What Aspects Fantasy Shows Copied From Comic Book Adaptations (And What They Didn’t)
Dragon House has a lot on its shoulders – not only is it responsible for its own renewals, but it can play a part in determining the future of a larger entertainment “universe” set in Westeros. Since the resounding success of game of thrones, many streamers and studios scrambled to find a high fantasy hit – and turn it into a standalone slot. Many fans are now comparing this boom to the status of comic book adaptations about a decade ago – including author George RR Martin himself.
Martin has an established love for comics, especially the Marvel Comics of the 1960s when he was growing up. In his book dream songs, he reflected that writer Stan Lee was probably just as influential in his Martin’s writing as was William Shakespeare. Now Martin is poised to follow in Lee’s footsteps like no one else. With the huge success of Dragon House so far, it seems likely that at least some of the other shows set in Westeros will continue as well. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter Last month, Martin spoke enthusiastically about how he’d like a potential Westeros franchise to be similar to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
“The MCU has The Avengersbut they also have something quirky like Wanda Vision“, he said at the time. “That’s what I hope we can do with these other game of thrones shows, so that we can have a variety that showcases the history of this world. There are only a limited number of times you can compete for the Iron Throne.”
The idea of fantasy following the trajectory of superheroes also opens up exciting possibilities for the genre to evolve as well. Dragon House illustrates in particular one of these possibilities: specificity. Most fantasy novels have to work hard to flesh out every corner of their fictional world and spend time there to make them feel authentic. A song of ice and fire is famous for doing it on a grand scale – taking us to Braavos, Dorne, Mereen and everywhere in between without taking our eyes off the main story which basically takes place between King’s Landing and The Wall.
The trick we like to see the authors succeed in these books is to convince us that each place on their fictional map is rich enough to carry its own story, even if ours passes quickly. If Martin wasn’t a brilliant author, HBO would be calling him on this bluff right now by ordering Dragon House, which focuses on a smaller main cast in what is currently a much smaller setting. Fortunately, the writing of Martin and his collaborators rises to the challenge, and the world of Westeros only seems to get richer with each visit.
It’s easy to see how some of Martin’s most famous writing techniques are influenced by serialized superhero comics. He’s an expert at expanding a fictional universe by delving into a small part of it, much as comic book creators can portray a battle for galactic salvation or a murder that rocks a single block of New York. It’s another hint that fantasy adaptations are poised to continue to grow in reach and popularity the same way superhero franchises have over the past decade and a half. It’s also interesting that Martin, who is arguably leading the rollout of this trend, recently remarked that he doesn’t want to find himself in the same position as Stan Lee when all is said and done.
“Sometimes I sit around trying to figure out who I am in this whole scenario,” he said. THR. “Am I George Lucas? Am I Gene Roddenberry? Am I Stan Lee? How do I relate to this IP? Because it’s three different stories as to where they ended.”
The interviewer asked Martin if he liked any of these role models, specifically, he replied, “I don’t know. Not Stan Lee at the end. He had no power, no influence. He didn’t wasn’t writing any stories. He couldn’t say, ‘Don’t do this character.’ He was just a friendly person that they brought to conventions and made cameos, and being left out of the world and the characters that you created would be tough.
Of course, comparing a comic book writer and a novelist is flawed because of how intellectual property rights have been written and the momentum behind them over the past few decades. However, it is an interesting measurement tool to monitor because Dragon House and power rings dominate the streaming landscape this month. There is also the witcher and its consequences, The wheel of time, shadow and bone and a whole host of other shows on the air right now, not to mention all the incredibly exciting adaptations that are still in the early stages of development.
Martin reflected on this trend in a recent blog post, where he refuted reports that he felt competitive about Dragon House and power rings. He wrote: “The more fantasy hits we have, the more chance we have of getting high fantasy. I want to see Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser on the television. I want someone to film this Conan pilot that Ryan Condal wrote. I want one DYING EARTH show based on the works of Jack Vance, I want that of Roger Zelazny NINE PRINCES IN AMBER to be faithfully adapted, I want Jirel de JoiryI want MEMORY, PAIN AND THORN, I want a Joe Abercrombie show. I want a lot more… and a lot more sci-fi too. But we’re not getting any of that unless some of the fantasy series currently in development turn out to be hits.”
What is certain is that Martin’s legacy as a writer is already as singular and distinct as Lee’s, even though his best work still lies ahead of him. The author reported major progress on his long-awaited project The Winds of Winter recently, and fans are thrilled. You can find all of Martin’s books in print, digital, and audiobook formats wherever books are sold. Dragon House airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and HBO Max.