When I asked, a couple of weeks ago, what Warners could replace the Harry Potter franchise with, I was fairly dismissive about DC Entertainment’s chances for coming up with something to fill multiplexes and offer the same kind of crossover appeal as the boy wizard. And then I realized that I was thinking way, way too narrowly.
What changed my mind was listening to former DC staffer and creator Martin Pasko talking about the “three ring-binders” full of files on every single DC character he used to maintain, just in case anyone wanted to license any DC project for development in television and movies. Just the mention of Ron Raymond, TV Detective as a potential DC movie to cash-in on the success of LA Confidential got me thinking: Maybe DC should try and build a franchise out of something other than superheroes. After all, they’re a publisher that’s been around for more than 75 years, and they own almost all of the intellectual property that they’ve put out, so what else could hit the sweet spot of mass-market success?
Shade, The Changing Man
The idea of an alien trying to assimilate into American culture is an extremely potent one in media, which is why a (probably more mainstreamed) take on Peter Milligan’s revival of Steve Ditko’s character – which places the emphasis very much on a dissection of American culture, with a side order of alienation (literally) and doomed, overwhelming romance – feels as if it could be something that, if done well – would appeal to a lot of people, and provide enough material for at least a trilogy. Who doesn’t want to see the dynamics of Twilight reconfigured for an adult audience wanting the off-kilter pleasures of True Blood, but with less vampires?
Staying with Steve Ditko creations, there’s something appealing about the mix of genres in his reporter-cum-crimefighter character. Like Spider-Man, but somehow weirder, there’s a lot of material to play with here, especially for producers wishing to take things further than they’d originally been set up to be: Take more of a hard crime angle with the mundanity of Jack Ryder’s reporter side, and more of a Jekyll-and-Hyde aspect to the transformation into the Creeper (Oddly enough, Steven Moffat’s Jekyll TV show reminded me strongly of Ditko’s Creeper for some reason), and you have the potential for a buddy movie or TV show with only one lead.
The Fourth World
It doesn’t get more epic than Jack Kirby’s unfinished grand opus about a new mythology of beings rooted in modern concerns about war, destruction, and individual identity. If treated with respect – but not the slavish devotion of Watchmen or Green Lantern – movies based on Kirby’s work (including The Hunger Dogs, which brings not only an ending to the story, but also a dramatic weight to what’s come before that is necessary, I think) could easily provide Warners with a Star Wars or Lord of The Rings of their very own. But, of course, if done badly then you have another Masters of The Universe, and no-one wants that.
Potentially the holy grail of potential comic book movies, especially now that Watchmen has been done, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman offers the rich scope and strong story of Rowling’s Potter (but with enough differences that it stands apart from any potential allegations of copycat syndrome) and enough critical plaudits for its initial run that any adaptation would have buzz from the very first announcement. Plus, with its relatively short run, each of the major storylines could get a book of their own, marking a fully-fledged franchise waiting to happen. No wonder Warners has been trying to make this happen for years.
Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld
Weirdly enough, though, this little-remembered series from the 1980s feels like it offers the best chance to fill Potter‘s shoes: Teen hero brought from the real world into a fantastic, magic-filled reality fits the demands of the audience abandoned by the end of Harry’s journey, but as with Sandman, there are enough differences to prevent it from being accused of being a rip-off (plus, of course, Amethyst came first by more than a decade). More importantly, perhaps, there isn’t such a cult following for the series as there is for Sandman, giving any potential filmmakers the freedom to change and update the concept as they see fit, ensuring – ideally – the best film possible. (Plus, there’s a female hero: Another chance for Amanda Seyfried to try and prove that she can carry a movie all by herself.)