Alas, the veritable super-team behind Kavalier & Clay could not vanquish the dragons and obstacles that challenged their big screen questing: Paramount Pictures decided to table the project. According to Pope, the chief concern was budget. (Unconfirmed rumors have Daldry and Chabon now exploring the possibility of turning the book into an HBO mini-series, a la Mike Nichols’ acclaimed adaptation of Tony Kushner’s play Angels In America.) Moving on from Kavalier & Clay, Pope was ready to focus on his Battling Boy graphic novel, but soon became immersed in another Quixotic Hollywood endeavor: Battling Boy, The Movie.
The story goes like this: In 2008, Pope pitched the idea of Battling Boy to an exec at Paramount that he had gotten to know during the course of Kavalier & Clay-ing. The studio bought the property for Brad Pitt’s production company, Plan B, with hopes that the star would play a key role. Pope, as consulting producer, began helping screenwriter Alex Tse (Watchmen) on the script. They worked together for many months and through many drafts. In 2010, David Gordon Green was recruited to rewrite the screenplay and direct. In 2011, there were reports – quickly debunked — that Pitt wanted to cast his son, Maddox Jolie-Pitt, in the lead role. Over this span of time and activity, Pope was supposed to be drafting Battling Boy: The Printed Object, which was originally scheduled for a 2010 release. But this wasn’t happening. Pope says his inability to find the time to draw was beginning to affect the movie team’s ability to find the right vision for the movie, as the film needed to be informed by the comic. “It was this terrible conundrum. The film can’t get made until the book is done, but the book can’t get done until I get off the film to finish it,” says Pope, who adds that his time management during this period was also challenged by a “once in a lifetime offer” to develop a Grand Theft Auto-like videogame for Animal Logic. “How could I say no to that?” he laughs.
Eventually, Pope had an epiphany: “I had to superglue my ass to a chair and finish the book.” He says he did so with the blessing of Paramount and Pitt, who was committed to other projects, anyway, including Moneyball, Killing Them Softly (now in theaters), and the forthcoming World War Z. In retrospect, Pope says, “Maybe if it was a Faustian mistake to sell the book so fast.” But he has no regrets, and in fact, Pope reports that he’s “getting back into the movie” beginning this week before embarking an aggressive promotional campaign for the graphic novel. He’ll then buckle down anew and draw the second volume of Battling Boy, which is expected in 2014.
Pope is also currently wrapping a short film that he wrote and co-directed called 7 x 6 x 2, a sci-fi/horror western financed by Sony (and shot with a new Sony camera coming to market) about seven monsters, six bullets, and two unlikely allies who must survive a dark and scary night together. Pope says he’s going to make time in his always-busy schedule to draw a comic book adaptation of the film in the next year. Citing fellow two other comic book stars who’ve split their time between mediums, Pope says, “Mark Millar and Frank Miller have successfully careers where they can be in comics and film. I see no reason why can’t I do both.”
Especially if he keeps himself well-stocked with super-glue.
Our sneak preview of Battling Boy follows. What you need to know: The death of Haggard West, Earth’s protector, has initiated a cosmic protocol. The world needs a new hero. A young man from a mystical place descends to Earth, accompanied by his father. (For a closer look at all the images, click on the pages or move your cursor across them for magnification.)