Comic Adaptation Week: The Maximortal by Ethan and Joel Coen

I suppose in the interest of full disclosure I should admit that unlike many of my contemporaries, I am not an unreserved admirer of the movies of Ethan and Joel Coen. Be that as it may, the Coens represent perhaps the most widely recognizable body of work within a certain creative instinct unique to what one might call postmodernity. That is to say that the Coens partake in a revisionist assessment of American culture that is rooted in the stories that have helped to define us for generations and whose method involves a modified recapitulation of that storytelling tradition.

The same creative instinct behind the peculiar marriage of Homeric myth and a notion originating in a Preston Sturges screwball comedy provides the underpinning to Rick Veitch's The Maximortal. Veitch's superhero deconstruction performs the seemingly paradoxical task of celebrating the origins and tradition of the comics that perhaps more than any other popular art form symbolized the American century while shining a light on the dark human forces that are behind our fetishization of superhuman heroes.

But what really makes the Coens the perfect creative team to bring The Maximortal to the cinema is the pair's sharp eye for character. Just about any Coen brothers' film is a veritable menagerie of human grotesquerie, from No Country for Old Men's Anton Chigurh to The Big Lebowski's, well, Big Lebowski, to just about anyone and everyone in Fargo. Not only do the Coens have a knack for creating these lovable monstrosities on the page, but they've also been blessed with the abitity to find the perfect talent to embody them. Casting the Coens' adaptation of The Maximortal would be as simple as calling up the names from their stable of regulars (and one not-so-regular): Frances Mcdormand and Steve Buscemi as George and Meryl Winston; John Turturro as Jerry Spiegel; and who else but Javier Bardem as El Guano.

It is actually somewhat surprising that the Coens have yet to try their hand at a comic book movie. The hard-boiled crime novels that have provided the basis for so many of their screenplays are part of the same pulp tradition. A filmmaking team with the Coens' singular eye for visual detail, coupled with their peculiar mix of lowbrow convention and high concept theoretical nuance would be the perfect fit for bringing Veitch's perverse American epic to a wider audience. Now if only they can contract Eminem for the lead . . .

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