WHAT IT’S ABOUT: The year is 1933. Lee Wagstaff is a young African-American girl living in the racially tense town of Charon, Mississippi. After witnessing the abduction of her white playmate by a mysterious swamp creature, Lee finds her father accused of the kidnapping. To rescue both her friend and her father, Lee embarks on a quest into a frightening fantasy-filled world alongside Bayou, a green swamp monster with plenty of stature and plenty of heart.
WHY IT WORKS: One of the earliest stories to premiere on DC’s online imprint Zuda Comics, “Bayou” is a deeply moving work on multiple levels. It’s filled with visceral eye candy that never ceases to pop, monstrous creatures that both horrify and amaze. But beyond the fantasy setting, “Bayou” is an expertly crafted examination of racism, issues of identity, self-exploration and courage in the face of adversity. From both literal and metaphorical standpoints, “Bayou” is a beautiful piece of fiction.
WHY IT DOESN’T: “Bayou” features several scenes that can be difficult to sit through. If an adaptation was marketed purely as a fantasy tale, many viewers would find themselves fully unprepared for some of the emotional, gut-wrenching sucker punches that “Bayou” has to deliver. These are necessary components of the story, of course, but poor marketing could absolutely sink a “Bayou” adaptation.
HOW TO DO IT: Obviously, “Bayou” has to be marketed correctly — think more along the lines of Guillermo Del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth” than Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland.” This is a beautiful tale filled with fun and adventure, but it also has a darkness that absolutely cannot be sacrificed without destroying the whole of “Bayou.” The audience need to know this.
In terms of format, “Bayou” would work wonderfully as a feature film adaptation, though there’s a lot of material to cram into one two-hour sitting. A television series on a network like HBO, AMC or Showtime would be the better way to go. The biggest problem with television is that the expansive visuals of “Bayou” would require a substantial and lengthy financial commitment from the network. If that hurdle could be overcome, a TV version of “Bayou” would be optimal.
FINAL WORD: Jeremy Love’s “Bayou” is a truly moving story. Skeptics can educate themselves by checking out the series for free online at Zuda. With compelling creatures, thrilling adventure and moral lessons aplenty, “Bayou” is more than deserving of a film or television adaptation.
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