If Deadpool proved anything, it was that comic book movies can be a lot more experimental than studios had thought. Now it seems that Fundamental Films has gone straight to the source - they've bought the film rights for Deadpool co-creator Rob Liefeld's "Extreme Universe"! With four superhero cinematic universes already out there — the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the X-Men cinematic universe, the DC Extended Universe and the in-progress Valiant Universe — why does Fundamental Films believe another can flourish?
The Origins of the Extreme Universe
In the late 1980s and 1990s, #Marvel began to move in a whole new direction. They started becoming increasingly dependent on artists like Rob Liefeld and Jim Lee, allowing them to take charge of titles as writers as well as artists. The approach led to some tremendous sales — not least Liefeld's X-Force #1, still the second-best-selling comic of all time. But it also left them with a very real vulnerability — these artists were growing increasingly dissatisfied with Marvel's creative policies.
The specific bone of contention was that, in companies like Marvel and DC, the company owns the character rights. If you create a new Marvel Comics character, you only receive modest royalties; you don't receive anything from merchandising. In December 1991, Liefeld was among a group of artists who met with leaders over at Marvel and demanded change. They didn't get their wish.
In response, Liefeld was one of a number of artists who left Marvel to form a new comics company, Image Comics. (It's an event known as the 'X-Odus', because so many of the key figures hailed from the X-Men titles.) Image wouldn't own any creator's work; the rights would stay with the creator. Each Image partner founded their own studio, with Liefeld founding Extreme Studios. He swiftly began to develop his own Extreme Universe.
Ironically, amid rumors of bitter arguments with the other founders of Image, Liefeld wound up going his own way. Extreme Studios became a separate publishing house, Awesome Comics, and Liefeld even went on to hire legendary creators such as Alan Moore!
The Appeal of the Extreme Universe
It's unclear whether or not some of the more popular Extreme titles — such as Alan Moore's Youngblood and Supreme — are included in the deal. Assuming the deal is restricted just to titles that originated with Rob Liefeld, though, Fundamental Films already has enough characters and concepts to make a formidable cinematic universe. The Wrap reports that the Extreme Universe banner includes nine comic book titles and nearly 100 characters, including Brigade, Lethal, Kaboom, and Nitro-Gen.
The Extreme Universe is characterized by a bloody, brutal and heavily-sexualized aesthetic. Visually, a lot of characters are clearly inspired by Liefeld's pre-Image work; the assassin Lethal, for example, is visually reminiscent of the X-Force member Domino. Many characters are military, largely because Liefeld enjoys drawing guns and pouches.
For all that comic book fashions have changed over time — Liefeld's work is now nowhere near so adored as it was — two superhero movies have undoubtedly made Fundamental Films believe the aesthetic of the Extreme Universe could work on the big screen. The first is Deadpool, which has demonstrated a real demand for R-rated blood-and-guts superheroes. That scratch is unlikely to be itched by Marvel and DC, and this clearly gives the Extreme Universe a bit more room to manoeuvre. The second is Suicide Squad, which showed the success of antiheroes and heavily sexualized female protagonists.
Will this Work?
Fundamental Films is clearly taking a sizeable gamble on the Extreme Universe; they reportedly paid a seven-figure sum for the film rights. And it's true that the Extreme Universe may well be visually distinctive enough to stand separate from the other superhero universes; if the films are at all similar to the comics, then this universe will be entirely R-rated. None of the superheroes have anything like the popularity and exposure of a character like Deadpool, but that distinctive aesthetic and tone may well give it a real chance.
- Should Superhero Movies Become More R-Rated?
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- Celebrating 25 Years of Marvel's X-Force: A History of the Best-Selling Comic!
Superheroes are clearly all the vogue right now, but the Extreme Universe deal suggests that the genre is becoming increasingly diverse. It's an exciting time for superhero fans, and no doubt Liefeld's success will be inspiring a lot of other Image Comics writers to look for similar deals...
Do you think the Extreme Universe will get off the ground?
(Source: The Wrap , Poll Image Credit: Awesome Comics)