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Greg Rucka On Taking The Old Guard From Comics To Film - Exclusive

While there may not be a scrap of spandex in sight, make no mistake: The Old Guard is a superhero movie through and through. Not only do Andy and her team of immortal mercenaries have some pretty amazing powers, but the movie is also based on a five-issue comic book miniseries written by Greg Rucka and illustrated by Leandro Fernandez.

Netflix's The Old Guard is a pretty faithful adaptation of its source material, too, and with good reason. In addition to the comic, Rucka also penned the movie's screenplay. Still, as he tells Looper in an exclusive interview, they're not exactly the same: "The movie is a different thing than the comic, and it is in fact a different story than the comic in a lot of ways."

That's inevitable when moving a story between formats, according to Rucka, who makes it very clear that "adaptation" is the word to use. "I don't like 'translate,'" he says. "To me, translating is a different act. Translation implies that it is the same thing, and I think that is a flawed place to work from when you're talking about moving between mediums."

While The Old Guard is Rucka's first produced screenplay, the veteran writer has produced numerous novels and hundreds and hundreds of comic books — including titles featuring well-known characters like Wonder Woman, Batman, Wolverine, and the cast of Star Wars.

"The choices in a comic are made very much based on real estate, and in regards to that real estate, with an eye towards focus," Rucka explains. A comic only has a finite number of pages, after all, and even with a talented artist like Fernandez at the drawing table, there's not a lot of room to tell a story with The Old Guard's epic scope.

On film, there's more room to play. "I can get away with writing a comic that is primarily about Andy. You can't make a movie that's only about one member of that team. Everybody has to be given their due," Rucka says. From a writer's perspective, that's a blessing: "One of the pleasures in it is that I get to hit big moments and explore things that I could not do in the original."

For someone like Rucka, who's adapting his own material, there's another benefit, too. "How rare is it for an artist to have the opportunity to effectively do a second draft of a work that they already put into the world?" he posits. Bringing The Old Guard to live action gave Rucka the opportunity to revise the story, explore new ideas, and add in some plot twists he didn't think of the first time around — and he thinks it's the better version of the story.

"I love the comic that Leo and I did. I'm very proud of it. But I think that the movie that I got to write, that [director] Gina [Prince-Bythewood] made, that Netflix allowed to be made, that Skydance forced into creation, is a better story — just a better work," Rucka says. "And that isn't maligning the original as much to say, 'I think this is an improvement on it.'"

The Old Guard isn't the only comic book adaptation that Greg Rucka is working on

The Old Guard might be Rucka's first screenplay, but it's not the first one of his comics to get the live-action treatment. The 2009 Kate Beckinsale thriller Whiteout is based on one of Rucka's comics, as is ABC's hit crime procedural Stumptown, which was recently renewed for a second season.

The CW's Batwoman also owes a huge debt to Rucka's run on the comics, which more or less defined the modern version of the character. "I have nothing to do with it, don't get a check, don't get a penny, don't get a consult," Rucka says, "but they don't have the Batwoman TV show unless I have written what I wrote." Rucka also co-created the comic book series Gotham Central, which inspired both Fox's Gotham and the just-announced TV spin-off of Matthew Reeves' upcoming film The Batman.

As such, there's a lot of Greg Rucka on the airwaves right now, but the comic project he'd most like to see come to life has yet to make its way to television. "I would love, love, love to be able to make a premium streaming or HBO-esque, high-quality Lazarus series," Rucka tells us.

Lazarus, which Rucka co-created with artist Michael Lark, takes place in a dystopian future in which family-operated conglomerates run the world, establishing a feudal system in which most people struggle to get by. The series focuses on Forever Carlyle, a genetically-engineered super-soldier who serves as lead enforcer and head of the military for the powerful Carlyle clan.

While Lazarus debuted in 2013, it has ended up being oddly prescient as time's gone on. Its unique mix of high-concept and politically-charged sci-fi, cutthroat political drama, and take-no-prisoners action scenes would make it an excellent fit for the current prestige TV landscape.

Rucka agrees. Like The Old Guard, the Lazarus comics only scratch the surface of what's available story-wise. "There's so much stuff in Lazarus with just the series characters that I have never been able to show that I know is going on," Rucka says. "In the way that talking about The Old Guard as a motion picture and being able to say, 'I am able to go and dive into things that I haven't been able to do, couldn't do in the comics,' that goes a hundred times for Lazarus."

This isn't some pipe dream, either. Rucka says he's pushing very hard to make a Lazarus TV series a reality: "We've been in development at Amazon, but I believe that's coming to an end. We'll see."

In the meantime, Rucka's fans have The Old Guard to keep them busy. The movie debuted on Netflix on July 10, 2020. Even if you've read the comic, go ahead and watch it. There are more than a few surprises in store — trust us.