EXCLUSIVE: Famed comic book creator and New York Times bestselling author Brian K. Vaughan has signed on to write the screenplay for Gundam, the first live-action film based on the popular mecha anime and science fiction media franchise created by Sunrise. The project hails from Legendary Entertainment, in a co-production with Sunrise. Vaughan, best known for creating comic book series like Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina and Runaways, will also serve as an executive producer on the pic.
Next month marks the 40th anniversary of Mobile Suit Gundam, the mecha anime series that launched the Gundam success story as both a media and toy franchise. That 1979 series, created and directed by Yoshiyuki Tomino, was a middling success when first aired but then won over an impassioned fan following through reruns and a popular tie-in toy line.
Tomino’s animated saga was part of the mecha genre, the sci-fi subgenre that centers on robots in combat (and usually they are giant robots), but it veered from the formula followed by its mecha predecessors in a manner that added dramatic new tones and textures to the genre.
Previously, the giant robots in mecha stories were presented as almost magical devices with celebrity pilots who operated them via remote control or command (not unlike Gigantor or The Iron Giant). Tomino found those Aladdin-with-a-robot tales flimsy so he re-envisioned them as colossal weapons at the center of a complex military epic. The giant robots, like Flying Fortress, had crews with ace pilots and everyman mechanics, which lent new perspectives, pathos, and battlefield energy to the saga and then to its genre.
Gundam has generated billions in the decades since and altered the course of anime while rewiring the ambitions and aesthetics of the mecha genre entirely. Among the many franchises influenced: Legendary’s Pacific Rim franchise is a direct descendant of the Gundam school of militarized mecha mythology.
The project will be overseen by Cale Boyter on behalf of Legendary with the Sunrise creative team.
Back in December, it was announced Vaughan had inked a three-year overall deal with Legendary, in which the studio would adapt several of Vaughan’s creator-owned comics, as well as produce exclusive, original projects developed by Vaughan for film and television across traditional and non-traditional platforms.
Up next, Vaughan serves as an executive producer on the FX television adaptation of Y: The Last Man, which was adapted by Michael Green and Aida Croal and stars Diane Lane, Timothy Hutton and Amber Tamblyn. He’s also an executive consultant on Hulu’s Runaways series, which is in its second season.
Vaughan is repped by Verve and attorney Julian Zajfen of Ziffren Brittenham.