It’s not breaking news that comics are a hot property right now. There is practically a comic book based movie in theaters every month, and a new comics-inspired show on TV every week, if not every day. People would argue that this is oversaturation and that ideas are being run dry. But those of us who have been die-hard funny book fans all our lives know that truth; with so many great concepts and titles in our favorite medium, there is a deep well of stories to mine. And let’s face it, with its ability for longer form tales, TV and comics are an idyllic marriage. Here are perhaps lesser known, but no less interesting and rich concepts and stories that would make a great show.
Sandman Mystery Theater
When DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint exploded on the scene, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman got all the press. And don’t get me wrong, it’s a classic series and one of the best. But another title made its debut at that time, also from Vertigo and also with “Sandman” in its title. Sandman Mystery Theater by Matt Wagner and Guy Davis, however, had little to do with its more popular sister title. Mystery Theater was about the Golden Age Sandman, Wesley Dodds, who was a crime fighter in the vein of The Shadow. Using only his detective skills, and a sleep gas emitting gun, the gasmask-clad, trench-coat wearing Wesley was used to tell dark, twisted, and mostly grounded noir and crime tales. Set in the late 1930s, the stories were amazing and atmospheric yarns steeped in the culture and history of the time; pre-World War 2 America. This Sandman faced off against spies, serial killers, mobsters, and kidnappers. An HBO style premium series, with a great cast and high production, could be absolutely incredible. Think Boardwalk Empire with a “mystery man” as its main protagonist. The possibilities are endless.
Marvel has spread its Marvel Cinematic Universe across many platforms. This has wisely allowed them to capture multiple moods while still maintaining a connected world. But until recently, with Ghost Rider’s appearance on the usually sci-fi heavy Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show and the upcoming Doctor Strange film, they have mostly avoided the supernatural. But make no mistake, Marvel has plenty of horror-tinged concepts primed for the MCU. Midnight Sons was the banner thrown around many of its supernatural titles in the 90s. It even included Blade, a character largely credited with helping usher in the new era of comics based movies with the hugely successful Wesley Snipes series of films. But there were other characters like Jack Russell, the Werewolf by Night, or Morbius the Living Vampire. Even Man-Thing could be brought in. A Midnight Sons show on a streaming service like Netflix could be amazing. Perhaps it can be made almost like an anthology, using Blade as a guide moving among this new dark underworld, as he gathers a force of “monsters” to face evil supernatural threats and foes.
Speaking of anthologies, Kurt Busiek, Alex Ross’ and Brent Anderson’s long-running title is prime pickings for such a show. Using classic archetypes as a basis, Astro City created its deep and populated superhero universe. From gleaming New God-like beings to street level vigilantes, Astro City had it all. There is an ocean of characters and concepts to swim in. A mainstream network like ABC or NBC could finally unleash the concepts a show like Heroes desperately tried to give us. You could have a huge ensemble cast, revolving around multiple multi-arc and stand-alone stories. It could be a prime time superhero soap opera, truly endless and appealing to the average non-comics fan.
Created by superstars Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso, 100 Bullets shot its way into comics via Vertigo. With its own heavy mythology making and ever growing cast of characters, this crime and a conspiracy-filled story is ripe for a Breaking Bad or Sons of Anarchy style cable network show. The concept of the ultra-mysterious Agent Graves handing out silver briefcases carrying 100 untraceable bullets and a gun being handed out to people who have been “wronged” builds slowly over time into one large, multi-arc epic. It could be told through multiple seasons, with cliffhangers to rival those aforementioned shows. All you need is a great cast, anchored by a seasoned actor playing Agent Graves, and you would be off to the races. Violent, shocking, and densely plotted, 100 Bullets could be the next cable TV phenomenon.
In the 90s, Kurt Busiek and Mark Bagley were high on Marvel’s list of ‘A’ level creators. Following the ill-fated and badly received “Heroes Reborn” crossover, Marvel needed a void to be filled by the now missing Avengers. Without much fanfare, they introduced what seemed to be a new team of barley original characters called the Thunderbolts. In this pre-internet era, the title didn’t even make a ripple first. That is until the last page, where the ‘Bolts were revealed to be a disguised Masters of Evil, one of Marvel’s most notorious supervillain teams. Led by Baron Zemo (introduced into the MCU in Captain America: Civil War) the team’s goal of world domination slowly became a tale of redemption as the once evil characters slowly began to realize that maybe there was a hero inside each of them after all. Imagine a “Phase 2” for the MCU’s Netflix world with this as the concept. It would be a fantastic show filled with action, dramatic turns and themes. Anti-heroes are always popular, and here you could have an entire cast of them. It’s tailor made for high impact TV.
What is the next comic book series you would like to see produced for television? Comment below.