Comica Festival’s anniversary season of events at London’s Century Club continued last night with They Shoot Comics Don’t They – a panel where Ivanka Hahnenberger invited producers from film and TV to discuss how they adapted comics properties to the big and small screen. Representatives on hand included Armando Iannucci (The Death of Stalin), Michael Lake (Violent Cases), Tim Searle (Dennis & Gnasher) and Patrick Walters (Heartstopper). The audience was a mix of people from both the TV/film and comics space.

Producers comics
Comica co-founder Paul Gravett introducing the evening’s panel [Photo ©Dean Simons]

Producers comics
Ivanka Hahnenberger kicking off the producers of comics adaptations panel [Photo ©Dean Simons]
Mike Lake had quite a few anecdotes in his presentation – including positing a potential connection between the art of Frank Bellamy and Frank Miller’s graphic novel 300 [Photo ©Dean Simons]
First of the producers to speak was Mike Lake – probably better known as a co-founder of UK comics megastore Forbidden Planet and publisher Titan Books with Nick Landau in the late 1970s/early 1980s. Since 2019 he has been running his own production company – Lakesville Productions – and has been hard at work turning Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean’s debut 1987 graphic novel Violent Cases into a feature film.

Lake mentioned that he was behind the decision for Titan to publish the book in 1991 and that connection with Gaiman and McKean made getting the film rights possible. Violent Cases has a screenplay written by Mike Carey, will star Ben Kingsley, and production is well under way.

Tim Searle takes the mic [Photo ©Dean Simons]
Tim Searle talked about earning his stripes in TV animation and the process of adapting various existing properties – be they live action, children’s book, or comic – into animation. He executive produced the Danger Mouse reboot, Dennis & Gnasher Unleashed‘s second season, and is currently series director on an animated series based on Kenneth Grahame’s 1908 children’s novel Wind in the Willows called Toad & Friends.

Patrick Walters talking the panel and audience through the process of bringing Heartstoppers to life [Photo ©Dean Simons]
Patrick Walters talked about discovering Alice Oseman‘s Heartstopper webcomic on Tapas and how it instantly spoke to him, and recollected his own youth as an awkward queer teen.

Patrick Walters talking about the crucial role of original author Alice Oseman in the adaptation of Heartstoppers [Photo ©Dean Simons]
Wanting to bring the comic to life Walters felt he needed to ensure Alice Oseman was on board and that she was significantly involved in the process. Walters mentioned the use of colour and effects being used to bring the black and white comic to life – especially since they had to film during COVID in a comparatively depressing school in Slough.

Armando Iannucci talks his past as an avid reader of comics and it coming full circle producing an adaptation of a comic with The Death of Stalin (2017) [Photo ©Dean Simons]
Armando Iannucci, who wrote and directed The Death of Stalin (2017), took on the adaptation of Fabien Nury and Thierry Robin’s bande dessinée La Mort de Staline duology (published in French in 2010 and 2012 by Dargaud) by approaching the project as a response to the source material rather than a straight adaptation.

[Photo ©Dean Simons]
Iannucci built on the The Death of Stalin comic’s satirical-biographical basis and added on additional research plus his own sense of comedic flare to both do justice to the material, the absurdity of the scenario, and the underlying horror of that moment in history.

[Photo ©Dean Simons]
An interesting question from the audience: What would the producers like to adapt or see adapted? Lake instantly said he wanted to see ABC Warriors make the leap from the pages of 2000 AD; Walters raised Craig Thompson’s 2011 graphic novel Habibi; and Iannucci wanted to see Marvel finally produce a solid adaptation of the Fantastic Four.

[Photo ©Dean Simons]

The Comica anniversary season at London’s Century Club continues tonight with Lucie Arnoux and Lucy Sullivan discussing their shift from animation to autobio comics.

Next week the final two events take place: Dave McKean and Iain Sinclair discuss AI in…But Is It Art? (Sold Out) and political cartoonist Martin Rowson makes a prime ministerial mess as he takes the audience through his 40 year career in...Giving Offence.



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