There’s no denying it, we’re entering a comic book renaissance. What was once discounted as a form of children’s entertainment is now being appreciated as art. This cultural appreciation has taken the form of movie and TV adaptations of famous comic books, some of which have grown wildly popular. When someone uses the words “comic book” and “box office hit” in the same sentence, the first things that come to mind are superhero films. Big summer blockbusters with lots of action, featuring characters whose origins were in the pages of Marvel or DC Comics. These movies excite fans of the source material while at the same time introducing mainstream audiences to characters or interpretations of characters they might not be exposed to otherwise.
But why all the superheroes? Why limit the comic book movie to just Marvel and DC when smaller publishers like Image Comics have a wealth of self-contained universes ripe for adaptation? We’ve seen comics like The Walking Dead spawn wildly successful TV series, but we think it’s time for Image to take on the big screen. To give you a glimpse into what that might look like, we’ve compiled a list of 15 Image comics that if done right, would be wildly successful as feature films.
15. TOKYO GHOST
Tokyo Ghost gives readers a look into a very bleak potential future. It’s the year 2089, and citizens of The Isles of Los Angeles are so addicted to technology that they never disconnect from the constant stream of stimulating content berating their senses. In a search for resources, constables Debbie Decay and Led Dent are dispatched to the only country on Earth without tech: Japan.
In this technological dystopia, created by writer Rick Remender and artist Sean Murph, it’s the gangsters that control all of the tech — they control the flow of content and they also control what gets consumed. In a world populated by complacent tech-addicts, their only opposition is the calculated rebellion of our protagonist, Debbie Decay, the woman who never plugs in.
Tim Seeley’s Hack/Slash is a horror comic for the ages. The long running series follows protagonist Cassie Hack and her mysterious cleaver-carrying partner Vlad as they take on “slashers” — a classification of monster that direct their murderous rage against human teenagers. The series would do very well as a low-budget horror flick — think Scream but a whole lot more bloody murder.
Hack/Slash is coolness defined and comes with a ton of blood, but there’s a potential for some on-screen romance as well. Cassie Hack’s sexual orientation has been very unclear, though she has shown some same-sex leanings. It’d be pretty cool to see how she plays out on the big screen. Hack/Slash’s protagonist is quite lethal, but it’s her potential to become a queer icon that has us dying to see a Hack/Slash movie.
Created by the creator of The Walking Dead, Robert Kirkman, Invincible is Image’s most successful post-Spawn superhero book. As it approaches its end with issue #144 in January of 2018, it makes perfect sense for an Invincible film to begin production. Plus, with Kirkman’s professional connections (he now serves as a partner at Image Comics) and his entertainment experience, he’s got the means to make it happen.
Invincible follows its titular hero, the son of famed superhero Omni-Man, Invincible (aka Mark Grayson) as he navigates having superpowers, young adulthood, and being an alien on earth. Invincible is one of the most down to earth superheroes out there, which would be a pleasant change of pace in superhero cinema. Especially because it wouldn’t have a huge, expansive universe attached.
12. MORNING GLORIES
Created by writer Nick Spencer and artist Joe Eisma, Morning Glories is a hit mystery series in the same vein as the Harry Potter series, which should appease fans of that franchise. The series is set at an exclusive boarding school for teens called “Morning Glory Academy”, the series follows the lives of six teens as they attempt to navigate the mysterious and sinister nature of the school.
Morning Glories would make a fantastic series of films, rather than just one, because of the broad nature of its scope. The Spencer-penned classic incorporates supernatural and occult elements as it slowly unravels the secrets of a school that produces some of the world’s best and brightest. One of the strangest things they incorporate into the curriculum? Torture.
Descender drew Hollywood attention even before the first issue of the Lemire/Nguyen classic hit shelves. While the movie rights have already been secured by Sony, it would appear as if they’re waiting for the run to finish before starting in on the sprawling robotic space epic. Set in a future where robots have been outlawed and are hunted freely, Descender follows Tim-21, a young robotic boy who comes back online a decade after being decommissioned, only to find that his existence is now illegal.
In a world where he is hunted, Tim-21 finds allies and enemies, both human and robotic around every corner. We can only hope that Sony does the book justice, though Nguyen’s watercolor approach to the machine-heavy world of Descender might be hard to replicate on the big screen.
Although a very new series, only two issues have been released (the third hits stores on August 30th), we can already see Crosswind as a compelling feature film. Created by writer Gail Simone (known for her work on Wonder Woman) and artist Cat Staggs, Crosswind has been pitched as Freaky Friday meets Goodfellas — and it’s a comparison we feel completely holds up.
Crosswind follows June and Cason as they attempt to navigate each other’s lives and figure out just how they switched bodies in the first place. Cason is a seasoned Chicago hitman and June is an overworked Seattle housewife, which is a sentence that should have already sold the series to anyone reading this. In each other’s bodies they are completely out of their element — resulting in an action-packed mystery Tarantino wish he thought up.
9. BITCH PLANET
With a tagline like ‘Think Margaret Atwood meets Inglourious Basterds” it’s easy to see why the Image classic Bitch Planet would make a great movie. Created by writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and artist Valentine De Landro, the series imagines a world where women deemed “non-compliant” are shipped to an off-planet prison specifically for women.
This is dystopian feminist sci-fi at its finest, and from DeConnick, the writer of books like Captain Marvel and Pretty Deadly as well as the organizer of the #VisibleWomen hashtag meant to showcase women in creative industries, we could expect nothing less. Prison movies tend to do well. Sci-fi movies tend to do well. It’s a no-brainer. It should go without saying, but of course a Bitch Planet movie would need a production team comprised of mostly women.
8. THE WICKED + THE DIVINE
One of Image’s most successful current comics is the contemporary fantasy series The Wicked + The Divine. Created by writer Kieron Gillen and artist Jamie McKelvie, the series (referred to by fans as “WicDiv”) follows the 17-year old Laura Wilson as she interacts with a group of humans-turned-deities-turned-pop-stars called The Pantheon.
Though they were all once normal people, being chosen to merge with the spirit of a deity imbues them with fantastical powers, as well as superstardom. While resurrected gods have no gaps in memory from their previous incarnation, the humans they merge with have no choice in the matter. As one can imagine, this leads to fantastic displays of supernatural powers, as well as a healthy dose of drama amongst the series’ main cast.
The creators of Moonshine are no strangers to crime comics. In fact, you might know writer Brian Azzarello and artist Eduardo Risso from their Eisner Award winning and genre defining series 100 Bullets. In what was their first book for Image, Azzarello and Risso introduce a supernatural twist to a Prohibition era period piece.
Moonshine follows Lou Pirlo, a small-time gangster in the employ of one of New York City’s most fearsome crime bosses. Pirlo is tasked with negotiating a deal between his boss the best moonshiner in West Virginia. Pirlo soon learns that it will take more than a heap of money to convince Holt to sell his family’s secret recipe, or strike up a distribution deal with the mob. Moonshine is a crime drama complete with car-chases, gunfights, and even werewolves — all of which tend to do very well at the box office.
6. PAPER GIRLS
Given the skyrocketing popularity of media centered around childhood in the ’80s (think Stranger Things and the forthcoming IT reboot) there has never been a better time to make a Paper Girls movie. Paper Girls is three volumes deep already, meaning that a film adaptation would have plenty to work with.
Paper Girls is set in the fictional Cleveland suburb of Stony Stream. The story follows four 12-year old paper delivery girls (KJ, MacKenzie, Tiffany, and Erin) as they attempt to unravel a strange and seemingly futuristic force they first encounter on their routes in the early hours of Halloween morning. The series has already won a few Eisners, as well as a Hugo award. This is one to check out before it inevitably hits theatres.
Monstress is a fantasy epic created by writer Marjorie Liu and artist Sana Takeda set in an alternate version of Asia that is both magical and matriarchal. The series follows Maika Halfwolf, a magical creature that can pass for human called an Arcanic. Halfwolf and the Arcanics are at war with the Cumea — a race of sorceresses who consume Arcanics in order to gain power.
Monstress has a main cast of all women, and Liu gives each of them very close attention. The nuanced characterization of Monstress’s main cast sets it apart from other books in the genre, adding a layer of depth often not found in fantasy or action comics. The Eisner-Nominated series would need a fairly large budget to do well, so we’re hoping a major studio picks it up ASAP.
4. RENATO JONES: THE ONE%
From writer/artist Kaare Kyle Andrews (Spider-Man: Reign) comes a topical action comic that we want more than anything to see hit the big screen. Renato Jones: The One% takes place in a world where the 1% owns over 50% of the world’s wealth and use it to play puppet master with the rest of the world (sound familiar?). That’s where Renato Jones comes in. The anti-capitalist gun-slinging vigilante Renato Jones is a Punisher-esque take on Robin Hood who’s out to settle the score.
While an action heavy noir flick is never something we’ll say no to, Renato Jones: The One% brings something new to the table — a mission backed by some healthy millennial morals. Renato Jones: The One% is an egalitarian action movie that the Occupy generation could 100% get behind.
3. EAST OF WEST
East of West is a sci-fi western from the minds of writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Nick Dragotta, who previously collaborated on an acclaimed run of Marvel’s Fantastic Four. Set in a timeline where the Civil War never ended, the fate of a fractured America rests in the hands of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Set in the not-too-far-off year of 2064, part of the appeal of an East of West film lies in how eerily familiar the comic’s political unrest feels right now.
However, the small amount of hope present in all of East of West keeps the characters going in the face of the impending apocalypse. One of the four horsemen, Death, was described by Hickman as “Clint Easwood-y” — and we think he’s still got enough fight in him to do justice to the role.
2. GOD COUNTRY
From the minds of writer Donny Cates and artist Geoff Shaw springs God Country, a six issue mini-series that follows a Texas family as their Alzheimer’s afflicted grandfather is miraculously cured by way of a god’s 12-foot long sword named Valofax. Possibly one of the greatest comics in the last decade, God Country unpackages legacy and mortality through the lens of a dying man unlocking his full potential, possibly for the last time.
The man, Emmet Quinlan literally goes to hell and back for the family he has only just remembered, fighting hordes of demons and even gods along the way. After finishing the epic series, two phrases came to mind: “Who would’ve guessed a comic about fighting gods with swords would be one of the deepest and most heartfelt books of the year?” and “We need to see this on the big screen.”
Saga tops this list because it is without a doubt one of the most successful comics in the last decade, both financially and critically. The book, created by writer Brian K. Vaughan and artist Fiona Staples follows a Romeo and Juliet-esque couple from two warring alien races as they raise their newborn daughter amidst a world of tumult.
Though it’s primarily a book about parenthood, Vaughan claims he was influenced by expansive and fantastical universes such as that of Star Wars and Flash Gordon, and traces of both can be seen in Staples’ rendering of the Saga universe. Unfortunately, Vaughan has stated that Saga is strictly a comic book and will never be adapted into another form of media. Hopefully, for our sakes, he and Staples will change their minds.
Are there any other Image titles you’d love to see on the big screen? Let us know in the comments!
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