Coming straight from a Q&A and footage presentation played to a packed WonderCon house, the Losers themselves, Chris Evans (Jensen), Oscar Jaenada (Cougar), Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Clay), Zoe Saldana (Aisha) and Columbus Short (Pooch), joined director Sylvain White to chat about adapting the Andy Diggle/Jock Vertigo comic series for the big screen.
"It's an absolute pleasure to be here and be in this world," said Morgan on the topic of comic book conventions, "This is a great world to be in and, as actors, you get all these scripts. The great thing about comic books is that the stories are original. There's this kind of ebb and flow in Hollywood. You get the same scripts over and over. Every romantic comedy reads exactly the same. In the world of graphic novels, there's some originality there. There's some great characters."
Of course, Morgan is no stranger to the world of comics, having made a pretty serious impression playing Edward Blake, the Comedian, in last year's "Watchmen." The connection is not lost on the actor, but he sees Blake and Clay as not only two very different characters, but as two very different approaches to acting.
"I think ['Watchmen'] needed to be so close to the comic book or people would have ripped us a new one. With this, this is a great foundation. For Sylvain, it was invaluable. For us as characters [it was] invaluable. Because it gives you a really great place to jump off and start. Jock and Andy did such a great job of defining these characters. And then Sylvian kind of allowed us as actors to take what we gathered out of those graphic novels and take what we kind of thought of those particular characters and their relationships. So we kind of got to play around a little bit more."
White also admits that the material appeals to him in a very different way than "Watchmen" did to director Zack Snyder.
"There's two things that I focused on that I knew worked extremely well in the graphic novel," he explained, "The first thing is the tone. The graphic novel has a really gritty tone combining very visceral action with a really strong humoristic tone. The characters are really fun to navigate the action with... Aesthetically, the graphic novel is amazing and I really wanted to reflect that in the movie. You can't necessarily replicate frames out of the graphic novel. I don't think that helps anybody. But there's certain things that I talked about with Jock as far as colors and the graphic design of the novel that I really wanted to translate into the movie. [It has] a sort of comic book aesthetic. But it doesn't hit you over the head with it. It's subtle and it eases you into that world."
Backing his director, Short added, "One of the real reasons I wanted to do the movie is because, as an actor, I personally wanted to do things that are grounded in some sense of reality. This is one of the graphic novels I've read in the last five years... that's really grounded in reality. These guys aren't in tights. They're not flying with superpowers. They're antiheroes and real guys."
"You're ruining half my career right now," laughed Morgan.
Most of the cast was quick to point out a personal history with comic books, but it comes with some irony that Evans is a marked exception. The actor, who has starred in two "Fantastic Four" films, the superhero film "Push," the upcoming "Scott Pilgrim Versus the World" and has just recently been announced as playing the lead in "The First Avenger: Captain America," came to discover the medium only very recently.
"I'm not really a big comic book reader," he said, flatly, "I didn't really grow up reading them. But they're fantastic for films. It's an intangible thing. You have all these different people coming together trying to make something. The director is the quarterback, trying to dig the gap of all these different artists with words. A lot of times the message can be lost in translation... The beautiful thing about movies based on comics or even novels is that you have a blueprint and can say, 'this is the world we're going for.' Especially in comic books, you have a visual color palette. You have a home base to sort of root yourself in."
Post-"Losers", much of the cast have genre-based films in the works. Saldana plans to move into dual sci-fi sequels with both "Star Trek" and "Avatar" franchises while White is in the very, very early stages of a possible "Robotech" feature film.
"It's not a project that's greenlit or anything," White said, hesitantly, "It's a very cool series. When it came out, I actually saw it in France growing up. It's a pretty amazing cartoon. I'm hoping it's going to come to fruition. I read a draft that's really good. I'm keeping my fingers crossed..."
Evans, who was barred from answering "Captain America" questions at the panel, issued a brief statement regarding his recent casting, offering, "I think Marvel is doing a lot of great things right now. Even if ['Captain America'] wasn't a comic book, I think just the story of Steve Rogers is great. He's a great guy. I think that even if it was just a script about anybody, I would still want to do it. It wasn't necessarily about the comic itself."
"It was about the tights," shot back Saldana.
"Anytime I can get blue tights, I do it," Evans laughed.
Despite upcoming commitments, the cast is optimistic that this premiere film outing won't be the Losers' last.
"What's really cool about 'The Losers,'" said White, "is that we're not trying to jam-pack [everything] into one movie. We really went back to the source material, starting with 'Ante Up,' which is Volume One. We follow the story linearly and it's really an origin story; how these guys became the Losers. It also leaves a lot of room for these guys for sequels. So hopefully people will love these characters and we can keep on enjoying the adventures of the Losers."
"The Losers" hits theaters on April 23rd.