Seven years ago, Kevin Feige and his buddies at Marvel kicked off two phases in Hollywood: Phase One of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and an industry-wide infatuation with comic book adaptations.
Marvel and DC alone have released or announced roughly 50 productions for both the big and small screen. The market becomes even more saturated when films like Kick-Ass, Spider-Man, and Fantastic 4 are accounted for.
With Avengers: Age of Ultron failing to meet some of the public's expectations - despite delivering more of what fans claimed to have loved about the first film - and Sony/Marvel bringing the third and fourth versions of Spider-Man to theaters since 2007, people are raring to see the movie industry's mainstream landscape change again.
To be honest, I'm right there with those people. The much talked about adaptation of Sony's hit video game The Last of Us needs to come out (with Mackenzie Foy playing Ellie, please!), thereby helping to usher in the industry's video game adaptation phase (because having the majority of blockbusters being original screenplays like Interstellar would be asking too much). That shift is obviously still years off, so let me give you some projects to look out for while Hollywood lazily waits for someone to save it from itself.
Here are five non-superhero comic book adaptations worth keeping an eye on, in no particular order.
Cinemax picked up the rights to this horror title from The Walking Dead co-creator Robert Kirkman. While the writer focuses TWD on its characters instead of the scares inherent to stories about zombies, Outcast instead was always meant to properly frighten readers. The premium channel show, which will be led by Gone Girl star Patrick Fugit, is likely going to pull an audience of its own from the massive Walking Dead fanbase, teeing the writers up for several seasons with which to ably tell its exorcism story.
Outcast - pardon me, "Outcast by Kirkman and Azaceta" - was probably the easiest sell to studios of all the titles on this list. Aside from Kirkman's previous television success, the narrative ground this book covers is well-trodden in most mediums of fiction.
Kyle Barnes has been plagued by demonic possession all his life and now he needs answers. Unfortunately, what he uncovers along the way could bring about the end of life on Earth as we know it.
There aren't many more reliable ways to set high expectations for a film than seeing studios enter a bidding war for the property before it's even been made available to the public. When the dust settled, it was Sony who ultimately won the right to bring this tale of a boy robot to the big screen.
One of the major selling points for the book has always been its strikingly unique watercolor visuals. This makes me wonder if the filmmakers are going with a predictable live-action production or taking a less conventional approach, such as partnering up with the artists at Studio Ghibli to animate the film (a guy can dream).
There are two things I see setting Descender apart from the rest of the 'AI robot in the future sci-fi' crowd*: the fact that this time the humans weren't defeated by the machines, and Bandit the robot dog.
One young robot’s struggle to stay alive in a universe where all androids have been outlawed and bounty hunters lurk on every planet. A rip-roaring and heart-felt cosmic odyssey that pits humanity against machine, and world against world, to create a sprawling space opera....
*Please go see Ex Machina if you haven't already.
Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (Superbad, This is the End) are developing this 90's comic for AMC, the home of The Walking Dead. With a pilot episode being filmed right now, Preacher will likely be the first adaptation on this list that we'll see. That observation is particularly noteworthy because Garth Ennis has seen several failed attempts made at bringing his story to the screens in the last fifteen years.
I haven't read Preacher, but I've got faith in the passion Rogen and Goldberg have for the project. Another major player behind the scenes is writer and producer Sam Catlin, who has been recognized for his excellent work on a little show called Breaking Bad. Then there's this...
'Preacher' is about Jesse Custer, a conflicted preacher in a small Texas town who merges with a creature that has escaped from heaven and develops the ability to make anyone do anything he says. Along with his ex-girlfriend, Tulip, and an Irish vampire named Cassidy, the three embark on a journey to literally find God.
Even more so than Preacher, Sex Criminals is a property that needs nothing more than its own tagline to sell itself:
Suzie's a normal girl with an extraordinary ability: when she has sex, she stops time. One night she meets Jon... who has the same gift. And so they do what any other sex-having, time-stopping, couple would do: they rob banks.
Of course, Sex Criminals is more than a catchy plot summary. It was created by Matt Fraction (his Hawkeye is allegedly fantastic) and Chip Zdarsky (he made a modern hit out of Howard the Duck for Marvel), and is published by Image (everyone's favorite publisher of creator-owned comics). Universal TV - primarily associated with NBC, though it's impossible we'll see the show aired there - picked up the comic book that Time named the best of 2013.
Like those super cool shape-shifting heroes from Cybertron, Sex Criminals is more than meets the eye. Sweeter than candy on the surface and undoubtedly a half-hour comedy on the telly, Fraction's story delves into dramatic issues more than one might expect. It's this occasional tonal shift that makes Sex Criminals a personal favorite of mine.
It's as if this guy Mark Millar has some cross-medium contract for developing projects, like his new stories have to either be made for both the page and the screen or else he gets no green light at all.
Or maybe it's just that studios like him and the money his adapted works have brought in.
Following Wanted, Kick-Ass, and Kingsman: The Secret Service is Chrononauts, an original time travel story sometimes described as what Back to the Future would have looked like if it'd been more of an action flick.
...the comic series that would go on to become Chrononauts began with a single image: American families huddled around their television sets, as man’s first attempt to travel through time is broadcast live – planting an American flag on the shores of the New World in 1492.
These are dark times, there is no denying. Yet for every Amazing Spider-Man 2 we get, look just to the left and you'll find a Daredevil you can watch instead.
Rest assured that there's more where that goodness came from as well.