5 Genre Comics Dying to be Made Into Movies
(Disclaimer: Please PLEASE excuse any overly nerdy writing in this article due to the fact that I’ve been waiting my whole life to write something like this. Thank you for your consideration in this trying time.)
Before we get started, let me say that I’m of the mindset that comic books and film are two entirely separate mediums that I think get compared a bit too often, generally due to the stupidly huge success of Superhero films in the last decade and a half. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love these movies and I’m pretty much going to see all of them on opening night, but it creates the impression among the general public that comic books are simply a vessel to carry Batman and Spider-Man and Friends from story to story, and eventually to the big screen.
But comics are so much more than that. They’re much smaller operations, generally carried out by three or four individuals, and occasionally by only one! The collaboration between the writer, the artist, the colorist, and anyone else involved has to be completely precise in order to properly tell the story in a clear and enjoyable way for the reader.
I grew up reading nothing but superhero comic books, so I have quite a soft spot for them. It wasn’t until after high school that I realized the existence of publishers outside of the Big Two (Marvel and DC). Image, for example, was a godsend for me. I discovered hundreds of comic series, all different genres, and each in their own self-contained universe. No more shared universes! If I wanted Sci-Fi, Horror, Comedy, or even Romance, there were so many options available to me! I began to realize which writers and artists I enjoyed the most and actively searched out their work. Since then, countless genre stories are released each year through many different publishers. That doesn’t even count the probably thousands of webcomics that are posted all over the place! Comic books are everywhere and like all good and interesting things, they are adapted and made into films, with generally pretty good results.
There are always a few comic books that have received that special UNADAPTABLE label from many filmmakers and comic creators (Brian K. Vaughn’s Saga comes to mind), and I always appreciate those stories. They take the elements specific to the comic book medium and expand them. You know what I’m talking about. Whether it’s a specific storytelling technique or maybe the way a panel is structured, there are sometimes things that make a comic so especially comic book-y, it would be incredibly difficult to adapt into a film.
These, however, are not those comic books (except for maybe one, but we’ll get to that later), and by no means is that a bad thing. These are five brilliantly written, drawn, and colored genre stories that I think would also happen to make some pretty kickass movies, presented in no particular order:
Writer: Scott Snyder
Colors: Matt Hollingsworth
Letters: Clem Robins
When talking about genres, it feels disingenuous to not mention the very distinct genre of horror, one that I’ve grown to love after spending many sleepless nights with the lights on as a kid. That said, even though I love horror movies now, I can willingly acknowledge that there are tons of bad ones out there, and more made each year. But with every well-made and unique horror movie that comes out (as rare as they are), I’m reminded of why I love the genre in the first place. Wytches would have that exact same effect on the genre. Imagine the fear and tenseness that you felt the first time you watched The Blair Witch Project, mix in characters that you actually care about, add in loads of interesting lore and history, and you’ve got a recipe for good horror. The witches presented in Wytches, however, are not the witches you’ve come to know and love. There’s no Harry Potter whimsy here. Scott Snyder has written them as horrifying old creatures with ancient knowledge that resembles nothing we’ve ever seen. What really creates the atmosphere of horror though is the work of Jock and Matt Hollingsworth. The art and colors combine to create a very visceral reading experience that is both scary and sometimes disorienting. That uncertainty that they are able to create would translate so well to film, assuming it’s done right. Snyder’s characters are likable and interesting and I’d genuinely be curious as to who they’d cast. Either way, if you’re a fan of horror, check this one out.
Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Ben Templesmith
I know this is only my second entry on this list, but I’m gonna have to cheat a little bit on this one. Bear with me, because Fell is worth it. Rather than have this adapted into a film, Warren Ellis and Ben Templesmith’s neo noir crime story would make much more sense as a miniseries, more fit for HBO or Netflix or any of the other litany of streaming services. The reason for this is two-fold. First, each individual issue was written as a standalone story involving the titular character, Homicide Detective Richard Fell, set in the unfortunate city of Snowtown. Second, Fell was originally written by Ellis as a way to experiment with the usual comic book format. He and Templesmith created the book with a smaller page count than normal, instead experimenting with a nine panel grid on each page as a way to compress the story and fit more in each issue. It’s such an interesting and different way to read a comic book and that, combined with Templesmith’s especially striking visuals and mood, create such a unique story that would make for a pretty difficult film adaptation. With the success of more recent adaptations of equally strange genre stories like Umbrella Academy and Deadly Class, I’m much more encouraged by what is possible in the world of television and streaming. I can actually thank Mirrorbox creator (and good buddy) Hudson Phillips for introducing me to Fell a few years ago, and I’m forever thankful for that.
4 KIDS WALK INTO A BANK
Writer: Matthew Rosenberg
Artist: Tyler Boss
Letters: Thomas Mauer
4 Kids Walk Into A Bank is a story that wears its influences on its sleeve. Just take one look at its Saul Bass inspired cover. Even if you don’t know that name, you know the style. This book has been described as “Tarantino meets The Goonies” and “Wes Anderson Directs Dog Day Afternoon” and the crazy thing is, both of those descriptions are about as accurate as possible. Tarantino, because of the way it is able to shift from violence to legitimate, laugh-out-loud humor. The Goonies, because of the young protagonists that get to benefit the most from Rosenberg’s genuinely witty writing. Wes Anderson, because of Tyler Boss’s clean and symmetrical, well-designed cartooning and color palette that makes this one of those very comic book-y comic books I mentioned in the intro. And finally, Dog Day Afternoon, because of the “bank robbing out of necessity” aspect. But 4 Kids is so much more than all of those. It’s a love letter to all of the things that the creators grew up loving. Dungeons and Dragons, Sci-Fi, Comedy, and probably a hundred other things I can’t think of right now. It’s so jam packed full of references and jokes, that any adaptation has the potential to make for an incredibly entertaining film. Crime and Comedy seem to go hand in hand, and this would make a fitting addition to the genre. Think The Nice Guys mixed with Stand By Me. Ok, I’m done with the references. For now.
Read this book. It’s so so good.
THE SHERIFF OF BABYLON
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mitch Gerads
A wartime drama set in Baghdad, written by a former CIA Counterintelligence Officer who himself was stationed in Iraq during the war. That adaptation kinda writes itself, huh? Tom King’s story is about a former police officer-turned-military contractor as he attempts to solve a murder of one of his trainees in Iraq. The thing that makes Sheriff of Babylon different, however, is its inclusion of perspectives outside of just the white protagonist. That is what really gives this story its gravitas. It uses political intrigue in a brutally efficient way, not scared of showing the horrors of what happened out there. The realistic style of Mitch Gerads perfectly matches King’s grounded writing. Something that Gerads in particular excels in (and an underappreciated skill in comics) is the expressions on his characters, or the “acting” of his characters. The same could be said about many of the artists in this list, but Gerads’ work really jumped out to me when reading this for the first time. It certainly helps that King’s narrative structure and pacing kind of matches that of a film, so an adaptation of a story like this would make a lot of sense, and I could very easily see it being entertaining.
Writer: Kelly Sue Deconnick
Artist: Valentine De Landro
Colors: Cris Peter
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Similar to 4 Kids Walk Into A Bank, the influences of Bitch Planet are immediately evident. The old sexploitation movies of the 70’s mixed with the “Women in Prison” trope mixed with B movie sci-fi weirdness. That’s a lot, I know, but Kelly Sue Deconnick takes all of these classic tropes and flips them on their head, instead using them to empower her female characters rather than trap them within those limitations. She has created a world that is equal parts The Handmaid’s Tale, Orange is the New Black, and (somehow) The Longest Yard. Despite all of these influences, Kelly Sue has succeeded in keeping her world unique and lived in, with each character getting some time in the spotlight. This is a brutal story, one that’s not scared of nudity or violence. Coming from a writer like Deconnick, she imbues these aspects with a feminism that is frankly, so refreshing. The nudity doesn’t feel like it’s coming from a male gaze (except for a moment within the story when there is a LITERAL male gaze, but that’s just clever storytelling on the part of the creators), so it doesn’t feel exploitative. If this gets adapted sometime in the near future, I could very easily see it having the same success as The Handmaid’s Tale. I’ve only read the first volume of this series, but I can safely say that I can’t wait to pick it back up again and stay in this strange world a little longer.