I was suffering from a little insomnia last night and started thinking about "Guardians of the Galaxy" and "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For", two movies I'm dying to see later this summer. I was thinking about how not long ago, a movie like "Guardians of the Galaxy" would have been considered too unusual, too obscure ever to be made into a movie. In spite of the movie's goose bump inducing trailers that I've thoroughly enjoyed, I still worry that the movie won't find a wide audience. But if my fears prove baseless and the movie is a success, the doors will be blown wide open as far what we think is possible when it comes to viable comic book properties. So I thought it'd be interesting to compile a list of the some of most expensive, complicated and in some cases controversial comic book stories that could ever be made into a movie. Some of these potential movies are challenging from a legal standpoint with characters and franchises scattered across different studios while others are just so out there conceptually that very few film financiers would be willing to take the risk. But then again we live in a brave new world where what seems impossible today could very well be the new standard in the years to come so why not dream big? This list is obviously highly subjective in that it is my personal wish list, but feel free to hit me up in the comments below with your own ideas.
Too Big to Film:
One of the things I love most about comics is that writers and artists are limited only by their imagination. On a weekly basis, comics routinely serve up epic, large scale, over-the-top mayhem that would bankrupt a typical movie studio. Here are a few classic stories that for the time being I feel are too big to film.
Crisis on Infinite Earths: DC's now classic 1985 12-issue company-wide crossover was written by Marv Wolfman and illustrated by George Pérez. The story features basically every DC character ever created up to that point along with colossal cosmic entities, collapsing universes, colliding planets, and epic battles that permanently changed the status quo of the DC Universe. Maybe if Warner Bros. gets their DC cinematic universe in proper working order we could one day look forward to a movie (or several) that captures this amazing story.
The Authority: Back in the late Nineties there were a lot of really awful comics that resulted in the only time in my life where I wasn't reading comics at all. But one day in 1999, I walked back into a comic shop and discovered "The Authority" by Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch. The comic was unlike anything I'd ever read and it brought me back into the fold for good. Essentially "The Authority" explores a world where a massively powerful team of superheroes is not remotely concerned with preserving the status quo and solves global problems (alien invasions, etc.) as they see fit. Moviegoers that thought the climax of "Man of Steel" was too destructive would absolutely react in horror to the global carnage faced by the Authority in nearly every issue. Imagine the Justice League or the Avengers on steroids with the volume turned up to eleven and you have Warren Ellis's "The Authority".
Kingdom Come: Writer Mark Waid and artist Alex Ross are legends in the comic book industry and my favorite work of theirs is the cataclysmic "Kingdom Come". Published as a 4-issue mini-series in 1996, "Kingdom Come" was largely a reaction by Mark Waid against the interchangeable psychopaths that were so popular in comics during the 1990s. "Kingdom Come" takes place in the future when the next generation of bloodthirsty heroes and villains are almost impossible to tell apart and the world is suffering from their near-constant destructive battles. Superman and his aging comrades must come out of retirement and self-imposed exile in order to bring order to chaos before a global conflict destroys the world entirely. This is as good as comics get.
Now any self-respecting comic book fan has very strong opinions about company-wide crossovers. Most crossovers take place over a long period of time and have dozens of other titles that tie-in to the main story meaning that readers have to throw down a lot of cash to get the full experience. For me, when they work I get a huge giddy thrill out of seeing dozens of heroes teaming up to fight a colossal threat. When a crossover is a flop, however, readers feel taken for granted and potentially lose interest in certain titles altogether. With Marvel's characters scattered across Disney, Fox and Sony and with DC's characters all under one roof at Warner Bros., Marvel faces a much steeper uphill battle to make any kind of crossover a reality (although technically the movie "The Avengers" was in essence a movie crossover that obviously worked out quite well at the box office).
Secret Wars: Maybe I love this crossover because I was 8 years old when I first read it, but for me Marvel's "Secret Wars" has always been the gold standard by which all other crossovers are judged. This 12-issue series began in 1984 and was written by Marvel editor-in-chief Jim Shooter with art by Mike Zeck and Bob Layton. Just about every cool Marvel hero and villain is whisked away by a cosmic entity known as the Beyonder to do battle on a world made up from pieces of planets from all over the universe. Whichever side is victorious will be granted whatever they desire. Absolute chaos ensues with an all-out war from start to finish. Galactus tries to eat the planet at one point. Doctor Doom decides to take on the Beyonder in a battle to the death. And Spider-Man bonds with a little alien symbiote that would forever change his life. If Sony, Fox and Disney ever got together to make this movie, it would be my wet dream fan boy project.
Avengers/JLA: "Avengers/JLA" or "JLA/Avengers" (the titles on the comic alternated) was not the first major crossover between Marvel and DC but was certainly the most high-profile and anticipated due to the crossover fizzling out back in the early 1980s when it was first attempted (it finally arrived in 2003). Written by Kurt Busiek and drawn by George Pérez, this comic isn't necessarily the greatest read but it is a ton of fun as we see Batman vs. Captain America, Superman vs. Thor and so on. The two teams eventually join forces to save the universe but of all the crossovers least likely to make it to the big screen in the near future, I would put this one at the top of the list.
As anyone who follows non-superhero comics can tell you, the movie industry has not even begun to scratch the surface of all the incredible comics out there that could be made into interesting movies. Comic book movies like "A History of Violence" and "Sin City" and television shows like "The Walking Dead" have proven time and time again that audiences absolutely love comic book adaptations, whether they have superheroes in them or not. Now this list will not be remotely comprehensive but I did want to give a few shout-outs to comics that I would love to see as a movie but don't expect to see anytime soon.
Supergod: Published in 2009, this comic by Warren Ellis and Garrie Gastonny is absolutely terrifying. The story is told by a scientist in the aftermath of a superhuman arms race between the most powerful nations on earth. The world is already in ruins so we know how things work out. With its emphasis on politics and religion, Warren Ellis manages to create an incredibly believable scenario wherein nations begin to invest their resources into one massively powerful super being per country. Very quickly these creatures decide to go their own way and the result is one of my absolute favorite comics of the past few years. If it ever makes it the screen,"Supergod" will create an absolute tidal surge of controversies and death threats.
We3: This list would not complete without a completely deranged contribution by frequent collaborators Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. Published in 2004, the stars of this story are three innocent animals, a dog, a cat and a rabbit, that have been turned into cyborg weapons of mass destruction. When the animals escape into the wild simply wanting to be true to their nature, all hell breaks loose. Apparently in 2006 producer Don Murphy attempted to make this series into a movie already but given what he did to "The League of Extraordinary Gentleman" I am relieved and grateful that Murphy's efforts were unsuccessful.
Crossed: I would have included Garth Ennis's masterpiece "Preacher" on this list but as we all know Seth Rogen is turning it into a show. I have no idea how that will turn out (I do not have high hopes) but I couldn't finish this list without including one comic from my favorite madman from Northern Ireland, Garth Ennis. Ennis has written so many crazy comics over the years, it was tough just to pick one, but I finally settled on the genuinely disturbing "Crossed" from 2008. For horror fans, this is required reading. This is an outbreak story that makes "The Walking Dead" feel like "Winnie the Pooh" and features scenes of such depraved and sickening violence that as a movie it would leave audiences hurling vomit into the aisles. Without going into too much detail, the story deals with an epidemic that is spread by bodily fluids. The victims do not lose their intelligence but immediately succumb to every violent fantasy possible from rape to cannibalism, often writhing in ecstasy even as they are the victim of violence being inflicted onto them. This is hardcore stuff not for the faint of heart.
So that's the end of my list for now. I'd love to hear some other people's ideas on this topic. The more we talk about these ideas that appear to be impossible the more likely it is that some brave soul will see an opportunity and try and break new ground. The last thing I want is for superhero movies to become stale and predictable (anyone else dislike "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" as much as I did?) so let's keep pushing filmmakers to blow our minds with the most outlandish stories comic books can provide.