The world doesn’t seem to be experiencing any fatigue for superhero films, despite the plethora of them in the cinemas over the last decade. With Hollywood finally catching onto to the decades worth of pre-written storylines for them to ape and (in some cases) bastardise, their continued success at the box office continues to show that we geeks indeed rule the planet.
A quick look back at the last ten years or so shows that we’ve certainly had a long-box full of titles. There’s Spider-man and its two sequels, with a reboot on the way next year designed to help us forget Spider-man 3. The X-Men have had three films, a Wolverine spin-off and a prequel/reboot due in just a few months. Yet there has also been Fantastic Four, Hulk, Daredevil, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, From Hell, Watchmen, The Punisher, Elektra, Catwoman (shudder), the sublime Batman Begins and its sequel The Dark Knight, Hellboy, Kick Ass, Iron Man and Iron Man 2, The Spirit, Sin City, Superman Returns and a host of other titles we’ve probably left off.
This year alone sees The Green Hornet, Thor, X-Men: First Class, Green Lantern and Captain America: The First Avenger hit the big screens. With so many heroes and villains clashing, from the big guns to the more obscure, is there anything left to mine? You bet, and we’ve chosen some of our favourites.
Created in 1941 for a DC Comics’ More Fun Comics #73, the emerald archer essentially provided readers with an archery-themed alternative to the already popular Batman. Indeed, Green Arrow (aka Oliver Queen) was also a billionaire playboy, although his origin story saw him take on a Robin Hood mantle after being stranded on a desert island and forced to survive by learning mad archery skills. During the first quarter-century of the character’s life, he largely appeared in countless back-up stories with a series of gimmicky trick arrows such as the boxing-glove arrow, tear-gas or even a Kryptonite arrow. Yet the times they were a-changin’, and by the 1960s he had become an outspoken left-wing voice, complete with goatee, a new costume and an argumentative attitude to match. Today, he has a popular ongoing series that has seen heavyweights Mike Grell, filmmaker Kevin Smith, novelist Brad Meltzer, JT Krul and Judd Winick all take turns at writing the always interesting archer.
While he may not be as well-known to the world at large, a film is not out of the realm of possibility. Apart from being best friends with the forthcoming Green Lantern, DC has been building his public profile the last few years, with animated TV appearances in Justice League Unlimited, The Batman, Batman: The Brave and the Bold and Young Justice. His most notable appearance has been on Superman origin series Smallville, where he has more or less been in the cast since the show’s sixth season. Batman Begins scribe David S. Goyer was reportedly working on a movie called “Green Arrow: Escape from Super Max”, which would allegedly see the character framed for a crime he didn’t commit and be forced to team up with super-villains to escape. This has yet to see the light of day, but for our money we’d love to see Mike Grell’s classic “The Longbow Hunters” come to life as a gritty origin story/urban hunter tale in the vein of Christopher Nolan’s Batman films. The recent “Green Arrow: Year One” retcon, from Andy Diggle and Jock, would also make for a cinematic origin story. If Green Lantern is a success, could a “Hard Travelling Heroes” team-up with Arrow be on the cards?
Y: The Last Man
This has epic film series written all over it. Brian K. Vaughn’s “Y: The Last Man” tells the story of the last man on Earth. After a deadly plague sweeps the globe, Yorick and his pet monkey are seemingly the only two males of their respective species left alive. Only the women have survived, and while this may be the stuff of a million male fantasies, the world proves to be a dangerous place for our heroes with the Y chromosome, as the world struggles to go on in the knowledge that without a cure or a miracle, humanity is doomed to extinction.
New Line acquired the rights to this back in 2008, with the Disturbia team of screenwriter Carl Ellsworth and director D.J. Caruso (I Am Number Four) set to bring it to life. However, it has been stuck in development hell for the last few years, with everyone from Shia LeBeouf to Chuck‘s Zachary Levi mentioned as being in line for Yorick. It is the kind of story that deserves some pace, so we are hoping this one might actually make its way to the small screen or as a multi-part film series.
Here’s one that the mainstream has probably never heard of. When Zane Townsend is killed in a car accident, he is stitched back together and revived as Frank Einstein. Reborn with supernatural reflexes and empathic powers, the pop art superhero could make for a great visual treat on the silver screen. Created by Mike Allred, whose work is perhaps known to cinema fans in the form of Bluntman and Chronic in Kevin Smith’s Chasing Amy, the visual style may lend itself to animation more than live action, but the owner of the rights may provide a clue to the potential visual style.
Robert Rodriguez, a big fan of Allred and comic books in general (he wrote the introduction to the collected edition of Allred’s “Red Rocket 7”) has owned the rights to the character since 1998, and Allred announced that the film was ready to shoot back in 2006 at WonderCon. Perhaps when Rodriguez is finished making sequels to Spy Kids, Machete, Sin City and Predators – and Allred isn’t tied up with his monthly “I,Zombie” comic for DC/Vertigo – this may finally see the light of day.
This cult favourite has been in an Earthly development hell for the last 13 years, and has been a hot potato due to its ‘controversial’ religious overtones. Down-and-out Texas preacher Jesse Custer is inhabited by a supernatural creature called Genesis, the result of an unnatural coupling an angel and a demon. Jesse sets out with his ex-girlfriend and a drunken Irish vampire to quite literally find God and hold him to task. What could possibly be controversial about that?
So where to start with its development. It was first pitched back in 1998 with a script by creator Garth Ennis, along with Kevin Smith’s View Askew Productions. It was going to be a HBO series, a bunch of movies, directed by everyone from Sam Mendes to Darren Aronofsky. In 2002, James Marsden (who has since gone on to play Cyclops in the X-Men and Richard White in Superman Returns) was attached to play Jesse at some point. Quite surprisingly, D.J. Caruso (yes, the very same that was attached to Y: The Last Man) has recently confirmed that he is attached to direct the film. Posting on Twitter, he said: “My deal just closed on Preacher. Going back to the dark side and pretty fucking pumped!” No release date or casting has been announced, but this is one on our wish-list that just might come true.
Sam & Max: Freelance Police
We had to go with something a little left-field, right? Sam and Max are a pair of freelance detectives, created by mad genius Steve Purcell in 1987. Parodying popular culture with a plethora of non sequitur moments, Sam is a laconic six-foot dog wearing a suit and a fedora while Max is a “hyperkinetic rabbity thing” with an appetite for destruction. The unique sense of humour made them an instant hit with fans of independent comics, and became unofficial mascots of LucasFilm Games (aka LucasArts) in the pages of their newsletter as they parodied the games, along with Star Wars and Indiana Jones. They became stars in their own right in 1993 when they received their own game, Sam & Max: Hit The Road, an early CD-ROM game that finally gave them a voice and motion. In 1997, they were adapted into their own TV series on Fox Kids, and this was released on DVD in 2007.
The series has remained popular over the years, and has received a recent revival thanks to a series of episodic video games from TellTale Games available on a variety of platforms. The original comics were republished and merchandise finally reached the hearts and homes of fans. To hope for a feature-length big screen adaptation may be wishful thinking, but that’s what this column is all about after all.
For now none of these films are coming soon to a theatre anywhere near you.