Comic book artist Neal Adams, known for his ground-breaking work with Batman, X-Men and The Avengers, recently tackled ZvG: Zombies Vs. Gladiators, a project on the Amazon Studios Movie Development Slate. He created an animatic of the script (see the trailer here), which shows everything from ancient Rome, inside and outside the arena, to a battle with elephants in the mix and “bodies flying everywhere.”
Adams talked with us about superheroes, ZvG, testing visualizations of stories and why comic books can be “the greatest art in the world.”
Some highlights from the interview:
What do you think being a comic fan does for somebody who is making a movie?
First of all, it gives them that critical sense that it’s not what you think it is if you think it’s pop culture – it’s really adventure. These last two Batman movies, it was like you were going to a movie, not a “comic book movie.” So, the Avengers movie, my God, guess what? I am going to a comic book movie, but it sits in a kind of reality that other movies can only pretend to be in.
What happens is the sensibility is changing. People are going, well, these movies do not just mean guys in tights doing super things because they were bitten by a radioactive spider. They mean everything. They mean the ancient gods, they mean Shakespeare, they mean all the things in literature because there’s nothing that can be done anywhere else that can’t be done in comic books.
What excited you most about working on Zombies vs. Gladiators for Amazon Studios?
This was like doing a movie. … I started to do the boards, and I thought, this is cool. I’ve got gladiators killing zombies, that’s great, zombies leaping on people and biting them in the neck. Maybe not the way it ought to be, but you know, they’re going to keep on working on this and turn it into a movie. … All the things where you go “What can they do here?,” they do it. It’s just a pile of great stuff. …
If you do it right, it’s a great testing device for a movie because you can look at it and say, hey, it’s slow here, it’s fast here, this is wrong, this is right, let’s do this, OK, let’s take this out … why don’t we do a classical soundtrack. You’ve made the movie, but now you have a chance to remake it, and make it better.
I’ve done this kind of work for advertising agencies for 30 years. … You can take animatics and for $100,000 you can do five ideas as fully realized commercials, you can test them and find out what’s going to sell the product better. When I first did it … I’ve watched the process, I might have done the first animatic … it made sense to me.