Mike Rohrssen writes,
It's not uncommon to see comic books based on TV shows nowadays, but they are usually based off of some sort of superheroes. However, there are a group of creators that are here to bring some non-traditional older television shows into comic book form.
Lesley Vamos, is working on Punky Brewster, along with Joelle Sellner. Sellner also wrote the Saved by the Bell comic. Geoff Thorne has been working on bringing Knight Rider back to life in a two-dimensional medium. Mairghread Scott, who worked on Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs, and Jonathan London, writer of Miami Vice, rounded out the panel talking about bringing former Primetime shows to comic book shelves near you.
The creators discussed the difficulties in a delicate balance between trying to appeal to the built in fan base of the shows they are trying to reimagine. There was a general consensus among the group that it's probably best to keep to most of the original designed of the television show for at least a little bit, before you can venture off into more original stories.
Difficulties can arise even with doing that especially if you are trying to modernize such shows as Saved By The Bell or Punky Brewster. Saved By The Bell was very much a product of the 1990s and the fashion definitely dictated that. Sellner said that it took a little bit for Kelly Kapowski to ditch the acid-washed jeans, but eventually they migrated all of the main cast towards a more modern wardrobe. Punky Brewster presented much different issues. Punky's relationship with Henry on the show was never really dwelled upon because "there were no red flags in the 1980s" according to Vamos, so creative liberties were taken to make Punky and Henry related to each other.
There's also nothing wrong with keeping things as part of the status quo. London said he wanted to keep the 80s feel of Miami Vice because of how the show influenced fashion and virtually every other cop show that was to follow. As long as the characters maintain the right voice they had during the run on the program, it will engage both the hardcore fan of the source material and engage new readers. London also took some liberties with when the book takes place, He set his title in between the first and second season of the show. In doing so, he was actually able to kill off a character that only appeared for a few episodes in the first season and then never again.
Being able to take liberties with someone else's intellectual property is of course entirely up to the people who own the rights to begin with. Sometimes, they are very freeing, but there can be a lot of difficult legal loopholes that have to be maneuvered around. If the rights to the actual actor's likeness aren't available, then the creators have to get around that by drawing the lead characters as someone other than the main actor, but still giving the overall appearance of, say a Michael Knight, from Knight Rider.
Overall, it's about the passion of the creators and how much they appreciate the source material and try to make it available for a younger and more modern audience.