Super spies, killer doctors and more – 10 comics that need to be made into TV shows

I think we can all agree there’s never been a better time to be a fan of comic books and TV, given the sheer number of quality small screen comics adaptations offer. Still, you can never have too much of a good thing, so with that in mind, here are 10 more comics network executives should definitely consider for their next big budget TV show!

10. Shazam

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Sure, there’s a live action Shazam feature in the works. Let’s face it, though: 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 if it took a few pointers from comics by creators like Grant Morrison and Cameron Stewart. Their take on the character is paradoxically timeless and contemporary, and absolutely what viewers of all ages deserve.

The perfect Shazam TV show would embrace (not avoid) the ostensibly goofier aspects of the mythos – including a talking tiger who wears a bowtie and a super intelligent worm! – and marry colourful visuals and a whimsical tone with sincere, smart stories.

9. Moon Knight

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Fans of Marvel Comics (and the Marvel Cinematic Universe) will be disappointed that this list doesn’t feature more TV show ideas based around characters from their favourite publisher. However, there’s a reason for that: Marvel mostly has things covered already! Seriously, every film or TV-worthy Marvel character either has a big or small screen adaptation already, or has one in the pipeline.

Still, it seems like there’s at least one character who has been overlooked: Moon Knight. A lesser know superhero, this guy is 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 (Moon Knight is essentially Batman, but with the “Is he actually crazy?” angle ratcheted up to 11) that seems tailor made for modern TV. A Moon Knight show would appeal to viewers by focusing as much on our hero’s personal demons as the colourful villains he’s faced with.

8. The Adventures of Doctor McNinja

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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 would follow the escapades of a doctor…who is also a ninja. Combining 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

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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 arresting set-up for Ex Machina, the award-winning comics series by Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris, that virtually ready made for a small screen adaptation.

Offering a scathing critique of American politics, Ex Machina offers the riveting intrigue of House of Cards with the grounded “cape and tights” antics of Watchmen. Viewers would quickly become attached to the TV show’s strongly drawn cast of characters – particularly conflicted ex-superhero Mitchell Hundred – and respond to its resonance to our own, real-world political arena.

6. Fear Agent

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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 once again, this is 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. 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 breathing room afforded by the serialised storytelling format would allow TV viewers to puzzle over Heath’s compelling backstory as it’s revealed bit by bit each episode.

5. Y: The Last Man

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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. So 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. Brimming with commentary on the 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

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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 story of 100 Bullets revolves around the encounters between down on their luck individuals and the mysterious Agent Graves. Graves provides these downtrodden souls with a briefcase containing three things: a gun, 100 untraceable bullets, and irrefutable evidence pointing towards the people responsible for ruining their lives.

This is a set-up is as close to a guaranteed small screen slam dunk as it gets. Viewers would be on the edge of their seats following every violent twist and turn of 100 Bullets‘ noir-infused narrative, as they try to piece together the wider motives behind Graves’ deadly game.

3. Jack Kirby’s New Gods

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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 for Marvel’s perennial rival DC, which introduced the world to 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 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.

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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 reprise the role for an ongoing series, a Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show could work as a period series (similar to the criminally underappreciated Agent Carter), which would allow for the role to be re-cast with a younger actor.

This show 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 Peggy Carter, John Slattery’s Howard Stark and other players active during the time period. It could also spotlight on Fury’s struggles as a person of colour trying to rise through the ranks at the height of the civil rights movement, something the MCU has yet to really touch on.

1. The Sandman

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There have been multiple failed attempts to get a Sandman movie off the ground – how many more will it take before DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Pictures finally realise that a TV adaptation is the best way forward? The ground-breaking 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 his siblings Destiny, Death, Desire, Despair, Destruction and Delirium, is so big, even a series of films would struggle to fully do it justice.

True, a decade ago, cinema was the only appropriate medium to capture the trippy 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). More importantly, the more substantial screen time of serialised storytelling would allow these memorable characters and their unique world the room they need to breathe.


Have a suggestion of your own? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter or Facebook!

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