Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Top Ten Tuesdays - 10+ Comics That Should Be TV Shows

The Walking Dead is all set to debut on television screens later this year thanks to AMC, and now we have word that they are in talks to develop a series around the breakout comic hit Chew. Comics have been on the silver screen for some time but now they look set to partner up with the only periodic entertainment medium that can truly keep up with the epic timelines and massive longform stories. Here I present a list of ten more shows that should be optioned for television, and I’ll even try to nominate key players to get the shows there.


1 - Scalped
Directed/Produced - Martin Scorsese
Dashiell Badhorse - Taylor Lautner

This comic from Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera looks at crime on an Indian reservation in the middle of America. It’s looks at it very frankly and in often brutal ways. People get hurt in this comic, often, and it doesn’t shy away from the terrible and toxic relationships people develop, with themselves, with others, with drugs. Racial slurs are traded evenly between the cops, the Indians, and the Chinese gang that come in from time to time.

This comic does not mess about and that goes for the level of its quality, too; this comic is phenomenal. If you’ve ever looked into the pages of Scalped I’m sure you got hooked within a few issues. Now imagine that on your screens each week. If we can have horror on our screen I think we can have crime as well, if the glut of CSI & Law & Orders are anything to go by. Scalped has a longform story shown through various arcs and the characters are rich and all own the scenes they are in.

This would be premiere television and if cinematic mastermind Martin Scorsese was behind it all I could only imagine the production value and the grit of the nasty people getting stuck in everyone’s teeth. I am also going to go out on a limb, and feel free to saw through it for me, but I’d be interested in seeing if Taylor Lautner of Twilight fame could pull off the lead role of Dashiell Badhorse. They’re both buff, so there’s that, but I wonder if Lautner has the acting chops to really get the job done. I’m just floating the idea here but you never know, it could happen.

2 - Northlanders
Directed/Produced - James Cameron

Brian Wood’s Northlanders is a series of Viking epics are character based tales set in the olden days of boats and maidens and plenty of the old school ultra-violence. Each arc takes us to a different character, or time frame, and Wood makes sure to give us everything we need and nothing superfluous. It would make a very tense and brutal show that I could see gaining a following quite easily. People have followed the tube into ancient Rome so why not another well scripted ancient series?

Having James Cameron involved would only ensure that the authenticity of the period was retained and the production values on the water were superb. I’d like to see Cameron get some of his fat Avatar dollars invested in other actual good stories. This one has promise and I’d love to see someone give it the complete devotion it deserves.

3 - Y: The Last Man
Executive Producer - Alan Ball
Yorick Brown – Justin Long

They’re talking about making this as a movie, or maybe three movies, but even then you know there’d be stacks they’d miss. Why not make the tale of the world’s last surviving man into a television show? He’s out to try and find his girlfriend in Australia all while avoiding marauding ‘Amazons’ and probably falling in love a few times along the way.

It’s a funny story, and a heartfelt one too, but there are moments of serious drama and tension that would work perfectly on the small screen. The main draw would be the tale that does take years to unfold, so there’s no worry of actors aging as the characters will as well. I rate this as my favourite story of all time so the chance to watch it for a few years would entertain me to no end.

I think Justin Long would be perfect for the lead role of Yorick, though with each passing year he’s not looking so spot on for the role anymore. I don’t know who else might step up to make this great character a reality. As for Alan Ball, he seems to know how to take a property and put it onto the big screen with plenty of longform storytelling so I'd trust him on this one.

4 - Ex Machina
Directed/Produced/Showrunner – Aaron Sorkin
Mitchell Hundred - Jon Hamm

Ex Machina was pitched as the West Wing meets Unbreakable and this tale of a superhero turned mayor of New York just has great drama television written all over it.  In a world where LOST can headline for years and ghosts can be seen in Rescue Me I think the viewing public are ready for a political candidate that can speak to machines.

There are many great characters in this story and multiple story arcs would carry season perfectly. The fact it even has an end date would be a better sell as we’d hopefully know how many seasons we were in for, if there were to stay relatively true to the text.

It might seem a bit obvious but I’d love to see Aaron Sorkin run this show as he’d be a perfect match for Brian K Vaughan’s original dialogue. Considering BKV has written for LOST before I think he could do a good job as well, if he’d be willing. I could see this being relatively easy to recreate on the small screen, budget and effects wise, and it is certainly one damn fine story. Having someone like Jon Hamm play Mayor Hundred would be pretty exceptional, though many might only ever see him as Don Draper from now on.

5 - Criminal
Directed/Produced/Showrunner – David Simon

Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips have created five different Criminal arcs, so far. Each one deals with the depravity of the criminal underworld and wraps this character portrait around a very well plotted and tight noir story.

Each arc would then make for one great little season of about ten episodes and the characters and actors can rotate as needed. There’d be violence, for sure, but nothing that hasn’t been seen on screens before. The important thing is that everything counts in this tale, there are no cool moments thrown out for the sake of it, this is just great storytelling with superb characters.

Having David Simon, of The Wire fame, run the show would bring in a sense of the real world to these tales. Just because they are comics doesn’t mean they aren’t good stories, and they most certainly take place in the real world. You just aim a camera and shoot it into the night and rain with Brubaker’s words coming out of there and you’re going to capture some of the magic of this comic.

6 - Gotham Central
Showrunner – Denis Leary

Gotham Central is a comic about the cops of Gotham City. They deal with crimes, just like any cops, but they also deal with the enemies of Batman and even sometimes the Batman himself. They have a massive chip on their collective shoulder because one man in a cape and cowl combo manages to do more for the city than a whole squad of them, or so it would seem. Brubaker, Rucka and Lark created this world from the ground up and the beauty of the comic was that it was so heavily character focused. The cops are the story not the crime.

I’m unashamedly a fan of Rescue Me and it’s interesting because though it’s about firefighters in New York City it’s also about guys. It’s a massive character piece and Leary completely understands that. He gets the relationships and the garbage that comes with living at your work and having a family there. He could do this show great justice and it would be unlike anything you’ve ever seen in a comic adaptation before. And you wouldn’t even really need to ever have Batman on screen, though you would need those villains.

7 - The Immortal Iron Fist
Showrunner - Damon Lindelof

It’s been pretty mainstream so far so let me inject a personal superhero favourite and one I truly think could work on the small screen. Danny Rand is a kung fu billionaire. He’s the immortal weapon of the mystical city of K’un L’un and his nemesis, the Steel Serpent, is out for his power. Throw in Misty Knight and Colleen Wing as supporting players and then you just slowly build up the menace of HYDRA. It would be perfect.

Lindelof showed on LOST that he knows how to treat legacy, mysticism, massive organisations, and awesome in a television show. He’s a very open nerd and he could make this show true to the character but possibly also something completely more than the source material. He could produce a show that is well written, dense, and longform, which I think are elements that Iron Fist certainly could use.

8 - DMZ
Showrunner - David Chase

DMZ is Brian Wood's tale of young journalist Matty Roth and his experiences within the war zone that Manhattan Island has become. It’s a different reality and timeline but some of the atrocities and terrible actions are all too completely real, instead here it’s all dumped on US soil. Each arc seems to find a new focus for Matty in his exploits as one of the few press people in the front line of this sad and crumbled city. It mixes current war events with great characterisation and the room for all sorts of varied groups of people and the opportunity to do some very longform storytelling.

A television series for this show would be pretty epic on scale, as they show a completely destroyed and vagrant city but it would also be extremely rich in characters and brilliant storylines. It’s the sort of story you wouldn’t even realise came from a comic and I think that sort of thing needs to be established as well. And with David Chase being free of his Sopranos he could stretch in a new direction by tackling this show.

9 - Gødland
Executive Producer - Richard Linklater

Hear me out on this one; Gødland is an insanely creative and facemelting piece of comics brought to us from Joe Casey and Tom Scioli, via the id of Jack Kirby and plenty of perception altering drugs. This show would be exceptionally difficult to adapt for any other medium but I think it would work if you made it as a bunch of shorts. Maybe 5 minutes, maybe 15 minutes, take a various approach, make it a rotoscoped visual and I think you’d have a winner. Plenty of effects, plenty of laughs, and a whole screen full of awesome.

As much as this series bends some rules of comics, and just reinterprets others, this story could absolute break the television medium in half. It would be unlike anything else being produced right now and I’d love that. Comics can be presented in different formats and I think this sort of story would be perfect for showing that television's structure can change as well.

10 - The Daily Bugle
Executive Producer - Joss Whedon
Showrunner - Bill Lawrence

I always remember watching Ron Howard’s The Paper and loving the hell out of that movie. Now imagine that those reporters are writing tales of superheroes and major cosmic events. You have that stuff in the background, there’s always some sort of Secret Invasion or Civil War raging but then you focus on the characters. You’ve got J. Jonah Jameson as the terrible boss, Robbie Robertson as the wise guide, Betty Brant as the eye candy, if you can get Peter Parker that’s cool, otherwise go for Eddie Brock, maybe, the Jameson Jr, and then just create a bunch of others. Of course, with Whedon and Lawrence you’d have a bunch of entry level journalist cadets starting off and trying to find their place with Ben Urich being their mentor.

This sort of series has the ability showcase stories that are heartfelt, funny, scary, sexy, awesome, and anything else you really want. The news encapsulates the world and when that world is the Marvel U you have plenty of ways to go. There are opportunities for plenty of winks to the audience but it need not exactly be beholden to anything.


Hey gang, Matt here! As it turns out, both Ryan and I had the same idea for a post, at the same time. Of course, Ryan is way more prolific than I am so he wrote up the whole thing while I was narrowing down my choices. That being said, I still had a couple more ideas that he didn't think of, so they are included in this bonus round of Top Ten Tuesday!

1 - Alias

There are a couple of things working against making an adaptation of Brian Bendis and Michael Gaydos, the most notable is that there was already a TV series called Alias. The comic, however, stars former superhero Jessica Jones as a private investigator, who is going through a very rough time making ends meet and is just all around having a bad year. The best way to go about this one would be to take the early Smallville route, and impose a tough “No Costumes” rule, and I think it would work pretty well. With Jessica Jones as the lead, each episode could be self contained (or small story arcs) mysteries or cases that she worked in, that add to the bigger character arc for her. Have a few cameos by a civilian-clad Matt Murdock, personal friend and former Army Lieutenant Carol Danvers, and bodyguard Luke Cage as the love interest, and I think you have a winning formula here.There's no need to make the series about the powers they have, just bring them out every now and then, when the situation demands it for greater impact. Also, considering that Jessica is not very good at flying, it saves the producers of having to shell out for the big expensive computer graphics.

2 - American Virgin

This oft-forgotten Vertigo title by Steven T. Seagle and Becky Cloonan made the list on the strength of what the “pilot” episode would be. The first issue introduces us to Adam Chamberlain, a popular youth pastor who encourages his peers to avoid casual sex, wait until marriage, etc. He is engaged to an equally religious girl, Cassie, who is currently taking part in a missionary (no pun intended) mission in Africa. Adam’s whole world is turned upside down when he learns that the girl he professed his undying love, the girl that he sword he would wait until he was married to have sex with, died in Africa at the hands of a group of terrorists, beheaded in front of a camera and the video of her death broadcast for all to see. What follows is a journey to Africa for revenge and closure, though it leads to a further trip of self discovery for Adam, who now questions everything he believed in. The trip to Africa extends into a world trotting trip in a journey of sexual discovery, that leads to several scenes that Adam's religious parents would probably strongly disapprove. Just to prove that this comic series has the pedigree of a TV series, the second year turns really weird, and it is nowhere as good as the first year.

3 - Proof

If there are two things that people love in their serial TV programs it’s: police drama shows, and paranormal shows. Mix those two things and you get... The X-Files. Of course, that show ran it’s course years ago, and new blood could be injected into this cluster of genres by making an adaptation Proof, the comic by Alex Grecian and Riley Rossmo. Proof stars Bigfoot, who goes by the name of John Prufrock, as he investigates crime scenes that are possibly related to cryptids (paranormal creatures such as the Chupacabras, Golems, and so on). Put the show from the perspective of Ginger Brown, John’s new partner who is thrust into a world she never thought imagined, and play him as a mysterious and ambiguous character that gets little screen time in the early stages, and I think audiences would be easily hooked. The only downside of this idea is that a Proof TV series would probably eat it’s budget on special effects, especially when the lead character would probably have to go through hours of make up in every filming, and CGI for the creatures.

4 - 100 Bullets

Somewhere in Hollywood, there is a movie exec that is frustratingly scratching his head trying to figure out how to adapt 100 Bullets into a movie. And the truth is you can’t. One hundred issues worth of complicated and deep story cannot possibly be crammed into three hours of movie, but they can be accommodated into a long-form story in various seasons worth of TV shows. And with the popularity of shows like The Sopranos, I think TV audiences can deal with protagonists that are, at their most base levels, unlikeable. The format that the comic series was scripted in also lends to various type of stories, from short done in ones “attache” stories, to long, season ending conflict among the families. Add in the short flashes of centuries-long conspiracies, secret organizations, and a huge and well-developed cast, this comic by Brian Azzarelo and Eduardo Risso would probably make for a perfect TV series.

5 - The Stuff of Legend

No one said that they had to be live action series, right? Well, The Stuff of Legend would make an awesome Saturday morning animated series (because, let’s be honest, no one would want to adapt a TV series that required a bear for all of its episodes). In case you don’t know, The Stuff of Legend is a tale about a group of toys (hello, merchandising division!) that venture into the darkness to save the boy that owns them and fight against the evil Boogeyman. The simplicity of the plot description I just gave you betrays this series, that is filled to the brim with memorable and iconic characters. Any similarities between it and other franchises (like Toy Story), would be forgotten once the toys embark into their fantasy-like quest, a journey that is harrowing and that will test what they are made out of unlike anything else.


I think that television fans are ready for longform stories and that is what comics often do best. So an adaptive, or based on, television show for a comic property offers up plenty of opportunities to please a variety of audiences. I hope that with Marvel firing up their own television studio they’ll look at the possibility of going live action as well as cartoon and that more properties get the chance to be adapted because television really does make more sense than a movie to try and cram so much story in. What titles would you like to see made into a show?

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Daryll B. said...

I know you guys love the "Noir-ish", heavy hitting, darker stuff, but can I add a few lighter comics to your list?

Tiny Titans - Done in the manner of Charlie Brown, small vignettes connected by a bigger arching stories..all for laughs...

Booster Gold - Done in the manner of "7 Days" mixed with "Quantum Leap", a dra-medy in which we see the growth of a hero. Plus come on, Skeets as "Al"... we can even get Dean Stockwell to do his voice!

Power Pack - Instead of Disney doing a live action "Runaways", we could make this show to fit right into their XD lineup. BONUS: Members of the Marvel Universe drop in each week for the Powers' misadventures.

You guys listed Iron Fist already, but I going to be greedy and want a whole "Heroes For Hire" show. An ensemble cast where the powers are secondary but the interactions and job come first.

Away from the Big Two: I will go with one of your favorites, Atomic Robo done in an "Highwayman/Knight Rider" type style...

and for teens my personal bias: Dynamo 5 done in an early Smallville type style...'cept without the 'moonfreak villain of the week".

Space Jawa said...

One I'm surprised that both of you missed is Atomic Robo.

Bill said...

Fun list(s), but as a TV nerd it makes me want to comment a lot.

DMZ seems like a better match for David Simon than Criminal. He likes the political stuff, after all, and DMZ is much more along those lines. For Criminal, maybe Shawn Ryan from The Shield? I dunno.

Criminal and Northlanders, even though I'm sure they could be great, would be really hard sells to TV because they don't have many recurring characters. Anthology series used to be huge (The Twilight Zone being the most memorable) because they were cheap. But these days, TV people have realized that viewers get attached to characters, so they want at least a couple people who are around in every episode for the viewers to look forward to.

I think Peter Tolan is the showrunner on Rescue Me rather than Leary. I think they had the same setup on The Job, so you might have to get the both of them as a package anyway.

And 100 Bullets... here's the problem. The early issues would make fantastic TV. Gritty crime drama with a mysterious man with some kind of secret agenda. But what could it be? Wait, there's all these books that tell you exactly what his secret agenda is. If every comic nerd knew the secrets of the Dharma Initiative before Lost premiered, would it have worked as well? I personally don't think so at all. So you'd pretty much have to rewrite everything... personally I'd just come up with a whole new backstory for everything, and come up with some other conspiracy that allows Graves to do his briefcase full of bullets and whatnot.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

@Daryll B - Tiny Titans as Charlie Brown. Hello, I like you already.

@Space Jawa - yeah, I haven't read near enough Atomic Robo....shame.

@Bill - I'd love to see Criminal or Northlanders as just expensive mini series, basically. Anywhere between 2 and 8 episodes for a story arc, that would be golden. I meant to go back and add Tolan's name actually, I love Rescue Me but still haven't found The Job down here, lame. And you make a great point about 100 Bullets, that could prove problematic, but you know they'll still make it anyway. How many people do you think actually read all of Watchmen before seeing the movie...heaps would not know about it...though LOST style fans probably would and would eat it up, but still watch the show.

Aaron K said...

@Ryan Is there any list that Iron Fist DOESN'T have a place on? :)

FYI: The Top Ten Tuesdays graphic leads to a different story.

Ivan said...

For the longest time I tought the Alias comic was an adaptation of the TV series.

tworedhead said...

I've got to ask...if you wonder if someone has the acting chops to pull off a role then why would you EVER want to even consider them for the role?

This whole "let's pic random-no-talent-douche number 1 because he's hot and may pop interest. Who cares if he can act or not" mentality ruins more than it helps and of all the things I've read on this site the last couple of years I guess this is the statement that bothered me the most.

Maybe it's my lover of Scalped, the fact that I'm a Native from a reservation in South Dakota, or the fact that you picked a FUCKING NO TALENT white guy to play a native role. Jesus. Is it so freaking hard to google "native american actors"?

tworedhead said...

I've got to ask...if you wonder if someone has the acting chops to pull off a role then why would you EVER want to even consider them for the role?

This whole "let's pic random-no-talent-douche number 1 because he's hot and may pop interest. Who cares if he can act or not" mentality ruins more than it helps and of all the things I've read on this site the last couple of years I guess this is the statement that bothered me the most.

Maybe it's my lover of Scalped, the fact that I'm a Native from a reservation in South Dakota, or the fact that you picked a FUCKING NO TALENT white guy to play a native role. Jesus. Is it so freaking hard to google "native american actors"?

Kirk Warren said...

@tworedhead - Pretty sure Taylor Lautner is not a "white guy". He has some native ancestry from his mother's side as well.

Brian Dickey said...

The two comics I always think of doing as TV shows are some Warren Ellis goodies (I know, how original). First up would be Fell. I've always thought the eighth issue of that would be a perfect pilot episode. Just run with his log notes and that hard broiled feel can be perfectly captured.

The other would be Transmetropolitan, another show David Simon would be choice to tap for. Given his journalist background I'm sure he could translate the series' manic love of that profession to the big screen, and the future shock of it could help to distract from the earnestness that hindered those efforts on the fifth season of The Wire.

Matt Duarte said...

@Bill: That's a pretty good point about 100 Bullets. I guess you are right, but I still think it would make for a pretty great TV show, even if we knew the secret agenda behind it all.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

@tworedhead - no, mate, you make a great point. Perhaps I should have worded it differently; I do believe Lautner has the chops to pull of this role, it would be out of his current wheelhouse but I can definitely see him in the role. He'd have the look down, and I love when an actor gets an opportunity like this. I figured I'd get some flack for this choice (I was expecting a lot more, actually) purely because the dude is all Twilight now and that's going to irritate people but I really think he would look the part (shave his head) and he's worked with Robert Rodriguez before, let's see that happen again. Hope you can understand my choice behind the guy (even if you don't agree with it) and I definitely didn't do it because he's 'so hot right now'. I bloody well hate Twilight, but that's another post...

Oh, and I did just google 'native american actors' and found Lautner there, but I also found Depp....make of that what you will :)

Hisham said...

Great list guys Although I'd add the MadroX miniseries (And subsequent X-Factor series) as well, with Joss Whedon executive producing because this particular property feels a lot like Angel to me..

Will add more later because I don't agree with some of the showrunner choices..

twobitspecialist said...

I would love to see an adaptation of Alias. Jessica Jones is one of my favorite characters.

Also, it's my understanding that Saturday morning cartoons are dead as we used to know them. Broadcasts like KidsWB and FoxKids ceased to exist, and the only regular broadcast, 4Kids TV, only shows reruns of cartoons from 5 years ago. New shows now premiere on cable (Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, etc...)

How do I know all of this? Because The Spectacular Spider-man was caught during the time when networks were pulling the plug on Saturday morning cartoons, and that may have precipitated its cancellation.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

@Hisham - great choice on the MadroX suggestion. He'd make for good televsiion, that's for sure.

Can't wait to hear your showrunner discussion, cheers.

Matt Duarte said...

Ha, I was considering adding X-Factor to the list, but in the end dropped it because we already had plenty of noir-ish P.I. type of ideas in there.

Ming said...

Three TV shows adapted from comics come to my mind:

-- Garth Ennis's The Boys -- done as a superhero noir series, with elements of satire, conspiracy thriller, and the occasional grindhouse film

-- Mark Waid's Irredeemable universe -- superhero apocalypse saga; initial chapters focus on flashbacks to Plutonian's descent to madness, before alternating between Irredeemable (Paradigm) to Incorruptible (Max Damage)

-- DC's 52 -- kind of like 24, only with superheroes and lasting over a course of a year, with subplots intersecting (like the late TV show Heroes)

-- Billy Baston and the Magic of Shazam -- kid's adventure show similar in tone and format to Teen Titans or Batman the Brave and the Bold

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