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Superhero season is in full swing. We are fresh off the joyride that was ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ and now await, with no dearth of trepidation, the arrival of DCEU’s ‘Justice League’. Hollywood has been in reboot/remake mode for quite a while now. If we aren’t catching the third rendition of Spider-Man in a single decade, we are faced with remakes of forgotten favourites like ‘The Power Rangers’.
Disney’s spin-off craze continues with more Star Wars instalments being announced this year. Long-held rumours about a possible Obi-Wan Kenobi spin-off film were purportedly confirmed earlier this year, as were solo Boba Fett and wait for it … Jabba the Hutt films.
Now Amazon Studios has officially announced a new Lord of the Rings television show, which will be set in Middle Earth, but most likely will not feature the characters from Peter Jackson’s trilogies. Could this suggest a deviation from the normcore casting of those films and give us a show representative of the diverse society we live in?
At least television is trying to explore new ground with a number of new shows and adaptations, such as DC's ‘Black Lightning’ and Marvel's ‘The Runaways’ on the way. However, big screen or not, there is a host of creative material that most studios and executives haven’t bothered to tap into. The trouble is, when we dig back into the same old coffers for ideas, we will eventually find them empty. And worse, we will never diversify our onscreen heroes beyond the traditional straight, white, cisgendered male.
Superheroes are still the craze (and will hopefully continue to be so for a while longer) in both films and television shows. What most viewers are looking for is something innovative and new, and we don't even expect studios to tax themselves with original ideas. I am all for creative adaptations of comic books; look how ‘Wonder Woman’ took the world by storm, and earlier this year, Marvel’s ‘Legion’ proved comic book series can be exciting and engaging in their own right. There are a host of other comic books that executives could be looking into to delight fans, attract newbies and finally engage with minority communities whose voices have not been heard. But the question is, are they looking?
So, while ‘The Defenders’ rescued Netflix and the Arrowverse returns to save DC, here are 10 comic book series (in no particular order) that I believe deserve a shot at a live-action adaptation. Are there any studio executives in the house?
DC created its own Batman anti-thesis in Midnighter. He’s a (mostly) good guy with a bad history – as part of an experiment, Midnighter’s brain was designed for murder. His computer-brain analyses every possible outcome, meaning he is virtually undefeatable. But, he has his weaknesses, paramount being Apollo, his partner and boyfriend/husband (depending on the series). The two make a solid pairing with fun banter and cutesy romance.
Midnighter’s comics tend to have plenty of magic, steampunk tech and gore, which is balanced by his close friendships with other magical folk, and his love life. It would be great to see a gay superhero headline a comic book film, but the episodic nature of his adventures would be better suited to television. A streaming service like Netflix could do this character right.
Ideal Storyline: The ‘Midnighter’ series from 2016 onwards is wonderful, especially the ‘Midnighter and Apollo’ limited series.
Ideal Cast: It’s tough, as Midnighter is equal parts gruff and a softie. Possible options could be Toby Kebbell as he is a good actor who usually hides behind a mask and deserved a better superhero outing than ‘Fantastic Four’; or perhaps Diego Luna, coming off of ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’; he’s hot right now and does indignant pathos pretty well. Whoever is cast as Apollo will need to rock the silent-mysterious type look – I’m thinking Max Irons (remember that guy) or Alfred Enoch, whose star is still on the rise after two and a half seasons of ‘How to Get Away with Murder’.
No one has even heard of this guy, most likely, but ever since I read the original ‘Longshot’ from 1985, I have been fascinated by the series and the character. It helps that he was incorporated into the X-Men stories, which is why I even know about him.
It isn’t amiss to say that most people enjoy fish-out-of-water stories, and Longshot is exactly that. He is an eight-fingered superslave on the run in Marvel’s Mojoverse, and his world likens itself to a mix of Wes Craven and Wes Anderson madness. Once he’s on Earth, he joins show business, and we all know how much Hollywood loves making films and shows about itself. Expect jaw-dropping stunts and stellar visuals. Excited yet?
Ideal Storyline: He disappears and reappears in different timelines, and a hackneyed version of him is seen in the Ultimate X-Men series, but OG Longshot is the only one we need. An action-packed, mind-boggling mini-series is a perfect fit for this character.
Ideal Cast: Longshot is known for his arresting persona and daring stunts, so I think Ruby Rose in a blonde wig may be an apt choice, especially with her recent propensity for action roles. Alternatively, Sam Claflin helped bring down the Capitol in the Hunger Games films, and certainly looks the part.
What Fox’s ‘Gotham’ should have been - a diverse cast of police officers caught in a daily battle between high-powered heroes and villains; their work always under scrutiny by the ever-present shadow of Batman. ‘Gotham Central’ would be a police procedural like no other (I guess I really miss police procedurals), and would undoubtedly engage a range of viewers. This show could even tie-in with ‘Gotham’, as the MCU (Major Crimes Unit) appeared a handful of times in the first season. It would also be a great opportunity to give some of the villains an outing who don’t revolve around Jim Gordon and his love life (I like ‘Gotham’, but it severely limits its scope by concentrating on Gordon all the time). Watching the Major Crimes Unit’s rising disdain for superpowered crazies and the elevated risks to their jobs and lives would make the kind of gripping show DC fans need.
Ideal Storyline: A long-running television series that intersperses the source material with new plots every now and then would be the kind of show we would tune into.
Ideal Cast: Two of the main characters in the comic book are Detectives Renee Montoya and Crispus Allen. ‘Gotham’ had good actors cast as the two characters, and ideally, we would love to see Victoria Cartagena and Andrew Stewart-Jones reprise their roles for the show.
This needs to happen, like yesterday. Jody Houser did the comic book world a great favour by giving Faith Herbert, a gifted psiot with telekinetic abilities who floats on air, a comic series of her own to headline. Her character is funny and optimistic, and all of us need that in our lives. Most importantly, she is a body-positive character, surrounded by size-blind friends who never make a joke at her expense. We always talk about representation in popular media, but size and ability representations hardly ever shift from the norm. Faith turns that upside down by embracing who she is and always being peppy about life and its challenges.
Ideal Storyline: Valiant Comics' first season of ‘Faith’ was brilliant and would make a perfect first film in a trilogy for the character. Season 2 wasn’t as exciting as the first, but it’s a little more romantic and preachy, and would make a good sequel.
Ideal Cast: Well, Rebel Wilson, because she’s funny and cool and should have been in a superhero movie by now. Otherwise, we could change it up a bit and see if Gabourey Sidibe would be interested.
Essentially an alternate universe ‘Orange is the New Black’ with a heavy dose of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, ‘Bitch Planet’ is a fiercely feminist comic series revolving around a group of women imprisoned in a space prison for non-compliance to the patriarchal overlords. Considering the current political climate, and the success of ‘The Handmaid's Tale’ television show, it is quite clear that this series is ripe for television.
The cast of characters is impressively diverse and almost entirely made up of women. What I like best is that we don't just get female characters of colour who all happen to be the same size; readers are also treated to a diversity of sizes for the female characters. Aside from OITNB, this is still a painfully rare sight.
Ideal Storyline: Difficult to say as the series is still ongoing but all of it should be adapted, really. Each issue could perfectly encompass the length of an episode, maybe even two, depending on the kind of detail the showrunners want to include.
Ideal Cast: A cast made up of unknowns is how I see this show proceeding. OITNB's Vicky Jeudy, who plays former athlete Janae Watson, would make for a great Kam, who is also athletic. I can also see Janelle Monáe owning the role; we've seen what she can do in films like Hidden Figures.
When Kamala Khan debuted on comic store shelves, she was a unique presence. As a Pakistani-American teenager, she has to navigate the ever-widening gap between her two worlds on a daily basis. Add to that, she has just become an Inhuman, and can’t avoid being a secret hero for her fellow citizens. This new iteration of Ms Marvel by Marvel editors Sana Amanat and G Willow Wilson is the kind of representation that matters. Which begs the question, why bother creating a whole different ‘Inhumans’ TV show when this awesome character could easily have been introduced in ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ and starred in a spin-off of her own?
The special effects for superpowers cost money (hence the reason Ghost Rider, the best part of ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’, was written out after the first half of Season 4), but concentrating those effects on one sole character and a villain may have been more cost-effective than a show full of super-powered Inhumans. The new ‘Inhumans’ show should have been awesome, but what we need is popular media reflecting the diverse world we live in. And Kamala Khan is the perfect reflection of that.
Ideal Storyline: All of it! We need a long-running television series that shows the world that Muslim characters are normal people with just as much (or as little) drama as the rest of society.
Ideal Cast: A complete newbie, who has to actually be of Pakistani origin. We need authentic representation for this character and her fans.
We already have a Vision in the MCU, so it will be a challenge to shoehorn in this superlative limited series by Tom King. The 12-part ‘The Vision’ series is the culmination of the synthezoid’s depressing life. After creating a family for himself, wife Virginia and twin children Viv and Vin, Vision moves to the suburbs where the family try and live out a normal life. But the world just will not let them be.
This is such a spectacular comic series, visually arresting with sparse text written for maximum impact. It will make an enigmatic limited series on television or a haunting cerebral epic on film. An essential aspect of the series is Vision and Scarlet Witch’s romance, so one can imagine setting this storyline after the Avengers films are completed.
Ideal Storyline: It’s only a 12-issue mini-series, so the entire thing. We could leave out the bits where Vision recounts his greatest hits (read: battles), as cinema-goers will be privy to that, but the rest can be left in.
Ideal Cast: Oh Paul Bettany, for sure! And Jennifer Connelly as Virginia – maybe Spidey’s suit lady needs to go AWOL for a while. This is perfect and you know it.
Talk of a Nightwing solo film adaptation has been around forever, but no details have yet been finalised. Production on a ‘Titans’ TV show is already underway with Nightwing (or is it just Dick Grayson?) played by Brenton Thwaites in the lead. Seems like the show will be outside the DCEU, but no confirmation has been given on whether it will be part of the Arrowverse.
Without a doubt, there is a massive fanbase that would love to see Nightwing in the flesh, but the chances of a film franchise backfiring are huge, too. Dick Grayson is such an intrinsic part of the Batman universe that it seems strange that the new Batfleck reboot didn’t include him in it. One Robin is certainly dead in the DCEU, but which one?
Nightwing in a television series won’t be a tough sell, but the studio has to understand its audience if they’re going to make it work. It is interesting to see that Greg Berlanti has the greenlight to run the show, since the general feel of the Titans comics is similar to ‘The Flash’, and Dick’s close friends include Wally West (Kid Flash) and Roy Harper (Arsenal). The show could be a DC version of Spider-Man, honestly, with quips and agility galore. But, will it have enough Nightwing to please the fans?
Ideal Storyline: The Rebirth Nightwing stories have been much better than most of the New 52 ones, and Dick is written as a nicer character as well. There’s plenty of existential angst thrown in that would appeal to millennials and fit with the DCEU as it is now. A dark, gritty, yet optimistic trilogy in the vein of ‘Wonder Woman’ could do the trick.
Ideal Cast: There is no one person who will make the perfect Nightwing for everyone. On paper, Thwaites is a good choice for the television series but we have to wait to see the show before we are sure. While I’d love to see Joseph Gordon-Levitt return as Robin for a film, I think the answer to that is a foregone conclusion. However, Jamie Bell, who was once in the running to play Spider-Man before Andrew Garfield won the role, will do Nightwing’s acrobatics justice (and he deserved better than to be The Thing in the outrage-called-a-film, ‘Fantastic Four’). Or maybe go with young up-and-comer Booboo Stewart, who had excellent screen presence in his blink-and-you’ll-miss-it turn as Warpath in ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’. And yes, I know Stewart isn’t white, but I don’t believe Nightwing has to be white.
Red Hood/ Arsenal
If done right, Red Hood/Arsenal could be a great homage to the buddy-cop films of yesteryears. We have two characters at the extremes of the scale - murderous and vengeful Jason Todd, and happy-go-lucky, recovering drug addict and alcoholic, Roy Harper. Their adventures are fun but it is their banter and chemistry that really keep the reader interested. It helps that we already have a Roy Harper in the Arrowverse, so it could be a spin-off from the existing series. However, there isn't enough material for a full television series, unless you bring in the Outlaws, but they might be a bit too off-beat for audiences right now. A mini-series would be perfect, especially if it helps fill in the gaps of Harper's life after he left Team Arrow.
Ideal Storyline: Honestly, something completely new and preferably tied into the Arrowverse. There is a grand total of two volumes for Red Hood/ Arsenal, without the Outlaws and Starfire, so there isn't much to go on. Something new and quirky would be great.
Ideal Cast: The CW's Roy Harper was played by Colton Haynes and he is pretty much cemented in our consciousness; I'd say he did a good job with the material he was given and it was sad when his run came to an end. We would definitely love to see more of him and his humour. To play Jason Todd, I think Chris Zylka, fresh off of The Leftovers, or Luke Pasqualino; both have the steely determination and humour to do justice to the character.
I mean a proper live-action remake – not Netflix’s white-washed nonsense, or the inconsistent Japanese ones. Admittedly we don’t need it; the ‘Death Note’ anime is fantastic, but if there’s an itch we must scratch, then an adaptation with actual Japanese actors is what we need.
The manga has far too much material to be squandered on a one-off film, so a trilogy would be the ideal format – Light becoming Kira, Kira vs. L and finally Kira’s Demise. A good mix of police procedural, mystery and horror would make the films as unsettling as the source material. While I’m sure the preference would be to contract a Japanese director for this, I’m inclined to think Joon-ho Bong would do wonders with this. Now, that’s an adaptation I would be excited to watch. Make it happen, Hollywood.
Ideal Storyline: Stick to L being the main 'antagonist' for Kira, even if that requires taking liberties with the source material for the third part in the trilogy. True fans may complain, but the Kira and L dynamic is the true star of the series.
Ideal Cast: An ensemble Japanese cast is a must. Kengo Kora is known for his intensity and would make an ideal Light Yagami. Yūya Yagira has already made waves at Cannes with his performances; he could possibly pull off the eccentricities of L. And for Misa Amane, Ryoko Hirosue might be a good choice as she is already known to international audiences.
The comic has opportunities to incorporate characters of other nationalities as well, so it can be diverse while also remaining true to its source material. Gender-swap some of the main cast, and we can have a wonderfully balanced film.
Now that you've read about our favourites, which comic books do you want to see adapted next? Let us know in the comments.