you can use four-letter words in your dialogue, but only use them when you’d realistically expect someone to use them (this is more often than some people think, but less often than you might expect).
The third thing to remember about “gritty” comics remakes is that the art doesn’t have to be hyper-realistic. Yes, it sometimes helps to use black & white artwork, but at long as your artwork doesn’t look too cartoonish, then you can be as unrealistic as you like. The thing to remember here is that the “gritty” parts of your comic remake come mainly from the story rather than the art style.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂