Have you seen Watchmen yet? I haven’t had the chance, but I will correct that this afternoon. It sort of feels like the end seeing Watchmen actually make it to theaters. With the release of Watchmen last week, I think comic book fans were left to question what truly remained left to be adapted to film. It seems like every comic character I ever wished for as a child, teen, and the adult has made it to the big screen. Some of these wishes were dreams come true. Such was the case with films like The Dark Knight, the first two X-Men movies, and Spider-Man. Bit for every good comic-to-movie adaptation developed, at least three lacking adaptations were made, with one of them being a truly awful viewing experience. Not to name names, but we all can rattle off the bad adaptations we have seen with much regret and gnashing of fanboy teeth. Has everything been tapped? Have we reached the bottom?
The thing is, comic book companies are not short on ideas or potential, but really, if you look at the stable of stories left, what classics remain? There are several comic books left out there on the roster that could be potentially made into great movies. The big guns have already been picked over, but that isn’t necessiarly the place to find comic books biggest and best stories. They just have the name recognition and that does not translate into quality. Well today, I offer up five comic book properties that have not been made into films yet, but really could be. I’m not saying they should be made into stories, but the potential for all of these properties is there. Here are my top five.
5) Doom Patrol
The concept of Doom Patrol in almost any of its incarnations would be ripe territory for a feature film. If filmmakers went with the original Arnold Drake concept of the team, a nice, concise dynamic would be set up between a small cast of four main characters. Any of the later incarnations would herald in an almost ensemble type cast of characters that might be difficult to control on the screen, although Arcudi’s Doom Patrol was funny. A more interesting movie, and by extension more difficult film to make, would be Grant Morrison’s vision of the team. This trippy version of the Doom Patrol would be difficult to breakthrough to mainstream audiences, but it sure would be fun to watch!
4) Astro City
Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson’s sweeping series is a modern day comic work of genius. The stories are matchless and affecting, bringing a unique twist to the tired idea of a city populated by a menagerie of superheroes. Though there have been several story arcs in Astro City that would be great to see on the screen, there is one story that comes to mind that would really work; Confession. This story is still one of my favorite comic book stories I have ever had the pleasure of reading. The story revolves around the complexity of the hero/sidekick model that is typically ignored at best and mocked at worst in both comic books and films. The nature of the mentor/mentee relationship between the Confessor and Altar Boy is so well done by the creative team and harkens back to the days in comic book where sidekicks actually matter and served a purpose. With the Battle for the Cowll currently underway at DC, Busiek and team already covered a triumphant succession story without feeling cheap or overwrought. Take notes DC, and Hollywood.
3) Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
I know, I know; Samuel L. Jackson just signed a 1,563 picture deal with Marvel to play Nick Fury. I hget that. And yes, I know David Hasselhoff portrayed Nick Fury in a made for TV movie. But I think Hollywood really needs to go back and do Nick Fury properly. While the Ultimate Version of Fury is great to read, nothing can ever beat in my mind the old adventures of Nick Fury written by Jim Steranko. Those nineteen issues of Strange Tales and the few issues of Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. were always some of my favorite action and adventure stories. Sure, the premise and dialogue is a bit dated in those issues, but the content and idea behind the stories could easily be lifted on to the screen. They could even keep Samuel L. Jackson in the title role so long as they look back on this character’s finest moment under the pen of Jim Steranko.
Americans love violence. In fact, we love violence more than we do sex in our movies. Blow someone’s head off and you might get a PG-13 rating. Show a nipple and you can almost assuredly guarantee an R-rating. So, violence is always a safe bet to go with. Matt Wagner’s examination of the nature of violence is so adept and timeless in Grendel that one has to wonder why exactly this hasn’t seen its way to the silver screen yet. The stories that feature the original Grendel Hunter Rose are absolutely begging to be adapted. The stories of the various Grendels that followed Hunter Rose practically scream “franchise.” The only thing going against this character would be name recognition. Grendel isn’t as well known as some of the other comic movie starlets, but come on, any Grendel movie would have to better than, say, Elektra or Fantastic Four.
1) American Flagg!
Howard Chaykin’s classic series from First Comics is an easy and extremely biased number one choice for me. I have extolled the greatness of this title in this column before, but it never hurts to hear it twice. This comic is practically begging for a revival and there would be no better way than for someone to adapt this series into a movie. American Flagg death with themes anyone in today’s modern world could relate to. Idea such as corporate greed, cynical governance, pervasiveness of advertising, and good ol’ fashioned violence would sit well for audiences. Though some might suggest that we have too much of these things going on in our country right now, I think seeing them in the context of a future where America has seen its better days come and gone would be both sobering a satirical without being sardonic or depressing. Chaykin was able to explore these themes without ever being overly pessimistic or self-righteous. Hollywood could do the same.