I think we can all agree there’s never been a better time to be a fan of comics and TV, given the sheer number of small screen adaptations featuring our favourite characters and stories on offer.
Still, you can never have too much of a good thing, so with that in mind, here’s 10 more comics network executives should definitely consider drawing upon for their next big budget TV show!
Sure, there’s a live action Shazam feature in the works, but let’s face it: the adventures of Billy Batson – the young boy who becomes mighty superhero Captain Marvel once he utters his magic word – seems better suited to Saturday morning cartoons than the po-faced DC Extended Universe films.
Done right, an animated Shazam TV series could appeal to both kids and adults alike – particularly if it took a few pointers from comics by creators like Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart, whose take on the character felt paradoxically timeless and contemporary.
The perfect Shazam TV show would embrace (rather than avoid) the ostensibly goofier aspects of the mythos – such as the entire Marvel Family roster (including a talking tiger who wears a bowtie!) and their outlandish rogues gallery (which features a super intelligent worm called “Mister Mind”!) – and would be colourful, lighthearted and whimsical, but also sincere.
9. Moon Knight
Fans of Marvel Comics (and the Marvel Cinematic Universe) will no doubt be disappointed that this list doesn’t feature more TV show ideas based around characters from their favourite publisher, but there’s a reason for that: Marvel mostly has things covered already.
Seriously, virtually every obvious film or TV-worthy characters either has its own big or small screen adaptation, or has one in the pipeline.
Still, it seems like there’s at least one character who has been overlooked: Moon Knight, an ex-mercenary resurrected by ancient Egyptian Gods, who fights crime using his wealth, gadgets and…multiple personality disorder.
That’s a pretty interesting premise (essentially Batman, but with the “is he actually crazy?” angle ratcheted up to 11), and a Moon Knight TV show could appeal to viewers by focussing as much on our hero’s battles with his own personal demons and identity crisis as those with actual bad guys drawn from the pages of the comics.
8. The Adventures of Doctor McNinja
The odds of this one ever happening are exceptionally unlikely, but never say never (Guardians of the Galaxy is now a highly successful multi-film franchise, after all).
Based off Christopher Hasting’s popular web comic of the same name, an Adventures of Doctor McNinja TV series would make a perfect addition to the adult-oriented animation line-up on Adult Swim.
Fans of absurdist comedy, ridiculous concepts taken to their logical extreme, and running gags would fall in love with a Doctor McNinja cartoon, which (like its source material) would follow the escapades of a doctor…who is also a ninja.
Packing the razor-sharp wit of Archer and the crazy inventiveness of Rick and Morty – and boasting more heart than both put together – The Adventures of Doctor McNinja is the animated TV show the world doesn’t yet realise it needs.
7. Ex Machina
What if there had been just one superhero in New York City on 9/11? What if that hero managed to stop one of the World Trade Centre towers from being hit? And what if he then parleyed that act of heroism into a successful bid for Mayor?
That’s the instantly arresting set-up for Ex Machina, the award-winning comics series by Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris, that seems practically ready made for a small screen adaptation.
Offering a scathing yet stimulating view of politics in America, Ex Machina offers the riveting intrigue of House of Cards with the grounded “cape and tights” antics of Watchmen, and viewers would quickly become engaged with the TV show’s strongly drawn cast of characters – particularly conflicted ex-hero Mitchell Hundred – as well as its resonance for our own, real-world political arena.
6. Fear Agent
A love letter to the sci-fi and horror pulp novels and comics of a bygone era, Fear Agent – created by Rick Remender, Tony Moore and Jerome Opena – has been in development for the big screen since 2009, but it’s yet another comic book that seems better suited for TV.
Following the (mis)adventures of Texas-born alcoholic spaceman Heathrow Huston, Fear Agent spins a lengthy yarn that’s equal parts OTT fun and gut-wrenching tragedy, as we gradually learn the details of Heath’s tragic past, as well as watch as his every effort to get ahead in a crazy universe invariably ends in tears.
A small screen adaptation would benefit from the series’ unique retro-sci-fi vibe, as well as it’s Walking Dead-esque Western overtones, and the greater breathing room afforded by the serialised storytelling format would allow TV viewers to puzzle over Heath’s backstory as it’s revealed bit by bit each episode.
5. Y: The Last Man
In theory, a Y: The Last Man TV show should be on our screens some time in the near future – it’s been in development at FX since 2015.
And well it should be, as an adaptation of Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra’s comic book series about escape artist Yorick Brown, who – along with his pet monkey Ampersand – finds himself literally the last man on Earth, could not come at a better time, given the current real-world debate surrounding gender politics.
Y: The Last Man would succeed as a TV series thanks to its compelling basic premise, interesting spin on the ever-popular post-apocalyptic setting, and the strong chemistry between Yorick and his female protector, Agent 355.
4. 100 Bullets
100 Bullets, Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso’s acclaimed crime saga, has everything TV fans (and executives) love: a killer high concept, a conspiracy-laden mythology and a sprawling cast of compelling characters.
The narrative of 100 Bullets revolves around the encounters between down on their luck individuals – usually (but not always) from the wrong side of the tracks – and the mysterious Agent Graves, who provides them with a briefcase containing three things: a gun, 100 untraceable bullets, and irrefutable evidence pointing towards the people responsible for ruining their lives.
Obviously, this is a set-up virtually tailor-made for the small screen, and viewers would be on the edge of their seats following every violent twist and turn that follows on from each of these encounters, even as they try to piece together the wider motives behind Graves’ deadly game.
3. Jack Kirby’s New Gods
For those of you unfamiliar with Jack Kirby, he’s the unsung hero who co-created the vast majority of the Marvel Universe – so yeah, the guy knew a thing or two about telling amazing stories.
For proof of that, you only have to look at his New Gods comics, which introduced us to the eponymous deities of the title – the virtuous inhabitants of New Genesis, and the wicked occupants of its sister planet, Apokolips.
The series tackled heavy subjects like nature vs nature and the power of free will, all of which were made palatable by the larger than life characters and explosive action scenes Kirby was famous for.
About as subtle as a sledgehammer (in a good way!), New Gods would work fantastically well as yet another animated TV series aimed at kids, owing to its epic scope, vivid character designs and winning mix of pathos and giddy adventure.
2. Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. continues to tick along well, so maybe it’s time for Marvel Studios and ABC to consider a spin-off focussing on the baddest agent of all: Nick Fury!
While Samuel L. Jackson seems unlikely to want to reprise the role for an ongoing series, a Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show could work just fine as a retro series (similar to the criminally underappreciated Agent Carter), which would allow for the role to be re-cast with a younger actor.
The small screen adaptation could reference the classic 1960s comics by legendary writer-artist Jim Steranko, and fill in the blanks between what happened during Agent Carter’s time and the present era – featuring cameos by Hayley Atwell’s Carter, John Slattery’s Howard Stark and other players active during the time period – as well as put the spotlight on Fury’s struggles as a person of colour trying to rise through the ranks at the height of the civil rights movement.
1. The Sandman
There have been multiple failed attempts to get a Sandman movie off the ground – when will DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Pictures finally realise that a TV adaptation is the best way forward?
The groundbreaking original comics series by Neil Gaiman (and a truckload of artists) tells the sweeping saga of Dream of the Endless – the personification of dreams and ruler of “The Dreaming” – and his siblings Destiny, Death, Desire, Despair, Destruction and Delirium, which even a series of films would struggle to fully do justice to.
While in the past, cinema seemed the only appropriate medium to realise the stunning visuals and epic scope of Sandman, we’re now at a point where big budget TV shows have film-quality production values (consider Starz’s adaptation of Gaiman’s American Gods for recent proof), and the lengthier screentime of serialised storytelling would allow the narrative and world the room they need to breathe.
But while pretty imagery and breathtaking scale should be enough to entice viewers in at the start, by the end of a Sandman TV series, they would be tuning in to see more of their favourite characters (expect Death to be the breakout star), and to watch with baited breath as Dream’s emotional arc comes to its powerful, inevitable conclusion.