“iZombie” made its television debut last week, becoming the second Vertigo series to get a TV adaptation this season, following “Constantine” — which takes cues from the long-running “Hellblazer” title — at NBC.
It seems networks have become savvy to the twisted magic of Vertigo, DC Comics’ darker, mature readers imprint that has been pushing the comic medium to new heights since its introduction in 1993. While “Constantine” struggled in ratings, it earned a fiercely loyal following that is waiting with bated breath to find out if John Constantine will return — on NBC or elsewhere — next season. Meanwhile, those fans can turn their attention to “iZombie,” which debuted to strong numbers in its premiere — and if they can hold out hope for a bit longer, possibly many more Vertigo-based series on the small screen.
With pilot season currently underway, more networks are turning their attention to Vertigo’s impressive roster. Fox is currently filming its “Lucifer” pilot while AMC, the network behind ratings juggernaut “The Walking Dead,” is prepping a long-awaited adaptation of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s “Preacher,” one of the most revered Vertigo series of all-time. While news has been scarce, WGN America announced it was working on a live-action adaptation of Jason Aaron & R.M. Guera’s “Scalped” last April, and both “Fables” and “Y: The Last Man” are frequently rumored as potential TV and film projects, though previous attempts have all stalled out.
While the current and upcoming television series may be some of the biggest names in Vertigo’s library, they’re just the tip of the horrors and wonders the publisher has unleashed over the years. If you’re bold enough, join us as we explore the dark possibilities of even more Vertigo series that could startle and delight on television.
If you thought FX’s “The Strain” was a dark take on vampires, give Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque’s vision of bloodsuckers a try and learn the true meaning of darkness. Bloodletting alone isn’t why “American Vampire” would be perfect for TV, however. Each story arc explores an era of American history, meaning a prospective “American Vampire” series could juxtapose any decade of the American experience with vampires meaning there’s the possibility of a “Mad Men”-like take in one episode and “Deadwood” in another. While the subject matter is built for cable, it could quickly turn into the ultimate horror thriller for the network that isn’t afraid of a little visceral history lesson.
“Vikings” has been a breakout success for the History Channel, but Brian Wood was doing Vikings in “Northlanders” before it was cool. The comic is a realistic and historical look at Scandinavian history that introduces many rich and diverse Norse characters including Sven the Returned, an exiled Viking Prince who must return home to claim his violent birthright; Hilde, a recent widow who must fight a Viking crime lord for survival; and Boris, a futurist who joins Hilde and resists any attempt to control him. Like “American Vampire,” “Northlanders” is as much about the history as it is the genre, exploring Vikings in the world pre- and post-Christianity. While the focus on history may cause some to think of it as boring or dry, “Northlanders” is by no means short on action. The violence and viscera in this book would please the most hard hardened “Game of Thrones” or “Vikings” fan.
“The Books of Magic”
While “Sandman” may be the jewel in Neil Gaiman’s crown, he also wrote the stellar “The Books of Magic” which introduced fans to Tim Hunter, Earth’s next great mage. Sadly for Hunter, he shares many traits with another bespectacled British boy wizard. Yes, Hunter is English, wears glasses, has an owl and is the chosen wizard to help defeat the ultimate darkness. And while these parallels to “Harry Potter” make a “Books of Magic” film next to impossible, particularly since Warner Bros., Vertigo’s parent company, holds the “Harry Potter” film rights, there’s nothing to say a slightly older Hunter couldn’t make magic on television. The series would likely require changing Hunter’s look and replacing his owl with, say, a grackle, the world Gaiman constructed is just too rich to ignore given the current comic book-based TV landscape. While “Potter” skews more toward the all-ages crowd, perhaps “Books of Magic” could be its adult complement, a genre deconstruction for adults that explores some of the aspects that make J.K. Rowling’s creation so beloved.
There aren’t enough post-apocalyptic anthropomorphic animal fables on television. Jeff Lemire’s heart-wrenching and profoundly moving “Sweet Tooth” defies description. It’s about science gone mad, innocence found and lost, friendship and family, identity, gender issues and brutality. It is a visually stunning modern fable that could shake the world of television if a network were bold enough to greenlight a show that stars a buck-toothed deer boy with a penchant for candy. HBO’s “Game of Thrones” has proven there is an appetite for fantasy on TV, and while “Sweet Tooth” is very different than the world of Westeros, the twists and turns are just as epic and make the series an intriguing TV prospect.
Someone hands you a suitcase containing 100 untraceable bullets and a guarantee of no legal repercussions for using them. What do you do? This high concept from writer Brian Azzarello and artist Eduardo Risso’s “100 Bullets” could make for one hell of a television drama. But “100 Bullets” doesn’t live or die on concept alone — the characters that receive each of those cases are as intriguing as the premise. Characters like Lono, Dizzy, Agent Graves, Milo and others make “100 Bullets” more than just a high-octane crime story, transforming it into a human drama and one of the greatest crime comics ever published. Fans of “The Wire” and “The Shield” would be hard pressed to resist the pull of “100 Bullets.”
“Sandman Mystery Theatre”
While “The Sandman” proper is headed to the big screen, the DC property can be further exploited by tapping the original Golden Age Sandman, Wesley Dodds. Between 1993-1999, Vertigo published “Sandman Mystery Theatre,” a noir mystery loosely tied to the world of Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman.” Co-written by Matt Wagner & Steven T. Seagle, “Sandman Mystery Theatre” featured Wesley Dodds in a period solving crimes in a period setting with his paramour Dian Belmont. The book’s roots were firmly planted in both the pulp sensibilities of the pulp fiction era preceding comics and the Golden Age of super heroes. The series never shied away from violence or controversy and could appeal to the same audiences who for a TV experience that appealed to fans of period TV series like “Copper” and “The Knick,” possibly becoming a modern day “Masterpiece Theatre.”
Is television ready for a bowel disrupter? Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson’s “Transmetropolitan” could be the next great television satire. A sci-fi laden, naughty as hell parody of media, consumerism and politics, “Transmetropolitan” and its protagonist Spider Jerusalem broke new ground when it came to the boundaries of good taste in modern comics. Spider could be a TV protagonist like no other — a drug addled, porn addicted, slightly insane journalistic genius who fights to maintain the last bastion of integrity in a world gone mad, following in the tradition of anti-heroes like Walter White, Dr. House and Vic Mackey. Most importantly, “Transmetropolitan’s” sharp voice and purpose could make for some thought provoking, if highly controversial, television.
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