We’re getting a TV adaptation of Sin City, Frank Miller’s series of neo-noir comics inspired by crime pulp fiction, Deadline Hollywood reports. Miller just inked a deal with Legendary Television for the project, and apparently a similar agreement is close to completion with Robert Rodriguez, who collaborated with Miller on the film adaptions of the comic series in 2005 and 2014. The agreement comes with a first season guarantee, pending a partnership with one of the major networks or streaming platforms. Given that Miller wants the series to rate a hard “R,” streaming seems the most likely option.
Miller cut his teeth in the 1980s on Marvel Comics’ Daredevil series and DC Comics’ The Dark Knight Returns. A longtime fan of film noir, especially the films of James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart, Miller wanted to bring that same tone to Sin City, an anthology of stories set in the fictional Western town of Basin City (aka Sin City). The series art was noteworthy for its unique aesthetic, drawn almost entirely in black-and-white, with occasional bright splashes of color (red, yellow, blue, or pink) to highlight certain characters. And Miller drew on classic pulp fiction for the writing as well.
Almost every inhabitant of Sin City is corrupt, from the police department to the wealthy Roark family dynasty, with different factions carving out niches in the overall hierarchy. Miller has said he wanted it to be “a world out of balance, where virtue is defined by individuals in difficult situations, not by an overwhelming sense of goodness that was somehow governed by this godlike Comics Code.” So we get stories, or “yarns,” about one man’s brutal rampage to avenge his lover’s killer; gang warfares; and the hunt for a disfigured serial killer targeting young women. The yarns aren’t necessarily connected, but they all take place in the same fictional world, and various characters recur in different stories.
The 2005 film adaptation, Sin City, focused mostly on the first, third, and fourth books in the series (The Hard Goodbye, The Big Fat Kill, and That Yellow Bastard). From the start Rodriguez sought to remain true to the source material; the only writing credit is “based on the graphic novels by Frank Miller.” He also brought Miller on board as co-director to ensure the film had the same distinctive look as the comics: mostly black-and-white, with splashes of bright colors here and there. Since the Director’s Guild of America refused to grant full directing credit to both men because they weren’t part of an established team, Rodriguez famously resigned his membership to preserve the dual credit.
That gamble paid off when Sin City premiered in 2005 to critical acclaim and box office success, grossing $ 158.7 million worldwide. It was a finalist for the prestigious Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival that year, winning the Technical Grand Prize for its striking visual style. Alas, the 2014 sequel, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, fizzled at the box office, earning a meager $ 39.4 million globally against a $ 65 million production budget. It was largely slammed by critics too, who found the visuals less striking the second time around, and the story slow and repetitive, although the stellar cast received praise.
It’s early days yet for the planned TV series’ development, so we know very little about the details. But when rumors of a TV adaptation surfaced in 2017, Deadline noted, “The intention is to be a far departure from the films, introducing original characters and timelines within the Sin City universe.” Since Rodriguez is likely to be involved again, chances are he’ll be looking to tell fresh stories from Miller’s comic oeuvre, rather than retreading the same narrative ground of the two film adaptations. Television is a very different medium, arguably better suited than film to Miller’s anthology format. Let’s hope it preserves that distinctive neo-noir look of the films, at least.