Over the course of the last 17 years movies and television shows based off of comic books have taken the movie industry by storm (No pun intended). From 1998’s Blade to the X-Men, the opportunities for popular characters to have their time on the silver screen has only grown. The recent success of the R-rated Deadpool and a dark and gritty Daredevil on Netflix, have flown open the doors for characters that until recently wouldn’t have been given a chance to see the light of day on screens both big and small. On this countdown I want to focus on characters who both aren’t as well known outside of the comic book reading community and those who have the potential for more mature content and rich story lines.
A biochemist by the name of Dr. Theodore “Ted” Sallis is working in the Everglades on a colleague’s project. He is part of the Gladiator team which is lead by Dr. Wilma Calvin and includes Dr. Barbara Morse and her fiance Dr. Paul Allen. Their goal is to recreate the Super Soldier Serum responsible for the creation of Steve Rogers, Captain America. The twist is that the team is working at a nexus of cosmic energy unbeknownst to them. To make matters worse the team experiences a tragic betrayal. Dr. Sallis makes the decision to inject himself with the recreated Super Serum. In his haste to flee, Sallis crashes his car into the swamp where the combination of the nexus and serum turns him into the Man-Thing. Left with no ability to communicate and shards of a shattered memory, Dr. Sallis now “Man-Thing” wanders back into the swamp.
The story of Man-Thing has classic elements of a Greek tragedy and it ties into the current Marvel universe with ease as the connection with the super soldier serum makes for a great opening plot device. A brilliant mind left wandering the swamps of the Everglades trying to resemble what was once a great human, gives Marvel the opportunity to expand out of their New England safe zone where the majority of their films have been based.
Forge is an interesting character. His superpower is his superhuman ability of invention. For some people music can come out of their bodies like breathing. For Forge, the ability to create through science is as natural and easy as taking a walk. He is one of the few Native American superheros hailing from the Cheyenne nation in Montana. He has kept the medicine training of his people alive, even though his medicine has to do with technology. Due to a rift within the community elder, Forge joined the military and fought in the Vietnam War. His talents caught the eye of S.H.I.E.L.D., however, he turned down the offer.
In order bring Forge into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, his story only needs to be slightly altered. Instead of Forge being a veteran of Vietnam, he could be a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan much like they have done with the Punisher in the second season of Daredevil. He could easily show up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., in a mission where Hydra is attempting to capture a Native American Inhuman. Forge could team-up with Coulson and company to prevent the Inhumans capture.
Forge is also unique in that his Native American mysticism allows him to explore a magical side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He is able to conjure demons to fight off enemies. He has even bombed his own location in order to close a mystical portal. This resulted in the loss of his right leg and right hand. In this story you have not only a tie in to S.H.I.E.L.D, but also the X-Men, as Forge later becomes a member.A television show or even a couple episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. exploring his origins, as well as his evolution as a wounded veteran, and his ability to create his inventions could bring in a whole host of cross-overs, and even introduce more characters.
Shi is a story of a young woman by the name of Ana Ishikawa. She is the product of mixed heritage with her father, Shiro, a Japanese warrior and her mother, Catherine, an American Catholic Missionary. Tragedy struck Ana at a young age as she witnessed the cold blooded murder of both her father and brother by a young Yakuza named Masahiro Arahis. This altered her life forever. It was also the moment she swore to take revenge against the Yakuza. Her grandfather Yoshitora trained her in the martial arts and became one of the deadliest assassins on Earth.
To disguise herself she painted her face to resemble “Tora No Shi” or Tiger of Death, a legendary female warrior who lived in medieval Japan. Her exploits earned her the name “Shi” which means Death in Japanese. Using her pain, and determination for vengeance, Ana became among the most deadliest assassins on Earth. Ana became obsessed with avenging the murder of her brother and father, but at the same time she is confronted with her deeply rooted Catholic upbring. She is in constant battle with the ‘Shi’ and her Christian upbring. This internal conflict is the perfect opportunity to explore complex themes and can lead to powerful storytelling. It won’t be an easy story because like most of television there are many incentives to go the obvious route of classic tropes and the watering down of story lines, but I hope that if “Shi” is taken on, whoever decides to bring it to television will give it justice.
Jenny Sparks tells a story a century in the making. Jenny was born in 1900 England and came from a wealthy family. But like most heroes, she experiences a heart wrenching tragedy. In her case, Jenny’s family is killed on the journey to the United States aboard the Titanic. Fortunately, Jenny was attending an all-girls academy in Vienna at the time. However, the death of her family was just the tip of the iceberg as her family’s wealth is stolen by an old enemy of her father. Now penniless, young Jenny is taken in by her godfather Albert Einstein in Zurich, where he offers to help her complete her education.
As Jenny grows into adulthood she begins to develop powers. Being a Century baby, she was created by the multiverse and tasked with influencing the course of the 20th century. Being born at the stroke of mid-night on 1900, it is thought that the century babies are a part of a natural system on Earth to act as protectors and influencers on the planet. She is not invincible, and like many of her predecessors, Jenny faces certain death because of the lifestyle she leads. Which in turn can see her being the key piece to many important events, think of Forrest Gump but British and having superpowers. The show could also dive into the mystery of the Century Babies, and some of their effects throughout human history. Because of this status, she gains complete control over electricity in all of its forms, though she doesn’t create it unlike other DC characters like Black Lighting, and at the age of nineteen she stops aging.
Now, flash forward to 2016, Jenny is now 116 years old, but still looking nineteen. She has lived through some of the most important periods in history as well as had some sort of influence of these events. A television series could reflect that fact, with episodes bringing together her influence, and the results that she could be dealing with in the present . We could see Jenny’s handy work in the history of the DC Universe.
Madame Web (Cassandra Webb)
Madame Web was born Cassandra Webb in Salem, Oregon. She is stricken with myasthenia gravis which not only paralyzes her but makes her blind as well. However she is a gifted mutant with telepathic, clairvoyant and precognitive abilities. In order to compensate for her physical disabilities, her husband Jonathan Webb creates a life support system that resembles a spider web to keep his wife alive. With this new life support system she is able to work as a medium for hire for those looking to find missing loved ones. She is probably most remembered as the mutant that worked with Spider-Man in the Saturday morning cartoons to prepare him for upcoming conflicts.
Her abilities make her a sought after figure in the Marvel Universe. This would force her to always be one step ahead of anyone who would want to use her powers for evil. I believe her unique storylines and powers, as well as her connections to many Marvel characters would make a series based of Madame Webb fun, exciting, and full of suspense. We could see her looking at the differing times lines and how they were effected, think of X-Men: Days of Future past, how that movie was used as a way to reset some of the MCU timeline. We could see Madam Web overlooking, if not seeing all of these possibilities, which could turn into spots a race to prevent disasters or tragedies; with a television series, you could take this pretty far.
Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew)
Jessica Drew was born to Jonathan and Miriam Drew. Jonathan was a scientist who built a lab in Transia where he and his family moved. Jonathan’s work exposed Jessica to uranium making her gravely ill. Desperate to save her life, Jonathan injects her with an experimental serum that was based on irradiated spider blood. The nature of the spider blood forces Jessica to be placed in an incubator where she ages at an extremely slow rate. When she’s finally awakened she is only seventeen years old, despite the fact that decades have passed.
Left at Mount Wundagore she is an outsider since all the other residents were once animals before they became genetically altered. They don’t see her as one of them, and in their minds, she will never really be apart of their community. Because of this she goes off to find kinship with humanity. She is then captured by HYDRA where she becomes brainwashed, and used as an agent for Hydra similar to what we saw with Bucky Barnes in Captain America: Winter Soldier. With the connection to HYDRA, Spider-Woman’s story could be easily incorporated into the current Marvel Cinematic Universe as well as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. This right here would be a great start for a television series because as time progresses she escapes HYDRA’s control, and becomes Spider-Woman. We could see Agents of SHIELD do a episode where they raid the HYDRA facility, this in turn could be used as a launching pad for a stand alone Spider-Woman show. From there, with her memories altered, and not knowing what is true and planted, Jessica’s story arc could span many seasons as she goes from young girl, to brain washed agent, to finally becoming Spider-Woman.
The Question (Charles Victor Szasz)
The Question is a fun comic character with a lot of potential. There are two major origin stories that in my opinion would make The Question a fun show to watch.
The first origin story sees investigative journalist Vic Sage based out of Hub City. After beginning an investigation on Dr. Barby Twain, Sage was approached by his former professor Aristotle Rodor, who was working at the time as a scientist. Rodor informed Sage about a new artificial skin that he had created with Dr. Twain called Pseudoderm. This new skin, Pseudoderm was suppose to work as a skin-like bandage used as a bounding gas. Unfortunately, the gas had some unforeseen toxicity which at times became fatal when used on open wounds. Because of this both Professors Rodor and Twain agreed to abandon the project and went their separate ways, but Rodor soon discovered that Dr. Twain had begun to illegally sell the skin to third world countries with no care to the harm it would cause.
Wanting to expose Dr. Twain without putting himself in the limelight, Professor Rodor gave Sage a mask of Pseudoderm skin to cover his face. With both a disguise and information Sage would catch up with Dr. Twain, and end his career with a full confession. Seeing the potential of this mask, Sage decided that it would be useful to use in his future investigations. As time past, Professor Rodor was able to work the bounding gas to not only change Sage’s hair, but clothes as well. This gave birth to the classic Question comics.
Another origin story by Rick Veitch reimagines the Question as an urban shaman whose ruthlessness to his enemies showcases a darker version of the character. The Question is one who walks in two worlds when he is entranced by Professor Rodor’s gas. In this state, the cities themselves speak to him through the use of visual coincidences and snippets of street conversations. He sees himself as a spiritual warrior, who has no issue killing enemies when it is both useful and just. This version of the Question would do well in a medium that doesn’t mind a darker view of comic book heros. Now which do you think should be used?
And there you have it! The top seven comic book characters that I believe should get a live-action appearance. They each have rich backgrounds that could continue to contribute to the Marvel and DC universes respectively, all the while potentially creating their own unique content on television. Which superhero, villains, or other characters do you think would be awesome to make a live-action appearance? I would love to know!