The first trailer for Tom Cruise's next movie, Edge of Tomorrow, is out, and it has the makings of a sci-fi epic. Set for release next summer, the film pits Cruise's character in a battle against aliens while trapped in a time loop. I got an exclusive look into how the film's story is being adapted into a comic, and the details are juicy.
Originally based on 2004's All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, Edge of Tomorrow is a result of the novel's global success. It was translated into English from Japanese in 2009 by Viz Media, the entertainment powerhouse behind the Dragon Ball Z, Naruto, and Pokémon manga, and more than 100 other series. One year later, Time Warner (NYSE:TWX) subsidiary Warner Bros. bought the rights to a scripted adaptation.
Although specific numbers aren't available, Viz told me that All You Need Is Kill has been one of its "better sellers from the beginning," adding that sales spikes are correlated with key developments in the Edge of Tomorrow timeline, from the signing of Tom Cruise to the release of the first movie trailer.
The making of the comic
In addition to becoming a major motion picture, All You Need Is Kill is being adapted into a graphic novel. Viz plans to release it next May, presumably to capitalize off of Edge of Tomorrow's momentum. Sakurazaka's work is some of the most descriptive prose I've ever read, so it's only natural that it translates well to the world of film and comics.
Joel Enos, an editor for the graphic novel, shares this sentiment. He thought of how to fit it into a visual medium after his first read-through.
This brings up the question: How different is the original novel from its comic counterpart? Nick Mamatas, another key member of the team responsible for the adaptation, reveals they are fairly similar:
The plot is almost exactly the same. What we had to do is pare down some of the plot—even a relatively short prose novel can become an extremely long graphic novel if every incident is kept in—and expand some of the action. All You Need Is Kill is told, mostly, in a tightly controlled first-person. Such a narrator isn't going to give a blow-by-blow of every battle he's been in. In a visual medium like a comic, however, people want to see the action, so we got to do a lot of fun battle choreography.
How's it different from the movie?
When asked if Time Warner's Warner Bros. was involved in the making of the graphic novel, Viz's editorial team explained that an interesting relationship is at play. The film studio doesn't have an active say in its script, but Viz Media was instructed to avoid any changes to the plot that could overlap with Edge of Tomorrow.
Interestingly, these differences are visible in the art. As Mamatas explains, "The film is going for a grim dark future, with bulky exo-suits and lots of gray tones."
The graphic novel, meanwhile, is based on "more of a sci-fi retrofuture look, with slick battle armor and lots of primary colors."
Lee Ferguson, the artist of the comic, says much of his inspiration came from the illustrations provided in Sakurazaka's original novel.
Now, just because there are differences between All You Need Is Kill and Edge of Tomorrow doesn't mean the publisher isn't on board with the film's style. On the contrary, Enos and Mamatas both say they were "relieved" when they saw Warner Bros.' first trailer, with the latter telling me he "was worried that it would be all noise and putatively witty one-liners, like Transformers or something."
Looking toward the future
That's a very legitimate fear, and it's ultimately a lack of cheesiness that may set Tom Cruise's flick on the top of the Hollywood heap come next summer. His last sci-fi film, Oblivion, was cut from a similar cloth stylistically speaking, and it grossed $286 million worldwide on a budget of $120 million.
Edge of Tomorrow is reported to have a budget of $140 million, so a similar box office result would be considered a victory. Ultimately, more dollars mean more time in theaters for the film, which in turn will create more press for All You Need Is Kill. It's understandable why the comic's editors are hoping for a successful release.
Additionally, Edge of Tomorrow can open the door for other Hiroshi Sakurazaka novels to be made into movies. Slum Online, a tale of videogame obsession, is one such example, and is also under the Viz Media banner. The aforementioned Joel Enos, who's also edited manga for the Naruto and Pokémon universes among others, says Slum Online "would translate really well to a comic," and I'm inclined to believe him.
From a broader standpoint, the All You Need Is Kill graphic novel may usher in a new era of adult comics released in conjunction with blockbuster movies. This is the first time Viz has backed a mature-themed comic with original art, so more could be on the horizon if it's successful.
What better way to break the ice than with support from a Tom Cruise movie? I can't think of a more bankable alternative.
Fool contributor Jake Mann has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.