Aside from young adult fantasy novels, it seems like comic books are the main source of material for original Hollywood screenplays these days. But while most of those adaptations focus on superheroes, the industry has also been good at showcasing comics of other genres — the latest being Vertigo’s The Losers.
The original idea for The Losers started in the 1970s when the characters appeared in DC Comics’ war-anthology series Our Fighting Forces. Telling the story of a World War II Special Forces unit, The Losers was made up of somewhat cliché figures from different branches of the armed forces.
In 2003, DC Comics invited writer Andy Diggle and artist Jock to revamp the concept for DC imprint Vertigo. While he was originally approached by DC to give a gritty take on The Losers, Diggle decided to take the concept out of the war and bring it into the modern day.
“After batting some ideas around, we decided to ditch the old DC concept and just invent something completely new,” Diggle said.
Instead of a gritty World War II story, the new Losers tells the story of a Special Forces team set up by its CIA handler Max and left for dead after uncovering an agency secret. After emerging from hiding, the members decide to literally steal their lives back.
Gone were the military clichés. Instead, Diggle made the series a cross between a spy thriller, a heist film and a high-octane action movie. With an entertaining cast, exotic locations and a great mystery driving the revenge aspect of the series, The Losers’ revitalization was unlike anything else on the market.
The story is sharp, but what makes the series really work is the art. Jock’s style can only be described as kinetic. The action pops off the page, and each panel feels like a frame of a storyboard for an action movie, only crisper and more vibrant. The art perfectly complements the story, and Jock mixes a unique, realistic look for the interiors and a stylistic feel for the covers.
The result is a book that looks like nothing else on the market. For Diggle, that’s because of the friendship he shares with Jock.
“We love working together,” Diggle said. “We’ve got to the point where we can just predict each other’s moves, which makes for a great sort of shorthand working relationship. He just gets where I’m coming from. It’s always jarring working with another artist who might not get it. Jock’s just got this innate sense of dramatic storytelling; he knows which moments to really sell to the reader.”
With a series as sharp as The Losers, it’s no surprise that it was adapted for the big screen. Although the film release has been pushed back to April 23, the trailers for the Sylvain White-directed film look very true to the comic, with some scenes lifted straight from the pages.
The cast includes Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Zoe Saldana and Chris Evans. Each actor just seems right for the part, whether it’s Morgan’s gruff determination as the leader, Clay, or Evans’ sarcastic remarks as the team’s hacker, Jensen.
“Jock and I didn’t have any official input [to the film], but the director is a fan of the comic, and he’s keeping it very faithful to the look and tone of our work,” Diggle said. “He’s following Jock’s character designs very closely, and I helped them iron out some plot points in an unofficial capacity.”
While fans of the comic series know that The Losers is a unique story, the general public might be making comparisons to The A-Team, whose big screen adaptation hits theaters two months after The Losers. Despite this, Diggle is positive The Losers’ uniqueness will win out.
“It’s funny, when I wrote my first pitch for The Losers, I showed it to my best friend Rich who said, ‘It’s kind of like The A-Team, isn’t it?’” Diggle said. “And of course I told him it was totally different. The A-Team were mercenaries for hire by the general public, whereas the Losers are on a self-motivated mission to leverage their names off a CIA death list.”
For Diggle, influence came more from neo-noir thrillers than 1980s television shows.
“The Losers comic is much harder-edged, more political, darker, more adult than The A-Team TV series, which was, let’s face it, meant for kids,” Diggle said. “I was consciously channeling movies like Three Kings, The Way of the Gun, Heat, Ronin, stuff like that.”
The Losers is a smart, tense thriller of a comic, and one of the great examples of what the medium can accomplish. If the film is half as good as the comics — and it looks to be — then audiences are in for a treat.