10 Action Movies That Would Make Great Comic Books
Comics and films are two entertainment mediums that frequently cross over, drawing inspiration from one another to tell exciting stories. Plenty of films have adapted comic book storylines to fit the big screen, yet so too have comics adapted original film properties, sometimes expanding on the original source material at the same time.
With such rich history to mine, it wouldn’t take much effort to bring certain action movie franchises to the comic book medium. It would also present a new opportunity to broaden the scope of these film properties beyond their short runtimes, and flesh out both characters, and story, in the process.
10) American Ninja
Cannon Films was all the rage in the 1980s, cranking out one imaginative action film franchise after another. 1985’s American Ninja, starring Michael Dudikoff in the titular role, was one of the corniest of the bunch, yet it still holds a special place in the hearts of action buffs to this day.
Adapting the story of Joe Armstrong to comic book format would present an opportunity to tell one adventure story after another. The tale of an American ninja warrior conscripted into the ranks of the U.S. Army would allow Joe’s character to traverse different parts of the globe, and tackle new threats with a vast array of ninja weapons, subterfuge and martial arts prowess.
It would also help bring ninjas back to the forefront in western comics, which is never a bad thing. Unfortunately, for such a comic to survive in today’s climate, the IP would need to be picked up by a comic book company capable of telling a traditionally masculine storyline against the backdrop of American patriotism, which would undoubtedly ruffle some feathers.
However, if done right, American Ninja could serve as a formula that strips out everything currently poisoning mainstream comics, giving fans a simple, lighthearted and exciting bit of escapism that probably won’t see a cinematic follow-up any time soon.
9) Dirty Harry
“Dirty” Harry Callahan, played to perfection by legendary actor Clint Eastwood, is perhaps more relevant in today’s age than he was when the character debuted way back in 1971. At the time, America was suffering under a massive crime wave, ignited by the fatalist nihilism of the decade.
Much like the iconic actor who portrayed him, Harry Callahan pulled no punches, and his character was a direct reflection of the political turmoil that followed in the wake of massive 1960s Civil Rights protests, anti-Vietnam sentiment, Left-wing attacks on traditional family structure, and economic hardships exacerbated by geopolitical strife.
Bringing Dirty Harry to the comic book realm would present an opportunity to flesh out Callahan’s character as he deals with the rising tide of anti-police liberalism, the growing threat of political extremism, and a San Francisco driven mad by rampant drug use and social growing pains.
It would also serve as a reminder for audiences as to the threat of encroaching socialist radicalism, and the dangers of consequence-free social ideologies that pave the way for rising crime, lawlessness, and rejection of human solidarity. Callahan’s character was always that of a rational man forced to police an increasingly insane America, and watching his character grow through a series of comic books could prove to be a highly interesting read.
8) Hard Boiled
Perhaps John Woo’s finest (arguably) masterpiece, Hard Boiled is a Hong Kong bullets and bombs action flick characterized by its stunning fight choreography, outrageous stunts, and some of the most unique characters in the genre. A comic book interpretation seems like the next logical step.
The character of “Tequila” Yuen, played by Chow Yun-fat, is one of the most charismatic and intriguing Hong Kong action heroes, yet audiences only caught a glimpse of his personality in the film. With no direct sequels to speak of, the comic book avenue would prove to be fertile ground to continue his story.
It would also provide an opportunity for Tequila to reunite with the character Alan, who was shown to survive the final act of the film. Alan proved to be one of the most interesting characters in the movie, with specific motivations and habits that signaled a much deeper character just begging for expansion.
Hard Boiled’s signature film style blended hyperkinetic action sequences with a traditional detective storyline, crafting a cool and stylish atmosphere that could be replicated well on the pages of a comic series. If nothing else, it would help continue the legacy of one of cinema’s most groundbreaking and accessible gun-toting action films.
Easily one of the most entertaining action flicks of the 1990s, the world of Ronin felt barely-touched within the space of its 2 hour running time. However, it did manage to cement Robert De Niro’s character Sam as one of the most unorthodox and fascinating anti-heroes in action history, while giving ample screen time to first-rate characters like Vincent (Jean Reno) and Deirdre (Natascha McElhone).
A comic book interpretation of Ronin could continue Sam’s story, or it could dive into his past. His connection with the character Jean-Pierre (Michael Lonsdale) feels like an untapped vein through which to explore Sam’s reason for getting into the business, especially given several hints about his history littered throughout the original film.
It’s doubtful that the cast and crew will reunite for another Ronin film, especially given the death of original director John Frankenheimer in 2002. However, he did leave behind one of the most unique action films ever shot, complete with a spectacular car chase sequence that gave the legendary Steve McQueen flick Bullitt a run for its money.
It may not be possible to emulate a similar sequence on the pages of a comic book, but that’s a minor issue. There’s plenty of rich material just waiting to be explored, if someone were to secure the rights to create an accompanying comic book series. Ronin has the potential to be a globetrotting cloak and dagger story whose characters could go literally anywhere.
Bryan Mills may have started out as a character forced to endure every parent’s worst nightmare, but his backstory is where the real red meat lies. The role helped reignite Liam Neeson’s star power, turning him into an unlikely action star, all thanks to a premise surrounding his daughter being kidnapped by an international sex trafficking cartel.
While a comic book adaptation could pick up after the film series, it would also be a stroke of genius to juxtapose the storylines with flashback sequences from Mills’ past as a CIA operative. This dual-storyline formula could help expose more of his character, and the nefarious deeds he partook in throughout his formative years.
Mills’ backstory was previously expanded on in the short-lived TV adaptation, yet failed to ignite much interest with fans, perhaps due to the absence of Neeson in the lead role. There’s plenty of potential to turn the series into a detective-style story whereby Mills offers his services as a finder, which could feature him in many locations around the world.
Character development wouldn’t be difficult either, especially given Bryan’s relationship with his daughter Kim, and the loss of his wife Lenore in the third Taken film. Where would Bryan Mills go after suffering such a tragedy, while starting a new chapter with his daughter and grandchild? That’s for a comic series to answer.
5) Enemy Mine
Though somewhat forgotten by audiences since its debut in 1979, Enemy Mine remains one of the most unique and creative sci-fi stories of all time. The original Barry B. Longyear novella was adapted into a 1985 film starring Dennis Quaid and Louis Gossett Jr.
The story revolves around humanity’s bitter interstellar war with an alien race known as the Dracs, each with the intent of wiping the other out. When a human pilot named Davidge crash lands on a hostile alien planet along with a Drac warrior named Jareeba, the two must quickly set aside their hate and work together to survive the harsh climate and local wildlife.
Forgotten by both of their respective fleets, Davidge and Jareeba begin sharing their respective cultures with one another, and realize they have more in common than not. It’s the intrinsic beauty of this friendship that culminates in humanity seemingly making peace with the Drac race in the final act.
A comic book series could either focus on the aftermath of that peace by focusing on human and Drac splinter groups unwilling to let go of their hate, or it could explore what led to the initial conflict in the first place. Either way, Enemy Mine is a hypnotic and fascinating film that deserves to be fleshed out beyond the confines of the original film.
4) Forbidden Planet
While talk of a Forbidden Planet remake has been circulating for years at this point, nothing concrete has yet emerged. The original 1956 film stands tall as one of the most inventive, introspective and haunting science fiction films ever made. It also bucked the trend of 50s sci-fi films with bland storylines, poor special effects and men in rubber suits.
At its heart, Forbidden Planet is less about a planet itself, and more about the nature of humanity’s primordial subconscious. When a brilliant scientist named Dr. Morbius begins tampering with the technology of a long-dead alien race, he unwittingly unleashes a horrifying force of limitless power that lashes out with violence and destruction.
Adapting Forbidden Planet to a comic book seems like a logical option at this point, unless a studio is able to reacquire the rights and pen a capable script. While it might be tempting to emulate the 1950s art style of the original film, a comic book adaptation would be wise to update the source material.
A fleshed out series could also expand on the crew of the C-57D, their respective backstories, and how their personal foibles are a reflection of humanity’s psychological imperfections. Juxtaposed against Morbius’ rabid obsession with the technology of the Krell race, it could serve as a cautionary tale for us, in an age of AI expansionism as it relates to our species’ darker nature.
3) Robot Jox
The late Gary Graham achieved hero status when he played the character Achilles in the 1990 cult classic Robot Jox. It’s easy to see why, given the spectacle and imagination that went into its filming. On the pages of a comic, the possibilities for expanding on characters, technology, and giant fighting robots would prove limitless.
For the uninitiated, Robot Jox tells the story of a post-apocalyptic Earth where humanity’s survivors solve all resource and territorial disputes by letting two pilots beat each other to a pulp inside of technologically advanced giant robots. The original film saw Achilles battling his personal demons after a catastrophe ensues during a fight with his arch-rival Alexander.
A comic book version of Robot Jox would probably have to focus on the past, instead of the future, especially given the uncertainty following the final scene in the film. This wouldn’t be a bad thing, given the decades of history that eventually builds up to the events of the film.
It would present an opportunity to showcase humanity as it trains new Jox, builds increasingly more advanced robots, and develops technological gadgets to give each side an edge during combat. It may not win any awards for its admittedly thin storyline, but it would serve up some good old fashioned sci-fi fun.
2) The Adventures of Hercules
There are many iterations of Hercules’ character in pop culture, but for this entry, we’re going back to the 1980s Italian fantasy flicks starring Lou Ferrigno, which are essentially moving comic books, themselves. That version of Hercules was a no-nonsense hero who braved terrible trials, overcame God-like villains, and solidified himself as a champion for all mankind.
What better interpretation of the character to adapt into comic book form? The story could start near the beginning, during Hercules’ initial years as he learns of his strength and power, before adapting the events of the first film into a longer, more fleshed out narrative.
It could also explore Hercules’ life following the events of that film, which leads up to his legendary status at the beginning of the 1985 sequel, also starring Ferrigno in the title role. There’s a lot of fantasy material to explore, as well as Hercules’ part in shaping the chronology of mankind as it relates to the machinations of the Greek Gods.
Sometimes, an old fashioned fantasy story – complete with the trappings of the time – can be a breath of fresh air. In the case of the original 1980s Hercules films, that meant a hero with a clear moral compass; a champion for good, and the encapsulation of what it means to fight in the face of great evil. That’s what comics used to be about.
Any man who can single-handedly take on an entire army of mercenaries by strafing them at low speeds with a near-unlimited supply of ammunition is worthy of a comic book adaptation. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s John Matrix clearly fits that particular bill.
A Commando series could pick up where the film left off, despite Matrix declaring “no chance” of such a thing happening. Alternatively, it could dive back into his past as a one-man carpet bomb representing the ultra-masculine might of the United States military during the height of the Cold War era.
Either way, there’s a lot of ground to be covered, and it would be entertaining to join Matrix on his adventures around various political and military hot spots during the 1970s and 1980s. The subject matter would need to be approached from an action movie standpoint, while avoiding political trappings as much as possible, but that was par for the course in the original film.
Commando will always be one of action cinema’s most infamous guilty pleasures, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. The question is, how far could a writing team explore the character of John Matrix without it becoming either cliché, or predictable? They could start by adding in some glorious one-liners that pay homage to the movie, and take it from there.