(Warning: The following contains SPOILERS for several independent comic-books, and in particular discussion of how they could be adapted into movies. Proceed with whatever level of independently-minded caution that suggests to you is wise...)
Now, with so much talk lately of Marvel Studios' movie rights issues, DC's critical and box office troubles, and even ill-fated Spider-Man sequels of yore, you'd be forgiven for thinking there wasn't much going on in the world of superhero-themed comic-books beyond the antics of Marvel and DC's 'big two'. That, though, would be a mistake. Y'see, there are a whole lot of incredible superhero comic-books out there that aren't Marvel or DC-affiliated, and many of them might just make for some pretty fantastic movie adaptations.
As such, it seemed about time that we asked:
What's The Next Great (Undiscovered) Superhero Movie Franchise?
To answer that question, though, we're going to have to take a look outside of the glorious, joy-coated confines of Marvel and DC's cinematic supremacy, and in so doing attempt to shine a light on some of the most intriguing comic-book properties out there that could, if handled correctly, be the next great superhero franchise.
5. Ex Machina
What's the big idea? Mitchell Hundred, a.k.a. The Great Machine, is the world's only superhero...and the mayor of New York City. Adventures inevitably ensue.
Why would it make a great franchise? Now, in many ways, Ex Machina (technically DC-published, via the Wildstorm imprint, but we'll give it a break) would make a more obvious HBO mini-series than it would a movie franchise, with its unusual blending of superheroic antics and political intrigue (it's essentially The West Wing, but starring Iron Man) seeming an obvious option to follow up Game of Thrones in a few years time. That being said, there's a whole lot of big-budget-requiring action in the Brian K. Vaughan-penned tale that would really benefit from a big screen budget. A risky option, perhaps, but one that could ultimately put Captain America: The Winter Soldier in the shade if it worked out.
What's the big idea? Mark Grayson is the son of the extraterrestrial hero Omni-Man, and a superhero in his own right (going by the name of Invincible). His story starts off a little Spider-Man-like (dealing with his new powers, as well as both school and girls), but swiftly shifts into a twist-filled mediation on the nature of power and responsibility.
Why would it make a great franchise? Now, the Image-published Invincible (written by The Walking Dead's Robert Kirkman) has technically been adapted already, with a motion-comic based on the series having turned up on MTV2. As big, bad and twist-filled a tale as this, though, surely deserves the full big-budget treatment - especially seeing as that big twist would have everyone coming back for the sequel.
3. Sex Criminals
What's the big idea? A couple discover that they can freeze time when they orgasm - and set off to use their special abilities to rob a bank. From there, things get even stranger.
Why would it make a great franchise? Well, for one thing, the Matt Fraction-penned tale is an action packed, sex-positive heist comedy, with a distinctly unique twist. It may technically be more of a crime story than a conventional superhero tale, but don't worry, things take more of a turn for the super-powered as the story progresses. Also, who doesn't want to see an Ocean's Eleven-style romp featuring super-powered sex?
2. Top 10
What's the big idea? The officers of Neopolis' 10th precinct deal with the day-to-day problems of any police department - only in a city where everyone is a superhero, including them.
Why would it make a great franchise? Well, it was written by Alan Moore, so the central conceit is fantastic - and unlike the more TV-friendly approach taken by similar projects (Astro City's grand scope, Powers' gritty noir) Top 10 has a film-friendly central narrative (new cop turns up, and finds herself embroiled in super-powered scandals and corruption), and is never anything less than breathlessly entertaining. It was, much like Ex Machina, technically published by an imprint of DC, though.
1. The Wicked + The Divine
What's the big idea? Every ninety years, twelve people discover that they are super-powered members of 'The Pantheon', and thus somewhere in between gods and pop stars. They become wildly famous and successful - while knowing that they'll die within two years.
Why would it make a great franchise? Well, imagine a movie where a young, female, David Bowie-lookalike is the living reincarnation of Lucifer, the Egyptian goddess Sakhmet looks an awful lot like Rihanna, and the egotistical lightning god Baal is basically just a teenaged Kanye West. Throw in a handful of the Kieron Gillen-penned saga's glorious twists and turns, and a generous pinch of its respect for youth culture and fandom, and you might just have the biggest youth-skewing franchise since Twilight. Only, y'know, with superpowers and rave-based mind orgies, rather than shiny vampires.
The big question now, though?