Now that movie studios have seen success in The Dark Knight, 300, Sin City and most recently, Alan Moore’s Watchmen, they will almost certainly be clamoring at the door for even more graphic novels to adapt into feature films.
Just like X-Men was followed by utter sh!tstorms like Elektra and Daredevil–even Tim Burton’s brilliant take on the Batman franchise begot Joel Schumacher’s double-trouble nipple-fest, Batman Forever and Batman and Robin–studios will see the revenues collected in the last few years by graphic novel-inspired flicks and rush them to production to collect on the trend.
The first books to go down in flames will be those with established followings and awards under their belts, because they’re the best bet at turning a profit. So before Fox Searchlight goes stamping their name on some self-indulgent reels of celluloid at the expense of timeless art, there are a few names in the comic biz you should know, before everything they’ve touched their pen to becomes a merchandising exercise.
#5 – Jeff Smith
Chances are, you already know Smith’s work, even if you don’t recognize his name. If you subscribed to Disney Adventures Magazine when you were a kid like I did, you definitely know his most famous project: the Eisner and Harvey award-winning (an astounding ten and eleven times, respectively) series, Bone. The fantasy saga circulated in irregular publication for a whopping 13 years, finally finishing in 2004 with subsequent collected releases in both black and white and beautifully-inked color like it was presented for Disney Adventures. The final book of the color releases finally came out just this February, completing a childhood obsession of mine over a decade after it began.
But pimped by Disney in the mid-Nineties, the fun-loving bulbous white Bone brothers have already proven their marketability, making the series a prime target to be picked up for feature treatment. It’s already spawned two computer games and an endless array of figurines, so it’s no surprise that Warner Bros. picked up the series for a CGI-animated film in March of last year. I’ve barely started this list, and its already coming true.
#4 – David Lapham
If not Lapham’s critically-acclaimed, on-going series Stray Bullets, then another of his more distilled works is certainly ripe for adaptation. His work on the whole is a natural choice of any producer wanting to follow in Sin City route to success: gritty crime dramas full of violence and debauchery, but with enough heart and feeling to easily rival the best of Frank Miller’s work.
Stray Bullets is far too wandering and winding a series for any sane director to take on (so I won’t put it past perennial failure-machine Uwe Boll to sign onto such a project), but recent release Silverfish is exactly what Hollywood should be looking for. In its elegant black-and-white artwork, illustrated by Lapham’s brother Dan, the story spreads out over 160 pages of murder, madness and deceit–a short and sweet answer to the silver screen’s prayers for another action-packed, blood-soaked trip to the theater.
#3 – Jason Lutes
I’m actually surprised that Jason Lutes’ Jar of Fools series wasn’t optioned back in 2006 when it was extremely fashionable to produce movies about magicians, with the dueling releases of The Illusionist and The Prestige battling for box-office supremacy. Perhaps it was because Jar of Fools was originally published as a once-weekly comic strip–a medium that doesn’t exactly smack of feature film-readiness. But the Houdini-inspired tale of a tormented magician was collected into a single volume in 2003, and has gone on to quite a bit of critical praise.
However, it is Lutes’ more recent project, Berlin, that I can see making its way to Hollywood when its 24 issue run finally wraps. About life in the German capital from 1928 until 1933 during the decline of the Weimar Republic, an adaptation of Berlin would be quite a change of pace from the other works on this list. A far more serious outing, certainly, trading superheroes and murder mysteries for the crumbling of a national identity before the start of World War II. Heavy stuff.
#2 – Warren Ellis
Possibly the least likely on this list, simply because of the extremely political nature of most of his work, the British firebrand has written for Marvel comics on books like Thor, Wolverine, and Iron Man.
But his true talent shines through in his solo projects like The Authority and Transmetropolitan, and in short-runs like 2008’s eight-issue Black Summer, which begins with the execution of President George W. Bush and most of his advisers. Yeah, about that political thing…
His Gonzo journalism-fueled Transmetropolitan, however, was already optioned by Patrick Stewart’s production company in 2003, but the project fizzled out before anything was put into development.
With merchandise already on the market at DC Comics’ online store, Ellis has publicly declared his interest in seeing his bald-headed, drug-addled anti-hero Spider Jerusalem hitting the big screen–so long as he’s played by Tim Roth.
#1 – Garth Ennis
Another Brit who spent time alongside Warren Ellis on Thor and The Authority, Garth Ennis has already had his work raped by Hollywood by way of The Punisher and Ghost Rider. He was only a hired gun on both books, but seeing what the movies have done to him already makes me scared of what havoc they will most certainly wreak on his original stories. Of which, his most famous two are already in talks.
His religio-fantasy superhero book The Darkness was bought by Dimension Films in 2004 and is still out on the table with a release date set in 2009, but it is his 75-issue magnum opus, Preacher, that is in far-more-active production.
The story of a demon-possessed, murderous preacher on a search across the United States for God, Preacher has been mired in development hell for the last nine years. But early in 2009, John August was hired to write the script and Sam Mendes to direct. Certainly capable hands, but I’m still worried. I can’t help it. To see something like Preacher go down in flames would almost be… blasphemy.