With the release of the Invincible trailer reminding us that there are still many amazing comics out there that haven’t been picked up by major production companies, here is a list of ten non-Marvel and non-DC properties that would make for great projects either for the big or small screen. I tried to keep it a bit varied, both in terms of tone and genre, with books that left their mark when I first read them.
BLACK SCIENCE (2013-2019, 43 issues)
Both Marvel and DC seem to be diving headfirst into their own Multiverses in the coming years, with WandaVision, the Doctor Strange sequel, and The Flash. But it’ll be hard to top what Black Science achieved in that regard for six straight years.
Here we follow Grant McKay, a member of the Anarchist League of Scientists, his family, and his team of scientists and military personnel as they try to maneuver through a seemingly infinite number of universes (the “Eververse”) tapped into following the creation of the device they call “the Pillar”. These “Dimensionauts” have then to deal with a malfunctioning Pillar, that much like we saw in Quantum Leap, throws them into random worlds challenging them every step of the way, as they try to make their way back home, and back to each other.
Why it could work: I have a hard time trying to figure out if this project would lend itself to TV or cinema. Its visual spectacle deserves the biggest screen possible, but the storyline would make for an enthralling series through several seasons. What I do know is that the best stories, with the most fantastic premises, are only as good as the human elements presented to the audience. And Black Science is not only one of the best science-fiction stories I’ve ever read but also one of the most human, with all our dreams and flaws painstakingly presented, where family and friendships are the centers of one’s universe. And sometimes you just need to fight your way to get to them. What is more relatable than that?
THE MASSIVE (2012-2014, 30 issues)
After an earth-shattering event, we follow the environmentalist crew of the ship The Kapital as they search the world for their missing sister ship, The Massive. With the world falling apart, we question what is there still to fight for, what is there to protect but the ability to rise above it all, as the tides did to dry ground.
Why it could work: The biggest challenge we face as a species is for how long can we keep our planet our home. Earth won’t die, nature will adapt, we just have to make sure we are along for the ride. This book isn’t that optimistic as it shows us the worst-case scenario, where not only our home but our humanity is gone. At a time when every help in addressing global warming is a welcome one, that alone would make this a relevant show by making us look in the mirror at a time when everything we see is still avoidable.
PAPER GIRLS (2015-2019, 30 issues)
Stranger Things meets Back to the Future. A coming-of-age story about a group of four 12-year-old girls that due to unforeseen circumstances become involved in a war between two factions of time travelers. Unlike most other books and movies, here they have no problem in meeting up with their past and future selves, as they need any help they can get trying to get back home to 1988 while saving the world at the same time.
Why it could work: Stranger Things was and still is, a phenomenon. But this show has the potential of going a step further in the cultural zeitgeist. Meshing 80s nostalgia with any other era’s they happen to choose (Time Travel!!) while keeping that Goonies vibe and throwing in Generation X and Y growing pains, it is something that can work on so many levels, on so many demographics, that in the world we live in of constant reboots and sequels it quite baffling that we haven’t yet gotten the chance to get this original project going.
THE PAYBACKS (2015-2016, 8 issues)
A superhero comic with a twist. When heroes borrow money to finance their gadgets and genetic enhancements, there comes a time when that money must be paid back in full. When that doesn’t happen, it’s time to call The Paybacks, a team of bankrupt superheroes that work as repo men in order to pay their own debts. But this time, the hunters become the prey, and someone is coming to collect.
Why it could work: Superhero stories rule the world. This isn’t necessarily a good thing, but from the Marvel Cinematic Universe to the hottest streaming show right now (The Boys), it’s hard to say otherwise. So, right off the bat, this shows would seem like a safe bet. It would work as a sort of middle-ground between the more mainstream superhero movies and the TV-MA we sometimes get, a different take on the superhero gig where things aren’t as black and white as in other projects, but a lot lighter than being choked to death by a giant penis.
PUNK ROCK JESUS (2012-2013, 6 issues)
What if we could bring Jesus back to life through cloning? With the discovery of a sample of his DNA, that’s exactly what the entertainment company OPHIS did. But to make matters worse, they decided to raise him inside a Reality TV show with the entire world watching. Like many teenagers, most in far better circumstances, he rebels and turns to punk rock, with great religious and political consequences.
Why it could work: Back in 2003 Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code took the world by storm as it tried to put into question centuries-old dogmas. Most people aren’t really big fans of reading, but that didn’t stop it from becoming a worldwide phenomenon that transcended reading habits and got everybody talking about the what-ifs Brown presented. A TV show that brought that same sort of discussions to an even more mainstream audience through an engaging storyline filled with modern cultural references would dominate our cultural climate, especially in the times we live in where everything can be a reason for outrage.
SEVEN TO ETERNITY (2016-PRESENT, 13 issues, so far)
A Lord of the Rings-style epic, set in a fantasy world filled with wonder, demons, witches, and Gods. We follow Adam Osidis, along with an order of magical warriors, on his quest to free the world of the God of Whispers’ enchantment that keeps everybody engulfed in despair and suspicion. He must then choose between doing what’s right, and following his own heart’s desires.
Why it could work: This sort of fantasy epics have proven to have an audience, no matter the times we live in. The Lord of the Rings was as relevant at the beginning of the 20th century as it had been when JRR Tolkien first wrote the novel almost 50 years earlier. Game of Thrones became a cultural juggernaut for the entirety of its run and people are still clamoring for George RR Martin to finish the books. Seven to Eternity, unlike Thrones, has an ending within sight, and with a much less grounded setting, it would seem to be able to fill a thematic void The Witcher also managed to tap into.
SHIRTLESS BEAR FIGHTER (2017, 5 issues)
There’s really not much to say about this series that isn’t in its title. He’s a brawny bearded guy raised in the forest by bears. He’s shirtless (and sometimes naked). He likes to punch bears because they betrayed him. And he loves flapjacks. While not being innovating in any shape or form, this book has the potential to become the most entertaining 10-minute cartoon episode you’ll watch all day. Every day.
Why it could work: In a world where short-form content gets all the views (unless you’re called Quibi), a cartoon with short episodes but with above-average laughs-per-second could go The Simpsons‘ way as they rose beyond The Tracey Ullman Show. Production costs should be low and being able to share it through social networks daily could help it grow beyond expectations. I mean, who wouldn’t like to see a (sometimes) naked lumberjack-type throw some bear-punches?
THESE SAVAGE SHORES (2018-2019, 5 issues)
Ever since it came out, if anyone asks me for a non-Marvel, non-DC comic to try out, this is my only answer. And with the right director, it would make for an amazing full-length motion picture.
Set in the seventeen hundreds, as the British look into establishing themselves as an influential economic power in India, working behind the scenes to try and manipulate local rulers into wars only they would benefit from. This faraway territory also served as an escape for whoever needed to run away from western civilization, expecting never to be seen again. But when that someone is a monster that thinks of this as merely a new playground on which to feast, it’s hard to remain both unnoticed and unscathed. After all, there are monsters everywhere.
Why it could work: Movies are supposed to transport us to different realities with a familiar starting point to help us identify with the events to come. This story, while not taking us to outer space or the far future, makes us connect with a period and location left mostly untapped in western film productions that still manages to keep you at the edge of your seat. Taking familiar horror elements and reshaping their food-chain status when faced with new foes can help audiences get away from the familiar tropes and dive into a new world of possibilities when it comes to fantastical beings.
THE WAKE (2013-2014, 10 issues)
This would make for an incredible couple of movies, as the story itself is already pretty much divided into two parts, one set in the present, the other in the far future. Think The Abyss meets Waterworld. We follow a team of scientists as they discover an aggressive new species locked away in the oceans below us since ancient times. This unstoppable alpha predator knows no rest and quickly conquers the planet, leaving little room for humanity to thrive.
Why it could work: This is the blockbuster of the bunch. And there is always room for another one of those. The scope of the story and the incredible visuals lends themselves to an incredible cinematic experience and having the first movie end on such a sour note would make the anticipation for the sequel mimic what people felt in-between Infinity War and Endgame.
WE STAND ON GUARD (2015, 6 issues)
Independence Day meets Red Dawn. One hundred years in the future, Canada relies on a group of freedom fighters to protect its territory from a foreign threat. The United States of America. And so the USA becomes the faceless enemy, the technologically superior foe with the skewed ideals, looking to steal the natural resources it’s lacking (due to intentional oversight) from a more refined society.
Why it could work: Growing up with mostly American-centered movies, there is always something refreshing when the USA (that like all other countries in the world, isn’t always on the right side of history) is shown as the antagonist. As in Dances with Wolves, we experience an invasion through a new perspective, making us question the authority behind military force, and how with great power comes great responsibility.
(I can’t believe I just wrote that.)
BONUS: DEADLY CLASS (2014-PRESENT, 44 issues, so far)
I ended up wanting an extra stop on the list to get Deadly Class in here. Unlike the other series, this one has already been adapted to the small screen, having premiered in late 2018 on SyFy. It only lasted one season, being canceled after 10 episodes, but it was glorious and it deserved a second go. It’s set in the 80s and its plot revolves around Marcus, a disenfranchised orphan who enters a school for assassins, where the kids of the world’s most dangerous criminals look to live up to their families standards. But Marcus doesn’t care about any of that. All he wants is to try and kill the man he holds responsible for his parent’s death. President Ronald Reagan.
From Hunter S. Thompson-style road trips to comic book stores, from severed heads to punk rock, it’s all there, as we explore the ethos and aspirations of the late 80s counterculture. It’s a shame we’ll never get to see what was to come in the following seasons on the small screen, but we’ll always have the unbelievable source material created by Rick Remender and Wes Craig to dive into, the way it was always meant to be experienced.
Why it could work: Just go and watch the first season because.. it did work. If you like it, and since we won’t get more episodes out of it, go read the comics. Seriously.