Take all of the extraordinarythings that make comic books so popular, ball them together and stuff themthrough a reality check. What you'd be left with is a book that read more likean action script than a super hero comic. What you'd be left with is The Losers - yet anothercomics-to-movies success story.
Writer Andy Diggle describes his2003 book about a rag-tag team of soldiers left for dead and fighting to regaintheir identity as "a comic for people who don't read comics." He, along withartist Jock, crafted a hyper-realistic action comic whose origins are much morerooted in the Schwarzenegger /Stallone films of the 1980s than any kind ofMetropolis. With that kind of lineage, it's no surprise that, seven yearslater, The Losers is finally comingto the big screen on April 23.
"Hollywood can look at The Losers and get it," Diggle said onthe phone from his home in the UK. "It's something they recognize and go, ‘Oh!I know what that is! That's a fun action movie!'"
Armed with a background inscreenwriting and a strong historical knowledge of comic books, Diggle foundhimself writing comics in the UK when Vertigo editor Will Dennis offered himthe opportunity to reboot a World War II comic series from the ‘60s and ‘70scalled The Losers. It was a periodpiece and though it got the creative juices flowing, Diggle almost immediatelyscrapped the idea of a straight reboot. Instead, he'd keep the awesome titleand make it into a modern heist comic that his brothers, guys who "who'd neverbe seen dead walking into a comic shop but enjoy good action movies as much asanybody," would find entertaining. Research began into black ops, Americangovernment espionage and eventually, what came out were some real life events,turned up to 11, sprinkled with comic book craziness.
"One of the main things I wantedto do with The Losers was marrybrains and brawn," Diggle said. "I hate this idea with action movies that says,‘Leave your brain at the door and you'll have a good time.' Trying not toinsult the intelligence of the reader ended up turning into the political sideof [the book]."
Vertigo liked Diggle's mix ofeveryman action movie and political thriller so much that the originalmini-series idea was thrown out and TheLosers became an ongoing series. The mainstream critics loved it(Entertainment Weekly gave it an A-), and though Diggle said "it never soldgangbusters," he and Jock were able to complete their run in 2006. However, thepair never felt like they reached the audience they were writing for. "Peoplewho want to read action books don't read Vertigo. And people who read Vertigodon't necessarily want action books," Diggle said. So after it ended, The Losers ended up reaching a whole newaudience in the trade market-exactly where a Hollywood executive can easilypick it up and see its potential.
According to Diggle, GregoryNovack, the SVP of Creative Affairs at DC, told him "he got more expressions ofinterest from Hollywood in The Losersthan any other property DC had." Warner Brothers optioned it and originally,writer/director Peter Berg (Hancock)was working on the project. Producers Akiva Goldsman (Batman and Robin) and Joel Silver (The Matrix) circled it at various points in time too. Meanwhile,Diggle and Jock figured they'd be totally out of the loop and were fine withit.
"Me and Jock both knew going inwhen we signed on to do the comic it was work for hire." Diggle said. "I usedto be a comic book editor myself so I have no illusions about how the businessworks. Will Dennis took a big risk on us. We could have completely tanked. Noone knew who we were. So we were just grateful to have work and we've gotabsolutely no regrets about that whatsoever."
That humble attitude ended upserving Diggle well. He and Jock were given character equity by DC and werebrought in at various points of pre-production to give notes. Diggle wouldwrite in to Berg's Film 44 production company and got to see many ofscreenwriter James Vanderbilt's (writer of the new Spider-Man movie) original drafts. "What they've done is compressedand changed some of the connecting tissue. So it added up into a slightlydifferent overall shape, things were happening for different reasons. So Iwould just chip in occasionally," Diggle said.
Still, the project wasn't comingtogether to Warner Brothers' satisfaction, Peter Berg moved on and the propertywas left on the shelf for a few years. That's when mega-producer Joel Silverpicked up the ball. In Diggle's mind, there wasn't a better match. He's quickto reveal that The Losers was a loveletter to screenwriter Shane Black, many of whose films, such as Lethal Weapon and The Last Boy Scout, were actually produced by Silver. It was amatch made in bullet-ridden heaven.
Eventually director Sylvain White(Stomp The Yard) was brought on boardand everything started moving forward again. Diggle gave even more input abouthow the villain, Max, would play into the movie and was invited to visit theset with Jock toward the end of shooting. "It was kind of exciting and freaky,"Diggle said. "Meeting the actors, they're all still made up and in costume andeverything and it was like they just stepped out of the pages of the comic. Itwas extraordinary and very odd seeing these characters that we just made themup and now we're talking to them."
Diggle also confirmed that Jockhas created some original artwork for the movie, which will be used intransitions and the opening credits. These just more examples of how thefilmmakers are doing their best to push that, even though this is an actionmovie, it was a comic book first.
That attitude, along with therelease of the trailer, has helped sales of TheLosers trades "skyrocket," according to Diggle. DC has already reprintedthe first two trades into one book and they'll soon do the same with the finalthree volumes. As for Diggle, The Losersare his past. Currently, he's under exclusive contract to Marvel and is writingDaredevil. But it's not lost on himthat this movie will, finally, get TheLosers out to the mass audience for which it was intended.
Plus, this might not be the endfor those pesky Losers. Diggle admitsthat he and Jock have had conversations about continuing the story and though"I couldn't do it now if I wanted to" Diggle still thinks there's a chance."Maybe if it makes a shit load of money and they make a sequel, I would love tocome back and get the band back together."