Only on the small screen can companies take risks that they wouldn’t anywhere else.
The little screen in your living room has been home to comic book stories for longer than the big screen of the multiplex has. These days, as the properties for the big two (Marvel and DC) are already clogging the airwaves, the powers that be at the networks are finally sold on the fact that comic book stories equal money. (Which, in the parlance of studio executives, is about as much math as they can do.) With that in mind, they’re starting to be willing to take more risks with the properties that they’ll throw money behind. Recently, it was announced that Red(written by Warren Ellis and illustrated by Cullen Bunn), The Wicked and The Divine (Kieron Gillen/Jamie McKelvie) and The Umbrella Academy(Gerard Way/Gabriel Ba & Fabio Moon)—yes, My Chemical Romance Gerard Way—are currently being adapted for television. The biggest advance that these stories are making in the world of comic book adaptations is that they are independent and creator owned—stories outside of the Marvel or DC Universe—and there’s a lot more out there that deserve the same treatment. Here are five we think should lead the charge.
The True Lives Of The Fabulous Killjoys
Since you’re already judging me for liking Gerard Way, we’ll start with his other creator-owned comic, which is a direct tie-in to My Chemical Romance’s final album.
The Premise: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys takes place in a dystopian future where the renegades known as The Killjoys (My Chemical Romance) fight against the oppressive, all consuming, Better Living Industries (Blnd) whose stormtroopers —The Draculoids —wear rubber vampire masks. Led by the evil, yet strikingly complicated, Korse (a high ranking exterminator in the S/C/A/R/E/C/R/O/W unit) Blind intend to wipe out the individuality of the people of Battery City. Leading the resistance is The Girl, a child who was saved by the original Killjoys who sacrificed their lives to keep her safe. Also there’s a subplot involving a giant robotic messiah, who’s destined to come and save all the androids of Battery City, called Destroya. Because why the fuck not, right?
The show could pick up right where the comic book does—years after the death of the original Killjoys as we follow The Girl as she prepares to take on the mantle of Killjoy, face down Korse, and help to bring about peace in Battery City. It could also teach a really great lesson about individuality over conformity, show a strong female lead and address some hot topics of Trans-Gendered identity vis-a-vis the androids waiting for acceptance and their messiah. But with like super awesome laser gun battles and a kick ass rock and roll soundtrack…Hell, My Chemical Romance already laid the visual groundwork with the first two videos from the album.
The Pitch: It’s like The Matrix and Bladerunner had a baby with post ’90s punk rock.
The Premise: Set in the near future, following a second American Civil War that has turned the island of Manhattan into a lawless Demilitarized Zone (that’s where the DMZ comes from), this story follows unwitting journalist intern Matty Roth (trapped on the island of Manhattan due to an unfortunate blackhawk-down-like incident) in future America’s version of the thin border between North and South Korea. The original comic book allowed for many tangents where the reader got to meet and understand people who live in this perpetual nightmare as we come to understand their place in disputed and desolate future America. Matty Roth becomes our lense by which we enter this uncomfortable environment and slowly become accustomed to it. The possibilities in this one are endless. This show could provide SEASONS of biting social commentary centered around the newsworthy, trending topics that face modern day America. From social injustice, to police brutality, freedom of the press, living wage and the effect that war has on the populace.DMZ could enlighten and entertain in a way that no normal show has; all while viewed as a Travel Channel style documentary of what America could be.
The Pitch: Anthony Bourdain becomes a reluctant war correspondent in a war torn future America. This one is heading to Netflix, no doubt about it, and it’s going to be fucking bad ass.
Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD)
The Premise: The BPRD is the government agency that HellBoy works for. Their job is to protect the world from the weird and creepy crawly things that lurk in the shadows while trying to remain in the shadows themselves. Comprised of regular field agents and a smattering of specially powered freaks, each week the BPRD could take on a new hidden threat, a new mystical entity or a mysterious bad guy that slimes its way through the cracks of reality.
The show could start after Hellboy 2—where all the main characters basically fucked off for new endeavors —as a new agent to the BPRD joins the team and meets a whole new cast of freaks and weirdos. This agent is our gateway into the world of The BPRD as we, the viewing audience, come to learn exactly how weird the world we live in really is. With production on HellBoy 3 stalled, there will also be plenty of opportunities for occasional guest spots by HellBoy and the original cast. With most of the special effects being practical—rubber suits and puppets —over VFX, the series could have a more grounded, gritty feel as opposed to its other, more green screen laden, brethren. Also we’ll finally get to see an on-screen adaptation of Lobster Johnson.
The Pitch: Think The X-Files and Fringe meet The X-Men with a pinch of H.P. Lovecraft and Pulp Noir. Mix equally in a shaker with crushed ice and serve in a tumbler.
The Premise: Spider Jerusalem is a reporter and a horrible bastard who would like nothing more than to see the truth win over advertising and maybe, more than likely, shoot you with his bowel disruptor gun while his two-faced (literally, the cat has two faces) cat eats your nose off. Created by Warren Ellis, Spider is a Hunter S. Thompson analogue in a straight up bat shit INSANE future. Spider wants to get high and do the one thing that he’s good at: report the truth amidst a sea of corruption and bullshit. Set in a far future New York City—known only as The City—Spider reports on corruption of the legal and political system, poverty, the small and the intricate enclaves of a nigh unknowable metropolis. His primary enemies are The President, known as The Beast who is running for re-election, and The Smiler—the media friendly challenger who will stop at nothing to obtain the highest office in the country. Spider smokes too much, drinks too much, does drugs like most people binge watch Netflix, torments friends, assistants and his editor, and he’s only happy when he’s making the whole world uncomfortable with the truth.
In a real world where the role of the fourth estate has become compromised and polarized by media sound bites, it’s refreshing to see a journalist—a true, uncompromising journalist—go off the deep end and just straight up report the SHIT out of everything he sees. I take one weekend a year and read the entire ten volume collection in a sitting. It’s transformative and deserves a series.
The Pitch: Sci-Fi Hunter S. Thompson meets futuristic House of Cards; but darker and weirder (if that’s possible).
Yes, another comic written by Warren Ellis. When you’re as good as he is, you get two entries.
The Premise: There are 1,001 people on The Global Frequency. Lead by a mysterious intelligence agent Miranda Zero, and backed up by the tech savvy Aleph, Global Frequency is a clandestine agency responsible for tackling the threats that could destroy the world. Ranging from scientists, special ops soldiers, to parkour experts and everything in between, The Global Frequency can combat anything it comes up against. From a genetically modified, suicidal super soldier to a terrorist cell in London; The Global Frequency keeps our world safe.
Each week, The Global Frequency would tackle a new threat, with a new expert, quarterbacked by Miranda Zero and Aleph. While it’s unusual for a TV show to have a rotating, or less than regular cast, True Detectiveproved that it could be done in one way and American Horror Storyproved it could be done the other. Each episode could be a whole new story. Viewers could jump in at any time and be treated to a world where unilateral technology has allowed the clandestine intelligence community to keep the world safe through the most unconventional means.
And it already has HUGE fan support.
The Pitch: Oceans Eleven meets Mission Impossible but without the Tom Cruise insanity.