The movie-going public is experiencing an endless continuum of superhero summers, a trend that doesn't look to be abating any time this decade. The occasional comic-cum-movie is an artistic success, but generally the final product is nothing but a debacle, the latest of which is Sin City creator Frank Miller's mission to ruin comics legend Will Eisner's classic The Spirit. As bad as The Spirit with cell phones might well be, it pales next to the specter of forthcoming adaptations of the already troubled The Incredible Hulk, and the rest of the in-production or planned films ripped from comic book pages: Wolverine, Watchmen, Iron Man, Atlantis Rising, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Nick Fury, Madman, Hack/Slash, Largo Winch, Luke Cage, Whiteout, Wanted, Magneto, Superman: Man of Steel, The Sub-Mariner, Punisher: War Zone, Hellboy 2, Sin City 2, and Spiderman 4, just to name a few. There are absolutely worthy properties here, but the majority of these features will fade away like so many Daredevils. But fear not, Hollywood. Here are four comics tailor-made for the screen that may eventually be needed to bring the genre back to life.
Love and Rockets
What's it about? What isn't it about? In one of the first important alternative comics of the 80s, Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez perfected a brand of engaging, sexy, comic family that makes Tyler Perry look like a prop comic. Originally self-published by these two brilliant brothers, Love and Rockets found a niche as an evolving, chaotic work of genius that spans both of the Americas. Choosing one story would be difficult, but the mystery set in the fictional town of Palomar might be the perfect place to start.
Who should star and direct? Even the visual style of the Hernandez brothers fits King of the Hill creator Mike Judge, and instead he is wasting years of his life on movies like the Luke Wilson-Maya Rudolph comedy Idiocracy. Judge is laboring on another television show in the interim, and when he decides to come back to the big screen L & R should be the reason. Casting a bunch of total unknowns for this would be a stroke of genius. My office will bill your office, Mike.
Thunderbolts: Faith In Monsters
What's it about? Prolific comic book scripter Warren Ellis' version of Thunderbolts is the story of a bunch of supervillains forcibly conscripted by the U.S. government to apprehend rogue superheroes. The unlikely and largely unknown team of Swordsman, Venom, Bullseye, Moonstone, Songbird, Penance and Radioactive Man won't win in the name recognition category. The dark and funny concept is the key here, turning the traditional structure of superheroes on their head. Thunderbolts may have to wait until the genre collapses in on itself and is in need of a shake-up.
Who should star and direct? Ellis' group of villains are led by Spiderman's Norman Osborn, and since Willem Dafoe's version of him is relegated to cable, a suitable replacement would be to resurrect the classic performance of Greg Kinnear's Captain Amazing character from Mystery Men as the team leader. I'll also have to see if the guy who directed Clue is still alive, I am imagining a similar comical/scary vibe. Victory! John Landis is still kicking.
What's it about? By all rights Potential is the way that Juno soundtracker Kimya Dawson should have been widely exposed to the American-moviegoing public. A coming of age story about a young lesbian girl by L Word writer Ariel Schrag, Potential doesn't need the traditional contrivances (pregnancy, wedding, love triangle) to be a uniquely moving story of an unrequited love. May 6 was supposed to mark the move back into print for this astonishing book, but it's already freely available on Amazon again. Potential has the potential to not only be a hilarious journey through adolescence, but a story that actually helps young people find themselves.
Who should star and direct? Since Ellen Page's handlers will be keeping her at least 50 feet away from this project at all times, and time travel isn't available to use a young Natalie Portman as the object of desire, how about Juno co-star Olivia Thirlby? She's naturally funny and winning. I guess Todd Solondz would probably ruin this project, but a more sincere film might challenge his critics and he doesn't appear to be working on anything except his own self-loathing.
What's it about? Plans for a Justice League movie have fallen apart out of serious fear about how much money the studio that greenlit this project would be making. In all seriousness, the presence of Superman, Batman and the rest that would require so much star power the production would probably just break down into an extremely competitive circle jerk (2-to-1 odds on Brandon Routh in that one). Instead of having to hire a 16 person continuity commission, they could just go with with this slightly different version of the familiar superheroes of the Marvel Universe. This historically fascinating Neil Gaiman-conceived project is perfect for the big screen, and only requires Nick Fury, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men and Captain America. That's pocket change compared to Batman and Superman.
Who should direct and star? It's no shock Lord Steven Spielberg hasn't jumped on the superhero train, but since Shia LaBoeuf isn't exactly scoring in bars, I could see them teaming up again down the road. (Shia as Captain America? No. Nick Fury? Nooo. Wolverine's little brother Wolvy? Yes.) Unfortunately, Spielberg seems committed to the Abbie Hoffman movie Chicago 7. If he can't get the stars required to make Marvel 1602 happen, no one can.