According to Box Office Mojo, 4 of the 25 highest grossing films of 2013 were based on Marvel or DC comic book characters. Iron Man 3 took the number two spot with a GDP-sized $409 million, just shy of the latest Hunger Games installment. There’s no denying that we’re in the midst of the comic book film Renaissance, but the threat of a slump in quality is all too real. The Hollywood studio suits could (A) keep churning out the same stories with different characters and hope the viewing public doesn’t wise up, or (B) take a page from some of the lesser-known books to avoid stagnation and public revile. Assuming they stop rolling in their bank accounts long enough to choose the latter, we’ve provided a quintet of suggestions that will breathe new superhuman life onto the big screen.
All of the 90s kids among you will be pleasantly reminded of the after-school Cartoon Network edition chock full of cyberpunk and grit. After the mind-boggling success of the Dark Knight franchise, there’s reason to believe that audiences beyond Generation Y would flock to theaters to see a futuristic Gotham City. New and nigh unheard-of villains only provide potential writers with more options for epic confrontations on the rooftops of neo-Gotham.
Speaking of scripts, the animated version’s story arcs have already proven there’s compelling potential in the relationship between Bruce Wayne and protégé Terry McGinnis. Watching the world’s greatest detective wither in an easy chair while a hotheaded young punk does his dirty work oozes themes of jealousy and moral grey areas. Maybe WB could even convince Bale to don some wrinkly makeup a la Samuel L. Jackson in Django Unchained, and continue as one of the better Bruce Waynes in cinematic history.
The self-aware class clown of the Marvel multiverse has been begging to heckle the goodie two-shoes of the big screen since his cameo in X-Men Origins: Wolverine – yet, screenwriters have snubbed him in every subsequent X-Men release. As badly as 20th Century Fox fouled up Wade Wilson’s character at the film’s conclusion, the Merc with a Mouth is not beyond salvation.
Yes, Ryan Reynolds made a terrible turn as Hal Jordan in 2011’s Green Lantern, mostly due to a poorly written script. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t give him a second chance. Besides, Reynolds’ work in snarky lead roles past (Van Wilder, Waiting) makes him an ideal Deadpool. It’s easy to imagine Reynolds dancing around Wolverine and other fellow mutants, spouting off one-liners and pop culture references as he slices and dices them to pieces. There have been whispers of such a project in development for years now; unfortunately, due to studio disagreements over target rating and directors, the rumors remain just that. For now.
You can’t really make a list of comics that deserve live-action adaptations without reserving a spot for Diana Prince. The Amazonian royal has had numerous incarnations on television, but she’s never gotten the proper big screen portrayal she deserves. Geek icon Joss Whedon even had a project in development in the mid-2000s, but it went belly-up in favor of The Avengers all too soon.
The Wonder Woman mythology would make for a refreshing change of pace from the monotony of our current super hero fixtures. She’d be the first superhuman female to get her own film (sorry Scarlett, but Black Widow is little more than a sexy foil for the rest of the Avengers crew), and the first superhuman protagonist who isn’t a white male since Elektra. Perhaps we’ll get to see her in the begged-for Justice League movie supposedly in the works, and that will be a spring board into her own franchise.
If there’s one series on this list you haven’t heard of, it’s probably “Preacher.” Published by DC affiliate Vertigo, it’s an examination of good and evil through the lens of Judeo-Christian mythology in a Western-tinged universe. Jesse Custer, a Texan small-town preacher, is imbued with a mysterious force called Genesis that rivals the power of God himself. Think “Constantine” meets True Grit with a little bit of Frank Miller and Buffy drizzled on top.
Without giving too much away, the larger story arc of “Preacher” revolves around one man’s literal search for God. Oscar-winning movies have had similar themes of faith without being too ham-handed to be accused of conversion material. We’re not saying that a “Preacher” adaptation will bring a Godless America back into the flock, but it could be a stylized examination of faith in the modern age.
Y: The Last Man
“Y: The Last Man” follows one hapless, unsuspecting man – Yorick Brown – as he unwittingly becomes the last living male on Earth for reasons unknown. As the women of the world struggle to restore order to the now doomed human race, Yorick treks across the globe looking for answers. Fans of the series are well acquainted with the well-planned examinations of feminine agency and independence; Vaughan’s writing examines the plight of real-world women through a compelling sci-fi scenario.
A one-off exploration of gender roles that won five Eisner awards. Is there a logline more deserving of a movie? This Brian K. Vaughan project has come painfully close to realization, with short film celebrity Dan Trachtenberg slated as director, but progress seems to have slowed to a halt as of 2014. In a January interview with comicbookresources.com, Vaughan stated that New Line would lose the rights to the project if shooting didn’t begin in a few months’ time.
What are your picks for comics that need a movie adaptation? Sound off below.