In fair Brooklyn, where we lay our scene, a truly wild project just found its director — and what a director it has found. Way back in 2012, cartoonist Ronald Wimberley released his graphic novel Prince of Cats through Vertigo Comics (it has since been republished by Image Comics). The comic tells the classic tale of Romeo & Juliet, albeit through a new lens. This incarnation of the story is told through the eyes of Tybalt, Juliet’s cousin who famously perishes in a swordfight with Romeo in the play. It also transports the setting to 1980s Brooklyn and features a cast made up entirely of Black men and women.
Wimberley’s iconoclastic, innovative art and use of language, which melds street slang with Shakespearean flourish, made for an instant game-changer of a comic. It’s proven hugely influential over the last several years, and while it’s certainly never been considered unfilmable, it’s so impeccably suited to the comic form that any director looking to adapt it had best be a master of their medium the way that Wimberley is a master of his.
Well, look no further. Today news broke that the legendary Spike Lee of Do The Right Thing and BlacKkKlansmen fame would helm the cinematic adaptation of Wimberley’s OGN. Originally the project was conceived as a vehicle for Sorry To Bother You actor Lakeith Stanfield, who is no longer attached. Instead Lee will be rewriting the film with Selwyn Sefu Hinds and Wimberley himself.
It’s going to be very easy for longtime fans of Tybalt’s story to become skeptical of a cinematic adaptation of the book. The director who steps into this role needs to be one who has full mastery of their craft and one who knows what to draw from Wimberley’s visual style and narrative prowess in order to best translate the film from the page to the screen. Spike Lee is, all things considered, about as perfect a match as you’re likely to find for this project and Wimberley’s involvement in the screenwriting process bodes well. Prince of Cats doesn’t have a targeted release date or cast yet, but it’s already shaping up to be something special.