Easy money

September 11, 2008

Have you ever read a book and thought to yourself, “This would make a pretty cool comic?” I found myself doing that with Jeff Lindsay’s Darkly Dreaming Dexter, which has already been adapted into a television series for Showtime. It’s about a serial killer who solves crimes. And I think we’ve officially maxed out on the careers you can plug into the phrase “(blank) who solves crimes,” which saddens me a little bit, but I’ll soldier on.

Dexter, who works in a Miami crime lab, moonlights as a sociopath who focuses his attention on other sociopaths. Raised (or programmed) by a foster father who also happened to be a police officer, Dexter manages to direct his recreational homicide at deadly creatures like himself. It’s both ridiculous and strangely plausible, and Lindsay has a light, charmingly perverse touch that helps mitigate the flat, stupid bits. (For example, Dexter’s foster sister is an entitled whiner, but Dexter makes enough of a mockery of her relentless, do-gooder brattiness that it’s almost tolerable.)

Dexter is the kind of anti-hero who’s reasonably interesting on his own terms and can function ably as a plot generator. I’ve only been through Miami once, but I can certainly believe it has no shortage of serial killers among its populace. It’s an absurdly scenic, colorful place too, except for the parts that are dynamically ugly, or the parts that are both scenically colorful and dynamically ugly at the same time. Combine the setting with the arresting violence on display, and an able illustrator could have a good time with it.

There doesn’t seem to be a lot of mythos to the books, which suits me fine. I don’t think this kind of pulp benefits too much from world-building and arch-nemeses and self-important clutter that has tripped up other smart splatter-novel series. (I’ve only read the first book and part of the second, so that could change and I could find myself back in the Kay Scarpetta weeds again, but so far, so good.)

So here, to summarize, are the things I think make the book eminently adaptable:

  • A solid premise that’s just stupid enough to catch the eye of a casual reader
  • Visual opportunities for an illustrator who likes the tropics and dismemberment
  • A morally ambiguous protagonist, something comics love
  • A kind of purist-resistant uncomplicatedness that lends itself to adaptation in other media (though I know purists of every stripe are not to be underestimated)
  • Having Random House as a publisher, since they’re already developing comics adaptation properties
  • Dexter actually sounds more Dark Horse to me, but maybe Del Rey could partner with them or something.