Comic book adaptations are everywhere. While Marvel and DC have been unloading their characters and stories on both the big and small screens, smaller publishers have started to get in on the action in the lucrative world of adaptations. Most recently, AMC aired the pilot of Preacher, a new show created by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg based on the comic book published by Vertigo and created by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon. The critical reception of the pilot was overwhelmingly positive, and depending on the success of the rest of the series, may inspire networks and studios to take a shot on some comics from smaller, lesser known publishers outside of “The Big Two” of Marvel and DC. While Marvel and DC each own their own smaller publishing houses (DC is the parent company of Vertigo), the tone and subject matter of the titles are objectively different than the kind of content they produce in the superhero genre.
Some of these comics have adaptations in production, while others are simply too ambitious for a live-action adaptation, but this list features comics that would make for excellent films or television series, whether they will ever happen or not.
Following the exploits of the Hunter S. Thompson-like gonzo journalist Spider Jerusalem, as he navigates a dystopian society filled with corruption and all sorts of societal problems that comes with it, Warren Ellis’ Transmetropolitan has been in talks for a feature film adaptation since its debut in the late 90s. It’s a visceral and dark story, which Ellis has claimed would be too expensive to ever be made into a live action adaptation. That being said, there have been rumors of an animated series based on the comic, which would probably stay true to the source material but wouldn’t reach as large an audience as a live-action feature film.
11. 100 Bullets
This Eisner Award-winning series by comics icon Brian Azzarello ran for a fitting 100 issues. It primarily focuses on Agent Graves, the mysterious leader of a group known as The Minutemen, as he approaches people who have been wronged and presents them with an opportunity for revenge, giving them 100 untraceable bullets to murder those responsible for their troubles. The series is an excellent meditation on vengeance vs. justice and the motivations of people who seek revenge. There have been a number of planned adaptations of the series, including a television series. It was recently announced that Tom Hardy is producing a film adaptation and may star as Agent Graves.
10. The Invisibles
Series creator and infamous comics writer Grant Morrison claims that this bizarre, science fiction epic was told to him by aliens during a spiritual abduction. If you think that’s weird, just wait until you actually read it. The plot deals with a secret organization known as The Invisibles, a gang of outcasts who take on a race of inter-dimensional Gods called the Archons of the Outer Church. The series has inspired a number of Hollywood blockbusters, including The Matrix, and an adaptation could potentially make for a genre-bending psychedelic masterpiece if it were handled correctly by a capable director and cast.
A spin-off of the popular Hellboy comic book series – which has already been adapted into two popular feature films – follows the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, a group of Enhanced Talents and Human agents who work together to protect the world from supernatural and occult forces. Written by the creator of Hellboy, Mike Mignola, the series borrows heavily from Hellboy both in terms of story and visual tone and style. While Hellboy 3 seems to be stuck in development hell (no pun intended) and may never see the light of day, a television adaptation of B.P.R.D. could work as a supernatural police procedural, and a clever way to expand the franchise to garner support for a 3rd film.
8. The Manhattan Projects
An alternate history tale in which The Manhattan Project (which was the name of the research project that developed nuclear weapons in World War II) was in fact a cover-up for a secret laboratory where the world’s brightest minds developed artificial intelligence, among other things. The series features a number of real historical figures including Albert Einstein, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and many, many others. It’s a really interesting re-imagining of history by writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Nick Pitarra, that would work either as a feature film or television series – considering the series is still ongoing, there’s plenty of story material to be used.
Considering the success and cult following that the adaptation of Brian Lee O’Malley’s previous comic Scott Pilgrim received, adapting his newest graphic novel Seconds, seems like a no-brainer. The story is centered around Katie, owner of a restaurant called Seconds, who’s visited by a girl named Lis who grants her the ability to fix her mistakes in the past using a notebook and magical mushrooms. However, Katie ends up abusing this new ability and creates problems faster than she can fix them, messing with the balance of space and time. It’s a sweet story told on a small scale when compared to Scott Pilgrim, but still holds a lot of promise and could make for a really interesting adaptation.
6. The Incal
This collaboration between Alejandro Jodorowsky, the psychedelic and controversial filmmaker, and one of the most well respected and arguably the greatest comic artist of all time Moebius, produced an infamous graphic novel that has inspired and has literally been ripped off by countless Hollywood sci-fi blockbusters. Panels of this seminal work have been used verbatim in films such as The Fifth Element, which actually ended up causing a lawsuit in which Moebius sued the film’s director, Luc Besson. Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn, has been attached to direct a possible movie adaptation for a few years, but there has been little to no developments since he announced his intentions to make it.
5. Black Hole
Charles Burn’s dark and gritty tale of adolescence and coming-of-age in suburban Seattle revolves around a group of teens who are infected by a strange disease which causes them to develop gruesome mutations. Some of those affected by the disease see themselves as outsiders and create a place for themselves in the woods outside of town. A number of filmmakers have attached themselves to the long-awaited film adaptation of this cult classic graphic novel, including French horror director Alexandre Aja, and more recently, David Fincher, who’s name has been tossed around as the director of this project since as early as 2010.
4. Y The Last Man
A mysterious plague has wiped out every male mammal on earth… except for a man named Yorick and his monkey. The film rights were long held by New Line Cinema, with a revolving door of talented writers, directors and actors, who were at some point attached to make the adaptation. When New Line decided to hold off on shooting for too long, the film rights reverted back to the creator, meaning the future of the adaptation is held safely in the hands of Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra. If we do ever get a film version of Y The Last Man, it will be as the creator intended it to be.
This epic space fantasy has won a number of awards and has been described as a combination of Star Wars, Game of Thrones, and Romeo and Juliet. The book follows two lovers from two warring races who give birth to a daughter named Hazel, and are pursued by their families for their betrayal. It’s an incredibly beautiful and epic story that exists in an expansive and interesting world that looks incredible on the page and would translate perfectly to the big screen. While creator Brian K. Vaughan has denied interests in developing an adaptation, it’s something that would certainly skyrocket the popularity of the series.
2. Miracleman (A.k.a Marvelman)
Alan Moore’s re-imagining of Mick Anglo’s comic series Marvelman from the late 50s and early 60s is a deconstructionist take on the superhero genre early in his career that has influenced a number of his later works, including his masterpiece, Watchmen. While the comic’s publishing rights are currently held by Marvel – after years of disputes regarding ownership – Alan Moore’s stories were originally published in the pages of the anthology comic Warrior under the name Marvelman. The name was changed to Miracleman in 1985, when the series was reprinted by the publisher Eclipse. Seeing as though many of Moore’s comics have been adapted to film (with varying degrees of success), it’s only a matter of time before a Miracleman movie begins developments and hits theaters.
1. The Sandman
Neil Gaiman’s seminal comic series is a masterpiece that has influenced a generation of storytellers both in comics and beyond. The story is about dreams and storytelling itself, among other things. It’s one of the few comics to land on the New York Times Best Seller List, due in large part to its intricate and unique storytelling. A film version was announced by Warner Bros. in 2013, with David S. Goyer as the producer and Joseph Gordon-Levitt attached to the project and expected to star as Morpheus. A film adaptation would introduce a wide audience to Gaiman’s idiosyncratic and beautiful world.