Every time you turn around, it seems that Hollywood is mining the world of sequential art for new properties to exploit. While the so-called “built in audience” doesn’t always prove substantial enough to turn a comic flick into a hit (we’re looking at you, Kick Ass, Scott Pilgrim and The Losers), it’s nice to know that someone is recognizing the vast amount of potential the four-color world has to offer.
These days, it seems that Tinseltown is ready to not only look beyond the world of tights n’ flights but even into more obscure realms of books that might not have been blockbusters when they hit the stands. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of lesser-known titles we think would be worth Hollywood’s time – and yours – on the big screen.
Mark Twain, Nikola Tesla and Bertha von Suttner join forces to bring about world peace through scientific know-how and media manipulation. Meanwhile, the dastardly forces of Thomas Edison, J.P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie and Guglielmo Marconi are busy with the construction of the Innsmouth Tower, merging the dark arts with the Industrial Age. Steampunk concepts, Lovecraftian overtones, historical fiction… and with any luck, it’ll inspire viewers to pick up a history book in order to get the references.
When he’s isn’t busy skewering religion and superheroes in books like Preacher and The Boys, Garth Ennis writes a pretty nifty World War II story. His Battlefields mini-series’ focus on the lesser known or completely forgotten tales of WWII including Russian female bomber pilots or British tank men. These aren’t the tales of highly trained, elite forces but of the regular soldiers just doing what they do, putting their lives on the line. These are exceptional tales of brutal environments and heart-wrenching sacrifice.
So Warner Brothers is looking to make some dough off of some DC Comics properties, eh? Well how about a team of monsters, including a vampire, werewolf, Frankenstein monster and a lady with Medusa hair fighting Nazis and dinosaurs in World War II? What part of that doesn’t appeal to you, as a potential ticket buyer? If you didn’t answer “nothing”, you’re not cool in our book and shouldn’t expect to be invited to any of our parties in the future.
This gem from Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca takes place in Wilkesborough, the worst ghetto in Angel City, and features a 12-year old heroine who happens to be a dangerous martial artist and the world’s deadliest homeless skateboarder. Street Angel is a brilliant satire of superhero comics featuring mad scientists, ninjas, time-traveling Spanish Conquistadors, an Incan Sun god and Jesus Christ. If that doesn’t have “blockbuster” written all over it, we don’t know what does.
When Julie Martin witnesses a munitions exercise in the desert, a top secret alloy bonds to her skin and sets in motion a terrifying chain of events. As it turns out, the alloy was created by a group of scientists and (naturally) co-opted by the military to be a weapon. Like any Terry Moore comic, Echo features down-to-earth, realistic female characters, but it’s also got great action, hard science fiction and a bit of conspiracy theory thrown in! There’s a lot of potential for crossover appeal with this one.
Created by Todd DeZago and Mike Wieringo, Tellos is a fantasy tale featuring half-human creatures, swashbuckling pirates, dragons and genies on a quest to discover the mystery of a young boy’s origins and escape the wicked machinations of a boy-wizard who is out to get them. It’s good, old fashioned fun that appeals to kids of all ages and was unfortunately cut short when Wieringo died in 2007. We think it would be a fitting tribute to his talent to see this marvelous story brought to life on the big screen.
Originally created by artist Paul Guinan and featured on a website, Boilerplate was intended for comics but instead wound up as the subject of an illustrated history of the mechanical marvel’s fictional exploits. Using a 12-inch articulated model of this 19th century robot, Guinan and his wife Anina Bennett photoshopped the character into a variety of historical settings. Boilerplate: History’s Mechanical Marvel is a faux-history book that is dying to be turned into a faux-documentary.
The Eisner award-winning series from Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson is an amazing comic that definitely deserves the big screen treatment. Described by Dorkin as “dogs and cats vs. evil”, this series features a group of intelligent pets who form a group to take on mystical threats terrorizing the suburban town of Burden Hill. Imagine Milo and Otis or Babe with less sentimental stuff, more action and a truckload of ghosts and goblins and you’re not too far off.
An enigmatic figure known as The Hand leads a cult comprised of citizens who have seen their careers, marriages and lives shattered by the various errors and retractions of the media. A revolution of the Fight Club variety ensues. It’s a scathing condemnation of corporate news media that’s more concerned with ratings and money than facts. The Nightly News is packed with statistics, violence and righteous indignation and is a story that demands to reach a wider audience – and what better place to do that than in the movie theaters? One can only hope a film version would find a way to pack the unique visual punch that Jonathan Hickman’s graphic novel does.
It’s odd to think of a Will Eisner comic as “obscure”, but we haven’t met too many folks who haven’t read this classic. It tells the story of the first evidence of extraterrestrial life reaching earth – a signal from space. When news of the signal leaks, the reader is invited to follow various intersecting plot lines featuring a cult, a corporation, the KGB, scientists and politicians. The story is less about science fiction and aliens and more about the repercussions of the news of such an event. Like most of Eisner’s work, it’s a story about the nature of humanity and is absolutely brilliant.
In addition to writing features like this one and the weekly Comicscape column for Mania.com, Chad Derdowski can also be found on the Zod Complex podcast, a gathering of informed geeks discussing graphic novels, sequential art and funny books. Find them at ZodComplex.com today!