Hollywood's attraction to comic books is hitting the digital age, and two webcomics writers are reaping the benefits from something they wrote just because they loved doing it.
"The thing about webcomics is that we don't get paid to do it," said Brandon Jerwa, co-writer of Wide Awake, the webcomic that was recently optioned as a film. "We really started doing this for the love of the thing. And we even had publishers approach us about it, but none of the offers were the right offer for us."
Wide Awake, a horror-themed webcomic at wideawakeonline.com, is one of the latest non-superhero comics to get optioned as a film. And the fact that it's a webcomic that isn't even finished makes it unique among the slew of Hollywood film options for comic book stories.
The comic, which tells the story a woman whose dreams of terrifying monsters are more than just figments of her unconscious mind, started as a pitch for a Popgun anthology. Drawn by Mirco Pierfederici with art direction by David Messina, Wide Awake grew from a scene that co-writer Eric Trautmann first conceived for a video game.
"I recalled a scene that popped into my head when I was working on a video game property -- a game that never came out -- and it was a creepy scene that could be applied to a number of different stories," Trautmann said. "Amanda sort of grew out of that."
"Amanda" is the lead character, who has to defeat her nightmares before she wakes up, and her story attracted the attention of Jarrod Feliciano and Mirjana Novkovic at Do-Over Productions. And even though the comic has barely hit the web -- all that's been uploaded so far is the "Issue #0" preview -- the two filmmakers have been told the entire story of Wide Awake.
"We reached out to the guys immediately and asked if they had more content, which they did," Novkovic told Newsarama. "We signed an NDA and they opened up the vaults and shared everything they'd been working on -- scripts, artwork, plotline. It was like a dark, twisted, nightmarish Christmas morning."
"We spent some time talking about the project in both mediums – webcomic and proposed film – and it was pretty obvious that we all saw everything eye to eye," added Feliciano. "But I think the true deciding factor for Eric and Brandon was that we’re not Hollywood suits – we're comics' people, and proud New Yorkers, and we understand the comics' medium. More importantly, we respect and love the medium. And we want this film to be as true to the source material as humanly possible.
"Basically, we would never put nipples on the Batsuit," he said. "Really, we can’t wait for the series to go live and for comic fans everywhere to see the beautifully dark things that we have seen."
Wide Awake is what Jerwa describes as a "modern fantasy, horror story and psychological thriller with a very strong female lead."
"Amanda Carter is definitely one of the strongest characters either of us have ever written. If she were a real person I'd probably give her a wide berth on the street," Jerwa said with a laugh.
But although the story of Wide Awake is undergoing screenwriting for a movie, the webcomic is stalled as the artist works on other projects. "Within 24 hours of us getting the Free Comic Book Day version out, Marvel came and offered Mirco a bunch of covers and I believe, a penciling gig," Jerwa said. "We have a fairly detailed treatment of where we're going on it, and we have a number of scripts in the can. So we're just trying to stockpile enough artwork that we can put up the next installment."
Until then, Jerwa and Trautmann said they're aware the film option may never turn into anything more than that, but they find the whole process to be promising to webcomic creators.
"We're realistic about the fact that movie option means it's a movie... option," Jerwa said with a laugh. "I do think that Jared and Mirjana have every intention of making a movie. And I think they have the ability to see that through."
"Webcomics are a particular hobby horse of mine," Trautmann said. "I'm shocked. I'm absolutely shocked that more mainstream creators aren't doing webcomics. It's a challenge to put these things together, but for mainstream creators it should be much easier to find an artist and make this kind of thing happen.
"With webcomics, it's all about just throwing something out there, and looking for the net positive. There's really no negative to giving it a try," he said. "And with Wide Awake, and the fact that this may actually get made into a film, I think it just proves the possibility for a net positive is promising."