With the upcoming release of pew-pew action flick 2 Guns on DVD and Blu-Ray on the 9th of December, we thought we’d sit down and talk to Steve Grant, the man behind the graphic novel the film’s based on. With a history of comic work that includes a personal favourite, The Punisher, he’s got a fair bit of insight into the writing process to share.
Having gone the other way, I know that anytime you transliterate material between media you have to make compromises. You can do things in comics that you can’t do in film and vice versa. Film has sound and movement, things comics have to fake, but comics allow for a wider breadth of narrative structure. (Not that most comics creators take much advantage of that.) Comics aren’t as dependent on naturalism. But going either way you have to find equivalents for a lot of material, and that increases your odds of ticking off fans of the source material.
What inspired you when you were working on 2 Guns?
I came up with the idea of two undercover cops with different agencies interacting with each other believing the other one was a career criminal. It must happen, since undercover cops for different agencies don’t tell each other what they’re doing. When you’re undercover, secrecy is your only friend. I thought it had the makings of something darkly comedic. I couldn’t sell it, but I just thought there was a really good story there, so it became maybe the only thing I’ve written since I turned professional that I didn’t already have a market for when I wrote it. I guess I just believed in it, and that kept me going.
What do you think the role of violence is in storytelling? How do you make it purposeful and avoid it simply being there for the sake of it?
There has to be a point to it besides just glorying in violence. But I think we are a fairly violent species. It’s at least somewhat hardwired into us or we’d never have made it to the top of the food chain, and I think a good society can’t just scold against violence, it has to recognize these psychological conditions and somehow accommodate and redirect them. To some extent that’s the purpose of the military. I tend to like to use it as a counterpoint. Violence in my stories is frequently counterproductive.
But I should mention there is no violence in storytelling. If I punch you in the nose, that’s violence. If I write about punching you in the nose, I can understand why you might not like it but it’s not violence. There is no assault on any nose. We really do need to distinguish between violence, which is real and painful and ugly, and representations of violence, which are fake but which can be applied to things like theme and character. Even “violence” that’s in a story for the sake of violence can ultimately be cathartic. That doesn’t mean it always is. You have to approach each story as its own beast and judge from context.
Has working on The Punisher changed how you approach the topic of violence? Frank always had a strong agenda. Do you think this is easier to write than reactive or random violence?
It crystallized what I wanted to say about it. What attracted me to The Punisher is that he’s a futile character. Properly done, he’s about as far from a superhero as superhero comics get. He’s a villain. He has no romantic attachment to violence, it’s just the only thing he knows how to do, and since he’s emotionally dead – I did always view him as a walking dead man – he’s incapable of perceiving other options. He doesn’t even especially like violence, but he’s very working class and his mission is what he does because somebody has to do it and nobody else is.
Of course, it’s easier to write violent situations when you have a character like The Punisher who isn’t afraid of violent situations, but it’s why he’s not afraid that makes him interesting to write, not the violence. I think most of the characters I create are reactively violent and would rather not be in a violent situation at all.
In 2 Guns, Bobby doesn’t really have much affinity for violence, and knows when he’s undercover he stands a better chance of survival by staying away from it. Marcus perceives himself more as a man of action and is more inured to it, more inclined to deal with what he perceives as problems before they become problems. Whether any kind is easier to write than the others depends again on the specifics of the story.
Are there any other comic works you’ve had a hand in that you’d like to see adapted?
If someone wants to pay me enough, all of them.
What advice would you offer hardcore comic fans walking into the cinema with high expectations, be it for 2 Guns or The Avengers?
Stop calling yourselves geeks and stop putting up with other people using the term. Screw ‘em. You won. Act like it. And compare film adaptations to the spirit of the comics they’re drawn from, not the specifics. That’s what’s most likely to have translated, and if you get that you’re already way ahead of the game. Anything more than that is gravy.
2 Guns is out on DVD and Blu-Ray on the 9th of December.