Spare a thought for comic book fans, because they’re liable to be totally broke for the foreseeable future.DC and Marvel – along with Fox and Sony, who own the rights to a few of the latter’s key franchises – have a good couple of dozen films planned between them, scheduled for release all the way up to the end of the decade. That’s a lot of movies. And there’s no guarantee that people won’t have gotten a little sick of superheroes by then.So whilst Marvel and DC’s parent companies mostly keep the rights to their films, there’s dozens of other publishers out there, with hundreds of books – and Hollywood has started snapping them up for film versions, whether they’re sci-fi epics of supernatural talking animal stories. Here are 5 exciting upcoming comic books movies that have nothing to do with the Big Two.
One of the most surprising comeback stories in the recent history of comics is the return of Valiant. A mostly-forgotten relic of the late eighties/early nineties boom for non-Marvel or DC comics, they went bust along with their parent company, the video game publishers Acclaim, some time in the early noughties. Their characters were fondly remembered by few.
Then, in 2012, Valiant Entertainment suddenly started publishing books again. And they were pretty good, too: Quantum And Woody was revealed to have been a ridiculously fun, tongue-in-cheek superhero book; Harbringer a worthy X-Men successor; and Bloodshot turned out to be a nineties badass gun-toting anti-hero wreck worth saving.
The upturn in fortunes has lead to Sony buying the rights to both Harbringer and Bloodshot, with the latter’s feature debut to be directed by John Wick’s David Leitch and executive produced by Matthew Vaughan. No news on casting or a release date yet, but crazy action scenes involving an amnesiac soldier who can heal instantly thanks to nanomachines in his blood sounds like a must-watch.
Cinema loves sad robots. Cinema loves sad people in space. So Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen’s recent Image series about a sad robot boy in space was bound to get the execs’ chequebooks in a tizzy. Sony bought the movie rights for Descender before the first issue had even hit the stands, so impressed they were by the central premise. If they can bring some of Nguyen’s gorgeous visuals to life, too, then they’re onto a winner.
So far the comic has been a slow burn, opening with the aforementioned artificial boy – TIM-21 – awakening on a space station that’s been torn apart, leaving him the only living cosmic constituent left standing. Well, as “alive” as a robot can ever be. Descender promises to expand in scope exponentially as it goes on, becoming a full-blown space opera epic.
Apparently TIM-21 will go on to play a key role in discovering the origins of a race of planet-decimating robots, but in the meantime, there’s plenty of opportunities for the kid (who looks a bit like the robots from Steven Spielberg’s AI, if they had better special effects) to mope around and question his place in the universe. A cross between hard sci-fi and fun Star Wars genre fare, if done right.
Part of the problem with adapting comics to live action is losing the unique visual style of the original artist. Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City adaptations got around that issue by bringing on comic creator Frank Miller as co-director, and directly basing the film off of the black-and-white, stylised look of the books with green screen; but at times that makes things look oddly staged.
That may very well be the hold up in adapting Charles Burns’ classic graphic novel Black Hole to the screen. The story of teens in the seventies dealing with grotesque mutations that are spread like a sexually transmitted disease (as in, by banging) is vividly told with Burns’ unique – and uniquely horrifying – art style.
No less than Alexandre Aja, Neil Gaiman, Rogery Avary and David Fincher have all been attached to the project in the past, and yet such plans have come to naught. Apparently Fincher’s name is still attached to direct for Paramount Pictures, and his similarly singular aesthetic would certainly work; failing that, Snow White And The Hunstman director Rupert Sanders put together a short film as a pitch.
At this point, there are more Stephen King stories that have been adapted into movies than haven’t. And for a man who’s published literally dozens of short stories and novels, that’s mighty impressive. His prodigal son, the author Joe Hill, has a somewhat less impressive batting average; save for Alexandre Aja’s adaptation of his satanic revenge book Horns with Daniel Radcliffe.
Which isn’t to suggest Hill’s work isn’t as worthy of adaptation. Far from it. Easily the crowning achievement in his back catalogue so far is the comic book series Locke & Key, about a family who discover a house full of locked doors which lead to different worlds after the father is murdered.
Drawn by Gabriel Rodriguez, Locke & Key was a smash in comic book form, both critically and commercially. There was already an TV pilot shot, produced by Steven Spielberg and directed by Mark Romanek, but Fox passed on it. At last year’s San Diego Comic-Con, however, it was announced Star Trek screenwriters Alex Kurtzman Roberto Orci are making it into a movie trilogy.
Eric Powell’s series is the best comic you’re not reading right now. A gonzo combination of thirties mob dramas, Universal monsters and EC horror comics, The Goon tells the ongoing tales of the titular character – a scarred former mafia enforcer who leaves Chicago for a much more simple life, thumping giant Mexican lizards and tearing apart well-dressed zombies with his diminutive sidekick Franky.
The art style of The Goon wouldn’t just be difficult to translate into live action – it would be downright impossible. Powell’s drawings see Franky as a three-foot-tall balding guy with totally white eyes, like a Peanuts character; The Goon, meanwhile, is a hulking menace who would make Dwayne Johnson consider skipping his cheat days.
So it seems The Goon is destined for an animated adaptation, and he’s at least part of the way down that road. Blur Studio – who produced that Deadpool test footage – are working on a Goon CGI movie in Powell’s style, following a successful Kickstarter, with David Fincher producing, Clancy Brown as The Goon and Paul Giamatti voicing Franky.