Before 2000’s X-Men, it was rare for a comic book property to be adapted into a movie or television series and have it reach high levels of success. There may have been one or two every few years, but none really gained mainstream popularity like the worldwide phenomenon that comic book movies and TV series are today. Nowadays, you have Marvel and Disney competing against DC and Warner Bros. with movies planned out for the next five years and more than a couple of networks that have superhero-themed shows making up a large amount of their programming.
While we know that there’s going to be multiple Avengers and X-Men movies coming out every year for the foreseeable future, there is also more to comic books than just Marvel and DC. There’s Image Comics, Dark Horse Comics, Top Cow and many other independent publishers cranking out great and, often, underrated comic books. These titles are considered more unique because the majority of them don’t focus on individuals with superpowers, they are character-driven with a supernatural edge like The Walking Dead, Wynonna Earp or iZombie and sci-fi dramas like Dark Matter. CBR takes a look at some of the smaller comic book projects coming soon.
Harbinger was a title released by Valiant Comics in the early ’90s and was one of the core titles during the company’s revival. The book revolves around a group of teenage super-powered outcasts known as Harbingers, which while not exactly sound groundbreaking, but this book skews the narrative by having this group individuals be villains, not heroes, who are trying to conquer Earth.
Valiant is working on creating their own cinematic universe, starting with Harbinger and Bloodshot, their sequels and, eventually, a group of crossover films featuring all of their properties. The movie will be written by Eric Heisserer, a Bloodshot co-writer, and while there is no director as of yet, Valiant Comics has signed an agreement with Original Film and Sony to produce and distribute their movies.
14. LOCKE & KEY
Locke & Key is a horror/fantasy comic book series published by IDW Publishing from 2008-2013 written by Stephen King’s son, Joe Hill. The series revolves around three siblings who, following the gruesome murder of their father, move their lives to their ancestral home in Maine only to discover the house has magical keys that give them various powers and abilities. Unbeknownst to them, there’s also an evil demon also wants the keys and will stop at nothing to attain them.
Already with one failed attempt at an adaption in the books, Hulu has already ordered a pilot for the TV series with Hill returning as its writer. The series will be a one-hour drama adaptation produced by Carlton Cuse (Bates Motel, The Strain) and IDW Entertainment, with Scott Derrickson (Doctor Strange) set to direct.
Scalped is a critically acclaimed crime/western comic book series written by Jason Aaron published through DC’s Vertigo Comics imprint starting in 2007. The series focused on the Native American tribe of the fictional Prairie Rose Indian Reservation in modern-day South Dakota as they struggle to deal with organized crime, drug addiction, poverty, local politics and preserving their cultural identity. Aaron has stated that the main plot was partly inspired by Leonard Peltier, a Native American activist was arrested for the killings of two FBI agents during a reservation shootout in 1975.
Scalped has already been optioned by WGN America as a one-hour drama series. The network is working closely with writer Doug Jung (Banshee) and DC Entertainment Creative Chief Geoff Johns to bring the comic book to the small screen. Production is expected to start in 2018.
A creator-owned comic book series written by Brian Michael Bendis under the Icon imprint of Marvel Comics, this title debuted in 2010. Scarlet is about a young girl named Scarlet from Portland who fights against a corrupt society and ends up starting a brand-new American revolution while she is at it. Similar to Deadpool, Scarlet is also known for frequently breaking the fourth wall and speaking directly to readers, which works pretty well when it comes to engaging the audience.
It was reported last summer that the comic series was to be adapted into a TV show by Cinemax. Almost a year later, there haven’t been any more major announcements. However, given current events, having a TV show with a feisty female protagonist who sets off a revolution would be extremely refreshing.
Invincible is an Image Comics series that debuted in 2003, after the character first appeared in Tech Jacket #1 the previous year. Created by the man behind The Walking Dead, Robert Kirkman, Invincible is the teenage son of an extraterrestrial superhero who inherits his father’s superhuman strength and ability to fly. Consequently, he has trouble adjusting to his newfound powers and coping with the reality of his universal origins.
It’s long been reported that Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg will write, direct and produce Invincible for Universal. However, this may take quite some time to get off the ground since the writing and producing duo currently has their hands full working on AMC’s hit TV series Preacher, also based on a popular comic book series.
10. THE WICKED & THE DIVINE
A contemporary fantasy comic book series written by Kieron Gillen and published by Image Comics, The Wicked & The Divine is largely influenced by pop music and various mythological deities. The story follows a teenage girl as she interacts with a group of twelve people who discover that they are reincarnated deities. Their origins grant them fame and supernatural powers, with the condition that they die within two years, part of an even that happens every 90 years called the Recurrence.
The Image Comics series has become a huge hit critically and among its many, many fans. After the series won three Eisner Award nominations, the books were optioned by Universal Television, with Matt Fraction and Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Milkfed Criminal Masterminds production company. Production is expected to start in 2018.
9. HARROW COUNTY
Harrow County is an ongoing horror comic book series published by Dark Horse Comics starting in 2015. A dark coming-of-age tale that centers around a teenage girl who learns she is the reincarnation of a witch that was sentenced to death the day she was born. Residing in a small town surrounded by mythical forests inhabited by creatures of all kinds, she must come to grips with her past as she battles the townspeople who wish to condemn her to the same death.
Part Southern Gothic (a la True Blood) and part Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Harrow County features a variety of monsters and ghosts both friendly and not so friendly. The series has already been picked up by the SyFy channel, so production is expected to start soon. Screenwriter Becky Kirsch (12 Monkeys) is set to take on showrunner duties.
Also a Valiant Comics title from the ’90s, Bloodshot is a companion series to Harbinger with a character origin similar to Wolverine. Bloodshot is a former soldier who has had his memory wiped clean and nanites injected into his body, allowing him to interface with technology, heal quickly and even shape-shift. Storylines of the series have often sent him up against the Harbinger villains.
The directors behind John Wick were originally at the helm, but Deadpool co-director Dave Wilson is now on board armed with a script by Kick Ass 2‘s Jeff Wadlow and The Thing remake’s Eric Heisserer. While we have no release date for the film as of yet, it has been announced that actor/singer Jared Leto has been circling the lead role and would be expected to return for future installments.
7. RISING STARS
A limited series written by J. Michael Straczynski (Thor, Sense8) that was published by Top Cow from 1999-2005, Rising Stars tells the story of 113 people who were affected by a meteor landing in the area when they were still in-utero. These individuals grow up and learn they have superpowers, but eventually learn that they are also being killed off one by one and a mystery begins to develop .bout who is involved and why those with powers are being picked off one by one,
A bit murder mystery and a bit superhero-y, Rising Stars is ready-made for the big screen.Straczynski will return to draft the script while MGM is attached on the studio side. There has been no casting news nor release date as of yet.
Originally planned as a limited series, Lumberjanes was quickly made into an ongoing series after strong sales and critical acclaim. Published by Boom! Studios starting in 2014, the series follows a group of girls spending summer at a scout camp, and the strange creatures and supernatural events they find themselves involved in. Winner of two Eisner Awards and nominated for GLAAD Media Award, Lumberjanes was celebrated for being both accessible and girl friendly by showcasing a variety of relatable personalities and lifestyles.
Due to the popularity of the series and the critical acclaim it received, 20th Century Fox has already optioned the comic book, with Will Widger (The Munchkin) attached to the script. Fox also is apparently trying to recruit a female director before moving forward with casting.
5. STRANGERS IN PARADISE
The only self-published black-and-white comic book on our list, the long-running series is written and drawn by Terry Moore and started publication in 1993. The series primarily focuses on the difficult relationship between two women who are best friends, when one starts to develop romantic feelings for the other. Sexual orientation, identity and beliefs, having a chosen family and (randomly) a crime syndicate all play major parts throughout its run. Strangers In Paradise received the Eisner Award for Best Serialized Story in 1996, as well as the GLAAD Award for Best Comic Book in 2001.
Moore and filmmaker Angela Robinson (Professor Marston & The Wonder Women) are partnering to adapt the Strangers In Paradise graphic novel into film. Described as a “sexy, stylish crime story with tons of heart,” production is expected to begin in 2018.
4. RAT QUEENS
Rat Queens is a comic fantasy comic book series written by Kurtis J. Wiebe published by Image Comics starting in 2013. The series follows the escapades of four rowdy, foul-mouthed female adventurers in a setting very similar to D&D. It has received heavy critical praise, including an Eisner Award nominated in 2014 and winning a GLAAD Media Award in 2015.
An animated series is currently in the works for the women of Rat Queens with Wiebe attached as its writer. Images have trickled down and were distributed via Wiebe’s Twitter account, with him adding that “anything that happens in Hollywood happens insanely slow. It is moving forward.”Given the adult tone, it’s safe to say the animated series will probably pop up on a streaming service like Netflix or Hulu.
One of the most popular Valiant Comics titles worldwide, Shadowman was first published in 1992. The character became so popular, he spawned a line of video games and even had a “Shadowman Day” declared on his behalf by the mayor of New Orleans. The series features a New Orleans musician who gains the ability to influence the Deadside, a supernatural realm parallel to normal reality, granting him voodoo powers.
In 1999, Acclaim Entertainment was approached by actor/rapper Ice Cube with a pitch to make the movie, however Acclaim declined the offer. Earlier this summer, reports surfaced that Valiant Entertainment had hired producer Reginald Hudlin (Django Unchained) and brought in Adam Simon (Salem) to rework the original script done by J. Michael Straczynski (Sense8). While there is no release date yet, given the success of Doctor Strange, audiences seem primed for more supernatural heroes.
2. PAINKILLER JANE
Painkiller Jane is a comic book heroine created by Jimmy Palmiotti and Joe Quesada published by Event Comics way back in 1995. A former police officer who survived an explosion while undercover that left her with superhuman regenerative powers, Jane Vasko becomes the vigilante Painkiller Jane. Jane would go on to star in multiple crossovers with popular character such as the Punisher, Vampirella, and Hellboy.
While the comics series has already been the basis for a television film and short-lived TV series starring Terminator franchise alum Kristanna Loken, Lotus Entertainment has optioned the book as a feature film with Christine Boylan (Once Upon a Time) as its screenwriter, while award-winning actress Jessica Chastain is attached to star and produce. Production is expected to begin in 2018.
1. UMBRELLA ACADEMY
Another entry from Dark Horse Comics, the Umbrella Academy comic book series was first published in 2007 and written by My Chemical Romance frontman and current Doom Patrol writer, Gerard Way. The series follows the estranged members of a dysfunctional family of superheroes who work together to solve their father’s mysterious death while being at each other’s throats due to their divergent personalities and abilities. Umbrella Academy was praised for its unique and twisted take on the superhero genre, winning an Eisner Award for Best Limited Series in 2008.
Netflix has already ordered a 10-episode season that is scheduled for release in 2018. The pilot script was adapted from the comic series by Jeremy Slater (The Exorcist), while Steve Blackman (Fargo) will serve as showrunner.
Which of these series are you looking forward to? Let us know in the comments!
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