Wednesday, January 4, 2006

A BIT O' WISH-CRAFT

Television, like the English language, is a great maw absorbing new elements from outside influences. This especially refers to characters who might also exist in other creative universes, such as those for movies, novels, comic strips, even from songs. (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? The Gambler?)

I guess it could be estimated that there are at least 1000 major characters in Toobworld who have come from other sources; I wouldn't be surprised if there are even more. But even so, there will always be others whom I would like to see become citizens of the ever-expanding TV Universe.

So as the new year begins to pick up steam, I'd like to take a moment and make two recommendations for characters to be adapted for Television, male and female.

HARRY FLASHMAN
[as depicted by George McDonald Fraser]

This rogue who rogered his way through the world's history in the second half of the 19th Century - from the Khyber Pass to China and on to the Little Big Horn, - would be perfect for several mini-series to be adapted from Fraser's novels. They would be very much in the same vein as the "Sharpe's" miniseries as seen on 'Masterpiece Theater', and the 'Horatio Hornblower' series broadcast on A&E. But there's enough spicy licentiousness in Flash's adventures to make this a candidate for the HBO treatment, a la 'Rome'.

Technically this choice is a bit of a cheat. Although Harry Flashman has been adapted for the movies (Malcolm McDowall in "Royal Flash"), he has also appeared in Toobworld. But that was Harry Flashman as a young student (and secondary character) in 'Tom Brown's School Days'. That was the original source material by Thomas Hughes, from which Fraser kidnapped the character to make over as wholly his own.

ZATANNA ZATARA
[by Gardner Fox and Murphy Anderson]


Females with magical powers have always been popular in Toobworld - Samantha, Jeannie, Sabrina, Isis, and Happy Hotpoint, among others. So it would not be too hard a sell for a superhero/stage magician who uses magic as a superpower to be a weekly fixture in an action-adventure series.

Zatanna was created by Gardner Fox and Murphy Anderson in 1964, debuting in "Hawkman" #4. She is the daughter of Golden Age comic book character John Zatara and Sindella, of the "homo magi" offshoot of the human race. Her family tree includes Leonardo DaVinci, Cagliostro, Nostradamus, and even the King of Atlantis. These genealogical touchstones would anchor her well in the TV Universe.

The catalyst for her magic is the incantation of her spells in reverse. This effect could be easily accomplished without the actress having to learn the tricky phonetics. Just run her speech backwards, a la the Dancing Midget on 'Twin Peaks' and Walt on 'Lost'.

According to a report at SneakPeekTV.com from July of 2005, Warners is developing a feature film version of the character, written by Hadley Davis and produced by Denise DiNovi. Apparently, that version is seen as a 'Sabrina' type for a "tweenie" audience.

Ugh.

I think it should be darker, more in keeping with the zeitgeist of the Buffyverse. Zatanna should be sexy to the point of slatternly in her fishnet stockings; so ample of bosom that there's a threat that she might bust her buttons on her shirtfront. (Check out the cover on the latest issue of "Catwoman".)

I see Zatanna with a harder edge in her stage persona/superhero mode than in her public image; providing that Clark Kent/Superman - or in this case, the Diana Prince/Wonder Woman - duality.

I'll take a wait-and-see attitude about Zatanna's future in film - not everything survives development hell. But I'd still rather see her become an addition to the TV Universe. (And in a way, she already is; but over in the Tooniverse where she has appeared on 'Batman: The Animated Series' and 'Justice League Unlimited'.)

Over in an alternate dimension, Clark Kent of 'Smallville' has already met his world's versions of Aquaman and The Flash; perhaps Zatanna might make for an interesting addition to those reinterpretations of DC characters as college students. And since Kal El is supposedly susceptible to the powers of magic, it would make for an interesting initial conflict between the two.

(And it would be better to have him face a new magical adversary rather than cross over the 'Charmed' Sisters, even though both are on the same network. I would rather keep the Halliwells in the main TV Universe.

So those are my choices for this year - Harry Flashman and Zatanna Zatara. We'll see what happens in a year; whether they can be dropped from this new list or be joined by next year's pair.

What character from another medium would YOU like to see adapted for Toobworld?

BCnU!
Tele-Toby

2 comments:

Brent McKee said...

I'm with you about Zatanna, I just don't think the Great American Public is ready for a sexy adult mage as superheroine, fishnets or no fishnets. They always seem more accepting of teen-aged magic types with funny teen angst situations, and that doesn't fit the character at all. My Zatanna is physically a 20-ish Lucy Lawless type - tall, gorgeous, "well rounded" (if you know what I mean and I think you do) and looking as though even if she didn't have magic powers she could kick your ass. And that's something TV won't give us.

Toby said...

Your Zatanna pretty much matches mine, right down to the type of actress needed to play the role.

And I think the mention of Lucy Lawless is key. If the character of Zatanna as we see her were to have any success, I think we'd have to abandon the idea of getting her show on the main networks and probably go the syndicated route, a la "Xena".

At the very least, maybe via FX or TNT, which are also good for producing gritty dramas with strong characters.