When you see The Last Days of American Crime in theaters next summer, would you recognize it as having come from a comicbook? In partnering with financing powerhouse IM Global, Radical scores a stealth victory for a new breed of popular culture.
It's not the team they've put together, but what a team. Radical President Barry Levine and Exec VP Jesse Berger sign on as producers along with Sam Worthington (yes, that Sam Worthington, he of Clash of the Titans and Avatar fame), who brings his Full Clip Productions onboard to exec produce. Worthington himself is locked in as, Graham Bricke, the curmudgeonly charming lead, and F. Gary Gray (The Italian Job, The Negotiator) attached to direct. And Levine and Berger's Radical Pictures partners with IM Global's Stuart Ford to finance the now much-anticipated Last Days of American Crime. But it's not the team they've put together. It's the idea itself.
Rick Remender has quite possibly delivered a perfect comicbook in The Last Days of American Crime. It is a flawless, and painstakingly beautiful example of 'sunshine noir' (think Ed Burns' Confidence or more recently NBC's darker-than-black police drama Life). Graham's musings on the connections between crime and human nature are somber and meditative. Remender's exploitation of psychopathy and retrograde amnesia in a world where the impulse to crime will soon be block by a signal broadcast with the express approval of Congress, is pure poetry of storytelling. And the action. The action is just Fast Five levels of adrenaline.
But the core of what the movie represents over and above the already hugely successful graphic novel is a normalization not seen for the past 50 years.
Arguably the 90s was simultaneously the best and the worst time for comics. With a chain reaction that began with the founding of Image and the tabling of creator rights as foremost priority, the 90s managed to draw unparalleled levels of attention from the mainstream of popular culture. But it was an era that also saw a hardline division between insiders and outsiders of the culture. Comicbooks seceded from the newsstands where they had been in the 70s and 80s, like comics themselves had from the daily newspapers where they had been a generation earlier.
During the 90s the equation was clear. Comics would happen at certain venues only. At comicbook stores. And more often than not, it would be mixed in with trading card games, fantasy roleplaying games, toys and other paraphernalia.
Just as this new wave of popculture was crashing in, Will Eisner, father of the graphic novel, observed that comics was unique as a medium (sequential art) and a format (daily newspaper strips) in being able to articulate the ongoing nature of everyday human life. But sadly it seems comics cultural prominence was coming to an end. And with it, an end for comics' power to articulate the ordinary in popular culture was looming as well.
These bright images were never about superpowers, never about spandex, never about garish villains. Instead they were about the everyday. About the way in which we articulated our struggles for ourselves, by identifying with things larger than ourselves. What we may one day be, not yet but soon.
So The Last Days of American Crime is critically important. Because it's the idea that counts. When Last Days hits the theaters, it won't look anywhere near as ornately signatured as Watchmen or 300 or Sin City or Kick Ass. Because it won't need to rely on those kinds of artistically cinematic hooks to lure audiences into sitting through a comicbook experiment on the big screen.
Instead, Last Days will be competing for your attention against the likes of Fast Five, Shutter Island and The Town. And it will be a project deeply involved in comics-based perceptions. A return of sorts for comics to the status of mass medium.
Next summer, The Last Days of American Crime won't enter the world with Iron Man or The Dark Knight, because it just won't need to. It will walk into history with Titanic and The Godfather.