In recent years, Netflix has become the pinnacle for quality television series. The home to a vast array of original programming, Netflix offers a variety of genres, both live action and animated. While The CW and Fox seem to be home to many DC related TV shows, Marvel has partnered with Netflix to bring to life such characters as Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist. But what about independent comic book adaptations? Don’t some titles from smaller publishers warrant adaptations of their own?
In the list below, you’ll find an assortment of indie comics that have what it takes to be adapted to a television format. From all-ages epics to sprawling adult space-faring adventures, these comics certainly deserve the Netflix treatment.
SPOILER WARNING: The following list contains spoilers for several comic book properties.
15. MOUSE GUARD
The first entry on this list is an all-ages medieval-esque epic featuring anthropomorphic mice. “Mouse Guard,” by David Petersen, is a comic book series from Archaia Studios Press that tells the tale of a civilization of mice trying to survive the throes of winter and predatory animals. Set in a world without humans, the series spans three regular story volumes (“Winter 1152,” “Spring 1153” and “Black Axe”), three anthology volumes from various creators (“Legends of the Guard”) and has spawned a roleplaying game as well.
While “Mouse Guard” has already been optioned for film at 20th Century Fox, the comic book, with all of its iterations, would make a much better Netflix computer-animated series, as it has so much story to be told; each book alone could encompass an entire season. Netflix has already found success with computer-animated programming, as Guillermo Del Toro’s recent “Trollhunters” indicates. With Petersen’s breathtaking illustrations of vast landscapes, towering creatures and intricate mouse-made castles and ships, Netflix would be the perfect home for the mice of “Mouse Guard.”
14. SCOTT PILGRIM
“Scott Pilgrim,” created by Bryan Lee O’Malley and published by Oni Press, is a graphic novel series (six volumes in total) about a slacker, young adult musician who must do battle with seven different people in order to win the love of his life. A coming of age story that seamlessly mixes video game culture and rock and roll, “Scott Pilgrim” is a solid mix of comedy, romance, action and drama.
A feature film of “Scott Pilgrim” starring Michael Cera and Mary Elizabeth Winstead and directed by Edgar Wright premiered in 2010. Sure, the movie was a fairly good adaptation, and Edgar Wright is a great choice for a director, but with six volumes, Scott and his pals deserve so much more. As a six-season series, “Scott Pilgrim” would have the time to truly develop all of the aspects that make the graphic novels so entertaining: friendships, awesome battle sequences, timely humor, a flourishing romance and what woes and joys of growing up.
Comic creator Jeff Smith is mostly known for his all-ages, 1,344-page epic fantasy graphic novel, “Bone,” a story that is already being developed into a trilogy of films. However, Smith has another series — a much more adult series — that is not nearly as widely praised. “RASL” tells the tale of a time-jumping art thief who is on the run from the government. A science fiction-noir drama, “RASL” utilizes historical figures, mystery, romance and time travel as a means to tell the story of its fascinating reluctant hero.
There might not be enough story to tell as a Netflix original series, as the comic book only runs for 15 issues, but “RASL” would definitely be a very cool film duology. Its fresh take on time travel and excellent character development would be a sure win for Netflix, a company that has been releasing some decent science fiction films as of late (such as “ARQ” and “Spectral”). And let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a good antihero story, anyway?
12. BLACK SCIENCE
“Black Science” has everything you could want in a drama: family dynamics, jealousy and betrayal, individual character growth and flawed protagonists, only developed as a dark, dimension-jumping science fiction story. Created by Rick Remender and produced by Image Comics, “Black Science” is the story of Grant McKay (a brilliant scientist) and Kadir (a greedy businessman) and shows the devastating result of their creation of a technology, coupled with black science, for the use of inter-dimensional travel.
At 28 issues and 12 more to go, “Black Science” already has enough story to support a few seasons of binge-worthy entertainment, but quantity is certainly not all that matters. With stunning alien cultures, vivid landscapes and shocking twists, audiences would be enamored by Remender’s story paired with Matteo Scalera’s beautiful illustrations. Each would translate magnificently to the small screen, thus providing emotional and visual depth to a gripping saga. Perhaps a little black science can help get this series dimension jumping from the comics medium to a television medium on Netflix.
Years after a war between humans and robots, a small, struggling farm is paid a visit by a mysterious boy wearing a jet pack. Trying to uncover the truth behind the child known as Jet Jones, all the while doing what’s necessary to maintain his family farm, the young Roman Taylor is thrust into a world he never could have imagined.
From creator Royden Lepp and Archaia Studios Press, “Rust” is a science fiction family drama for any age, and an intriguing mystery as well, both of which would make it a perfect choice for Netflix. With three volumes published to date, and one more on the way, “Rust”could be developed as a film franchise for Netflix, either to be released separately, or in the same format as their original programming — all at once. With its steampunk, 1940’s era visuals and heartfelt storytelling, the series would look fantastic in either live-action or animated format.
10. PRETTY DEADLY
The vengeance reaper is coming, and she goes by the name of Deadface Ginny. To say “Pretty Deadly” — a series where the frontier west meets mythological horror — bends genres, would be a disservice to its creators, Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios, and to say any more about the story itself would result in spoiling way too much of such a comic book gem.
Why would a comic book that is so difficult to describe be a good choice for Netflix? First of all, the dark subject matter and adult themes would fit right at home on Netflix, but the multi-layered, expertly fashioned story that DeConnick has crafted also sets it apart from other books. Netflix is home to groundbreaking programming, such as “House of Cards,” “Orange is the New Black,” “The OA” and “Bloodline,” that all defy the normalities of storytelling. “Pretty Deadly” does just this and would amass not only fans of the original comic, but also garner new viewers who trust in the Netflix model of programming. “Pretty Deadly” is engrossing, it’s beautifully imagined both in writing and in art, and it can be ridiculously trippy — all things that would make for an entertaining show.
9. QUEEN AND COUNTRY
“Queen and Country” by Greg Rucka and from Oni Press is an Eisner Award-winning comic book series about Tara Chase, a Secret Intelligence Service field agent and her various international missions. It’s a violent, dark and oftentimes heartbreaking story, as Chase’s service to her queen and her country through espionage work clashes with her personal life.
Each arc of the series is written by Rucka himself, but illustrated by a different artist; and spanning nine arcs for a combined 32 issues, there’s a lot of story to tell. It might be a costly format for Netflix, but imagine how awesome it would be as an adult-oriented animated series, where each season is created by a new animation company, while maintaining the same writers? Obviously this would be a stretch, but the format of the comic itself gives way for multiple interpretive adaptions, and Tara Chase’s story most certainly deserves to be rediscovered. Are you taking note, Netflix?
Action Lab is an independent comic book publisher that has really made a name for itself the past few years, and one of its most praised books is “Princeless,” by Jeremy Whitley and Mia Goodwin. “Princeless” is the story of Adrienne, a black, strong-willed princess who, instead of waiting around for a prince to rescue her from the tower she’s been trapped in, escapes with the help of her dragon, and goes on a mission to rescue her sisters who’ve also been trapped.
In an era of dull, re-imagined, live-action Disney reboots, “Princeless” offers something fresh and honest. The series would make for an excellent animated (or live-action, because that would be cool as well) show for all ages. Young girls could watch this series and learn that it’s okay to be independent and strong, young boys could watch the show and learn that they don’t need to fit the idealized, fantastical version of a “charming prince” and parents could view and enjoy “Princeless” for its humor and its practical, real-life applications that it teaches their children, all while being set in a fantasy world. This is the type of groundbreaking adaptation that Netflix should be placing its programming crown on.
7. SWEET TOOTH
In a post-apocalyptic setting, the Hybrid boy, Gus — a human with deer features — lives in a cabin with his human father, learning all sorts of things. Upon his father’s death, Gus remains in the cabin until a group of men come to raid it. Facing certain death, Gus is rescued by an old, tough, angry wanderer named Jeppard, who kills the men and promises to protect Gus. Thus begins the journey of a surrogate father and son relationship in a dangerous world — a world in which Gus might have more to do with its shaping than anyone could ever have realized.
“Sweet Tooth” is a 40-issue comic book series created by Jeff Lemire and published by Vertigo, and it is awesome. The intricate tale weaves together various plot lines in seamless fashion, and at its heart, is a narrative of how people do not need to have the same blood to be family. “Sweet Tooth” would make an excellent addition to Netflix’s growing list of original content, as it envisions a unique take on the ever-popular dystopian drama, while at the same time, remaining grounded in interpersonal relationships.
6. PAPER GIRLS
In the 1980’s, four teenage paper girls in Cleveland set out on their route together for what should be an ordinary morning, doing an ordinary job. They soon discover that the world around them is changing as they encounter men who speak alien languages, dragons and other giant creatures, portals to other dimensions and more.
“Paper Girls” is an adventurous look at what it was like growing up in the 80’s, blended together through an amalgamation of science fiction and mystery. Written by Brian K. Vaughan with illustrations from Cliff Chiang and published by Image Comics, this would rank right up there with Netflix’s “Stranger Things” in terms of the nostalgic sci-fi factor, while at the same time offering up something completely original. At only 12 issues to date, the series could go on for a long while, and with its complex storytelling and unique color palette, its translation to a live-action series on Netflix would certainly look stellar.
5. USAGI YOJIMBO
Usagi Yojimbo is a ronin: a wandering samurai with no master — but he also happens to be a rabbit. In a feudal world filled with anthropomorphic animals, Usagi Yojimbo journeys from village to village, trying to stay out of trouble, but never shying away from helping the downtrodden.
An awesome “Usagi Yojimbo” stop-motion short titled “Usagi Yojimbo: The Last Request” was released back in 2014, showing that Stan Sakai’s creation has the potential to be an incredible series or film franchise. The comic book series, published by Dark Horse Comics, has been ongoing since 1984 and its stories always offer something new. With such a variety of tales to tell, “Usagi Yojimbo” would be impeccable as an animated production. A philosophical and moral story with a colorful cast of characters, plenty of action and humor, “Usagi Yojimbo” would be a unique, all-ages offering from Netflix, as its storylines would be thought-provoking and fun for both younger and older viewers.
Maika Halfwolf is an Arcanic — a magical creature who can look like a human — who is on a journey to avenge her dead mother. Written by Marjorie Liu with illustrations from Sana Takeda and published by Image Comics, “Monstress” is a fascinating and beautifully haunting epic fantasy that would look fantastic as a Netflix original anime film.
Takeda’s art blends a steampunk feel with manga-like imagery, providing a rare, stylistic mix of drawings. Its story reveals various dynamics of real-life struggles: racism, oppression, violence and passion. Aside from its regular offerings of live-action and animated films and TV series, Netflix has also produced a number of its own original anime. As an anime film on Netflix, “Monstress” would not only be able to incorporate its more adult subject matter, but it would also allow for the gorgeous aesthetics and brilliant storytelling that the comic series itself is so superb in showcasing.
Another entry from Brian K. Vaughan, “Saga” is an ongoing comic series in grand, space opera fashion. Arguably one of the most popular current titles — not solely due to Vaughan’s talent as a writer, but equally because of the expressive illustrations of Fiona Staples — “Saga” is a family drama in space. Alana and Marko come from opposite sides of two warring races, but they’ve had a baby together (Hazel, who just so happens to be the narrator of the story), and they will stop at nothing to keep their family safe from a galaxy that wants them dead.
SyFy is known for its spacefaring television programs (“Battlestar Galactica,” “The Expanse”), but Netflix has not yet produced a show in this sub-genre of science fiction. As strategical moves go, this would be a no brainer for Netflix, as the fanbase of “Saga” is large and the fact that it would air on Netflix would attract the attention of new viewers as well. The idea of having a family-centric show (though this one would be geared towards adults for its mature themes) that happens to have a space setting should also be a positive for the streaming giant.
2. EAST OF WEST
“East of West” is set in an alternate timeline in which the apocalypse is drawing near. Death, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, is set on a path of revenge against his brothers (War, Famine and Conquest) and various leaders of the Seven Nations for a past betrayal toward his family. Yes, Death has a family. Meanwhile, the Seven Nation leaders are The Chosen: believers and carriers of The Message — a religious text that prophecies the end times — and are working with the three remaining Horsemen to ensure its prophecies occur.
Written by Jonathan Hickman and illustrated by Nick Dragotta, this Image Comics title is part science fiction western, part dystopian drama. Hickman has explained in the past that the tagline for “East of West” is “The things that divide us are stronger than the things that unite us.” In a world filled with violence, betrayal and greed, no truer words could be said. With shifting alliances and political maneuvering like “Game of Thrones,” and aesthetically pleasing color schemes and landscapes like “Into the Badlands,” East of West would make an awesome addition to the Netflix library.
What better way to close off this list than with its first superhero entry? “Invincible” is the story of Mark Grayson, the son of Omni-Man, the most famous superhero in the world. As Invincible begins to gain his powers in his teenage years, he has a lot to live up to — but he also has no idea of the secrets and trials that lie ahead.
Written by Robert Kirkman and illustrated by Corey Walker and Ryan Ottley, “Invincible” is a long-running Image Comics superhero comic unlike any other superhero comic out there. Kirkman doesn’t simply focus on the adventures of the heroes that inhabit the protagonist’s world, but rather spends an equal amount of time engaging in the life of Mark and his friends and family. It’s a deeply personal superhero drama about growing up and redemption, with a whole lot of violent, gory action. Ending its run in the next year with issue 144, this would be a visually pleasing and heart wrenching show to watch on Netflix. And come on, its creator is the same guy who created that massively popular zombie comic and AMC show, “The Walking Dead.” What is Netflix waiting for?
What independent comics do you think would make for great Netflix shows? Tell us which ones in the comments!
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