With their recent announcement of a new “Sleepy Hollow” comic based on the hit Fox TV show, BOOM! Studios has become the most recent publisher to realize that the world of television makes for some intriguing comics. In the recent past, Marvel has been publishing original graphic novels based on the ABC series “Castle” and “Once Upon a Time,” while Dark Horse Comics has experienced unheralded successes with the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel” franchises. Meanwhile, IDW Publishing recently resurrected “The X-Files” and previously held the license for “Doctor Who,” now published by Titan Comics, while Dynamite has combined some new television flavor with its adaptation of NBC’s “Grimm” along with the nostalgic fun of both eras of “Battlestar Galactica” and “The Bionic Man.”
Television adaptations allow comic creators to flex some creative muscles, to find ways to deliver a story from live-action to print while remaining true to the source material. The synergy between comics and television stretches back to the days of Dell Comics in the early Silver Age with countless adaptations of hit TV series such as “Bonanza, “The Lucy Show,” “The Twilight Zone,” “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”, “Star Trek” and so many more. Shows like “Welcome Back Kotter” and “Isis” at DC and “The Man from Atlantis” from Marvel appeared during the Bronze Age, and of course, the aforementioned “Star Trek” in all its iterations has been a comic book staple for decades. The past few years of television have been a potpourri of genre goodness for television fans, many of whom also haunt comic shops and digital retailers. BOOM! Studios is adding to the rich tradition of television to comics with “Sleepy Hollow,” but there are many more shows just ripe for the right company and creators to come along and work their four-color magic. Here are but a few that might be next in line.
“Sherlock” is flirting dangerously close to television perfection in the modern age. While complaints are hard to come by when it comes to this contemporary adaptation of the world’s most beloved literary detective, but it would be easy to make a case that there simply isn’t enough of it. Fans of the beloved show starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman as Dr. John Watson have to make do with three episodes every few years — if they’re lucky. While it was recently announced that the detectives of 221B Baker Street will return next year for a Holiday Special followed by another trifecta of episodes, that’s hardly enough to satiate the appetites of “Sherlock” fans around the world. A comic series could fill that “Sherlock” hunger, delving into the adventures Holmes and Watson between seasons or the days prior to their fateful meeting at the beginning of Season One. The comics could also fill in the gaps of their rich supporting cast including Mycroft Holmes, Inspector Lestrade, Mrs. Hudson or — did you miss him — Moriarty. Showrunners Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss have created a rich and fascinating world for their Holmes and Watson, one that, we can safely speculate, some of today’s greatest comic creators would love to play in. An adaptation of BBC’s current hit is simply elementary.
“American Horror Story”
“American Horror Story” continues to be one of the most daring shows on television. The show’s season-long anthology format along with a small cast of thespian regulars playing different characters in a different horror sub-genre each new season was almost unheard of until “AHS” pulled it off with gusto. Horror anthologies have long been a comic book staple starting with EC’s “Tales from the Crypt.” Perhaps it’s time for “American Horror Story” to bring its unique brand of chills, humor and unrepentant violence to the comic book page. Imagine Steve Niles or Garth Ennis getting to play in the anything goes world of “American Horror Story,” or Eric Powell or Ben Templesmith rendering a world where there are no taboos or boundaries. The darkest voices in sequential horror could play in the worlds of the three established seasons of the show or invent a whole new world using the same black humor and genre deconstruction the show is known for. Horror fans could welcome a comic that pushes the boundaries of good taste, especially one based on a show that has become synonymous with daring, mind numbing terror.
Anyone who has watched Showtime’s latest horror drama, “Penny Dreadful,” will tell you each character has an incredibly complex back story. A “Penny Dreadful ” comic series could explore the pasts of the ill-fated Abraham Van Helsing; Victor Frankenstein and his monstrous creation; further tales of Vanessa’s past madness; the adventures of Simon Russell Beale in Egypt; Sir Malcolm Murray in Africa; or the tale of Ethan Chandler as he dealt with his dark curse in the Americas. “Penny Dreadful’s” brief but well received run really only hinted at the rich and frightening iceberg lying just beneath the surface. The world of Showtime’s latest gothic hit is just too lush to be fully covered in just a handful of episodes. The focus on iconic Victorian horror characters could allow for talented creators to explore the world beyond the show and potentially bring such icons as Dr. Jekyll, the Invisible Man, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Captain Nemo or even Sherlock Holmes himself to the comic page. “Penny Dreadful” has opened a Pandora’s Box of horrors upon an unsuspecting television audience, and a comic could allow lovers of the anachronistic terrors of creator John Logan’s rich world more time to explore the vampires and monsters that so many viewers have fallen for. Readers who haven’t had their souls chilled by Showtime’s latest may dismiss “Penny Dreadful” as just another “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” riff, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth as “Dreadful” has its own unique voice and set of characters that focuses on modernizing horror tropes over literary deconstruction. “Penny Dreadful” is about a group of monster hunters who are in many ways worse than the monsters they hunt, a wrinkle that a skilled comic creator could exploit with aplomb.
It stands to reason that criminal mastermind Joe Carroll wasn’t the only serial killer brought down by forensic genius Ryan Hardy. In Fox’s “The Following,” viewers have watched (most of the time through shaky fingertips) a bloody war of attrition between Hardy and Carroll, but that war and both characters have a complex back story that could make for some very compelling comics. What forces forged the players in this game? What were the early days of Carroll’s reign of terror like? All these questions could be answered in sequential form as the bond between Hardy and Carroll harkens back to such legendary dark comic book unions like Batman and the Joker or Spider-Man and Norman Osborne. Books like “Nailbiter” and “Bedlam” from Image Comics prove that there’s a market for unflinching serial killer stories in comics, and “The Following” is pulling off the same kind of dark symphony on television to big ratings. A comic series could be just what “The Following” needs to expand the game between Hardy and Carroll and provide fans with another outlet of madness.
Everyone’s favorite refined cannibal has been the star of literature, films and now television, but it’s hard to imagine Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lecter has never made a comic book appearance. Some brave publisher could change all that by taking advantage of the Fannibals, the term used to affectionately refer to the most devoted fans of NBC’s “Hannibal.” The further adventures of Jack Crawford, Will Graham and the cannibal himself might be just what the not-so-good doctor ordered. The TV show has provided fans with a lush tapestry of madness and mayhem, a fine meal filled with some of the most gruesome bodily atrocities every seen on mainstream television. A smart comic, one that is as brave as the world imagined by “Hannibal” showrunner Bryan Fuller, could be welcomed by fans of the show and connoisseurs of cerebral horror alike. One thing is certain, however — some brave artist would have their work cut out for them as the series features one of the most visually stunning color palettes on television, and some of the murderous tableaus the characters must bear witness to and endure must be seen to be believed. Perhaps comic fans would love to settle back with a nice Chianti and witness the sublime madness that is “Hannibal.”
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