With about a zillion movies based on comic books being released this summer, I figured it was time to let Hollywood know which comics I myself would like to see adapted for the big screen – or the small, depending on the project. So if any producers are reading this, let’s give these comics a shot, okay?
Keep in mind, I’m not listing these in any particular order as far as favorites go – this is just the way they came outta my head.
Sure, this one started off as a variation on-slash-ripoff of Planet of the Apes but we’re talking about Jack Kirby here, so you know it goes a hell of a lot crazier than that. Long after some Earth-ravaging disaster (not a nuclear war, according to Kirby), a scantily-clad teenage boy emerges from a bunker called “Command D” in search of a little human companionship. What he finds is a world full of intelligent animals — not just apes; in this world, pretty much every creature has evolved into some kind of bipedal, war-like and armor-clad problem for Kamandi. There are even angry, talking killer whales.
Kamandi would make for one hell of an action/adventure movie, and everybody loves the post-apocalyptic future, right? As for casting, that’s a toughie… you’d need someone who can play 18-20 and not come off looking too gay-bathhouse with the shirtlessness and cutoffs and flowing blonde locks. Once you’ve got that, you could stunt-cast all the tigers and kangaroos and whatnot.
2: CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN
The Jack Kirby well is an endless supply of great stuff, and while stories differ as to whether Kirby alone created the Challengers of the Unknown or co-created them with Dave Wood (and possibly even Joe SImon), the resulting comic book adventures are one heck of a good time and it’s amazing to me that nobody has turned this one into a movie. In fact, me and my buddy John Howard actually pitched for a Challengers movie, but sadly, it never went beyond the treatment stage (I’ve still got that treatment lying around the office somewhere; Joel Silver, feel free to give me a call).
The Challengers are Ace Morgan, Red Ryan, Rocky Davis and Prof Haley — and with names like that, you know they’re a bunch of manly men. After surviving a terrible plane crash, the four decide they’re living on borrowed time and basically use that as an excuse to do a bunch of crazy shit, like fighting aliens, monsters, and mad scientists. It’s kind of like The X-Files with fistfights and purple coveralls.
Here are my casting choices for this one: Jason Statham (or Karl Urban) as Rocky, Hugh Laurie as Prof (a little old but who cares?), Adrien Brody as Red, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Ace. I realize I’m leaning half British there but that’s the trend these days, right?
And speaking of those purple coveralls — if I could ever find three other guys brave enough to sport those suckers I would totally do a Challengers thing at a convention or for Halloween.
The next three are the ones I think would work far better as cable-network TV series than as movies:
3: LOVE & ROCKETS
At this point, I doubt I have to explain that the band got their name from the comic. Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez’s Love and Rockets is one of the best damn comic books ever published, bar none. Jaime’s Locas stories feature the adventures of Maggie the Mechanic, Hopey, Penny Century and many more great characters, and Gilbert’s Palomar (or Heartbreak Soup, as some folks refer to ’em) tales feature Luba, Ofelia, Heraclio, Carmen and many others — and I’m not sure you could find deeper, more heart-wrenching and true-to-life character-driven comics anywhere. Jaime and Gilbert’s work — in particular Gilbert’s — has often been compared to Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
In my opinion, the perfect approach to adapting them to live-action would be an hour-long series, intercutting between Locas and Palomar. I don’t have a clue where to begin with casting on this one, although now that I think of it, Sonia Braga would be great as Luba.
If you’ve never read Love and Rockets, do yourself a favor and pick up some of the collections — I guarantee you’ll be hooked.
I know this one has been kicking around that place they call Development Hell for some time now, but please, Hollywood — do not try to cram the essentials of Preacher into a two-hour feature film. This comic deserves to be given the TV series treatment.
Created by writer Garth Ennis and artist Steve Dillon, Preacher is the story of Jesse Custer, a Preacher in the tiny town of Annville, Texas, who is having a serious crisis of faith. When his body is, uh, inhabited (during a sermon) by Genesis, the offspring of an angel and a demon, he finds himself in possession of a heck of a lot of power — possibly even rivaling that of God himself. Learning that God abandoned Heaven and split for parts unknown when Genesis was born, Jesse teams up with former flame Tulip and Irish vampire Cassidy and heads out on the road to quite literally find God.
Rude, crude and definitely teetering on offensive at times, Preacher is ultimately about the strength of faith, the value of friends, and a very strong sense of right and wrong (Jesse is even coached along the way by the ghost of John Wayne). Far too much happens in the pages of this comic to try and boil it down to feature-film length. It needs the attention and care of a Game of Thrones to really reach its potential as a live-action project.
As for casting, I think Matthew McConaughey or Josh Holloway would be great as Jesse Custer, but I’m at a loss as to who should play Tulip and Cassidy. Any ideas?
5: PIRATE CORP$/HECTIC PLANET
(I apologize for the rough-looking images — these are scans of my own beat-to-hell, well-read copies of the comics).
This one might be my favorite of the five: Evan Dorkin’s amazing, under-appreciated Pirate Corp$ (which received a title change to Hectic Planet with issue #6). The book started out as a fairly straightforward science fiction adventure comic but quickly shifted gears, becoming something like a Romantic Comedy-Existential Malaise-Space Action/Adventure-Slice of Life story, and that’s when Dorkin really hit his stride.
The Pirate Corp$ is kind of a space Thieves Guild, made up of numerous crews with names like The Screaming Retina Gang (led by Vroom Socko, pictured at the top of this post), Der Groove Engines, The Practical Smokers, and our heroes, The Jersey Devil Crew — Ron Chitin, Halby Durzell (who is pretty much the lead), Renensco P. Blue (the pink guy on the cover above), Harlie, Datsun, Fibby and Charlie. Most of the stories revolve around the Jersey Devil Crew trying to keep the lights on and their bellies full (hmm… and it just occurred to me that PC$ is, in a way, a forerunner to Firefly in that sense), but the real focus is on Halby and his troubled romantic life.
I haven’t flipped through these comics in some time, and I’d completely forgotten that I wrote a gushing letter of praise to Evan that he published in issue #4. I was — and still am — such a firm believer in this comic that, when I ran my video/comics shop Wavy Brain back in the early ’90s, I ordered something like 25 or 30 copies of whatever the latest issue was and gave them away to people I thought might dig it. I still remember Dan Vado at Slave Labor Graphics asking me if I was crazy when I placed the order.
The comics are available in trade paperback under the Hectic Planet title, and are highly recommended. As for casting, I’m absolutely stumped, so help me out here.
How about you, folks? What comics would you like to see adapted to movies or TV? And do you have any casting ideas for our list? Let us know in the comments section!