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Saturday, August 19, 2023 

History of the RIPD comic and Hollywood adaptation

SyFy told some history of the making of RIPD, adapted from a Dark Horse comic originally published around the turn of the century (the title's acronym for Rest In Peace Department), and is since a 2013 film, and even if it's allegedly humorous, it still draws from a dark-laden genre:
Based on the 4-issue comic of the same name that Dark Horse published between late 1999 and early 2000, R.I.P.D. (now streaming on Peacock) centers around a paranormal police force comprised of the greatest law enforcement officers who ever lived… and died. The organization has only one goal: apprehend "Deados" — aka wayward and rotting souls lingering on Earth — and either send them to the underworld for a life sentence or, if they resist eternal damnation, erase them from the very fabric of the universe.

Ryan Reynolds leads the Men in Black meets Ghostbusters project as Nick Walker, a Boston cop shot down in the line of duty by his corrupt partner (Kevin Bacon). Rather than take his chances with cosmic judgement — after all, he was pocketing valuable evidence before his untimely demise — Nick agrees to a century of duty to the R.I.P.D. and finds himself partnered up with Roy Pulsipher (a delightfully scene-chewing Jeff Bridges), a rootin-tootin' Deado-huntin’ cowboy sheriff plucked straight out of the Old West.

While the movie is decidedly a buddy comedy with a genre slant on the mismatched cop formula, the source material by writer Peter Lenkov and artist Lucas Marangon carries a little more of a paranormal bite. In the comic, for instance, R.I.P.D. officers are allowed to avenge their deaths in exchange for 100 years of service. What's more: the two main characters (named Nick Cruz and Roy Powell) come face-to-face with a multitude of demons and even the Devil Himself.

Origins of the R.I.P.D. comic book

By Lenkov's rough estimate, the origin of the R.I.P.D. comic goes back 30 years. He came up with the idea while under contract as a writer for Universal Pictures. "I had the art department over there do a badge that had a crack in it and it said ‘R.I.P.D. Rest in Peace Department," he tells SYFY WIRE on zoom.

But since he didn't have the bandwidth to pitch the concept to the studio, he decided to hand it off to Terry Black, older brother of Shane Black. Terry seemed perfectly-suited to the material, having written the screenplay for 1988's Dead Heat, which centered around a resurrected cop, Roger Mortis (the late Treat Williams), hunting down other members of the undead.

"He came back and pitched a version of the movie that I didn't think was right for us," Lenkov remembers. "He's a great writer, but I didn't think it was the right tone of what I had in mind." And so, he decided to write it himself as a spec script that never materialized. But like departed souls wandering this mortal plane, the idea refused to move on. "It always nagged me."

While meeting with Dark Horse founder and CEO Mike Richardson "about something else," Lenkov proposed turning R.I.P.D. into a comic that could later serve as "proof of concept" for a feature film (à la Cowboys & Aliens and Oblivion).

"I think [it was] probably better for the project to have done it as a comic book first, just to figure out if it works," he concedes. "And as a writer, I love doing a comic book, because you can do anything in a comic book that you can't necessarily do in a movie."

Dark Horse then tapped Mexico-based artist Lucas Marangon to handle the interiors. This proved to be a major victory for the illustrator, who, up until that point, had been hawking his portfolio at comic book conventions, "secretly hoping that Dark Horse would pick it up," because the publisher enjoyed licenses to "all these amazing IPs that I was interested in such as Star Wars and other science fiction stuff," he admits on a separate Zoom call. "I had my own ideas book, I wanted the character to be some sort of Latino Brad Pitt from Se7en. But those ideas were coming up as I was going along."
This may be a comedy-based movie, but it's still drawing from some pretty grisly concepts like the undead, and if the artist was drawing inspiration from a serial killer film like Se7en, that's dismaying. And has Lenkov ever heard of animation? Sure, it may be easier to do some stuff in comics than in movies (provided certain publishers will give you their full backing), but he's long dealt with live action, and what if animation could provide the advantage live action doesn't always do? This is why it's head-shaking how only so many producers will only focus on live action combined with special effects for science-fiction production.

It should be noted that Lenkov was dismissed from the TV shows he was producing for CBS because he'd built up a "toxic work environment", and allegedly hurt quite a few people in his employ, including the star of the MacGuyver remake. I hope Lenkov's mended his ways since, but if this is the kind of material he thinks makes for great entertainment, I'm sorry, but even combined with comedy, it just doesn't.

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R.I.P.D. is not a television series. Please correct your article.


Thanks, the info was confusing to me at first and I'd written it late at night. I've made some corrections now.

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