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10 Comic Book Movies That Would Work Better as TV Shows

by  in Lists, Movie News Comment
10 Comic Book Movies That Would Work Better as TV Shows

You win some, you lose some. That’s how it goes when it comes to comic book movies. A few quality ones trudge on, becoming cult hits, even garnering online support via forums, message boards and the ever popular petition. But not everyone can “Deadpool” a studio into doing what the fans want or what the franchise needs. When all is said and done, it really comes down to quality. Using comic books as scripts (a la Robert Kirkman) seems to be the way to go, but not everything translates well from the sequential art medium to the screen. Take Frank Miller’s “300” or Mark Millar’s “Kick-Ass” — both examples that went nearly panel-for-panel (bar a few minor changes) in their film adaptations, to critical (or at least fanboy) acclaim. Then look at “Watchmen,” which also stuck closely to lore (well, relatively… if you haven’t spoken to Alan Moore) but didn’t gain the same commendations.

RELATED: CBR’s Comic Book TV Show Reading List

Like we said, it’s hit and miss because some stories, as Image Comics has shown, are meant to be expanded over the course of a few seasons, as opposed to one film or a couple of sequels that struggle to flesh out the true essence of the title and its characters. Could you imagine “The Walking Dead” being adapted as a standalone movie? A lot of diligence and meticulous writing helps bridge the gap between sticking to the source and making stories television-worthy. For the most part, properties such as “Smallville,” “The Flash” and even “Daredevil” are proof that long-format storytelling works pretty well for the small screen. With the comic book era in full-swing on all versions of the screen, CBR takes you for a ride through a few movies that we feel would have made for better viewing on television!

10. Dredd (2012)

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Despite the positive critical response, “Dredd” didn’t earn the right figures, but it did see greater success following its home release and has since been recognized as a cult gem. The theatrical gross made a sequel unlikely, but home media sales and fan efforts maintained a glimmer of possibility for a sequel. With Karl Urban as the titular character mopping up his drug-ridden streets; Olivia Thirlby as his understudy, Cassandra; and a simply maniacal villain in Lena Headey’s Ma-Ma, the film was even relatable to IDW’s run. It touched on corrupt judges as well as the protagonists’ doubts with the justice system.

But imagine an expansive series a la “Training Day,” with the hero all over the city’s grime and crime while corrupt judges taint the system. Quite “Gotham”-ish, no? We could even dive into the origin of what fuels Dredd and his inner mantra — justice without a soul or a face. You could also throw in some more Cassandra, Judge Hershey, Judge Rico aka his brother/clone, and his mentorship under Judge Morphy. This character runs on relationships and there are too many to put into a movie. If smartly done, a TV series could not only add meat and empathy to him, it could also open up the supernatural dimension for the Dark Judges to wreak havoc. Alex Garland, after the success of “Ex Machina,” it’s your move.

9. Watchmen (2009)

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“Watchmen” definitely polarized fans at the box-office, with quite a few not chomping at the bit to see Zack Snyder repeat his slow-motion method of action-storytelling in cinemas again. In 2005, HBO held talks over extending this universe but nothing materialized, not even with the “Before Watchmen” books at DC. Of course, with DC’s “Rebirth” teasing the two universes merging, the time is ripe to mention how the breadth and overall scope of Moore’s story could be done much better a service if lengthened over four or five seasons. There’s an emotive grandeur to all the characters involved in the original graphic novel; and yes, once more, too many relationships that need time and space to breathe.

Rorschach was probably one of the few that hit home with film-goers; that’s because we saw a lot of his past, not just snippets. It’d be nice to see them in their heyday or what inspired the early crime fighters in the first place, not to mention how the schism formed between them thanks to global politics running riot. Given the current course of the world, now is as best a time as any to really get deep inside the brain of Doctor Manhattan, pre-experiment, or even Ozymandias. The fact that this was a walking, talking editorial on the spate of affairs of a sordid world deserves amplitudes of time in the current limelight, not just a couple hours.

8. The Phantom (1996)

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First emerging in 1936, the “Phantom” comic strip ended up becoming of the the world’s most beloved, as Lee Falk shared the magic of “The Ghost Who Walks” — fighting invaders of the jungle and ne’er-do-wells in general. Billy Zane depicted Kit Walker in the film 20 years ago and it’s still seen as a guilty pleasure, despite failing to rake in the big bucks. But again, this character is one of legacy and something that fans of “Black Panther,” “Lone Ranger,” “Robin Hood,” “Tarzan” and especially “Indiana Jones” can enjoy. With this mantle passed down from generation to generation, the Phantom is a symbol more than a person. Just ask Christopher Nolan.

In addition to commanding his trusty wolf (Devil) and his horse (Hero), the concept of family is what really drives this plot, and overall, the character. Think of Mowgli becoming the Zorro of the jungle, protecting all of its inhabits because he knows the grief and tragedy associated with loss. There’s more than enough altruism and endearment to stretch out over seasons, especially with a love interest in Diana Palmer being his version of Jane. Paramount Studios was linked with a reboot reportedly starring Sam Worthington years ago, but amid dispelled rumors, nothing pushed forth.While the original movie may have been too slapstick or cheesy for the 90’s (if that’s even possible), the story itself has the potential for a slower, more measured burn. Here’s hoping someone lights that fire again.

7. Wanted (2008)

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After “Preacher” hit AMC, we definitely bet “Wanted” could be done in the way it was intended, if someone had the nerve to pick it up. The difference, of course, is that rather than being based on ridiculously sexy action sequences, it would have to tap into the source material; something purely obnoxious and badass that would allows us to get neck deep into what makes these assassins tick. The movie was a far cry from the outlandish nature of the book, which postulated a reality in which super villains had taken over the world and re-written it in their image using a mix of super-science and pan-dimensional magic. The result was a narratively-neutered, heavy-handed film that took itself way too seriously. But that’s where TV comes in.

Seeing more of the chapters that constitute The Fraternity, as well as how the rival super villain gangs are entrenched in a power struggle for world domination is exactly what the doctor ordered to breathe new life into an adaptation of this story. As we see Wesley Gibson (played by James McAvoy in the movie, but clearly imagined as Eminem in the book) grow and evolve under the wings of Fox and The Professor (Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman, respectively), it would be pretty sweet watching his missions throughout a comic book multiverse in a manner that can best be described as “What if Luke Skywalker was a killer Jedi with the personality of Han Solo?” What a log-line, right? Sold to the highest bidder.

6. Jonah Hex (2010)

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The 2010 film had such an outstanding cast, yet the script left a lot to be desired. Universally panned, it definitely felt like such a waste to see a beloved character’s head down the drain, bereft of any potential that has made him such an endearing mainstay in the comics. No wonder “Legends of Tomorrow” wants a piece of Jonah Hex. He’s won over many fans as an antihero and bounty hunter — that’s great fodder for a series, even without tales about his early days as a soldier.

His origins and relationships with the native tribes of the West really made his stories pop to life as a truly selfless character, despite a shady personality. But it’s his grit and hunger for justice that would be thoroughly engrossing to fans as he strolls across the dusty frontier seeking vengeance, a paycheck or something more. Where Josh Brolin tanked (if we can be that harsh), someone else could succeed. “Deadwood” alone is justification for this property coming to life as a TV show, as Hex doesn’t necessarily require tons of supernatural CGI. Let’s just get a time machine for Clint Eastwood and talk to Cinemax.

5. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)

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In May 2015, 20th Century Fox indicated they wanted to reboot “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” but we’d rather be safe than sorry and let it slide onto television. How about at a certain network that interconnected characters in a similar fashion to “Penny Dreadful?” If scaled back or grounded a bit, it may even please Mr. Moore. Right? Okay, probably not. His blessing notwithstanding, there are a plethora of characters in this story to choose from, with lore and stories to be explored from many angles.

Fans of steampunk and metafiction could also get a kick out of the Victorian era tale rebooted with the likes of Captain Nemo, Mina Murray and so many more adding to the mystery, intrigue and magic that is LXG. It’s an enchanting, thought-provoking and seductive take on a diverse group of heroes setting right to the world. The Invisible Man, another take on Jekyll/Hyde and of course, Allan Quatermain, could even tempt the BBC; maybe something along the lines of a British “Watchmen.” The movie felt like it knew where it wanted to go but didn’t know which road to take to get there, so we think if it heads to television, there’ will be ample room for that journey to play itself out.

4. From Hell (2001)

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“From Hell” tried to riff off of the popularity of Johnny Depp with his lead, Frederick Abberline, investigating a series of murders against women. And for all of the hate this movie sometimes gets, it wasn’t that bad. However, the cast didn’t bring it home as expected and the film ended up falling short of expectations. That said, if a network dials back to the original graphic novel (as was rumored in the past) and hones in on Sir William Gull, his Freemason affiliations and the discord of the royal family, showrunners could have a lot to work with.

The book touched on many broken aspects of society, with a strong stance on feminism as well as how we view prostitution — prime examples of its ghastly yet serious themes. In fact, some of these themes seemed to influence WGN’s “Salem” at times, sparking hopes that instead of zooming in on the idiosyncrasies of a druggie inspector, we could peer beneath the cavalcade of a cast and into a deeper character study, a la “Hannibal.” This could well bring to fruition Moore’s spirited yet emotionally turbulent (and yes, psychotic) trip. Keep it grim. Keep it gory. By no means, water it down. Bleak and hopeless is what we need over the course of a mini-series; not pandering to a heartthrob’s demographic.

3. Surrogates (2009)

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Now this wasn’t a bad concept, but it seemed to arrive ahead of its time. That, or director Jonathan Mostow just couldn’t rally us to warm to Bruce Willis the way “Die Hard” or even “R.E.D.” did. After all, Mostow did direct “Terminator: Rise of the Machines” six years earlier, so when it comes to sci-fi stories helmed by him, we know where to hedge our bets. The film did try to draw out as much subterfuge amid artificial intelligence as they could from Robert Vendetti’s 2005 comic; but with only five issues, Hollywood had a lot to extrapolate.

Now, if this story was produced for television and then topped with the “Flesh and Bone” prequel, we’d have a more complete story to tell. The prequel was the catalyst for all the themes of religion, order and just how the pillars of society hold up, perfect for fans of “Fight Club,” “Ex Machina” and “Mr. Robot.” The Prophet is one character in particular that could have an entire series dedicated to him, with parallels to Kirkman’s Governor. In a world where humans operate androids on the outside and keep their real bodies hidden away from society, there’s a lot more that TV can extract than, say, “I, Robot,” “Minority Report” or “The 6th Day.” The inherent nature of this story can be described as provocative yet remarkably visceral, and could be an exemplar of comic-to-TV adaptations.

2. The Shadow (1994)

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In 1994, “The Shadow” was made to win over lovers of “Dick Tracy” and “Darkman.” It adopted many tropes that we see with contemporary heroes today, like Iron Fist and the Spectre. Lamont Cranston is a playboy in the vein of Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne, only with a more mystical side to his crimefighting. Orson Welles’ following would know how integral yet underrated he’s been in the pantheon of superheroes, with “The Spirit” fans also taking note. While Alec Baldwin took to the streets to take care of gangsters and find love, there is a lot left in this supernatural noir that could be used for a Netflix series.

This character carves out a niche in a world of mystery that could tickle the fancy of anyone in love with Sherlock Holmes’ iterations. He even returned in 2015 in the authorized novel “The Sinister Shadow,” which was an entry in the “Wild Adventures of Doc Savage” series from Altus Press. It would be a smart move to appropriate it as mainstream comics did (DC, Dark Horse) and revive something that’s more than just a wildcard or risky bet. This is pulp fiction at its best, and if you’re in doubt, check out what Dynamite did with The Shadow recently in comics. It emphasizes how ambitious the movie was while slightly missing the mark. It’s worth taking a chance on a modern spin, though. After all, we all want to know what evil lurks in the hearts of men; now more than ever.

1. Howard The Duck (1986)

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Panned? Surreal? Cult favorite? Yes, to all. This guilty pleasure has the distinguished honor of being Marvel’s first full-length feature film; something many at the company wish people would forget. As a character, Howard recently crawled back into our hearts thanks to his cameo in “Guardians of the Galaxy” and is something many Marvel fans would love to see for at least one season. Howard the Duck was created by writer Steve Gerber and penciler Val Mayerik in “Adventure into Fear” #19 (December 1973); an excuse to pen satirical and humorous notes on a truly fowl world.

The movie was supposed to be animated but ended up as a live-action farce, with executive producer George Lucas helping complete things. While the film’s over-the-top plot of this anthropomorphic duck trying to get through life was ridiculed back then, Chip Zdarsky (best known for “Sex Criminals”) and Joe Quinones lit the engines recently and cranked minds up with a brilliant take on the book, just after James Gunn shot Howard back into our orbit. He’s cynical, irritable but still believes in love, so why not let him spread his wings on television?

Which comic book films do you think would work better as TV series? Let us know in the comments!

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