Tarantino’s scripts are extremely quotable and dialogue-heavy. How do you go about adapting one?
I was a little intimidated at first. But if you just break up the story into the appropriate number of panels, it actually flows really well. When I was showing Quentin the first 10 pages of the book, I said, “Look, we’ve got it all in there, and the page isn’t drowning in word balloons. You still have plenty of room for the art.”
We looked at a lot of artists, and Quentin picked R.M. Guera, who has done great work but is best known for “Scalped,” which is a kind of noir series among Native Americans set on a reservation. He’s a brilliant artist, and that sensibility is perfect for what Quentin’s doing. Also, R.M. already worked with Quentin, adapting a couple of scenes from “Inglourious Basterds” for Playboy magazine. “Django” was that same approach: Don’t draw what’s in the movie; draw what’s in the script, which in some ways is different from what’s in the movie. We also have a great lineup of different cover artists: Jim Lee, Denys Cowan, Alex Ross and Frank Quitely. They all do their interpretation of Django. I get excited about projects like this, because I also feel like it’s a way to help support a medium that means so much to me.
It’s been a while since the comics industry has seen a new iconic black superhero. Do you think “Django”has the stuff?
He could. I’m committed to the concept of black superheroes, no matter what. And I certainly consider Django a superhero.
The first commercial black superhero was “Black Panther,” which you helped revive in 2005.
That’s right. When I was writing “Black Panther” for Marvel, I told them I want to give back to that next generation, and the series turned out to be a huge success. “Black Panther” is the biggest seller in the Marvel Knights line of animated DVDs. It out-sold Joss Whedon’s “X-Men,” which is pretty amazing given the brand power of those two great names. It out-sold “Iron-Man Extremis.” BET, who reluctantly aired the series at midnight, keeps re-running it because it gets a huge ratings bump every time, without any marketing and promotion. The show has become this amazing cult hit. [Hudlin was BET’s president of entertainment from 2005 to 2008.] A lot of my interest in comic books is diversifying the audience base. One of the nicest compliments I ever got was from a comic book retailer who said, “Reggie, we love when your comic books come out because we get different people coming into the store.” By “different,” he didn’t just mean black, he meant not the same people who come in every Wednesday. When I go to a comic book signing, there are tons of women. I see adults and kids — Latin, Asian, white, black — and I think that’s healthy for the industry.
Are you still planning a big-screen version of “Black Panther?”
Yeah, but those decisions are up to Marvel. Certainly, Stan Lee [who created the character with artist Jack Kirby in 1966] has said on multiple occasions he wants a “Black Panther” movie to get made. People are constantly asking me, “What’s the holdup?”
And what’s going to happen to Django when the miniseries wraps up?
Don’t know. Of course, I want very much to see the further adventures of Django. Quentin and I have talked about what those might be. But I want to see it in a feature film, and I don’t want a comic book to pre-empt or put him off doing a sequel, even though Quentin’s [officially] never done a sequel in his life and may never do one. All I know is we’ve got a great movie coming out, and we’ve got a great comic book, and we’ll see what happens after that.
Craigh Barboza is a New York-based freelance writer. His work has appeared in Entertainment Weekly, The New York Times, Uptown, USA Weekend and Vibe.