It's no secret to anyone that comic books are king when it comes to television and movie adaptations these days. For the past 20 years, they've been mined relentlessly—to varying degrees of success—which is culminating in a Marvel & DC cinematic schedule well into the 2020s. There's no denying that these movies are putting fans in the theaters, whether they're there picking the work apart or idolizing it. It’s also apparent to just about everyone that it’s becoming a bit exhausting; Steven Spielberg even went so far as to say that these movies are just going through a cycle and that eventually they'd go the way of the Western.
While this may be true, superheroes aren't all that comic books have to offer. Nor are Marvel & DC the only publishers with content worthy of big-budget adaptations. Publishers like Image and Valiant have been consistently putting out new and exciting content for years now, much of which is ripe for the picking. And like it or not, comic fans, Hollywood is paying attention. Rarely does a day go by without the announcement of a new live-action reimagining of a comic. Here are six upcoming adaptations made from properties that are worth your time and attention, both on-screen and in print.
This first one is an Image comic that only just released its first volume last month. Film rights were acquired by Sony before the first issue even hit the shelves. Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen’s incredible space opera chronicles the journey of a young robot who wakes up in a universe where artificial intelligence has been outlawed. After celestial-sized robots appeared, killed droves of living species across the galaxy, and disappeared shortly after, Tim-21 must band together with a wide-ranging cast of heroes in his fight to stay alive. Lemire’s witty and relatable characters—human, alien, and robot alike—are brought to life by Nguyen’s stunning watercolor illustrations. And even though there are only six issues out to date, this story feels like it takes place in a lush and fully realized world with untold amounts of history that has yet to be uncovered. With both creators already signed on to executive produce, Sony surely nabbed a hit with this one, and we can’t wait for it to hit theaters (whenever that may be).
Garth Ennis’ tale of Southern preacher Jesse Custer, possessed by a creature more powerful than God and tasked with confronting the Almighty himself, is equal parts hilarious and macabre. Anchored by a cast made up of his gun-toting ex-girlfriend Ruby, an Irish vampire Cassidy, the inbred family who raised him, and a loveable Nirvana fan named Arse-face, this adaptation is bound to be incredible. Executive produced by writing team Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen with a series order at AMC, this violent dark comedy has found the perfect home it could have asked for. The cable network is home to The Walking Dead, another strong non-superhero comic book adaptation, and will likely give Goldberg and Rogen the money and freedom to create a better representation of this series than a movie ever could have offered.
3.) The Wicked + The Divine
Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie's sordid tale of a group of 12 teenagers imbued with the likenesses and powers of ancient gods and goddesses is getting a television treatment. Helmed by two other comic powerhouses, Matt Fraction and Kelly Sue DeConnick, the adaptation will undoubtedly be handled with care and love. This rich series thrusts its heroes (and villains) into a life of all the rock ‘n’ roll and sex they could ever want...for the two years they have left to live. A phenomenon that occurs every 90 years, these teen beings are worshipped more as deified pop stars than the mythic anchors of any church currently in existence. A definite critique of celebrity culture if there ever were one, this TV show should promise a lush palate and intriguing story for seasons to come. While it's still only in development, expect to worship this televised Pantheon as much as the human bystanders within the comic itself.
Of all the adaptations on this list, Outcast is the one that’s closest to becoming a reality. The Cinemax show’s pilot was already screened for live audiences and is premiering on the network this fall season. This new horror comic was both created and adapted for television by Robert Kirkman, the Image Comics powerhouse who also created The Walking Dead. Protagonist Kyle Barnes is a man followed by demons, both literal and emotional, after suffering childhood abuse by his possessed mother and exorcising his young daughter much later in life. Isolated through his own making, he spends his days helping a local priest with cases not unlike his own. A concept that begs the question of what happens to the victims of possession after they’ve been exorcised will likely have the freedom to be a bit more horrifying than its zombie predecessor, if only because it isn’t on a cable network.
5.) Y: The Last Man
This is the most recently announced adaptation on our list. After suffering years caught in development hell, creator Brian K. Vaughan announced he’d reclaimed the film rights to the property and would be executive producing a television version for the FX network. The post-apocalyptic story covers the adventures of Yorick and his pet monkey Ampersand, the last two surviving males on the planet after a mysterious disease wipes out everything else with a Y-chromosome. The comic ran for 60 issues and is perfect for the televised format, bringing us an incredibly rich cast of strong women that guide its bumbling hero all across the globe. We’ll hold our breaths until there’s more substantial news for this adaptation, but it’ll surely capture our attention once casting announcements begin.
OK, so this last one is slightly cheating, because Sandman came out under the Vertigo imprint, which is owned by DC. And Morpheus, the titular Sandman, does happen to encounter members of the Justice League within the first 10 issues, but isn’t a superhero himself. This beloved Neil Gaiman comic just celebrated a 25-year anniversary with a new five-issue prequel arc. The weird sci-fi tale takes us from the wild corners of our dreams (where Morpheus’ kingdom resides) to the very depths of Hell. It’s debatably one of the best graphic novels of all time, and has been in development hell for decades. This adaptation should be approached with caution, because future star Joseph Gordon-Levitt has publicly admitted the story will have to be changed and truncated (the trials of turning a 75-issue series into a two-hour movie). But that doesn’t mean we should be without hope—Gaiman himself is attached to executive produce.
Comic book adaptations in any format can often be hit or miss. Devotees of the medium loudly lament changes made to the source material, while others less inclined to reading monthly issues roll their eyes at another adaptation being shoehorned into production. But these properties are without a doubt hits in their original formats, and being brought to us by passionate comic book lovers and on-screen giants of their own accord. Hopefully we’ll see some of this passion for comics translated into something better than we’d ever expect. And if not? At least we’ll all have something else to complain about on the internet.
Have we missed any other non-superhero adaptations that are in production? Have any comics you’d like to see on-screen? Let us know in the comments!