One of the big announcements made just prior to this weekend's C2E2 convention was the news that "Preacher" creator Garth Ennis' grisly comic book series "Crossed" had been picked up for big-screen adaptation by Kickstart Productions.
Published by Avatar Press, the series follows a group of survivors beset by victims of a disease that makes people engage in all manner of deranged, vile and inhumane acts upon each other. The title of the series comes from the cross-shaped rash that develops on the faces of victims.
Similar to George Romero's "The Crazies," "Crossed" had an initial 10-issue run written by Ennis with art from Jacen Burrows. The acclaimed comic book writer is also writing the screenplay for the film, and I caught up with him during the convention to get more details about the big-screen project.
"We're at the very, very early days," said Ennis' of the current status of the film, adding that his involvement beyond writing the screenplay "remains to be seen."
"I've written a screenplay — a second draft, really," he explained. "So I've done that, but in terms of casting or any type of production, we're not there yet, so it's very hard to say how much I'll be involved."
Given the extremely adult subject matter of the series (it features some of the most grisly acts of violence I've ever seen depicted in a comic), Ennis acknowledged that there's certainly reason to believe a studio might want to tone it down. However, he hasn't seen any indication that the film's producers intend anything other than a faithful adaptation.
"It's hard to say [if it will be changed]. On one hand, it's an incredibly simple story," he said. "You look at it and think it would be hard to make a mess of it. In terms of content, yes, it's possible they might want to tone something down. This is one of those total unknowns when it comes to the film industry — you never know what they're going to do."
"At the moment, I'm very encouraged by everyone I've spoken to at Kickstart — they get it," he added. "They like 'Crossed' for what it is. No one has ever given me the impression they just want an image they can stick on a t-shirt, or a title without a story. They like the characters, they like the villains, and they like the notion of The Crossed. So that's encouraging. As always, it's hard to say where it will end up, though."
Ennis said his script covers the first 10 issues of the "Crossed" series he wrote for Avatar, without any of the tie-ins or spin-off series they've launched subsequently. More accurately, the script will contain half of the first 10-issue run — the scary half.
"For me, 'Crossed' is just those 10 issues. That's my 'Crossed' story," he said. "You'll see many other 'Crossed' books, but you won't see those characters again."
"But the first thing I had to do was effectively chop that story in half, because it's a 240-page comic," he explained. "You want a screenplay to be 110-150 pages, so I had to slice the story in half. What I did was, essentially, concentrate on the more serious, darker, tragic elements of the story and edit out some of the comedy."
According to Ennis, the decision to focus on the horror element was as much a matter of storytelling technique as space.
"In the comic, with 240 pages you can veer from humor to tragedy and back again, because you've got more breathing space and the transition won't seem as jarring," he said. "When you're talking about a shorter story, you can't really make those transitions without it being very jarring — funny one minute, tragic the next. That doesn't really work."
"So I had to decide: is this a horror-comedy or a straight horror?" he added. "And I decided to go with a straight horror story."
With various other comics projects in various stages of development, including adaptations of "The Boys" and "Preacher" comic book series, Ennis explained why he finally decided to take the screenwriting plunge with "Crossed."
"It worked well for me because I think 'Crossed' is incredibly simple," he reasoned. "It's such a simple story: here is the monster, here is what it looks like, and it's instantly recognizable. It only does one thing, and our heroes only have one imperative: to stay the hell away from them."
"So it's a very simple story, and I think that helped when it came to adapting it," he said. "There weren't the 200 elements that you need to deal with in a story like 'Preacher.'"
Ennis' initial "Crossed" story is now on shelves in a hardcover and paperback collection from Avatar Press, and a new "Crossed: Family Values" series by David Lapham will hit shelves this week.
Let us know what you think of Ennis' "Crossed" plans in the comment section or on Twitter!