For many a decade now, comic books have been firmly established in pop culture and the public conscious. Similarly, comic book movies have been around for an age, whether it’s the serials of the black ‘n’ white days, the Christopher Reeve-headlined Superman franchise, or many of the tights and capes efforts that followed.
But in more recent years, particularly with the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and 20th Century Fox’s X-Men movieverse, comic book movies have been pulling more direct inspiration and influence from set comic book arcs and stories. For instance, Bryan Singer’s X2 pulled heavily from Chris Claremont’s famed 1982 God Loves, Man Kills tale, while last year’s Captain America: Civil War was a loose adaptation of Mark Millar’s much-heralded Civil War comic arc.
With comic book movies going absolutely nowhere any time soon, the question is what other beloved and shocking comic book tales are ripe for a big screen adaptation. And even better for viewers, what particular arcs, graphic novels, and trade paperbacks would make for shocking, impactful moments on the silver screen where the vast landscape of Marvel movies is concerned.
So with that in mind, here’s 15 classic, shocking comic book stories that would be perfect to take to the big screen.
15. House Of M
While Captain America: Civil War was obviously a huge movie, and Avengers: Infinity War and its follow-up are also going to be massive ensemble efforts, if Marvel Studios is looking for a future “event movie” then they could do worse than look at the House of M comic book run.
An arc that spread across a whole host of various Marvel titles at the time, House of M literally turned the Marvel-verse upside down. And at the centre of this was Wanda Maximoff, aka Scarlet Witch.
Looking to alter reality in order to recreate her lost offspring, Wanda causes absolute chaos and alters the world to a state where everyone gets what they’ve always dreamed of. While Peter Parker is happily married to Gwen Stacy, and Magneto is happily ruling the world, Wolverine is the only one who can remember the actual unaltered timeline. As Logan updates the erratic and confused Scarlet Witch about what she’s done, Wanda drifts further into the depths of insanity. Uttering the phrase “No more mutants,” the Scarlet Witch resets the world to what it was, except now millions of mutants have lost their powers.
14. Spider-Man: One More Day
Well, this would certainly place the cat amongst the pigeons…
The One More Day storyline is one shrouded in infamy and one that even the most loyal Spider-Man fans can rationalise and defend. So get this straight, the suggestion for this shocking story arc to make it to the big screen is not for the quality of the tale, but more merely a twisted sense of humour at seeing the shocking reaction of fanboys across the globe. As the modern kids seem to say, yes, the Internet would indeed explode if One More Day was adapted for the big screen at some point over the next few years.
After Aunt May is fatally shot following the comic book Civil War – a comic story that sees Peter Parker publicly unmask on live TV – Peter ends up striking up a deal with the Devil himself, Mephisto. This deal sees Parker’s secret identity once again revert back to being a secret, and it also brings back May from the dead. Good plan, right? Err, maybe not so much.
The price that Peter willfully paid for this was that he had his marriage to the then-pregnant Mary Jane erased from history. In a true act of selfishness, the ever-heroic Peter Parker stupidly wipes out his marriage and unborn child for his own needs. Even worse, Aunt May’s spirit visits Peter to tell him not to bring her back! And added to that, Peter and MJ’s unborn visited her pops to berate him for his selfishness.
13. Dark Reign
In the aftermath of the comic book Civil War came Secret Invasion – an arc that ran through the second half of 2008 and into early 2009. But after that, then came Dark Reign.
What’s so shocking about Dark Reign is that the villains of the Marvel-verse get plenty of time in the spotlight. Most notably, Norman Osborn as Iron Patriot is front-and-centre of this tale, with him having won favour with many for his role in defeating the Skrulls during Secret Invasion. As such, Norman, better known to many as the Green Goblin, actually replaces Tony Stark as the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Well, it was S.H.I.E.L.D., but then Osborn disbands the organisation and replaces it with H.A.M.M.E.R. while also forming a working (and villainous!) relationship with the likes of Doctor Doom, Loki, and Emma Frost.
As Dark Reign plays out and it becomes clear that Norman’s agenda isn’t quite as heroic as he’d have the masses believe, it’s then down to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to come together and topple this all-powerful villain.
12. Deadpool Kills The Marvel Universe
To be blunt, Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe does quite literally exactly what it says on the tin.
In this 2012 book from Cullen Bunn and Dalibor Talajic, Wade Wilson has an itch: to brutally destroy the entire Marvel realm and all of the characters who reside within it. And not only that, but the Merc with a Mouth actually succeeds!
From destroying the Fantastic Four, to blowing Spider-Man’s face off, to wiping out the Avengers in one foul swoop, to squishing Thor with his own hammer, to decapitating Bruce Banner, to brutally torturing the X-Men, to even turning his attention to Marvel’s writing team, Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe is a rip-roaring ride overflowing with bloodshed, brutality and brilliance.
11. Fantastic Four: 1234
Getting Marvel’s First Family right seems to be a problem for Hollywood, and something like 1234 could be a great starting point to get casual audiences to care about the Fantastic Four. In that Marvel Knights’ limited series, the team of Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm were given a fresh start.
With their story starting from scratch, the Fantastic Four were shown as flawed characters, not unlikely to make bad decisions and occasional errors of judgement. This approach brought a level of “everyman” and sincerity to the group, and veered far from the usual perfect heroes so often depicted in comics.
Of course, Fantastic Four: 1234 was revealed to be set in an alternative reality by the miniseries’ conclusion. But still, the foundations on show in this title could be the key to launching a Fantastic Four movie that could maybe connect this vital Marvel comic book cog to a cinematic audience.
10. In The Beginning
With Frank Castle now back in a live-action setting following Jon Bernthal’s take on the character debuting in the second season of the Netflix-exclusive Daredevil, it could well be that we’ll see another silver screen outing for The Punisher at some point over the next few years.
In fairness, where things stand following Season 2 of Daredevil, another look at the origin story of Frank would be pointless and simply a waste of time. Similarly, taking the action back to Castle’s military days, seeing how he became The Punisher, would also be a tad redundant. So with that in mind, Garth Ennis’ 2004 In the Beginning could well be a great way to reintroduce Frank Castle to the big screen.
Given how Ebon Moss-Bachrach has now been confirmed to play Microchip – one of Frank’s only friends, his tech whizz, and a rare confidante of Castle – in Netflix’s The Punisher, that means In the Beginning would be an interesting route to take things eventually.
9. Final Execution
Over 2 trade paperbacks and 10 issues, Marvel gave readers one of the best Wolverine-driven arcs of recent years in Final Execution.
When Wolverine’s troubled son Daken puts together a new Brother of Evil Mutants team, this nefarious group target the X-Force team. But the heartbreaking final butting of heads between father and son adds an added layer of emotion to proceedings.
As part of Rick Remender’s fan favourite Uncanny X-Force run, Wolverine ultimately has to kill his son. Daken has plans to kill all of the young mutants that Logan has taken in, and so Wolverine really is left with no other alternative but to off his own offspring. Of course, much like his father, Daken isn’t exactly easy to kill – and so Wolvie resorts to drowning his boy as memories swell of just what could’ve been for this father and son combo if they’d been afforded the chance of a normal life.
8. World War Hulk
Many have been calling to see a movie adaptation of the fan favourite Planet Hulk story for years now, and we’re kind of getting that but kind of not.
This year’s Thor: Ragnarok will feature elements of Planet Hulk, with Mark Ruffalo’s Green Goliath stranded on Sakaar as he ends up fighting alongside Chris Hemsworth’s Thunder God. So, if Planet Hulk is cinematically accounted for in a way, what next for the Engine of Mass Destruction.
That’s where Word War Hulk comes into play.
With the MCU pulling elements of Planet Hulk, it’d only be logical to follow that arc’s sequel, World War Hulk.
In that tale, the Hulk, who had been exiled to the stars by Marvel’s Illuminati in Planet Hulk, returns to Earth with a vengeance. With increased intelligence and with an almighty chip on his shoulder due to wife Caiera being killed – not to mention a whole host of alien pals in tow – the Green Goliath has any and all Marvel heroes in his sights. From destroying Stark Tower, to breaking the hands of Doctor Strange, to besting Black Bolt, numerous X-Men, Ghost Rider, the New Avengers, the Mighty Avengers, the Fantastic Four, and pretty much anyone he encounters, this is a tale that sees Hulk at his most badass and brutal.
7. Suicide Kings
The 5-issue 2009 Suicide Kings arc is revered as one of the greatest ever Deadpool stories out there. And with the popularity of the Merc with a Mouth at an all-time high due to Ryan Reynolds’ pitch-perfect take on Wade Wilson, what better time to explore the possibilities that lie ahead for future movies.
Cable is already confirmed to appear in Deadpool 2, with Deadpool 3 rumoured to be an X-Force-focussed effort, but if there was ever a chance to tie 20th Century Fox and Disney’s Marvel realms together, Suicide Kings is a tale that’s ripe for adaptation.
In this tale, Deadpool is framed for a crime he didn’t commit, but his pleas of innocence doesn’t wash with some – notably with The Punisher, Spider-Man and Daredevil! Not only does Wade have to catch the real criminal here, he also has to prove his innocence to some of his fellow Marvel heroes.
6. The Court-Martial Of Yellowjacket
While the stories on this list are graphic novels and trade paperbacks, The Court-Martial of Yellowjacket is a single-issue tale – Avengers #213, to be precise – but it’s certainly a story that deserves some time to shine on the big screen.
One of the big bugbears of many a Marvel fan is that the MCU decided to jump straight to the Scott Lang version of Ant-Man rather than fully explore the iconic Hank Pym. In the comic book realm, Pym is one of the most complex, multi-layered, erratic, and intriguing characters the comics industry has ever seen.
During some of his darker days, 1981 saw Hank adopting the Yellowjacket moniker as his mental instability came to the fore. As he started to lean towards more no-good, at-times outright evil acts, the Avengers started to question their longtime member. And when Pym went as far as actually striking his other half, Janet Van Dyne – a huge, huge moment in comic book history – it marked a stark change in how Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and comic book fans in general viewed Henry Pym.
5. Daredevil: Born Again
While some casual fans were scarred by the Guardian Devil’s previous cinematic outing – 2003’s underrated Daredevil (seriously, give the Director’s Cut a watch) – the Man Without Fear has seen his live-action stock rise recently with Charlie Cox’s take on the character in the Netflix-exclusive series.
Given how Daredevil and the rest of the Marvel Netflix shows exist in the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s not outside of the realms of possibility to see DD appear on the big screen again at some point in the future. And if he did, Born Again is one graphic novel that could be perfect for a cinematic adaptation.
From the iconic Frank Miller and artist David Mazzucchelli, Born Again sees Daredevil in some serious trouble as the villainous Kingpin looks to destroy any and all aspects of the hero’s life that he can. With Karen Page now a junkie who’s involved in the adult entertainment industry, she sells the secret identity of Daredevil for a heroin hit. Said secret makes it way up the criminal food chain to Wilson Fisk, who then uses this information to destroy Matt Murdock and drive him to the brink of insanity.
4. Kraven’s Last Hunt
Since Kraven the Hunter debuted in 1964, he was dealt the same hand as pretty much all of Spider-Man’s villains at the time; he was regularly bested by the Wallcrawler.
With 1987’s Kraven’s Last Stand from J.M. DeMatteis and Mike Zeck, this longstanding rogue was thrust firmly into the spotlight and turned into a big deal near-enough over night.
As Tom Holland’s Webhead gets set to start his own cinematic trilogy with this year’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, bringing Kraven into the fold down the line could be a brilliant idea. And if so, Kraven’s Last Hunt is a mesmerising tale to bring to the big screen.
Seeing Spider-Man as the greatest hunting trophy, Kraven decides that his grand achievement would be to wipe out Webhead and do a better job as Spider-Man than Spider-Man. And the rogue succeeds!
After seemingly killing off Spidey, Kraven dons the black duds of his foe and brutally admonishes justice for a couple of weeks. Of course, Peter Parker isn’t really dead, merely he’d been dosed up with a heavy tranquilizer and buried. When the real Spidey climbs out of his grave, he targets a Kraven who refuses to fight back – instead he’s content and satisfied with having bested his rival.
Where the cinematic X-Men are concerned, Ian McKellen and Michael Fassbender have both played brilliant versions of Magneto. Forever embroiled in a tense bromance with Charles Xavier, the Master of Magnetism is a complex character full of multiple layers.
But what if 20th Century Fox really wanted to go the completely evil, crazy, brutal route with Magneto? Well that’s where Ultimatum would serve as the perfect comic book story to pull from.
In a tale that’s full of Magneto being an utter bastard of the highest order, the pinnacle of this destructive ride is the iconic rogue actually snapping the neck of Professor X and finally killing his longtime BFF.
What drove Magneto over the edge was the death of his children, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. Stealing Mjolnir from Thor, the villain went on a brutal revenge mission on mankind. It was while the X-Men were attempting to stop this that Magneto turned up at the X Mansion and offed his old pal.
2. The Power Of Iron Man
While this story arc and trade paperback is officially known as The Power of Iron Man, most people know the tale better by its unofficial title: Demon in a Bottle.
Initially running as a 9-issue story in 1979, this iconic comic book arc saw Iron Man battling more than just physical bad guys. No, here ol’ Shellhead also had to deal with arguably his biggest challenge yet – his own alcoholism.
As well as battling several villains in this run – with Justin Hammer the man largely responsible for pulling the strings – at such a low is Stark that the Avengers even ask him to temporarily take himself out of action. The larger narrative, though, is Tony having to face up to, and deal with, his drink problem.
1. The Death of Captain America
Many thought that Chris Evans’ big screen Steve Rogers may well have been killed off by this point of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Some thought that may have happened in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and then others thought it was a given that poor Cap would bite the bullet by the time Captain America: Civil War came to a close.
For now, the Sentinel of Liberty is alive and well, but it wouldn’t be a major stretch to think that Rogers may get killed off – at least temporarily – sooner rather than later. And if so, expect to see The Death of Captain America arc play a pivotal part.
In that story, set in the aftermath of the comic book Civil War, Rogers is assassinated by a brainwashed Sharon Carter. The plan had been orchestrated by the Red Skull, and also saw Crossbones firing shots at Cap. While Crossbones certainly has his own share of the blame here, it’s sadly Sharon, aka Agent 13, who dishes out the fatal shot.
Following this, the intriguing Fallen Son arc details the different reactions of various heroes to the loss of the legendary Steve Rogers. Additionally, following the death of Rogers, Bucky Barnes steps up and takes on the Captain America moniker as his own.
Of course, Steve would be back from the dead eventually, with that “fatal” shot from Agent 13 proving to have actually phased him out of immediate danger.