Comic books have been a breeding ground for big-budget action movies ever since Superman hit screens in 1978 as evidenced by the many titles to be released this year alone. Since the world of panels, speech bubbles and motion lines has been severely ravaged by Hollywood executives searching for the next big superhero flick, it’s time to turn to the more serious long-form style of graphic novel titles that have given us such great films as Sin City, V for Vendetta and Watchmen.
6. Kingdom Come
Creative Team: Mark Waid and Alex Ross
Synopsis: Set in a not-too-distant DC Comics future, aging heroes like Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman are forced to reckon with a new breed of young heroes that are negligent and dangerous building to a superhuman war that could ultimately bring about the end of the world.
Why it should be adapted: Most superhero movies thus far have focused on origin stories because up until fairly recently, the general population was largely ignorant about the world of comic books. Now that comic book flicks have become somewhat of a fad, it’s time to stop with the reboots, and look to the future.
Creative Team: Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross
Synopsis: The history of the Marvel universe is presented through the eyes of an Average Joe photographer.
Why it should be adapted: Now that most of the Marvel Comics characters have been thoroughly established on screen, the timing is perfect for a little history lesson. By bringing Marvels to life on film, we can see where it all began, and how it all fits together. Plus, the everyday-man protagonist through whom we experience the story will not only add a fresh element to the superhero story that has become so popular in recent years but a human one as well.
4. Batman: The Long Halloween
Creative Team: Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale
Synopsis: Taking place in the early days of The Caped Crusader’s career, The Long Halloween follows Batman’s investigation into the murders of a mysterious serial killer called Holiday. The 13-issue mini-series takes place over the course of a year as a new murder occurs each month on a Holiday as the killer’s name suggests.
The Long Halloween highlights the formation of the relationship between Batman, Lieutenant James Gordon and District Attorney Harvey and focuses particularly on Dent’s transformation into Two-Face (much like Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight).The graphic novel also portrays the evolution of Batman’s enemies from simple thugs to the full rogue’s gallery of villains that exist in the comics today.
Why it should be adapted: The Long Halloween is one of the best Batman stories ever told. One of the best parts of this particular story is that it reminds the reader that Batman is not only a hero, but he is a high-thinking detective comparable to Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot. This is a true mystery that keeps the reader in the dark right up until the very last panel.
It is also a story that blends multiple genres. This is no cut-and-dry superhero tale. It’s takes all the best of comic books, pulp fiction, film noir, gangster crime drama and mystery and combines them with numerous homages to each style.
However, I don’t feel that The Long Halloween would work as a film like most of the other titles on this list. It’s too big and doesn’t quite fit in with the way the character is currently being portrayed in Nolan’s movies. For it to be executed correctly, it would have to be done along the lines of an HBO mini-series.
3. Lone Wolf and Cub
Creative Team: Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima
Synopsis: Set in medieval Japan, the shogun’s executioner and his infant son are forced to live a life on the road as they seek revenge after being disgraced by the false accusations of a rival clan. Sound familiar? That’s because if was the basis for another great graphic novel/movie, Road to Perdition.
Why it should be adapted: The morally conflicted revenge plot of Road to Perdition but with samurai swords. Need I say more?
Creative Team: Neil Gaiman, Dave McKean and others
Synopsis: The adventures of dream personified. At the beginning of the series, Dream of the Endless, ruler over the dream world, sets out to repair his kingdom after being freed from a lifetime of imprisonment.
Why it should be adapted: Sandman creator Neil Gaiman is one of the most imaginative minds in contemporary fiction. He has already had two of his stories made into big screen releases with Coraline (the best 3D film made thus far in my opinion) and the less successful (but thoroughly enjoyable) Stardust. It only makes sense that Hollywood visit the epic that made Gaiman a household name in comic book stores everywhere.
1. The Dark Night Returns
Synopsis: An aging Bruce Wayne once again takes up the mantle of the bat in a dystopian future that doesn’t want him.
Why it should be adapted: After the success of Christopher Nolan’s darker, grittier, more realistic Batman reboot, it only makes sense to continue in the same vein. What better way to do that than with the Frank Miller (creator of Sin City and 300) Batman story that saved the comic book franchise in the 80s? Especially since Nolan’s series is based at least in part on another Miller yarn about the Dark Night, Batman: Year One.
The only problem with a Dark Night Returns adaptation is that, if it were to remain true to the source material, there would be inconsistencies with Nolan’s set of films, particularly with the presence of Harvey Dent/Two-Face who died in The Dark Knight.
However, an adaptation of The Dark Night Returns would also keep the series on the fresh path it’s traveled so far. As I said with Kingdom Come, origin stories have become tiresome. There may be only one more installment in the recent set of Batman flicks. After that, it’s time to move forward. Filmmakers should take advantage of the recent interest in the character and venture into new territory.