Written by Zac Platt.
Year after year comic book movies are dominating at the box office. As a huge fan of people in tights fighting each other, I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to see so many of my favorite characters and stories brought to life on the silver screen, especially to such adulation and fanfare. As the studios embrace comic properties more and more (we are actually getting a Dr Strange Movie!!), I can’t help but wonder what others are going to get a chance at movie audiences before Hollywood moves on to the next big thing. Below is the list of the top ten comic stories I think need to be turned into movies. It’s not a list of my favorites, or the ones I want people to know about, but just the ten that I think have the best movies waiting to be made about them. Welcome, to the Top Ten Comics That Should Be Movies.
10) Alias by Brian Michael Bendis
Not to be confused with the TV show, Alias takes a grounded view of the Marvel universe through the eyes of superhero turned P.I. Jessica Jones. Jessica has super strength and can kind of fly, but rather than ‘avenging’ she spends her time drinking, sleeping around and generally feeling sorry for herself. This is a very human story about her learning to trust her friend-with-benefits and fellow super-civilian Luke Cage with the secrets of what left her so broken and made her hang up the costume. With all the work Marvel Studios have done to build a shared cinematic universe, now is the perfect time to take a risk on some smaller scale films that fall to the side of the big tent-pole movies. But ignoring all that, Jessica Jones deserves a movie. She is a determined and intelligent woman who could bring a little more femininity to the this male heavy franchise.
9) Animal Man by Jeff Lemire
In 2011 DC re-launched their entire line of comics, and amongst the offerings was an Animal Man reboot to be written by Jeff Lemire. Buddy Baker/Animal Man is a superhero less interested in fighting crime, and more in campaigning for animal welfare and building his career as an actor. First and foremost though, he is a family man who struggles to protect them from the life he thought he wanted. By their association to him, Buddy’s wife and kids are put in harm’s way by some of the most gruesome and terrifying monsters I’ve ever seen. Animal Man’s villains are bulging hulks of rotting flesh that manipulate their anatomy under human skin. Imagine the creatures from ‘The Thing‘ walking around suburbia in broad daylight. Even when his wife and kids are safe from these monsters, Buddy’s fame keeps them in the media spotlight, allowing the paparazzi to just as relentlessly tear through their lives. At its core, this is a story about a man failing to hold his family together. Add some epic super hero action and terrifying horror elements, and this could be a film that challenges the superhero genre in some very exciting ways.
8) Ex Machina by Brian K. Vaughan
Brian K. Vaughan is one of comic’s most prolific writers, and while Ex Machina isn’t my favorite of his stories, it is perhaps the best suited for the big screen. This is the story of Mitchell Hundred, a civil engineer who gains the power to talk to and control machines. He begins a short and largely unsuccessful career as the world’s only superhero, but abandons it to run for the Mayor of New York. A campaign he secures when on the 11th of September, he manages to prevent the second plane from crashing into the south tower of the World Trade Center. The majority of the story follows Mayor Hundred as he tries to find balance between what’s best for his city and what’s best for his career. Ex Machina is rich with questions about the American political system, the compromises that get made, and the role of government as a whole. The one standing tower simultaneously stands as a monument to both his greatest victory and his greatest failure. This would be a risky film to be sure, but one I would love to walk out of arguing with other viewers about the morality of Hundred’s decisions.
7) Red Son by Mark Millar
What if instead of crash landing in Kansas to be raised by good hearted, salt of the earth Americans, Superman landed in Soviet Russia and grew up a champion of socialism and eventual communist overlord? Tell me that doesn’t pique your interest. This is by far the least likely on this list to get a chance at the box office, which is a shame as Red Son is one of the coolest concepts to grace my comic collection. The story goes far beyond that pitch though. Millar uses this comic as a vehicle to explore both socialism and capitalism, concluding that a balance between these ideals is in the best interest of the common man. Despite all this headiness, Red Son is still a very character focused story, showing how strong willed and good hearted Superman is – no matter what his place in the world. Sadly, DC is so protective of their brand and unadventurous in their movie endeavors that chances of seeing this film are slim to none, but I can’t imagine audiences not flocking in to see a Soviet Superman fight Russian terrorist Batman.
6) Scalped by Jason Aaron
The most powerful thing about Scalped is just how crushing a setting the Prairie Rose Indian reservation is. Between the poverty, the crime, and the sheer hopelessness of these people, this is about as close to hell as you can get. Even if they are not trapped by their circumstances, the people here are too terrified to lose what little is left of the culture to ever leave. Scalped follows undercover FBI agent Dashiell Bad Horse, who returns to the reservation in order to take down crime-lord Chief Red Crow. It takes almost no time at all before Dashiell is shacked up with Red Crow’s junky daughter, spending all their money on heroin and living in his own filth. Scalped relentlessly chews up and spits out the souls of its characters, with only Red Crow doing anything to try and better himself. Through all the pain and depression, Scalped boasts an incredibly tight and complex crime story wrapped in a western that is just begging to be filmed. A film compressing this collection of stories about a land America left behind is not just a movie that I want to be made, it’s one that needs to be.
5) We3 by Grant Morrison
Grant Morrison is one of the most divisive writers in comics. Many of his stories are far too bizarre and complex for the average reader to wrap their heads around, but every now and again he writes something like We3 and hits it right out of the park. Often described as Terminator meets Homewood Bound, We3 follows 3 household pets that have been cybernetically enhanced by the government as an alternative to sending humans into dangerous combat situations. At the threat of being decommissioned, they are freed by their caretaker and spend the rest of the story fleeing the pursuing military. Admittedly it all sounds a little silly, but it is astounding how much personality this Dog, Cat and Rabbit are given by the limited speech allowed from their robotic suits. Anyone who has ever had a pet will find it impossible not to be drawn into We3’s powerful drama and brilliant action sequences. In order to sell tickets the filmmakers would likely need to either increase the presence of the human characters or tone down the violence, but I would be more than happy to see a few concessions if it meant seeing this obscure and ambitious story get the attention it deserves.
4) Secret Warriors by Jonathan Hickman
As I mentioned earlier, Marvel Studios are in a unique position to make films that bank on their billion dollar franchise, but don’t necessarily need all the big names and budgets to sell tickets. For this, Secret Warriors is perfect. This story follows Nick Fury and his team of “Caterpillars” (people with powers that he has secretly enlisted before appearing on anyone else’s radar) in a game of espionage against Hydra (the evil secret society from the Captain America movie). Fury and Baron Strucker (his Hydra counterpart) play the different corners of the Marvel universe against each other like chess pieces. As the two of them use everything from Gods to aliens to ancient monsters in their private war, Marvel Studios could use this to grow their shared movie world in a huge way that would actually service the story rather than detract from it – like a certain Iron Man sequel. Even without what it would mean to the franchise, this is a captivating and complex spy story. It’s fascinating to watch Fury and Strucker peel back the layers of their infiltration from each other’s army until neither are left knowing what to believe. That, and Marvel need to give Sam Jackson a chance to kick some ass in these movies.
3) Mind MGMT by Matt Kindt
Despite being a fairly young series, Mind MGMT has already dished out enough fantastic storytelling and brilliant ideas to make an amazing sci-fi thriller. The story of Mind MGMT spills out from its core mystery; a flight lands and everyone on board has forgotten everything about their lives. Husbands don’t remember their wives, parents don’t remember their children and the pilot didn’t remember how to land the plane. The plot follows a writer named Meru as she investigates the ‘Amnesia Flight’ and eventually uncovers a government organization that has been psychically manipulating the world. This story is filled with fascinating mysteries, interesting characters and some very creative psychic powers. While many stories use superpowers for the wow factor, or to make them more menacing, Mind MGMT utilizes its concepts in clever ways to create some truly inspired characters. This comic is structured in such a cinematic way that I couldn’t help but fantasize about this as a movie from the very first page. With Looper’s maturity toward it’s mythology, Lost’s ability to build captivating mysteries, and Inception’s tone and mind-bending ideas, the right director could easily make Mind MGMT a shining example of the sci-fi genre.
2) Venom by Rick Remender
This is probably the most likely comic on the list to get green-lit given Sony’s promises that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 will be a universe building film akin to The Avengers, with Venom playing an important part. In the comics there have been many different characters to call themselves Venom, but writer Rick Remender’s more recent take is by far the most interesting. If you’ve ever wondered why superheroes wear masks, this is the reason. After losing his legs in Iraq, Flash Thompson is given the Venom suit, a symbiotic life form that, while worn, regrows his legs and gives him Spider-Man like powers. Early into his superhero career though, his identity is discovered by the comic’s villains, who happily tell him the lives of those he cares about are completely dependent on his working for them. Between that, his father dying, dealing with his handicap, his girlfriend demanding to know what’s going on and the Venom symbiotic trying to take over, Flash’s life is quickly pulled apart from all directions. As he becomes more and more alone and killing becomes easier, you can see Flash’s humanity slowly getting away from him. It’s an impossible situation for a tragic hero that could very likely be a spin-off movie vastly more interesting than the original.
1) Preacher by Garth Ennis
“You be a good guy, Jesse. You gotta be like John Wayne: you don’t take no shit off fools, an’ you judge people by what’s in ’em, not how they look. An’ you do the right thing. You gotta be one of the good guys, son, ’cause there’s way too many of the bad.”
I dare you to read Preacher and not want to be Jesse Custer. I love stories about conflicted and complex antiheroes as much as the next guy, but sometimes there is nothing better than watching a man who knows wrong from right walk into a room tell everyone how it’s gonna be. After being possessed by a creature called Genesis and learning that God has left heaven, small town preacher Jesse Custer, love of his life Tulip O’Hare and alcoholic Vampire Cassidy, set off on a journey around America to track down their creator. This is an epic story with angels, demons, big shootouts, secret societies and giant concepts, but none of that really matters all that much. More than anything, this is a story about three people and all the love and heartache between them. Few comics, if any, have managed create a romance as believable or powerful as Jesse and Tulips, nor a friendship as meaningful as his and Cassidy’s. Which is why it absolutely tears your heart out when things fall apart. It’s also bursting with Irish writer Garth Ennis’ unwavering love for America. Ennis takes Jesse on a romanticized journey through the USA’s history and geography, climaxing in the series’ final showdown at the Alamo. The film rights to Preacher have been bouncing around Hollywood for 15 years now, most recently with Sam Mendes attached to direct before he dropped it to work on Skyfall. Hopefully though we will eventually see someone else rise to the task and bring the greatest love story in comics to the big screen.
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