While the opening of Watchmen this weekend taking the top post in the box office at $55.7 million wasn’t a big surprise, it does continue the recent dominant trend of Hollywood scouring graphic novels and comic book material, once considered too lowbrow to mention in the same breath as Academy Award worthy fare, for commercial entertainment. So now that Watchmen has landed and Heath Ledger has won a posthumous Oscar for his portrayal of the Joker, what’s the next property or less known graphic novel Hollywood will try to cull and turn into box office gold?
It is surprising how much comic material from the modern era of comics has already been used by studios and production companies, from mainstream properties like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Sin City to less well know material like The Maxx.
So I present five graphic novels or lesser known comics (at least by the layman) which may make excellent films. So don’t be surprised to see these in the local cineplex.
DC Comics (Vertigo)
Fans of Neil Gainman’s Sandman comics will be familiar with this one as it is the spin-off concerning the adventures of the fallen angel Lucifer Morningstar on Earth. Touching on themes of redemption, free will, and predestination, the story at its core focuses on human foibles and emconpasses a collection of eleven tomes with a stand alone graphic novel named Lucifer Nirvana. The main character of course is the centerpiece of the entire narrative which can translate into a fascinating film similar to another DC Vertigo series, 2005’s Constantine. However, this could be a more nuanced flick with the right combination of actors and a visionary director handling the material.
Dark Horse Comics has already given the Hollywood execs a paranormal entity in the form of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy, so it’s not too much of a stretch to envision a movie or two starring another Dark Horse property: Eric Powell’s The Goon.
With its cartoonish excesses and its distinct paranornal slant, the Goon and his sidekick Franky are primed for silver screen super-stardom, given the story often focuses on the typical comic book fare of zombies, monsters and mad scientists which can either be recrated through the magic of CGI in the same fashion Hellboy’s world was recreated, or spliced together in a combination of live action and animation a la Sin City. Better yet, characters in the B.P.R.D. including Hellboy himself are free to make cameos. The Goon at its core, is powered by the fertile imagination and genious of Eric Powell, but I can already see its protagonist making a jump into the big screen as effortlessly as his Dark Horse predecessor has done.
The Doom Patrol
The Doom Patrol would be a harder adaptation to execute given not many super-hero team flicks have been realized with the exeption of the X-Men franchise and to a certain extent, Watchmen. Hollywood is certainly behind when it comes to team books with big screen versions of JLA and The Avengers rumored but yet to hit the box office landscape. The Doom Patrol are a squad that is less known than X-Men but no less important to comic book lore. In fact, the similarities to Marvel’s team are evident even though the Doom Patrol predate professor X’s chargers by several months (they both debuted in 1963.) I have always found Robotman to be a fascinating character and this team book is one of DC’s best from the early days of comics. With a screenplay which honors the integrity of the series, this is one which has box office smash written all over it and an audience already in place, people who loved X-Men and Watchmen would certainly dig a movie based on this team comic book.
(Eclipse Comics) Eclipse’s Miracle Man is the perfect solo compliment to the more mainstream comic book movies with an eye towards re-creating the dark, post-modern deconstruction tone created by Alan Moore and later continued by Neil Gaiman. The only problem in translating this little known gem of a comic into the big screen is that the legal battles attached to the creative rights over the years may present a major stumbling block. A prolonged legal battle between Image’s Todd McFarlane and Gaiman has been well publicized and could stymie a feature film. This would be a pity because Miracle Man’s adventures are the stuff comic book movies should be made of.
The New Gods
Is it just me or does anyone else think that a New Gods movie incorporating Jack “King” Kirby’s masterpiece would make an excellent movie? It’s a no-brainer that a book which introduced the world to such amazing and iconic characters like Darkseid, Orion, Mister Miracle, Granny Goodness, Highfather and countless others would also translate into a kick-ass comic book movie. I’m a little leery of suggesting this one because I am afraid of Hollywood getting a hold of the concept and completely ruining it but I think any writer worth his salt could adapt the Fourth World into a compelling, dramatic and visually arresting motion picture. So there you have it, five suggestions for the next Hollywood blockbuster. Bring on the popcorn!