(This post originally was featured as part of the semi-regular column BS’N at Eat Your Serial)
With the (not really all that) recent surge in popularity of comic adaptions on the big and small screen, there are so many stellar standout series that are nowhere near development. There are countless possibilities that I’m discounting out of hand because a TV budget just wouldn’t do them justice. A comic like Runaways has a beautiful high concept (kids discover their parents are super villains, and they go on the run), but TV special effects budgets just couldn’t do justice to the magic, sci-fi tech, and best bud velociraptor to get it right. The benefits of a TV show’s long form narrative are hindered by its sometimes crippling budget restrictions. So we went for picks more grounded in reality so that the story can be transferred without being derailed by poor attempts at capturing the imaginative trappings associated with many comic series.
Shawn: Unknown Soldier
The Unknown Soldier is an often recycled concept by DC comics. But the one that had the most resonance for me, and the one that would make the best start of a series, is the Vertigo iteration from 2008. Set against the backdrop of the horrors of country trying to rebuild itself while dealing with the horrors of war in Uganda, the series stars Dr. Moses Lwanga, a peaceful, philanthropic man who returns to his home country from America to try and do good. Unbeknownst to him, he has been conditioned and brainwashed by the US government and is a dangerous instrument of chaos and destruction.
I’d rather not go too deep into the storyline because discovery is most of the fun with these things, but the story hints at many other “Unknown Soldiers” – essentially sleeper agents – that date back to the Vietnam War. This kind of expansive plot, with the strong emotional core of its lead characters would make a perfect show on HBO, Showtime, or AMC.
Brandon: The Sandman
The Sandman was a comic book series by Neil Gaiman and a variety of talented artists that follow the “life” of Morpheus, the King of Dreaming and lord over all things imagined. While the plot points are a little too complicated to broach in a short list such as this, suffice it to say that the overall scope of the story ranges from Lucifer abandoning his post to Shakespeare writing plays for the Sandman’s enjoyment as part of a back alley agreement concerning inspiration. The Sandman is a member of The Endless who are physical representations of the fundamental aspects of life and the universe; they are gods to the gods.
What I’d imagine in a Sandman TV series would be an animated feature show—as there is no way that this could be done justice in a live action format on either television or in movies. A studio committed to translating the cerebral and mythologically transformative work of Gaiman, et al. would be best served to have different seasons or story arcs animated in different styles, while still maintaining a certain criterion of quality as the Vertigo series did. This would not be a show for everyone because of the heady and lofty, as well as grim and gritty, fantasy and horror themes of the series…but what it would be is a cult phenomenon that—if well executed—would collect awards and a loyal following for its entire run. It would also be best served in a late-night rather than a prime-time slot—10 PM or later, but rest assured it would be a great ride.
Much like Brandon’s choice for Sandman, Bone would be an animated show as well. Unlike Sandman, however, Bone would definitely be a more all-ages show. Bone is a fifty-five issue series written and drawn by Jeff Smith that follows the Bone cousins, Phoniciple “Phoney” Bone, Smiley Bone, and Fone Bone, from race out of Boneville, thanks to the latest in a long list of schemes concocted by Phoney Bone, to their arrival and eventual adventures in The Valley. The cousins are eventually drawn into events involving the evil Lord of Locusts, and do their part to help save The Valley.My hope is that a Bone television series would be able to perfectly emulate the beautiful artwork that Smith has described as a, “kind of mixture of Walt Kelly and Moebius.” It’s really a fitting description. The Bone cousins are very simply rendered, looking not too dissimilar to Casper the Friendly Ghost, with the rest of the characters in the series more detailed but still cartoony. The backgrounds, though are very detailed and do, in fact, take on an almost Moebius-level style of rendition.
Shawn: Gotham Central
The only superhero book on my list is anything but. Gotham Central was a series that told the stories of the detectives and beat cops of the Gotham Police Department. Batman was more of an idea than a character in this very risky offbeat title.
And it was amazing. Imagine a police procedural where the characters have to deal with so much more than the usual crimes. Super villains, rogue vigilantes, and a perception that you are completely ineffective in your job. Whenever Batman or one of his rogue’s appear – it’s a major event. Sure Batman’s faced down the Joker a million times, but what’s it like for the grunt cop who’s pulling overtime to put food on the table for his kids? The cop who’s usually just cannon fodder so Batman can get madder for five panels before he forgets about it and returns to his cave for tea and scones.
The series humanized Gotham City like never before, and would be perfectly suited for TV.
Brandon: The Punisher
Alright, I hear you groaning out there. I know that previous attempts at translating The Punisher to live action have been…well…they’ve been shit. Nobody has been a bigger vocal critic of this than me (especially when I specifically asked Jeph Loeb and Joe Quesada about it at Comicon 2010) but there’s a reason why. Without a doubt there is no comic property more box-ready than The Punisher (with the notable exception of…I dunno…Dennis the Menace). The Punisher really just needs to be a guy, in a tee-shirt, with a gun and nothing to lose. He goes around and chases gangsters.
This concept if properly utilized, and without putting too much weight on a supporting cast could make for an easy and gritty show. The supporting cast would be easy to fill out—Ben Urich, Microchip, G.W. Bridge and a rotating list of criminals to be Punished. Start with Jigsaw, work your way up to the Owl, the Rose, the Kingpin. Each big villain could be the focus of a season or half-season. The Punisher could go up against the Marvel mainstay organizations—the Hand, Hydra, A.I.M., without really getting too deep into their high sci-fi or occultist pieces (they’d have to be addressed but wouldn’t have to be focused upon). The budget wouldn’t have to be big, and a lot of the violence could happen off screen to let the gruesomeness happen in the viewers imagination (thereby being much more powerful—thanks Hitchcock!) With a pulp twist and a CSI tone how could this miss—oh yeah the mistakes of the past. You have to respect the character and avert goofy accents, changes, classical music fight scenes, and John Travolta or Dolph Lundgren. Nuff said.
You know what are always in style for television? Shows about lawyers! You’ve got Perry Mason, you’ve got L.A. Law, you’ve got whatever show about lawyers is currently on TV (I…uh…I don’t keep current on a whole lot at the moment). Well, that’s what She-Hulk would be! An hour-long dramedy following Jen Walters in her day job as a lawyer for the firm of Goodman, Lieber, Kurtzberg & Holliway (If you don’t get the homage in the first three names of that law firm, consider yourself chastised by me, then go look it up), we’d get a great mix of drama, comedy, romance, and tragedy. You’d also get superheroes and villains! With legal issues! I swear, the legalities of superheroics are far more entertaining than you think.
This series would mostly be patterned after the She-Hulk series that launched in 2004, written initially by Dan Slott, then handed over to Peter David. Something that could help out a She-Hulk television series is that there’s an actress already eager to play the part. In an interview with Conan O’Brien this past July, Angie Harmon stated that if the chance ever came up, she would jump at the chance to play She-Hulk. While Angie might not work for Shulkie’s alter-ego, Jen Walters, she would most definitely be a top choice for the jade giantess.
Shawn: 100 Bullets
It may anachronistic to look at it this way, but I’ve often said (echoing many others) that 100 Bullets is The Wire of comic books. So naturally, it would make for a great TV series. The concept is simple on the surface: You are wronged at such a profound level, and just when you think you’ve hit rock bottom, a savior shows up. Someone who offers you a suitcase with a gun and 100 untraceable bullets so that you can enact your revenge. What do you do? Can you really pass judgment on those who wronged you while escaping judgment yourself? And perhaps the most important questions of all… who is this person offering you the briefcase? Why are they doing this? HOW are they doing this?
And from there, you’re hooked. And lost in an amazingly complex web of moral corruption, death, lies, and some of the most amazing characters and plots ever put to paper. 100 Bullets is a masterpiece, and would stand out like one in any medium.
Brandon: 100 Bullets
I have to agree with Shawn on this one, as much as I hate to agree with Shawn (even on oxygen). 100 Bullets would make for a great television series in a venue such as AMC, HBO, or Showtime where an audience could get a mostly commercial free 48-55 minutes on their hour of a show that has a conspiracy full of complicated and amoral characters. The best part about 100 Bullets is that it was so carefully planned that the comic offers literally no loose ends. When you look at the over all pacing of the story and the usage, introduction, and purpose of characters there is not a single thread out of place or without its use.
Of course one would have to wonder how much of the plot would get lost in the translation to television, and as the time draws near for killings they would have impact because the characters are multi-faceted and dimensional. One really has to applaud the effort on the part of Brian Azzarello for plotting the story so well and Eduardo Risso for illustrating the story in such a noir cinematic style. In my head, each of the 100 issues of 100 Bullets actually plays out like a sixty minute episode of a TV drama—which if well tanslated would slate the show at about five seasons long…and just at the centennial syndication mark. The fact that this hasn’t happened yet, despite the rights being picked up, is a true shame and really remiss on the part of…well…the entire entertainment industry.
I’m going to break away from the pact here and go in a different direction. While 100 Bullets is quite an excellent comic, and I’m sure it would make for a fine show, I’d rather see someone take a stab at bring Jamie Madrox to the small screen. The comic series Madrox was a 2004 addition to the Marvel Knights line and followed Jamie Madrox, formerly Multiple Man of X-Factor, as a private investigator.
Possessing the ability to make perfect duplicates of himself that he can later reabsorb and gain knowledge from, Jamie has been learning as much as he can by sending these “dupes” out into the world to become experts in different fields, such as martial arts, the law, even Olympic-level gymnastics. After finding and reabsorbing a dupe that had been the victim of an attempted murder, Jamie decides to investigate the situation using the duplicate’s memories as clues. After the mini-series ended, it was spun-off into a new ongoing series, X-Factor, following the newly named X-Factor Investigations.
Backed up in the mini-series by Rahne Sinclaire, aka Wolfsbane, and Guido Carosella, known a little better as Strong Guy (You see, he’s this guy that’s really strong), Jamie definitely doesn’t have to go it alone when hunting down mysteries, despite his ability to be a one man army. While the show would be called Madrox, it would really follow more along the lines of the ongoing, X-Factor, which, sadly, is a title that’s been cribbed by a depressing talent contest reality show. A crime, I tell you.
One thing I particularly like about the idea of a television show based around Jamie Madrox is that it would be full of possibilities for one-off episodes. Instead of following the usual cast and story, we can spend a week watching one of Jamie’s duplicates off elsewhere in the world continuing his mission of gaining as much knowledge as he possibly can. Who wouldn’t love an episode based around, say, a kung fu master Jamie Madrox duplicate?
Well, we’ve said our piece, True Believers (don’t worry, Stan Lee gets a dime whenever we say that), but what about you? What are some series that you would love to see brought to the small screen in a serialized format? Give us your ideas in our comment section.