Comic books have served as a nearly endless source of potential television adaptation material. Some of these adaptations such as the Walking Dead, iZombie, Preacher and virtually every single Superhero show under the sun, go on to become successful shows of their own.
Although, as you can imagine, it is not always a happy ending for some; often adaptations of popular comic books fall short, failing to garner an audience or outright slipping through the cracks and into mediocrity.For example, does anybody remember the short-lived 2007 TV series and straight to television movie, Painkiller Jane? Or the equally as memorable 2001 show, Witchblade?
Both shows received a less than lukewarm reception from fans, as both were each based on two rather popular comic books series. Regardless, that does not mean that we won't ever see those shows on television ever again. After all, if given enough time the source material can be adapted again and again (just look at the 1990 Flash TV show, which in all fairness was not completely terrible for its time). So with that in mind, here are 10 comic book series, in no particular order, that deserve a television adaptation!
10. Scarlet (2010)
A creation of writer Brian Michael Bendis, the same mind behind the creation of the character Jessica Jones, who has recently had a Netflix TV adaptation of her own. Scarlet focuses on the young teenager Scarlet Rue, who is fighting government corruption in Portland. Scarlet seeks revenge after a corrupt cop murders her boyfriend and leaves Scarlet in a three-week coma, after shooting her in the head head. Over time Scarlet's methods become more and more violent, eventually igniting protests all across America and sparking the next American revolution.
Revenge stories have been done to death a dozen times before, and the same goes for fighting corruption in the system. This time, it would be one of the first times where the protagonist is an average Joe, devoid of extra special powers and or training. Further perpetuating the idea of normal people taking the fight to the higher ups.
Though, Scarlet is still far from normal; in Scarlet's world, the world where super powers do not exist, she has a habit of breaking the fourth wall (most likely caused by the gunshot wound to the head).
Sure, breaking the fourth wall in comics is nothing new, but this comic is filled to bursting with it, with entire pages literally revolving around Scarlet talking to the reader. It is somewhat similar to the protagonist of the show Mr. Robot, Elliot, and his relationship with the viewer, who he refers to as his imaginary friend. Along with House of Cards's ruthless protagonist Frank Underwood, who also breaks the fourth wall, adding a new layer and dynamic to the narrative.
Scarlet would fit nicely in a Netflix's or Amazon Video show format. Also with the on-going, real life civil unrest that is happening in America right now, Scarlet has never been more relevant.
9. The Runaways (2003)
So what happens when a group of teenagers finds out that each of their parents is super villains who sacrifice children to evil Gods. Easy, they run away.
When the award-winning series, The Runaways, debuted in 2003, it was an unexpected (dare I say, runaway) success. Following the adventures of teenagers: smart guy Alex, the jock type Chase, the goth sorcerer Nico, the sarcasm spewing Gert, the alien Karolina, and the prepubescent, super strength imbued mutant, Molly (with many more characters added along the way). The group rejected their parent's evil lineage and strike out on their own as heroes while trying to survive in the Marvel universe.
A story about some rebellious teens, even in a superhero setting, might cause a few eyes to roll in begrudged indifference. However, The Runaways, managed to avoid nearly all the trope pitfalls and add new twists to the ones that it did not. The group dynamic was also one of the series strong points; having a mix of super and non-super powered characters who are all children of villains instead of superheroes, created this gray area of morality amongst the characters. One that made them all the more relatable, especially in comparison to other, perhaps more heroic groups of superhero teens, such as the Young Avengers.
Throughout the lifespan of the series, The Runaways would crossover with more recognizable Marvel characters such as the Punisher. However next to no knowledge of other Marvel characters, or any prior story lines is required, with the series instead focusing on the original cast.
On that alone, The Runways could easily fit into the MCU but remain separate from other characters and stories. Interestingly enough, there was a lot of talk over the past few years about Marvel creating a Film and or TV series about The Runaways, so don’t be too surprised if we see them in theaters or on out TV screens in the future.
8. Rising Stars (1996)
Written by J. Michael Straczynski, Rising Stars, is a 24 issue series that spanned from 1996-2005. The series focuses on the lives of 113 children (known as “specials”) who received super powers from an unusual comet.
Now well into adulthood, John Simon, one of the specials, is on the hunt for a serial killer behind a string of murdered specials. While on the hunt, John reconnects with his peers, other specials who have been re-shaped by the way the world reacted to them. Some of these specials have embraced their powers, becoming heroes or villains, some exploited them for fame and fortune, or even outright rejecting them and others chose to try and live normal lives instead.
Looking back on it, the best way to describe Rising Stars is that it is a cross between The Watchmen and Heroes. It is an action-packed series that manages to squeeze in a whole lot of substance in as well; as it explored the ways in which society decided to handle children and adults who have super powers.
Unfortunately at some moments, Rising Stars, reeks of that old 90's comic book tendency to try and be darker/edgier, often with embarrassing results.
What made Rising Stars stand out amongst the surge of other superhero comic books in the 90s, was how Straczynski made the ensemble casts personalities to be just as colorful and varied as their powers. Each character dealt with their powers in different ways, often leading to tragic results; like the character David Mueller, who used his powers to merge minds, was rendered inert after unsuccessfully trying to prevent his mother's suicide, while merged with her mind.
The point is that almost all the characters were interesting enough to hold up a series of their own (and some eventually did just that), yet all of them are seamlessly melded together in Rising Stars. Rising Stars could very well be the superhero television series we deserve. It would serve as a perfect replacement to Heroes, a show which unfortunately continues to struggle to keep a hold of its audience.
7. Gotham By Midnight (2015)
Gotham is a city with a lot of problems and Batman is a guy who understandably does not have a lot of time on his hands to deal with all of them. Especially with the perpetual night time and the psycho clown that resides there. So when your average mugger suddenly starts to levitating while speaking in tongues, you really can't blame Batman for looking deep within himself and asking "what is this crap? I can't even today".
Fortunately, detective Jim Corrigan, the current vessel of the Spectre (a powerful spirit that kind of does whatever it wants, whenever it feels like it) and his special Batman approved GCPD task force are best equipped for dealing with these scenarios. Together they are Gotham's best hope of tackling the supernatural anomalies that secretly plague the city.
While Gotham certainly looks like a place that is besieged by ghosts, you don't often get a chance to see what lies beneath. So Gotham By Midnight is a fun excursion tat goes behind the scenes and investigates the disturbing goings-on of the astral plane.
The Supernatural genre is ever a popular one and although it does not always work out (see Constantine for more details), there is certainly room for a new show, especially for one as disturbing as Gotham by Midnight.
The characters play out like your typical cop drama; including a rag-tag band of vibrant, yet different personalities that specialize in different aspects of the supernatural. The series also followed your standard episodic format, with every two or three issues being dedicated to a new problem, something that would fit nicely in a television format.
With the popularity of the existing TV show Gotham, Gotham By Midnight would compliment the show, running parallel to it as a spin-off show similarly to Fear The Walking Dead.
6. Suicide Risk (2013)
In the world of Suicide Risk, heroes are in short demand and villains rule the city. It turns out that when the only thing stopping you from having super powers is money, that most patrons are not going to be utilizing them for the sake of others and the greater good. This leaves the protection of the city to Police offers like Leo Winters and after one particular gruesome (for the police) end to a hostage situation, Leo has had enough.
Seeking to even the playing field a little, Leo goes to purchase powers of his own, only the catch is that you don't get to choose what kind of powers you get along with the mental baggage that comes with them. Undeterred Leo presses forward but is he in for more than he bargained for?
As original as it was, the story arguably did not break any new ground although, Suicide Risk does excel at exploring the darker side of super powers and how exploitable they are when available to the public. Admittedly the writer Mike Carey does take the story go to some pretty far out places, but the narrative is at it's best at the parts that feel more grounded.
Suicide Risk is a refreshing rendition of the Superhero world and would make for a very original TV adaptation, one separate from a market which is dominated by shows from the likes of Marvel and DC.
5. Nightwing (1996-09)
Before he was Nightwing, Dick Grayson, was the first boy wonder and the original Robin. Adopted by Bruce Wayne, Grayson would grow into his own hero, stepping out of his mentor's shadow and receiving some naming inspiration from Superman. Over the course of his Superhero career, Grayson would take on many other identities including, standing in for Batman and becoming a secret agent for a Spy organization, but the Nightwing moniker would always be Grayson's mantle.
So with a DC character that has been around since the 1980s (as Nightwing that is), you can imagine that there are a lot of different stories that could be adapted into a TV show. However, there is one arc that stands out amongst the rest; the 1996-2006 arc, which saw Grayson strike out on his own in the city of Blüdhaven, Gotham's uglier little brother.
The Blüdhaven story arc really got into the head space of Grayson's character, completely moving out the character out of Batman's shadow and leaving him in the deep, to create his own legacy. Something he would attempt to do by taking down the crime lord Blockbuster as both Nightwing and the newly appointed officer Dick Grayson.
It was a fun story arc that created a new and interesting dynamic, by actually giving the character Grayson responsibilities outside of the Nightwing persona. Nightwing had to work different sides of the law to bring Blockbuster and police corruption down.
New supporting characters were also introduced, like Grayson's partner and boss Amy Rohrbach. Along with many old, returning characters such as the then, current Robin, Tim Drake and Barbara Gordon’s, Batgirl making appearances.
The concept of a Nightwing TV show is nothing strange to DC fans, rumors ran rampant that a show was in the works. The character was also briefly teased to appear in Arrow. Also, a pretty decent fan-made series exists online, so, for now, we will just have to use that to tide ourselves over.
4. Wayward (2015)
Desiring to get away from her increasingly contentious relationship with her father, half Irish and half Japanese teenager Rori Lane, leaves Ireland and travels to Japan to reunite with her mother. Almost immediately after arriving, things take a turn for the strange as Rori see's strange red strands of energy. These strands are one of Rori’s many surfacing magical powers that connect her to the hidden world of spirits. Unfortunately for Rori, the inhabitants of this secret world want Rori and others like her dead.
To survive Rori unwittingly becomes the leader of a small group of teens, each of which has special abilities similar to but very different from Rori such as the cat master Ayane, spirit eater Shirai, emotion controller Nikaido and matter manipulator Ohara.
It's no secret that the modern Superhero phenomenon is something that is firmly locked within Western culture. Even if the characters are a diverse group, it's likely that the action is going to largely take place somewhere in the Western hemisphere or more specifically America. Wayward is a refreshing subversion of the norm, not only is it just set in Japan but it's rich in Japanese and Chinese, Yokai mythology. Many of the central enemies might look familiar to some as they all stem from folklore; such as Kappas, Tengus, and Jorōgumo.
On the surface, it is easy to call some similarities to Ghostbusters, but go one layer deeper and you'll find that the world of Wayward is a unique one.
Diversity in the Superhero genre is something that is slowly improving, the Netflix exclusive show Sense8 was a runaway hit that featured an ensemble cast of characters from all over the world. However Sense8 was just one of many other live-action Superhero shows out there, and there is certainly room for more. A Wayward television adaptation would be a welcomed addition and presents a great opportunity to show the Superhero genre somewhere outside of Western culture.
3. C.O.W.L. (2014)
It's the 1960s and superheroes in Chicago operate under a union; The Chicago Organised Workers League. For a long time, C.O.W.L. stood as the cities fiercest protectors from organized crime and Super villainy. However, as times changed C.O.W.L. struggled to keep itself relevant, worse yet the organization is being battered by scandals, financial cutbacks, and an internal power struggle. Geoffrey Warner, the head of C.O.W.L. has a plan to keep the organization afloat, one that is going to show the city of Chicago that they need C.O.W.L. now more than ever, whether they like it or not.
A comic book best described as Madmen meets Heroes, C.O.W.L. takes a slightly different route with its take on the superhero genre; presenting a gritty, greedy air of distrust and corruption akin to the cold war era of which this series takes place in. C.O.W.L. really gets into the darker side or cooperate funded superheroes who are exploited as celebrities for financial gain.
Outside of the larger plot line, C.O.W.L. does a great job of juggling it's cast of characters; with each of them being fleshed out in ways that make them all the more relatable. One of the strongest examples of this is with the characters Radia, who despite being a gifted telekinetic and one of the most powerful heroes on the team, is forced to play second fiddle to all of the male heroes.
Superhero antics during the dark and murky era of the Cold War is an intriguing concept and C.O.W.L. is one comic book that I could easily see being a popular television series.
2. Nemesis (2010)
In 2009, writer Mark Miller teased Nemesis to the world by asking a simple question, "What if Batman was The Joker?
Nemesis the titular character of the 4 part mini-series, is the world's only and most dangerous supervillain super-genius. Moving from country to country and police force to police force, Nemesis has been terrorizing the world in an apparent quest to find a worthy adversary. Eventually setting his sights on the USA and police Chief inspector, Blake Morrow. With his origins and ultimate objective a mystery, the world can only brace and wait for the ensuing carnage, as Nemesis begins his game.
Needless to say, it is fun to root for the bad guys sometimes, and Nemesis is quite literally the epitome of evil. While there are tons of bad guys to root for in movies, we could do with a few more on our smaller screens.
What made Nemesis so fun was the execution; it was near impossible to predict what was going to happen next, sure some events were borderline ridiculous (such releasing deadly nerve gas in the pentagon but only giving Morrows the antidote, just to taunt him). The character of Nemesis enigmatic nature always left more questions than answers as you never actually find out his true origins (with any accounts given in the story being made up.
A movie adaptation for Nemesis had long been rumored to be in the works, with Warner Bros producing it. Regardless until I see a trailer for the movie version, I'll keep my hopes up for at least a TV adaptation.
1. X-Factor Investigations (2005-13)
If you are a mutant in the Marvel universe, then things usually suck, with extinction always looming on the horizon. Fortunately, The mutant Jamie Madrox, also known as the Multiple Man, whose power is to create duplicates of himself whenever he receives physical impact (hence his namesake), has started his own private investigation company. One that aims to help mutants at an affordable rate, when no one else will.
X-Factor is a title that has gone through many changes over the years; originally starting out as an offshoot faction of the X-Men and led by Cyclops, before being led by his brother Havok years later. The 2005 X-Factor Investigations series was an unexpected hit, alongside Madrox was a team of supporting X-men characters (some well known and some or obscure) such as Strong Guy, Wolfsbane, Long Shot, Siryn and Layla to name but just a few.
X-Factor stood almost as a standalone series in the Marvel Universe which made the story very accessible. Alongside that the choice of characters and their powers made the series stand out even more; Madrox's power to create duplicates actually meant that these "dupes" could live independent lives of their own with one becoming a priest, another a Hydra operative and an Agent of Shield.
The supporting characters also added to the strength of the narrative with Wolfsbane, a mutant werewolf who struggles in coming to terms with her mutant gene due to being a devout Catholic. Rictor, a former mutant who struggles with the recent loss of his powers and the fan favorite, Layla Miller, a deceptively normal-looking child who "knows things" about future events.
With TV adaptations of X-men's Legion and Hellfire in the works, Marvel clearly is pushing for more shows, something that only reignites my hope for an adaptation of one of Marvels more unique comic books.
Which Comic Book series would you like to see get adapted into a TV show? Think maybe that I've missed a good one out? Then sound off in the comments below!