9 DC comics that would make great TV shows
If you are a living, breathing human being, there is a good chance that you are aware of the current popularity of live-action TV shows and films based on comics.
Every comic publisher is trying to get in on the action. And while no one is disputing that Marvel is ruling the box office, DC is showing that it knows how to develop its properties for TV.
There’s Arrow, Gotham, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, and Supergirl and that’s just the shows from the primary DC line. DC imprints like Vertigo have produced Preacher, iZombie, and Lucifer with more in development.
So now that the floodgates are open, we have some suggestions on a few other shows DC could develop that would, potentially make for amazing TV shows.
These stories are ripe for live-action adaptation and could be amazing – as long as the studio didn’t do something stupid like, just for example, take a supernatural thriller steeped in religion and turn into a silly buddy cop dramedy. But no one would do that, it would be insane.
Check out our list, and let us know what you think in the comments below.
Not to be confused with the film of the same name, Brian K. Vaughn and Tony Harris’ comic published under DC’s Wildstorm line dealt with politics as much as superheroics.
The story focused on Mitchell Hundred, an average guy that becomes the world’s first and only superhero, imbued with the ability to speak to and subsequently control machines. During the September 11 attacks, Hundred becomes a national hero. When the story begins, he has translated that fame into a political career that propelled him to the role of Mayor of New York City.
Over the series’ 50 issue run (not counting specials), Hundred learns about his powers while balancing the running of America’s largest city. As the story unfolds though, the secret of his powers reveals a world-ending threat.
Ex Machina has a touch of the fantastic at its core, mixed with political intrigue. Think Daredevil mixed with House of Cards, and the potential is there for an incredible show.
If the world were a fair place, Fables would have been on the air several years ago in place of ABC’s Once Upon a Time.
If you believe those involved, even the magnanimous Fables creator Bill Willingham, the development of Once had nothing to do with Fables. It was just a wild coincidence that ABC decided to pass on a show about fairy tale characters living on Earth in exile shortly before developing a show about fairy tale characters living on Earth in exile. The fact that both properties even focus on many of the same characters is just wacky.
To be fair, Once has gone on to carve out its own niche. After spring-boarding off of the Fables concept, it began to intertwine with Disney. It became its own thing, even if there are a whole lot of similarities.
Fables, meanwhile, told a more mature story of a war. The story has since expanded significantly from that initial beginning, but if Once proved anything, it’s that there is an appetite for fairy tale characters that audiences already know.
A Fables movie is said to be in the works, so WB has interested in developing it, but the movie is currently in limbo. There are hints that it may be looking to go back to TV.
Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles is a divisive comic. Many tried it and thought it was too confusing and even somewhat obscene. For those that love it (including me), they love it passionately. There are even entire books dedicated to the countless – and arguably brilliant – layers of symbolism and spiritual innuendo sprinkled throughout.
It remains one of the deepest pieces of literature created in the 90s regardless of medium, but on the surface it was an action series about a group of deeply anti-social revolutionaries fighting the hidden rulers of the world. That alone is enough to merit a TV series, but add in depth for fans to obsess over and it has the potential to be both a commercial success and a cult favorite after just a single episode.
Besides the complicated nature of the story that includes meta-universes, time travel through geometry, extra-dimensional gods, and characters with so many cover identities that they themselves don’t know which side they are on, the story can’t be done on network TV – maybe not even on cable. It includes sex, heavy drug use, and ultra-violence as part of the plot. Trying to tone it down would miss the entire point of the show.
You have assassins, magick, and a foul-mouthed Liverpudlian Buddha dancing the night away in front of alien antibodies and the Secret Chiefs of our universe. It is gloriously weird, and with the right home it could be one of the most talked about shows on the air.
JSA – The Liberty Files
Although you can make a good argument that the CW’s Legends of Tomorrow is essentially Justice Society (including the introduction of the actual Justice Society during WWII) in all but name, bear with us on this one.
Marvel showed that there is an audience for period superhero pieces with both Captain America: The First Avenger and the TV follow-up, Agent Carter. It’s time for DC to follow suit.
The Justice Society first appeared in All-Star Comics back in 1940. It was a war comic, with the team defending the homeland against Nazi saboteurs and occasionally punching Hitler in the jaw. DC has since retconned that, creating an intriguing storyline where Allied heroes with superpowers were stopped from invading Europe due to the Nazi forces discovering the Spear of Destiny.
That idea has spawned stories that re-create the Justice Society as a group operating under the auspices of the OSS, the precursor of the CIA. The most recent is JSA: The Liberty Files, which featured several JSA characters plus Batman. The legal rights for the Dark Knight would probably make that a no-go, but there are plenty of other JSA characters.
Rather than heroes with godlike powers ripping up tanks, there could be an amazing TV series set in Europe (and other theaters) with a clandestine group of DC characters battling Axis supervillains in the shadows. Would anyone not watch that?
Of all the entries on this list, this one might be the easiest to sell to a network.
Warren Ellis’ Planetary, published under the Wildstorm line, has all the trappings of a hit TV show with cult appeal. It features a team of extraordinary people investigating the mysteries of the world. You could pitch it as X-Files meets Agents of SHIELD and have networks salivating over it. That wouldn’t be completely accurate, but it would be a goos starting point.
Ellis once described Planetary as a superhero genre comic, but not necessarily about superheroes. It was a series where pulp and superheroic events have been going on for decades, and a team is just now coming along to investigate the history of them. Imagine a team of super-powered investigators discovering that Doc Savage is alive and fighting invaders from another dimension or the team travels to Monster Island, the home of several Godzilla-like entities.
It combines conspiracy theories with pulp sensibilities, and it features a team of incredible characters working for an enigmatic corporation. The groundwork is there for an easy to adapt series.
You may look to this entry and argue that Sandman is already in development as a movie. And – years spent in movie limbo aside – you’d be right, but that doesn’t mean that’s the best format for it.
Neil Gaiman’s iconic series was vast and sprawling. It was also complex and nuanced, enough that a single movie would have trouble encapsulating enough of it to make for a working narrative. At the very least you’d have to cut some of the best details of the comic.
A Sandman TV series would have the benefit of allowing the character of Dream to grow as he did in the comics, plus – and more importantly – it would give more time to develop the other Endless. In a movie, you may see others like Destiny and Delirium, but there wouldn’t be enough time to really invest in them. From a business point of view, this could even lead to spin-offs. A standalone series about Death could easily work. Destruction too.
In a TV series, you would have the time to go into the nuance that helped make the comic work. In a movie, you probably wouldn’t be able to indulge in cameos from Shakespeare or a storyline about Dream meeting up with an immortal friend every 100 years, but in a TV series it would add color.
The recent attempt to get the film made with Joseph Gordon-Levitt has failed, with Gordon-Levitt backing out. Even the movie’s most recent writer, Eric Heisserer, said that after submitting his movie script he thought it would fit better as a movie. Studios should listen to him.
To be honest, this is the comic that actually sparked the entire discussion that in turn led to this list. James Robinson’s Starman would make for an excellent TV series, not just because it is a good superhero story, but because it would have appeal across all demographics.
On one hand, you have the story of a rebellious son forced to take up the mantle from his famous father, the a retired superhero. Young Jack Knight reluctantly becomes the protector of his beloved Opal City, but he does so with help from a colorful police squad, a possibly immortal ex-villain with a love of the dramatic, and several others that are so original that they could each be their own characters.
In a series where a nearly invulnerable ex-con with a penchant for Sinatra and martinis is a supporting character, you have a lot to work with.
There’s also a retro, art-deco feel to it all. The main character, and by association the entire series, is fascinated by the best of the 1950s, both in look and swagger. It creates an original and intriguing hero.
But at its core, Starman is really about a father and a son trying to reconnect. It even has an incredible finale that ties up every loose end from the entire 80+ issue run (including several spin-offs, annuals, and specials).
There was actually talk of a Starman TV series from the creators of Smallville, but the failure of Birds of Prey ended that. Probably best under those circumstances, but it could certainly work now.
When a young writer took over the failing Swamp Thing comic, most assumed it would be canceled within months. Instead, the then-unknown Alan Moore crafted an amazingly bizarre story of the supernatural that paved the way for others like Gaiman.
Moore inherited a forgettable superhero that was just kind of boring and overly familiar. Swamp Thing was a scientist that underwent an accidental transformation giving him powers of vegetation at the cost of his physical appearance. Moore wiped all that away and basically made the Swamp Thing a modern god that vaguely remembered being human.
Swamp Thing stopped fighting stupid supervillains that had nefarious plans of turning the swamp into a parking lot or whatever, and instead tried to balance nature as elements went to war.
The comic also served as the origin of John Constantine and many others, giving it the potential to delve into the pantheon of DC characters that use magic.
Warren Ellis has the distinction of being the only author with two entries on this list, and of the two, Transmetropolitan is the least likely to get made.
In terms of subject matter, it is highly relevant. It’s a satirical and over-the-top look at politics, with a tinge of bizarre societal extremes thrown in. It stars a character that is basically an even less constrained Hunter S. Thompson in the future and depicts a society where technology has altered society in strange ways.
It’s a scathing indictment of the political process, and a decent sci-fi story to boot with the potential to be something of an anthology series. Given that the main character of Spider Jerusalem is a journalist, different writers could use the series to explore a fantastic future, while the overall storyline of corrupt presidential politics could develop over time.
The problem is that it would be insanely expensive to film.
An exact year is never given for the show, but it’s far enough in the future that what is presumably New York City has grown in size to become an urban sprawl big enough to cover a significant chunk of the Eastern Seaboard. It’s also far enough in the future that humans splice themselves with alien DNA, volunteers use their bodies to fuel their transformation into nanobot clouds, and despite tens of thousands of channels, there’s still nothing on.
Unfortunately, the cost to create that world would be so cost prohibitive that anyone trying it would probably need to film the entire show in front of a green screen. Even then it would be pricey. But if someone could figure it out, it would be unlike anything else on TV today.
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