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Feeding fan interest: 28 Days comic book enhances film sequel

Brian McTavish
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

Comic books adapted from movies are traditionally routine affairs.

"A lot of them just have that cranked-out feel," said Brent Frankenhoff, editor of Comics Buyer's Guide.

But a newer breed of movie comic specializes in original stories that carry the cinematic action forward and can even act as a bridge between a successful film and its sequel.

The latest example is 28 Days Later: The Aftermath, a graphic novel written by Steve Niles (30 Days of Night) with art by Dennis Calero, Diego Olmos and Nat Jones. The plot of The Aftermath begins before 2002's 28 Days Later and also fills in the gaps between the movie and its sequel, 28 Weeks Later, which opens Friday.

"The comic feeds fan interest," Frankenhoff said. "The trick is to let fans know: `Hey, the graphic novel is here. If you like the (first) movie, get the book. If you like the book, go see the (second) movie.'"

The greatest revelation in 28 Days Later: The Aftermath is the full scientific origin of the "rage" virus that in 28 Days Later turned humans into murderous zombies. The comic's story introduces a family and other new characters that get caught up in the violent battle against those with the deadly infection.

Applying a similar strategy was Serenity: Those Left Behind, a three-issue comic series in 2005 written by Joss Whedon, creator of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie and TV series. The comic takes place between the end of Whedon's short-lived science-fiction TV series, Firefly, and its big-screen follow-up, Serenity.

Whedon's symbiotic relationship with his screen and comic stories keeps evolving, including his decision to continue the story of Buffy in comics after seven seasons on TV.

"Joss is writing the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 comic book," Frankenhoff said. "That just started a couple months ago, and it's selling quite well."

Other recent movie comic permutations: The Messengers, a companion piece to the supernatural horror film of the same name replete with additional scenes and details, and Pathfinder: An American Saga, based on the action-adventure movie Pathfinder, about a Viking boy shipwrecked in North America and raised by American Indians.

The Pathfinder graphic novel grew out of the movie's otherworldly concept art created by comic artist Christopher Shy. The print project was put in Shy's hands with the blessing of the film's director (and one-time aspiring comic artist) Marcus Nispel.

"This is Christopher's interpretation of our movie, and the movie is our interpretation of his artwork," Nispel wrote in his foreword to the Pathfinder graphic novel. "It was an extraordinarily inspirational situation -- telling a story on paper and celluloid at the same time."

Such enthusiasm from comic-loving filmmakers isn't lost on the comic industry.

"It certainly doesn't hurt the comic book shops a bit to have directors say, `Hey, I read comic books. I think they're cool,'" Frankenhoff said. "Somebody who admires that director's work can say, `Oh, they're reading them? Man, I've got to go check these out.'"

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