Nov 6, 2017

Warren Ellis Comics That Don’t Need Movies: Tokyo Storm Warning

I’m not opposed to adaptation from medium to medium. The idea that any media are inherently superior to others is classist at best, and stupid at its base. But, adaptations are never the thing they have adapted. They don’t replace or circumvent, they don’t erase or make the original redundant.

Warren Ellis Comics That Don’t Need to Be Adapted to Screen
Tokyo Storm Warning
Ellis, Raiz, Currie
Travis Hedge Coke

Named for an Elvis Costello song, Tokyo Storm Warning is the story of an American pilot arriving in Japan to fight giant monsters. But, like pretty much all great kaiju movies, it’s more significantly about repression, guilt, fear of ourselves, and fear of the bomb. And, how cool ten story robots and oversized freakish terrors are when they punch one another… unless you’re standing underfoot or in the wake of their wreckage.

It’s splashy. It’s emotional. It makes a helluva lot more sense than these things usually do.

The most recent Japanese Godzilla movie, Shin Godzilla, ran a “reality vs fantasy” campaign. And, largely, while they never come out and say it, the impossibility of Godzilla is so amped up, in contrast to the fairly mundane employee and administrator nature of the human characters, that it is impossible to deny. Godzilla is impossible. Office work, as we saw, even in Dai-Guard, with it’s tagline of, “Office-workers, saving the world,” inevitable.

I won’t give up the secrets of Tokyo Storm Warning, but they allow for a limitless range of visuals and FX. You can take it as far as you want. The comic is three issues long, so about sixty pages of story, and it takes it pretty far. There’s sixty years packed into the day or two that the story covers. Tokyo Storm Warning is unafraid of the fairytale nature of the finest kaiju stories, yet never sugar coats the fairytale. Fairytale worlds are not harmless. Even in the kindest of them, the potential for mutilation, depression, death or apocalypse hovers in the air all the time. Goldilocks is about as nice as they get, and she’s a kid facing three angry bears. You go fight three bears over bed and dinner and see how fun it feels when it’s over.

The reason that giant robots are cooler than giant tanks or flyby bombings, is that the humanoid form allows a visceral personalization. The reason giant monsters resonate is because they aren’t grotesque, they aren’t sadistic, but they are inevitable. They are inarguable. Big damn thing. That you have to cope with.

We can see this in movies, on TV. We have seen it. But, with a comic, the action is suspended as long as we desire. You can’t “just give a glimpse" of a monster, in a comic. You can’t do, “blink and you miss it.” You get, what you get, and you have all your time to look, to think. You control the pace. You control the consideration. And, that movies can’t do well. Twenty years ago, I’d say, “and there’s no seams,” no zipper on the monsters. We are past that. But, we are not past the fact that movies have to move, and a big budget summer blockbuster, like a giant monster flick, has to move quick. American releases cut chunks out of Japanese monster movies because in American cinema, in anglophone big monster movies, we need things zipping by.

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