Wizards and Warriors 1983 – CBS Only eight one hour episodes were made of this offbeat fantasy-comedy See also: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lX5vEf0dCVw TV’s earliest major foray into high fantasy Low ratings The costume designer Theadora Van Runkle won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Costumes for a Series. The series' hairstylist Sharleen Rassi lost a Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Hairstyling
See also: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lX5vEf0dCVw TV’s earliest major foray into high fantasy
UK production. ITV. Gritty and realist aesthetic Ray Winstone features as Friar Tuck!
Circulation averages around 60,000-70,000 at the moment. It was 2012’s biggest sales success due to issue 100 selling 360,000+ copies. This is a far cry from the initial 7,000 print run for the first issue. The Walking Dead received the 2010 Eisner Award for Best Continuing Series at San Diego Comic-Con International.
We’ll be familiar with what Pascal Lefèvre (2007: 2) refers to as ‘the issue of primacy’ wherein audiences experiences of an adaptation or franchise will be shaped by their initial entry into the world on offer.
Applied to The Walking Dead, the size of the audience drawn to the TV series dwarfs the comic book ‘original’ by a considerable amount. Joseph Lord (Salon.com) estimates that the comic book fans make up 0.006% of the fan base
Despite the rather modest comic book fan base, it’s not uncommon to hear adaptations like this being critiqued for what Robert Stam refers to as a lament for what was lost in translation (2005: 3), whilst dissenters ignore what has also been gained
In his critique of this process, and in keeping with other post-structuralist accounts of adaptation studies, Stam and several others have questioned the tendency for a regression to authorial intent, the privileging of an hierarchy of texts, as well as the pursuit of the ‘original’ hypotext.
Brooker (2012) presents a convincing deconstruction of the notion that there is an original source text when applying poststructuralist approaches to the Batman franchise, there is still space for a consideration of the author role as part of the broader meaning-making process.
In a related vein, Jonathan Gray’s (2010) analysis of the plethora of paratexts that circulate around popular franchises suggests that the notion of an authentic singular source of textual authenticity can be limited when it comes to understanding how popular meanings are negotiated.
It is this tension between the sense of loss and what has been gained that will be addressed presently when looking at some of the paratexts dealing with the adaptation of The Walking Dead. The producers of the TV series were sensitive to these tensions in their attempt to negotiate with fans of the comic book, upon whom they were initially reliant when it came to garnering support for the adaptation.
It is the contention of this paper that the success of Robert Kirkman’s long-running serial comic book has fed into such discussions, whether they take place across internet forums, at comic book conferences, or in official and unofficial promotional material alike. The paratextual material and discourses that circulated around the production of the TV series were keen to draw affinities between the two iterations of the franchise in so far as they sought to draw on the comics as a guarantor of aesthetic and narrative quality. However, the producers were also keen to emphasise the pleasures and the gains offered by the adaptation to a different platform.
In the marketing drive that took place before the television airing of The Walking Dead, the role played by Robert Kirkman was interesting. The show was previewed at San Diego Comic-Con in Summer 2010, a huge annual event that draws large numbers of comic book fans, and attendees were given access to AMC’s production team and cast. Kirkman’s proximity to the new venture was used as an anchor of authenticity, whilst also pointing to the author function of Frank Darabont, and the potential offered by being able to create a new iteration of The Walking Dead, one that was not beholden to the comic.
Clearly, the potential audience were primed for the type of textual changes we might expect from an adaptation, yet the attempt to shape expectations and audience response sometime slips Here Kirkman struggles to articulate the similarities and differences…
Great deal of risks involved in adapting a comic book about the zombie apocalypse. Never been done in a serialised format before. The zombie tends to exist as a the poor cousin of horror narratives, primarily due to the inherent characterlessness of the monster (unlike the vampire, the werewolf, or other supernatural creatures). Also, until relatively recently, there’s not been a great literary tradition from which to draw inspiration from. All the other major networks rejected the Kirkman/Darabont pitch for the series.
We can see the rhetoric of risk and risk management in some of the show’s accompanying literature. Note the status attributed to the serialised comic, as well as the broad tradition of filmic depictions.
There are multiple instances where in the cast and crew evoke the comic source as a sort of storyboard, as if this legitimises the adaptation
Storyboards aren't always used in television due to tighter schedules meaning there’s less time to develop them.
The ‘Making Of…’ also is keen to highlight the importance of the comic book aesthetic and the presence of the comic creator:
Comic #7 in flashback
Mac387 franchising fantasy: The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones
Science fiction and scholars:
Raymond Williams (1956/1988)
Contemporary ‘structure of feeling’
Darko Suvin (1972; 1979)
Marc Angenot (1979)
Tom Moylan (1986)
Fredric Jameson (2005)
Dominated by big 3 (NBC, ABC, CBS)
Pre-1980s success based on audience share
Science fiction struggled on TV (contrast with
Emergence of cable, satellite, VCR, etc
Audience fragmentation and establishment of niche
the perfect home?
“[Science fiction] has come of age:
not only can it tell stories of cognitive
estrangement, it can deliver them
with persuasively ‘realistic’ visuals”
Jan Johnson–Smith, 2005: 71
The rise of cable TV
“Cable substantially altered the
viewers’ experience with its
introduction of a vast array of
channels. In 1988, 50 percent of US
households subscribed to cable,
which was the subscription base
analysts believed necessary … to
achieve profitability. This subscription
level marked an increase form just
19.9 percent in 1980, grew to 65.4
percent in 1990, and reached 68
percent in 2000”
Lotz, 2007: 52-3
Air on cable networks
that can support ‘high-buzz’
Often small but loyal
Critical acclaim and
Air on the broadcast
Often lasted multiple
seasons despite low
Continually in danger
The Importance of Being
Zombies, dragons, wizards…
Seldom held in high regard despite the
seriousness of fan investment
“[Fans] insist on making meaning from
materials others have characterized as
trivial and worthless”
Henry Jenkins, 1992: p.3.
So, why now?
“The 'Lord of the Rings' films are 10 years old at this
point and they were incredibly lucrative. That’s what
it takes, an investment that shows that the private
sector will go and watch these”
Ian Bogost, 2012
Lloyd Alexander (1971) essay on ‘High Fantasy and
the Heroic Romance’
Developed by Kenneth Zahorski and Robert Boyer
Set in secondary world
Low fantasy set in primary world with magical
What is not high fantasy:
and sword and
Zahorski and Boyer
General cultural shift towards much
broader audience participation and activity
across the board of audience-media
“fans have become the ideal viewer-consumer”
Sue Short, 2011: p.6
George R. R. Martin
A Song of Ice and Fire (1996-present)
The pilot reportedly cost HBO between $5-10
The total budget for the first season has been
estimated at $50–60 million.
Season 2 received a 15% budget increase in order
to stage the epic ‘clash of kings’ battle that the
second Martin book was named after.
HBO is owned by Time-Warner and can operate at
a loss if needs be.
1st series averaged 2.5 million viewers (US)
2nd series = 3.8 million (total consolidated viewers = 10.3m)
3rd series = 4.97 million (total consolidated viewers = 11.6m)
4th series = 6.8 million (total consolidated viewers = 18.6m)
5.9 million illegal downloads per episode
The most illegally downloaded show of 2012 and 2013
Initially very few legal alternatives
Budget of $3.4 million per episode for first season
Budget of $2.7 million for second season
Season 3 had an undisclosed budget boost
As a comparison
The Big Bang Theory has a budget of $2m per
Game of Thrones $6 million
Series 1 averaged 5.24 million viewers.
Season 2 averaged 6.9 million viewers
Season 3 averaged 10.4 million viewers
Season 4 averaged 13.3 million viewers
Season 5 opened with 17.3 million viewers
A record for a basic cable show
“Proper control over wombs, and the anxiety that
they will be captured, polluted, or compromised is a
kind of Ur-myth for the apocalyptic genre in general
and the zombie sub-genre in particular; speaking
broadly, the function of women in most apocalyptic
narratives is to code the ending as “happy” or “sad”
based on their continued ability to bear the male
protagonist’s children when the story is over”
Gerry Canavan, 2010: 444
Afterward she could not say how far or how long they had ridden,
but it was full dark when they stopped at a grassy place beside a
small stream. Drogo swung off his horse and lifted her down from
hers. She felt as fragile as glass in his hands, her limbs as weak as
water. She stood there helpless and trembling in her wedding silks
while he secured the horses, and when he turned to look at her, she
began to cry.
Khal Drogo stared at her tears, his face strangely empty of
expression. "No," he said. He lifted his hand and rubbed away the
tears roughly with a callused thumb.
"You speak the Common Tongue," Dany said in wonder.
"No," he said again.
Perhaps he had only that word, she thought, but it was one word
more than she had known he had, and somehow it made her feel a
little better. Drogo touched her hair lightly, sliding the silver-blond
strands between his fingers and murmuring softly in Dothraki. Dany
did not understand the words, yet there was warmth in the tone, a
tenderness she had never expected from this man.
He put his finger under her chin and lifted her head, so she was
looking up into his eyes. Drogo towered over her as he towered
over everyone. Taking her lightly under the arms, he lifted her and
seated her on a rounded rock beside the stream. Then he sat on
the ground facing her, legs crossed beneath him, their faces finally
at a height. "No," he said.
"Is that the only word you know?" she asked him.
Drogo did not reply. His long heavy braid was coiled in the dirt
beside him. He pulled it over his right shoulder and began to
remove the bells from his hair, one by one. After a moment Dany
leaned forward to help. When they were done, Drogo gestured. She
understood. Slowly, carefully, she began to undo his braid.
It took a long time. All the while he sat there silently, watching her.
When she was done, he shook his head, and his hair spread out
behind him like a river of darkness, oiled and gleaming. She had
never seen hair so long, so black, so thick.
Then it was his turn. He began to undress her.
His fingers were deft and strangely tender. He removed her silks
one by one, carefully, while Dany sat unmoving, silent, looking at
his eyes. When he bared her small breasts, she could not help
herself. She averted her eyes and covered herself with her hands.
"No," Drogo said.
He pulled her hands away from her breasts, gently but firmly, then
lifted her face again to make her look at him. "No," he repeated.
"No," she echoed back at him.
He stood her up then and pulled her close to remove the last of her
silks. The night air was chilly on her bare skin. She shivered, and
gooseflesh covered her arms and legs. She was afraid of what
would come next, but for a while nothing happened. Khal Drogo sat
with his legs crossed, looking at her, drinking in her body with his
After a while he began to touch her. Lightly at first, then harder. She
could sense the fierce strength in his hands, but he never hurt her.
He held her hand in his own and brushed her fingers, one by one.
He ran a hand gently down her leg. He stroked her face, tracing the
curve of her ears, running a finger gently around her mouth. He put
both hands in her hair and combed it with his fingers. He turned her
around, massaged her shoulders, slid a knuckle down the path of
her spine. It seemed as if hours passed before his hands finally
went to her breasts.
He stroked the soft skin underneath until it tingled. He circled her
nipples with his thumbs, pinched them between thumb and
forefinger, then began to pull at her, very lightly at first, then more
insistently, until her nipples stiffened and began to ache.
He stopped then, and drew her down onto his lap. Dany was
flushed and breathless, her heart fluttering in her chest. He cupped
her face in his huge hands and looked into his eyes. "No?" he said,
and she knew it was a question.
She took his hand and moved it down to the wetness between her
thighs. "Yes," she whispered as she put his finger inside her.
Game of Thrones
‘The issue of primacy’
Lefèvre, 2007: 2
‘Elegiac discourse of loss’
Stam, 2005: 3
Adaptation is the norm
There are precious few stories
around that have not been ‘lovingly
ripped off’ from others. In the
workings of the human imagination,
adaptation is the norm, not the
Hutcheon, 2006: 177
1. Discourse of fidelity in official paratexts
2. Comparison between comic and TV series
Video from Season 1 Blu-Ray ‘Making of’ feature
Same but different?
Video from Season 1 Blu-Ray ‘Making of’ feature
Managing risk 1
‘First, we knew we had something that had not been
done before. There is a lot of pressure in that, but
there is also great opportunity. We knew we had a
great team, and we had total confidence in the
quality of the comics as source material. If we didn't
have the comics as a road map, it would have been
a much harder decision’
Joel Stillerman, AMC’s senior vice president of
original programming, production and digital content
Managing risk 2
‘We also had a healthy interest in the genre, well-executed,
in series form … Notwithstanding the
long history of zombies as a popular film genre, a
zombie series was something we had never seen
on television before. That uniqueness always
Charlie Collier, AMC’s president
‘The graphic novels are kind of like a rather exotic
storyboard … Some of the more iconic images we
did reproduce pretty accurately’
David Tattersall, director of photography, Ep1
Video from Season 1 Blu-Ray ‘Making of’ feature
We’re very fortunate to have a visual narrative to
draw upon in designing The Walking Dead … You
are able to see the entire arc of the show, and of
course, we found ourselves inspired to use some
key images. First and foremost is Rick’s approach
to the skyline of Atlanta. That was such an iconic
panel from the comic book that it had a great
influence over my work
Greg Melton, production designer
Cleary visible organs/origins?
28 Days Later
Night of the Living Dead
Cleary visible organs/origins?
Dawn of the Dead
Shaun of the Dead