Doctor Strange will soon be a household name. Preacher, one of the most insanely brutal graphic novels ever written, is about to debut on TV. More people can tell you who Bucky is before they could tell you who the Speaker of the House is... Comic books are a hotter than Kendall Jenner and without the pervy “how old is she again” guilt. It’s no longer shameful to read comics and have debates about guys in tights, but the Utopia of comic book fans being cool isn’t exactly what was promised. Sure we finally got Deadpool done right, but try having a conversation about the merc with the mouth using the words “Cable, Shatterstar, or Domino” and you’ll get a confused stare or a “whatever nerd” eye roll worthy of Negasonic Teenage Warhead. But maybe that’s a good thing.
Film studios don’t have to worry if people will people get it outside of the niche. The average Joe is now open to watching any comic inspired property without needing name recognition. Which translate to the possibility that you can make a Grendel movie without people needing to know who Hunter Rose is. You could make a Spider-Gwen movie without needing her introduced in a Spider-Man film. From Lobo to Bitch Planet, there are endless films that can be made without the approval of the hardcore fans that used to be the gate keepers of “get it right or we will boycott.” In short, comic book films are free to be more than just a comic book film, and it’s all because of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
A movie like Captain America: Civil War was built as a Fan Boyz wet dream, but it was about as far removed from the comic mini-series as Fox’s Days of Future Past was… yet it still worked without any one crying foul. This made me realize that Marvel films are no longer comic book movies, they have transcended the source material and become… just movies. Marvel films and TV shows successfully operate in their own world, with occasional Easter Egg winks to the source material that only 20% of the people watching will get. The DC/CW shows manage to do the same thing. No longer are stereotypical geeks in their basement going page by page like, “No, that’s not how the Inhumans operate! Who is this Thea Queen chick!” Again, no one gives a F**k about sticking to the books, if anything it’s become not only acceptable but expected to totally go left.
People want RDJ’s Iron Man, Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, and Tom Hardy’s Bane, more so than the comic versions because this generation has no idea what those characters were... shit I read Knightfall, Knightquest, and Knightsend and much rather have “I was born in the darkness” Bane than that steroid freak who got served by Azbat. With that said, maybe the future isn’t about adapting comic books in the Watchmen style, where you try way too hard to get things right so the comic fans ride your c**k. Maybe the solution for the post Batman Vs. Superman/ Civil War comic book movies is to push the boundaries of these characters past the comic book origins, because movie fans no longer care. Book adaptions do it, film remakes do it, so why shouldn’t comic book films still hold on to the early 2000s idea of “It has to be like the book or the fans will hate it”? Fans today are more worried about a good film than a good adaptation of the source material, which truly makes this a golden age creatively.
The Problem with Venom
Before I get into the list, let’s start with the most notorious example of having a great character that hasn’t been given a great film version because the creator’s hands are tied down with too much f**king backstory. The Venom movie has been rumored about more than John Cena turning heel. Since Raimi’s first Spider-Man, there has been talk about Venom having his own film. To those of you that only remember the recent Agent Venom version or that horrible That 70’s Show Venom from Spidey 3, remember that Eddie Brock and the Symbiote used to be the coolest anti-hero in comics. Go back to the 90’s and it was all about Venom, not Deadpool or Harley Quinn. So it would only make sense that Sony would introduce Venom in a Spider-Man movie, slowly build Eddie Brock as an Anakin Skywalker type of lost soul, and then spin him off afterwards. WRONG. Venom didn’t work on the big screen for obvious reasons within that third movie, but that’s spilled milk. No one remembers that movie so they can always reboot, recast, and reinterpret. That isn’t the problem the producers face however; because of Venom being so directly tied into Peter Parker’s alien costume, it has become nearly impossible to do a standalone Venom movie without Spider-Man. The consensus has been he has to show up in Spider-man again first. YAWN!
F**k all the Spider-Man stuff. You can still do a Venom movie minus Spidey and not make it sloppy like the Halle Berry Catwoman movie. Who is Eddie Brock? He’s a guy that can’t catch a break. A hardworking journalist who got played by a source and lost all credibility now he’s at the bottom again. Brock represents the everyman more so than Peter Parker does in today’s economic climate. He’s broke, stressed, battling depression, and can’t move up the ladder professionally. With that said, you give a man like that the ultimate power of a symbiotic alien suit and he’s not going to become a criminal in the sense of robbing banks or taking advantage of people, he’s not a bad guy, he’s a broken guy with anger that needs to be channeled. In the comic it was Spider-Man in his own film you could easily treat Venom’s origin and first mission as a side story totally unrelated to Spidey.
We meet Eddie Brock, we see the death of his mother, how his father’s a prick, how he’s lived his life trying to overachieve to compensate for that childhood… that only takes ten minutes to establish. Jump to the case he’s working that gets him a Pulitzer only to have it ripped from him when Spider-Man (off screen) exposes the story as fake. From there it’s him sinking back into depression and the symbiote being discovered. We never even have Brock meet Peter Parker let alone Spider-Man, it’s a stalker obsession that builds up. There can be an entire story about the suit slowly revealing itself to Eddie. Not this wham bam “put me on let’s go attack Spider-Man” stuff that shortchanges the bond between the suit and Eddie. Venom’s first attempt to use his powers and discover what he is capable of doing doesn’t have to be versus Spider-man. Think about it logically, if you’re brand new to having powers why would you take on a veteran without any in-field training first? Of course Eddie Brock would be obsessed with Spider-Man, but this movie could explore something that comes up while training. A girlfriend from the past that gets murdered, a fellow journalist that gets kidnapped, even Brock’s Father being in trouble could be used as a catalyst to explore Venom Vs. some other Spider-Man villain. In the end you show Brock as a guy who saves the day, not because he’s trying to be a hero but because it was the right thing to do. But to remind people he’s a bad ass he kills the villain and the final scene is him turning his attention to Spider-Man for the potential sequel or crossover film. Yes, you stray away from the comic book in many ways, but you establish a franchise that the average fan can get behind and fans that aren’t zealots can appreciate because it tells a better story than the stale origin.
The Top Five Comic Book Movies That Should Be Made
Keeping that example in mind, let’s explore the Top Five comic properties that could be re-imagined for the screen without having to pay any real homage to the comic it was inspired by. This means that instead of having to deal with complicated origins or backstories that are tied into other heroes, it can take the basic concept of the character and go crazy!
Marvel’s going to do a Nova movie. They’ve spent the last five years trying to make readers forget about Rich Rider and embrace the younger version of Sam Alexander. Some people would scream, “Stop trying to make Nova work, it sucks!” Although I’m not a fan of the new Nova, I see a lot of potential to make a Nova movie that’s offbeat and funny with the original. Rich Rider is a great character, 90’s not the 70’s Green Lantern knockoff... The interpretation of the character in the pages of Fabian Nicceza’s New Warriors as this unemployed former hero recently given a second lease on life was greatly underrated.
The actual MCU Nova will probably feel a lot like Guardians, young Sam given the Nova Prime power and is recruited for space adventures. I’m sure it’ll work, but the ultimate version of it would explore Rich Rider as this bro turned hero, as opposed to this by the books “I have to save the world type”. This won’t happen given the Nova Corps story lines that will run throughout Guardians sequels, but if you want to see an example of the type of potential Nova had pre-MCU check out the old screenplay below.
4) G1 Transformers
Technically, Michael Bay did exactly what I’m suggesting. Take the kernel of what makes the property great and just build around the idea and characters to make it your own. The only problem is, those movies don’t work on the level that they could given the rich history of the first generation Transformers universe. Let’s be honest, those old cartoons weren’t the best in terms of story, but a few of them hold up, the animated movie was excellent, and the mythology of Transformers, Cybertron, and passing down the Matrix, can be taken into a direction that is less about military conspiracies, humans in danger, and Megan Fox in slow motion… and more about the actual civil war between Autobots and Decepticons. Here’s an idea: GAME OF THRONES WITH ROBOTS! Boom!
There isn’t always a clear cut good guy and bad guy in politics, and if you explore the idea that these are a race of robots with the philosophy and flaws of humans, the sky is the limit to explore what exactly separated the Autobots from the Decepticons. Take the battle from earth and let’s go back to that initial split between Optimus and Megatron. It would be more of Greek tragedy than a popcorn movie, but you can still have your action and adventure in the midst of this really great power struggle about two friends who both have strong ideas on how Cybertron should be ran. Set up a scenario where Megatron was passed up for leadership in favor of Prime, and I repeat: Game of Thrones With Robots. Keep that image in your head, and play it out tonight when you’re going to bed, and I bet your version of this movie would be better than any of the previous Bayformer films. It writes itself!
Similar to Venom, the problem with Nightwing is that his origin is tied to another character. Nightwing’s comic book origin goes from Dick Grayson witnessing his parents killed, becoming the first Robin, becoming the leader of the Teen Titans, and then taking on the mantle of Nightwing, having outgrown being Robin. You can’t tell that as a movie if you stick to the comic book. However, if you start at Nightwing year one, you only have to hint at him being Robin once upon a time. The point I want you all to get when reading this is that you don’t have to start a point A then go to point B then C. You can make point B, a hero in the middle of his journey and tell that story.
I’ll bring up Deadpool for the 100th time because I know the fear the studio had was, “how do we make a superhero movie about a non-superhero without making it all about his origin?” They used flashbacks in a creative way, but not every movie needs to do this. For those that don’t know that Nightwing was the first Robin, it can be served in hints the same way most movies reveal backstory. Think about all the movies you’ve seen, the majority don’t go through the autobiography of a life, they jump right into the story and other characters mention the protagonist’s past. In the end you’re like, “Oh that’s why Will Smith is doing what he’s doing right now, his father taught him how to be a con man,” it’s common in every movie except superhero ones.
Nightwing sets up shop in Bludhaven, is confident that he can make a difference, but is still living in the shadow of his old mentor who he had a huge falling out with that we don’t need to see, just hear about little by little. Dick Grayson has to establish a life outside of his alter ego. The Red Hood comes to town. Two traumatized son of the bat doing battle with all the emotional weight of what it means to step out of the shadows of a father and be your own man. It’s a movie waiting to be made, and it doesn’t need to be mucked up by all the various incarnations of Batman to work on its own.
2) Gen 13
This is so easy to do that I’m surprised it hasn’t been made yet. Gen 13 was for lack of better references, the true successor to the New Mutants title of the 90’s more so than X-Force was. This book about a group of lab rat kids that escape and form a crew was more about hanging out than doing superhero shit. Gen 13 is begging to be reimagined as more of Divergent/Hunger Games film trilogy rather than your typical X-Men movie about coming together to fight the bad guy. The actual comic origin was so weighed down with other Image characters that no one cared about and the DC/Wildstorm relaunch, while it gave them a more cinematic origin, lacked the offbeat nature that made the original book work. So this is a great example of losing the comic bloat, creating something fresh with those characters.
This movie needs time to breath throughout three films. Part 1, would be all about Caitlin Fairchild manifesting her powers and being sent to I.O. to be analyzed with other “interns”. Make it feel like high school movie on a military base at first. A bunch of mentally screwed up kids trying to get along Mean Girls style. Let the mystery of Team 7 (Gen 13’s parents) drive the subplot while the main plot is between Rainmaker and Fairchild as they battle for supremacy. Of course the girls come to a truce and all of the members, Burnout, Grunge, and my bae Freefall, break out after discovering the truth about I.O. Part 2 is more a Runaways style film with DV8 introduced to bring Gen 13 back in. Part 3, would be an epic battle that features a few deaths, and have Fairchild find out her true origin and face her father Alex. No one ever has to read an old Gen 13 comic because it would be so loose with the story that it wouldn’t matter. That’s how you turn a C-list title into a billion-dollar franchise, bitches!
1) Kingdom Come
Kingdom Come has taken on this mythical place among comic book fans. It’s all of our childhood heroes, Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, in their old age and deals with the always topical generation gap of what happens when a more jaded group of people come into power and do things differently from their predecessors. In the age where Baby Boomers and Gen Xers alike roll their eyes at the Millennials, Kingdom Come translate today more than it did when it was released 20 years ago. Using Magog as the lead character instead of making it yet another Superman movie, you could explore what it’s like to be a young hero that does what it takes to save lives opposed to allowing villains to constantly escape and come back. Of course like in the book you can have that moment where Superman returns because things get out of hand, but instead of making it all about Captain Marvel Vs. Supes, have it be Magog’s battle to redeem himself and find common ground with the heroes of yesteryear.
Those are just five examples, but the possibilities are endless. Feel free to use the comment section below to pitch your own idea for a comic property and how it would work without the strict guidelines of the actual title.