Two of Daniel Clowes comics have been successfully adapted for cinema before, with Terry Zwigoff adapting both Ghost World and Art School Confidential, and there are more in the works, with Alexander Payne's version of Wilson the most keenly anticipated. But maybe modern cable TV would seem to be a more obvious home for Clowes, his tone and temperament?
I do like to think that the American cinema industry is still just about 'grown up' enough to do this kind of stuff, but month after month, it seems like HBO and their counterparts are having to pick up the slack on adult-oriented, character-rich, idiosyncratic drama more and more. Or at least it will seem that way as you fill your Amazon cart with copies of Cinema Verite, Temple Grandin, Recount, Game Change, Hemingway & Gellhorn and Grey Gardens.
So it's no big surprise when I read that, now Ruby Sparks is done and rolling out across the US, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris are turning to TV for their next production, a collaboration with Clowes.
Speaking to San Francisco Gate, Dayton says:
We are doing a pilot for HBO written by Daniel Clowes. We go back with him to a music video we all did together on the Ramones. The pilot is called The Landlord, and it is about a college professor who inherits an apartment building, and he has an ideal expectation of how he is going to run it.
It seems to be a new, original work by Clowes, or at least not derived from any of his comics that I have read. Though that inheritance device was used in The Death Ray too, likely to very different ends.
So perhaps Clowes is writing directly for TV now? That would be unexpected. That would restore the surprise we waved goodbye to a couple of paragraphs ago.
Here's that Ramones video, for their cover of Tom Waits' I Don't Wanna Grow Up.