A lot has happened in the past month regarding some of the negotiations between streaming services and comic book creators. Netflix made a deal with Millarworld to use their property for the creation of original content programming. And they’re still looking for more original content. Disney is going to be making their own streaming services, and might take away their Marvel titles from Netflix. Robert Kirkman, the creator of The Walking Dead, is taking his Skybound Entertainment to Amazon Prime exclusively, while a lawsuit is being pursued against AMC. Meanwhile, Marvel continues pretty strongly with the FOX networks with shows like Legion and the upcoming show The Gifted. Meanwhile, DC consistently delivers with Warner Bros films. The CW Network is also seeing significant audience growth with engaging programming.
There has been an ever-shifting environment of media and the mediums we use to get our entertainment. The landscape has gone from radios to broadcast television to videos to DVDs and now to streaming services. A lot of comic book creators have benefited from these media companies searching for original content.
Even with the properties being bought up, there’s a ton of comic book content that has yet to be adapted into live-action film and/or television series. Or maybe at one point it was considered and tried out, and it didn’t quite land in the way that much of the shows and movies do today.
So, here’s seven comic books that these media companies might consider buying up in the future, if they’re looking for original content programming.
1. Black Hammer
This one is at the top of my personal list. Written by Jeff Lemire and art by Dean Ormston, I’ve had a personal attachment to this series ever since it came out early last year. The story is set in a Midwestern town, where a group of superheroes find themselves trapped like prisoners after a battle with a supreme being. Instead of facing an outward threat that could doom the planet, they must find a way to escape the town, while facing the demons of their own past.
The story of each character explores the depths of their individual powers, and the sacrifices they have made to their personal lives in service to the greater good. It is a visual representation of the saddest tale that “with great power comes great responsibility”, and it does not shy away from very adult themes of regret and powerlessness, despite being powerful beings in their own right. If this were adapted into a live-action film or television series, there would be no end to the awards such an adaptation would be getting.
DC owns WildStorm comics, the home of this nostalgic title. And so maybe Warner Bros has rights to it. However, it has been quite a while since we’ve seen Spartan, Warblade, Zealot, Voodoo and Lord Emp. So I have to ask, if they have this epic team in the Intellectual Property list, why haven’t they done anything with it? I remember watching the WildC.A.T.s cartoon show in the late 90’s, and enjoying it thoroughly. The show had some great action and some of the wildest outfits. However, reading the comic and seeing the art style, we see some of the most beautiful works of Jim Lee and Brandon Choi just poured on to the pages.
WildC.A.T.s as an animated series was about as short-lived as my teenage years. Since that time, I have never heard of anything in the works regarding the C.A.T.s again. For nostalgia purposes, it would be great to see live-action portrayals of the WildC.A.T.s team, to see how well a studio puts to life the concepts of Jim Lee and Brandon Choi.
3. Gen 13
From the world of WildStorm Comics comes another title from the same folks that gave us WildC.A.T.s. This title by Brandon Choi and Jim Lee features the artwork of J. Scott Campbell. The story revolves around teens with special abilities. The government takes them away to a facility as part of a “government internship” program. Yet the facility truly serves to isolate dangerous people with abilities from society. The teens eventually make their escape and go on a quest to find others like them, forming a team that opposed the government organization that sought to imprison them.
My mother would probably never let me have the comic, because the covers were such a guilty pleasure to look at. The WildStorm universe as a whole would be something that a streaming or film company might want to look into purchasing with all the super humans in it. However, how much more super-powered individuals can the market take? We’ve got Fox and the X-Men. The MCU with the Inhumans. The DC universe with the meta-humans. It’s just a matter of how many more super-powered television shows or movies the public can handle.
Cullen Bunn has made some horrifying titles over the years with Harrow County and The Damned. With that comes Regression, a title from Image comics with Bunn at the writing helm and Danny Luckert’s art. The story follows a young man named Adrian, who is attempting to cure his ailments with hypnosis. However, he finds himself in a waking nightmare, indulging in the darkest of fantasies subconsciously while allowing his indulgences to control him.
To see this title as a live action film would be somewhat of a transition of Bunn from a horror writer for comics to one for film and TV. It has been a trip for Stephen King and Hitchcock, and will do great for Bunn’s resume. To see some of that imagery from Luckert come to life on screen would be amazing and horrifying.
Kentaro Miura has given us this epic title from Japan, following the path of the Guts, once a warrior and mercenary, and the tragic tale of his life with those he comes in contact with. The story encompasses his wars against invading countries as a warrior for the Band of the Hawk, the betrayal by his one-time commander and friend, the defiling of his lover by his friend now turned into a demon god, and his continual battle with the demonic realm.
The original title, published in the now defunct Japanese magazine Monthly Animal House, now lives on in the pages of a semimonthly magazine Young Animal. The manga was green lit for feature anime films. Berserk was adapted into an anime in 1997. More recently it received a 3-D animated adaptation, running for two seasons. Dark Horse Comics translated some of the volumes for English audiences and published them in 2003. However, what we have yet to see is a live adaptation of the Black Swordsman Guts and the conflict with a cursed king/once friend Griffith and the fate of the Band of the Hawk.
It would be quite a feat to get a faithful live-action adaptation of Berserk. Miura’s artwork is so stunning that it would take quite a crew of makeup artists, costume and design teams, mental health advisors, set crews, lighting, etc. just to even begin to capture the mood that he set in his manga. I would like to see a studio faithfully deliver such an enormous task.
6. Dept. H
Matt Kindt manages to deliver a mystery thriller in Dept. H. A murder takes place in an undersea laboratory. Mia, the victim’s daughter, is sent to investigate. Meanwhile, something sinister continues to work in the background, undermining all that the laboratory has done in exploring the undersea world. All hell breaks loose on the station. Mia’s original reason for being sent is almost forgotten, if it weren’t for the events being connected to her father’s work.
Kindt in this work has a way of drawing the environment and writing his characters in reaction to it to create a sense of claustrophobia. When I read through the comic, it kind of plays out like The Abyss with its claustrophobic setting. Or Crimson Tide with the thick tension in the air. A title such as Dept. H would translate well on screen as a psychological thriller.
NBC announced earlier this year that Witchblade was in production for NBC programming. Top Cow Comics founder Marc Silvestri made this title back in 1995. An anime adaptation, a manga, and live-action television series followed shortly after. In 2009, a Witchblade movie was in the works, but ultimately nothing came of it. I haven’t heard anything about the new NBC production since that first reveal in January.
The story of Witchblade surrounds Sara Pezzini, a New York City detective. She stumbles across a mysterious gauntlet during one of her investigations. The gauntlet bonds with its wearers, granting them uncanny abilities to aide them in the fight against supernatural evils. Pezzini becomes one with the gauntlet, using it to fight the criminal underworld. Her bonding with the guantlet also plunges her further into the realm of the supernatural.
I saw the art of Witchblade the same way as Gen 13. If the Top Cow comic got a faithful TV/Film adaptation, it’d be a guilty pleasure come to life. Pezzini lost most, if not all, of her clothing when the witchblade took over. I don’t believe the TNT adaptation stayed faithful to that portrayal. And I don’t believe NBC would even dare approach that in their adaptation. Maybe a more risqué company than NBC needs to take production over, like HBO GO, or Netflix. They already have adult titles with Game of Thrones or Sense8. Maybe going this route would service the fans and grow the adult fan base more?