Friday, June 10, 2011

Ten Comic Books That Need Film Adaptations

Before being screenwriters and filmmakers, "genre hacks" were fanboys. Our chosen profession only allows us to enjoy or beloved films and books more deeply, and as a result, we tend to be fiercely opinionated, blindly optimistic, and wildly enthusiastic about potential projects and adaptations. My friend Mark Hughes, a screenwriter and entertainment blogger, and lifelong film and comic book fan, graciously agreed to do an article for Genre Hacks to on the subject of...

Ten Comic Books That Need Film Adaptations

By Mark Hughes

While some folks probably think there are already too many comic book film adaptations, some of us think there aren't nearly enough. The truth is that for all of cinema's history, adaptations of other works -- novels and plays, for example -- have been crucial to supplying material for our movies. Comic books, as the modern incarnations of mythology and a blend of traditional pictorial storytelling with the written word, are just as valid and rich as any other.

So here are my picks for the ten comics most in need of adaptations to the big screen.

The Sandman -- One of the greatest, most acclaimed comic book series in modern history, Neil Gaiman's supernatural horror-fantasy tale about the master of dreams embodied in human form. Get someone like David Lynch or David Cronenberg to direct, or perhaps go a different direction with Peter Jackson. It's shocking that a book this rich in story and imagery has yet to be adapted to film. But this much surrealism and weirdness, written this well and with such grand ideas, can't be kept from film for much longer or fans are going to burst into flames spontaneously around the world. So really, getting this adaptation made is in everyone's best interests, right?

Green Arrow -- Somewhere out there, lost in Hollywood it seems, is a screenplay about the superhero archer Green Arrow who begins his career as a vigilante but soon finds himself arrested and locked up in a supermax prison designed to hold costumed heroes and their arch enemies. A prison break sets the main plot rolling, and there you have one of the most innovative takes on a superhero film that I've ever heard of. Green Arrow is cool beyond words, and there's always the unexpected route of developing a film in which he's already a grizzled veteran crime fighter who has gone "underground" and finally returns to help defeat some major threat, and of course the only man to consider casting in that kind of Green Arrow film is Sam Elliot (complete with goatee and long hair).

Moon Knight -- Marvel seriously needs to get a Moon Knight film up and running. Sometimes dismissed by non-fans as too similar to Batman, this is in fact a character with a great origin story and one of the coolest costumes in comics. Yes, there are similarities to Batman, but Moon Knight is a unique character with great stories to tell, and he is the perfect vehicle for Marvel to explore a darker solo franchise apart from their on-screen linked universe. A former mercenary who believes he died and was revived in order to serve as the human manifestation of vengeance, Moon Knight is openly and unapologetically crazy, and has serious identity issues as well. He also has an awesome arch nemesis in the form of Bushman, an equally insane former soldier with teeth chiseled into fangs and a death mask tattooed on his face. Because that's what it takes to be Moon Knight's archenemy, because Moon Knight is that cool.

Wonder Woman -- No excuses here, folks. With so many comic book characters getting their shot at fame and fortune on the big screen, it's a shame that no female characters have really had the chance to fly solo, and an even bigger shame that someone as iconic as Wonder Woman still hasn't had a chance. It's particularly jarring in light of how many great ways this character could be portrayed on film, due to a plethora of strong storylines and different ways to re-imagine her for film. With so much potential and so many great writers eager to develop her to the screen, it's inexcusable that Wonder Woman has languished in development hell. Recently, she got a shot at the small screen with a pilot episode for TV, but it went nowhere and appears DOA. Which, hopefully, will revive her odds of a film adaptation -- but I see one obstacle standing in the way, and that's the perception of "target audiences." So long as young male fans are considered unlikely to show up in sufficient numbers to films featuring female lead action heroes, studios tend to be reluctant to produce those kinds of films, since they think female audiences won't show up for that kind of film. But they are wrong, on both counts actually. Movies like "Salt" show that it's possible to get your audience if the product is high quality and your concept has a strong hook. Female audiences in particular are ready and waiting for material that speaks to them and gives them heroes and adventure, and who better to deliver it to them than Wonder Woman?

Suicide Squad -- Come on, it's "Dirty Dozen" with super-villains as the anti-heroes. If that concept doesn't say everything you need to make you want to see this film right now, today, then I don't even understand you at all. It's a team of super-villains, incarcerated and given a reprieve if they accept suicide missions (missions with high likelihood of not coming back alive, that is). Right now as I'm typing this, I just thought of 18 million stories you could tell with that premise. Wait, now it's 19 million. That's how incredible this concept is, and why it needs to be turned into a film franchise as fast as possible.

Dr. Fate -- I have so much to say about why Dr. Fate needs a movie, it's hard not to just write an entire article simply about that topic. Consider that this is a chance to adapt H.P. Lovecraft stories as a foundation around which the rest of the film revolves, a macabre mixture of fantasy and horror into which this extraordinary sorcerer-superhero delves to save all that exists from a terrible predestined fate. But can Dr. Fate truly stop destiny? That's the way my friend, writer Robert Reineke, envisions a Dr. Fate film, and his ideas blew my mind. If you liked what Guillermo del Toro did with the "Hellboy" films, you'd love what he could probably do with these Dr. Fate concepts Robert came up with. The point is, Dr. Fate has an incredible mythos that are aching to be properly adapted into something transcending the superhero film genre, and I hope it happens someday.

Aquaman -- Stop it, I'm serious here. Yes, Aquaman, because he has so much great potential that is simply not appreciated. The jokes in mainstream pop culture about him merely "talking to fish" are humorous, sure, but they are dead wrong. What if he can control water, too? What if his Empire of Atlantis has water-based technologies like those undersea aliens from "The Abyss," too? Think of something like "Avatar" underwater, with a touch of wild seafaring adventure like a modern-day "Pirates of the Caribbean" thrown in on the surface of the seas. Re-imagine Aquaman on screen so that he perhaps has some slight physical traits that distinguish him as an Atlantian (slightly webbed fingers and toes, a bluish tint to his skin in some places, bright yellow irises), give him long hair woven into long, slim braids all over his head, and I think you've got a heckuva start for a great series. Aquaman lives at sea, and few other comics or superhero films will have a similar setting, so take advantage of how unique he is and how cool and big his world can be. And stop those damn jokes about talking to fish!

Ronin -- Before there was "The Matrix," and before there was even "Ghost in the Shell," there was Frank Miller's stunning vision of a future in which a sort of intelligent nanotechnology tries to spread and take over Earth, using a young boy with psychic powers and turning his samurai daydreams into "reality" in order to control the boy's powers and use them to help engulf humanity in fantasy and nanotechnology. The boy, a quadriplegic, believes himself to be possessed by the spirit of a powerful ronin (masterless samurai, as if anyone reading this doesn't already know that) who is tasked with saving the world from an ancient demon unleashed in the dystopian future setting. The story is told through use of parallel settings -- sometimes in the machine-dominated futuristic wasteland, other times in feudal Japan. It's incredible and marked Miller's turn toward heavy influence of Japanese manga in his own artwork, this graphic novel resembling the artistic style of the brilliant series "Lone Wolf & Cub" (which, in its U.S. printing, featured great cover art by Miller). Imagine if "13 Assassins" got mixed into "The Matrix" and you have the beginnings of an idea of what this film could be like. Oh, did I mention that the ronin, since he inhabits the body of a boy who has no arms or legs, is a CYBORG samurai? Yeah. Your brain just exploded from awesomeness overload.

Y the Last Man -- If guys think that being the only male left alive on a planet full of women would be some kind of dream come true, think again. Society starts to collapse, and every government and organization wants to capture you to try cloning you and turning your body into a sperm production plant for fertilizing women. This is one of the coolest dystopian future concepts I've read, similar in very vague conceptual ways to "Children of Men" but also entirely different. It could make either a terrific film franchise (with a lot more than just a trilogy) or a television series (which was the most recent rumor about the project), but it's been in limbo for several years now. Please, please get this one into production before some cheesy porn producer decides to try and make "XXX the Last Man" (not to be confused with some perverse sequel to the "xXx" film franchise).

Those are the top comics that I think are most deserving of a film adaptation. So get to work, Hollywood!

Other MUST READ articles by Mark Hughes:

Why we need MORE, not fewer, comic book movie adaptations.

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Christian said...

A personal favorite I think merits consideration, Bill Willingham's Elementals from the 80's, Spear of Destiny, Supernatural Super heroes, its a classic in my book. Needs to be a movie or a mini.

Chaos said...

In my opinion, Sandman is unadaptable in its current form. The only way, I think, that it could work as a film would be as a completely different story, written specifically for the screen. And I don't know who could be trusted to do that apart from Neil Gaiman.

Besides, the entire concept is too cerebral and philosophical for any studio to shell out the money to make it without gutting it of everything that makes it what it is.

Joe H. said...

Mark's choices are spot on, but he left off my personal favorite comic character, LOBO.

It's ok, dude, I forgive you... =)

Steve Dilks said...

Sandman?! Eventually it will be done and we know it. If Tim Burton doesn't do it with Helena Bonham Carter (before she's too old!) as Death -I don't really know who could do it justice. I like the idea of Cronenberg in a perverse sort of way. Remember when Terry Gilliam was attached too "Watchmen"? It ended up with Zack Snyder. "Sandman" directed by Brett Ratner? Anyone? Thought not.

Lorraine said...

I'm with you on The Sandman, Wonder Woman and Ronin. Talk to people. Make it happen. You'd be great at writing any one of these!!!!

Mark Hughes said...

Check it out, "SuperMax" and "Suicide Squad," as films that should be made, got written up in this article today:

And DC Comics tweeted the article to all of their followers. Nice, maybe that means DC is listening and we might get one soon!

Oh, and to Joe H. -- Actually Lobo is on my list of characters who should get solo films, I'd love him get a film written by the scribes of "Pirates of the Caribbean" with lots of humor and weirdness, with Jeffrey Dean Morgan or Adam Baldwin as Lobo and directed by Ruben Fleisher. Do it like the "Hellboy" series, with a modest budget and mostly real-life makeup & effects, pitch it as "Pirates of the Caribbean in space" and release it in March/April, and I bet it'd be a sleeper hit.

Anonymous said...

"The American Way" by John Ridley from Wildstorm comics. Its an amazing alternate history story set in the early 60s at the height of racial tensions and involves a huge government superhero propaganda conspiracy. Its awesome.