Somebody Please Adapt the Jason Lutes Graphic Novel Berlin

by L.A. Mood Comics and Games

By Dan Brown

There’s no law saying a comic has to be anything other than a comic, but every fan has a dream project they would like to see adapted for the big or small screen.

For me, it’s the Jason Lutes graphic novel Berlin.

Clocking in at nearly 600 pages, the sprawling epic is ripe for the plucking as a multi-season series on a streaming service like Netflix.

It is, to borrow a term from comic scholar Andrew Deman, preposterously cinematic.

The book depicts life in the German city between the First and Second World Wars.

Even though the reader knows how the story will turn out, it’s a vivid portrait of a changing society and the individuals who are driving that change, or find themselves caught up in it.

It’s a historical epic, a portrait of the Jazz Age, a romance, a journey of self-discovery, and so much more.

I did a quick Google search but didn’t find anything saying Lutes has sold the rights. I would be shocked if he hasn’t been approached by producers.

The story was originally serialized over 20 years, then collected as one volume in 2018.

Berlin was one of the selections last year for the L.A. Mood’ Graphic Novel Group book club. When I finished reading the hefty tome, I immediately flipped back to the front to start reading again.

I don’t do that with many graphic novels.

My first impression was how Berlin reminded me of HBO’s The Wire. It follows a large cast of characters, most of them fictional but with some real-life historical figures mixed in. Different characters rise to prominence at different points in the story.

There are proto-Nazis, communists, social climbers. jazz musicians. Jewish families, unemployed labourers, confused children, and a young woman looking for her future. And, best of all for this reader, the central character is a disillusioned journalist.

Someone who’s in the background in an early scene will return later as a lead character. Different places around the city become important at different moments. Seemingly isolated incidents ripple outwards, affecting everyone..

Apart from catching the spirit of the times, the zeitgeist, the triumph of Berlin is how it shows Hitler’s rise wasn’t inevitable. Germany could very well have gone in another direction.

The challenge for anyone who adapts the book would be in capturing that sense of how between-the-wars Germany was up for grabs. In that historical moment, there were many possible future fatherlands.

It would be challenging to capture that sense of uncertainty on the small screen, but Lutes has already provided the storyboards in the form of this book.

How about it, Hollywood?

Do you have any comics or graphic novels you would like to see adapted? I’d love to hear about them in the comment section below.

And yes, just because Lutes may have had offers to adapt his masterwork, that doesn’t mean he has to accept. He might be content just letting it remain a comic.

Dan Brown has covered pop culture for more than 31 years as a journalist and also moderates L.A. Mood’s monthly graphic-novel group.

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