Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Top Eleven: Comic Book Characters That Should Have Their Own Movies

It's a great time to be a comic book nerd right now.  There's (some) decent books still being published by the Big Two companies, there are lots of independent fare that are having more opportunities than ever before to publish their work, and the movies featuring the big name (and some of the more obscure) characters are bringing in big money for Hollywood.

But...I'm kinda tired of the same characters over and over again.  Recently it was announced that Spider-Man would be showing up in the mainstream Marvel universe, possibly as a part of the next Captain America movie.  Coming soon is a movie with Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and other big name DC characters.

I'll admit, it'll be neat to see Spider-Man swinging through the same skyline that Iron Man flies through, but my excitement level is still rather "meh" if only because I just saw him in another movie not too long ago.  Now it might be another new actor playing him, and...well, there's so many other great comic book characters out there, why can't we take a stab on having the same level of success as the Guardians of the Galaxy had?

Granted, there's an Ant-Man movie coming out soon, and I'm really looking forward to it, but still.  There's so many characters and stories!

Let's break down the top eleven characters I wish I could see get their own movie or TV series.

A small caveat.  There are a few characters that should already have their own movie by now that don't, but they won't be showing up on this list.  There's really no reason why we've had to wait this long for a Wonder Woman movie.  Hollywood can put out as many excuses as they want about whether a crowd might be "ready" for the character, but considering DC put out (admittedly terrible) movies about Steel and Catwoman and the Fantastic Four are now going through their third (if you count the first one that was never released, which I always do) relaunch and we have several actors out there who played Captain America, at least one Wonder Woman movie should be out there already.

But let's move on.

Number 11)  Ka-Zar

Kevin Reginald, descended from English nobility, is the "defender" of a small patch of land in the Antarctic that, due to any number of silly comic book science reasons, is essentially The Land Before Time only with more Jurassic Park levels of "people get eaten by dinosaurs."  He was essentially left abandoned in the Savage Land as a baby (to be fair, his father, who discovered the area, was killed by some of the natives and his mother was just dead a long time prior) and raised by an extremely intelligent sabretooth tiger named Zabu.  He later met Shanna, a scientist who was drawn to the Savage Land by its "purity" in terms of nature, and the two later married and had a son which, surprisingly, Marvel hasn't written out of continuity.

Go figure.

Now, a guy claiming the rank of "biggest bad-ass" of an area filled with dinosaurs, primitive tribes, and the always encroaching threat of the outside world is great enough, but here's a few of the other entities known to wander around the Savage Land:

The High Evolutionary, a man known to "evolve" native life and created an army out of "ani-men."

Sauron, a man with the mutant power to drain the life energies from other people, turning himself into a telepathic pterodactyl-man when he does so.

Umbu The Unliving, a giant (seriously, HUGE) android left by an alien race to guard a doomsday weapon.

Devil Dinosaur and Moon Boy, a Tyrannosaurus Rex "born in the fires of a volcano" who once fought Godzilla and tends to stomp other dinosaurs to death when they challenge him, and a primitive early "man" who communicates with him.  They are the BEST of friends.

If you're telling me you can't get at least three films out of this, Marvel, then you just aren't trying hard enough.

Number 10)  Booster Gold

Booster Gold, I think, is a massively untapped vein of gold when it comes to comic book storytelling.  Michael Jon Carter started his superhero career as a college football sensation in the 25th century.  His father manipulates him into throwing some games for the sake of gambling, and he's discovered, disgraced, and expelled.  Not being able to get much work outside of being a janitor at a space museum where he studies the exhibits about superheroes and supervillains (so many come from space, you know).  With the help of a security robot named Skeets, he manages to grab a Legion of Superheroes flight ring, Brainiac 5's force field belt, and makes use of Rip Hunter's time machine to go back in time with the goal of being a "hero."

Well, not so much "hero" as "total glory hound."

Responsible for such things as "paying the Royal Flush gang to attack the Justice League so he can save the day" and at one point licensing himself out as a billboard for corporate ads on his superhero costume, Booster Gold earned the disgust and disdain of most of the other heroes on the planet save a few good friends.

However, that isn't to say he wasn't an actual hero.  When Doomsday appeared in the storyline that would end with the death of Superman, one of the first heroes to leap into the fight was Booster Gold.  Keep in mind that Booster had spent time studying the timeline to know when major events happened so he could be present to "save the day."  The "day that Superman was killed" was probably on that list, and while Booster wanted glory, he wasn't stupid and knew just how out of his league he was against Doomsday.

He later, and this is where the movie would pick up, became "the greatest hero you never heard of," fixing the attempts of super villains to change time for their own benefit.  While still acting like the "goofy guy who just wants the fame" to everybody else, he's risking his neck throughout history keeping Bruce Wayne from being gunned down the same night as his parents, making sure that Ma and Pa Kent are the ones to find that rocket from the planet Krypton, and checking that nothing else "goes wrong."

Number 9)  Captain Britain and MI-13

So people like British television enough to keep Doctor Who a thing that keeps showing up at every slightly nerdy event/store/anything I see.  The TV show Broadchurch was my number one Thing of 2013.  Downton Abbey is huge among people.

So how about some British superheroes?  Specifically Captain Britain (a flying brick whose powers come from his proximity to England itself), Pete Wisdom (government agent, massive jerk, and can shoot fire from his fingers), Black Knight (Dane Whitman, wielder of the ebony blade and rides a winged horse), Spitfire (Lady Jacqueline Falsworth Crichton, super speed thanks to a blood transfusion from an android, also a vampire, comics be complicated, yo), Excalibur (Dr. Faiza Hussein, actual wielder of the sword Excalibur), Jon the Skrull (a shape shifting alien who went "native" in the 1960s, resembles a famous "deceased" musician who once had a mop-top hairdo), and a bunch of other unique characters.

Yes, Blade also shows up, but he had his movies, so I'm excluding him.

This is a great team.  They're essentially the front line against all the huge "mystic" threats that like to come from England and its surrounding areas (think about how many myths and legends come from places like Scotland, Ireland, and England), and are known to have battled against Dracula's moon invasion force, a phrase I wish I could use when describing more series/books/movies/shows.

Number 8)  Atomic Robo

Because it would probably be expensive to CG a robot through at least one action movie (though not impossible if you get the right team to do it), I would predict an Atomic Robo movie being an animated fare, like Big Hero 6.

Built by Nicola Tesla in 1923, Robo (the main character, if you haven't guessed) gets into a wide variety of madcap adventures through the years.  Battling against Nazi scientists in World War 2, struggling against giant Japanese monsters, massive ants, horrors from beyond time and space, and (Behold!) his continuing battles against Dr. Dinosaur.

Being able to jump around in time to tell stories from different points of Robo's life would be a huge boon to a movie series, especially since something that happened in June of 1962 might directly tie in to something that happened in 1989.

My hope is that a movie featuring him would eventually lead in to an animated series, so fingers crossed it eventually happens.

Number 7)  Leave It To Chance

I'll happily go on the record as saying that James Robinson's career in comics has been a bit all over the place.  The man who created the critically acclaimed Starman series in the 90s is also responsible for atrocities like Justice League: Cry For Justice.  He's pretty inconsistent when it comes to quality.

However, Leave It To Chance is the book I want to hand people when they say they want a comic book they can give their daughters.

Starring fourteen year old Chance Falconer (great name), she's part of the long-standing family of people who deal with the occult and strange.  However, her mother's life was lost due to one of these instances, and her father refuses to train her to take over for him one day, not wanting to lose his only offspring as well.

She, of course, disobeys and starts going out on her own to investigate everything from ritual sacrifices of monkeys to pirate ghosts.  All the while aided by her own pet dragon brilliantly named St. George.

Seriously, this needs to be a movie.

Number 6)  Lady Pendragon

I'm just going to quote Comicvine here:

"Exiled to a convent following her adulterous relationship with Arthur's friend and champion Lancelot, King Arthur's wife Guinevere pulled the legendary sword of power "Excalibur" from Arthur's bastard son Mordred's corpse in the aftermath of the battle of Camlann, where Arthur and his knights were slain.

Torn between the Christian faith sweeping the land and the ancient wisdom of the druids, Lady Pendragon tries to unite the different Briton clans against the invading Saxons from across the sea.

Betrayal rules the day as the Knights of the Round Table are thrust into a civil war that destroys the peace and unity that allowed the Knights of Camelot to fend off the barbarians threatening to overthrow the isle."

That, in of itself, is awesome.

However, there was a second series where the spirit of Lady Pendragon was reborn in the modern age, just in time to face Morgan Le Fey's resurrection and the return of magic into the everyday life of people on Earth.

Either way, you can get a pretty great movie out of that.

Just...don't go looking to the older comics for ideas of who to cast.  People don't usually have bodies that work the way they did in "extreme" 90's comics.

I could do a "top eleven things wrong with this picture" and not cover half the stuff in it.

Number 5)  Stars & S.T.R.I.P.E.

I'd be lying if I didn't say that Courtney Whitmore was one of my favorite characters in comics for a while.  Originally a snotty, brattish 16 year old when introduced in her book, she was determined to do only two things in life: survive high school and get her mother to divorce her new step-father.  When she found out that her step-father used to be the sidekick to the Star-Spangled Kid way back in the day, she figured a good way to get him riled up would be to steal the identity of his former partner and start kicking goons and thugs in the face.

His response was to build a suit of power armor and tag along to make sure she stayed safe.

The new Star-Spangled Kid (or as she would later just be known, Stargirl) became a fixture in the Justice Society of America, often being the "point of view" character for the reader, reacting to how huge events were.  She would grow, mature, and become a true hero in her own right, eventually becoming the "leader" of the next young generation of heroes the Justice Society would take in.

Never drawn as a sexpot like so many young, female heroes (seriously, go back and look at the Supergirl series before DC rebooted everything, they needed an editorial mandate stating that the next person who drew an "upskirt" of her would be fired after a certain point), and always portrayed as someone who was actually "young" and not just an adult in a kids body, Courtney managed to inject tons of heart into her adventures.

For instance, there's her learning that her deadbeat father died during a huge event:

Or her first kiss with Billy Batson (you know, the kid who turns into Captain Marvel).

We need a more "human" superhero story out there, and Stargirl is one of the most human characters out there.

Okay, enough sappiness, let's get back into the action.

Number 4)  The Question

Investigative reporter Vic Sage, taking on the costumed identity of The Question to get the answers his public persona cannot (usually through punching people really hard) didn't take what he did too seriously until the day he was almost killed by Lady Shiva.  Studying under Richard Dragon while he learned to focus his anger and frustrations into a zen-like calmness, he was able to come back to Hub City (a town so corrupt that Gotham City looks down on it) and renew his quest to find out the "answers" behind the city's best questions.

You could do a lot with such a character.  After all, he was one of the breakout stars of the Justice League animated series.

Number 3)  Strikeforce Morituri

So this is a strange title most people don't remember.  It might work as a TV series, but since American television likes to milk a franchise well past the point it should exist and can't let go of characters for the sake of a story (see: Heroes), I don't want to give them the chance to ruin this one.

That isn't to say there hasn't been the chance to.  The Sci-Fi Channel (back before it was SyFy) was going to do a series called 1,000 Days with a similar premise.  This series was also once optioned for a movie at one point, but since filming was supposed to begin in 2011 and I've heard absolutely nothing about it since, I'm assuming it hasn't happened and the rights reverted back to Marvel.

So just what is this series?

In the year 2069 strange alien beings arrive on Earth, nearly conquer most of it, and start stripping it of its resources.  A scientist discovers a way to grant superhuman powers to individual humans, but the process will kill the person within a year after being empowered.  The series chronicled an ever-changing cast of heroes, some dying while in combat with the alien threat they faced (one which would happily nuke a city on Earth for retaliation of losing a Commander in battle, and who would sometimes gather up a bunch of human slaves, go just outside Earth orbit, and then eject them so the people down below can see the streaks from their bodies burning up in re-entry), but most dying of the "Morituri Effect."

Now picture, if you will, a movie franchise where most of the characters are dead by the end.  You might have one or two characters alive, but they would never make it past the second movie.  One long, over-arcing plot where humanity fights ever-increasingly desperate battles to turn the tide of a war against a powerful threat.

I think the right writers and director could really make this kind of thing work.  It'd be like the Saw or Final Destination franchise (as in "constantly rotating cast"), but with superheroes facing a single threat that they could actually defeat at the end.

Number 2)  Dynamo 5

What if Superman had a bunch of kids?

And what if they were all by different mothers?

This is the plot of the Dynamo 5 series, where the five offspring of now dead hero Captain Dynamo have to deal with the fact that their mothers at one point got freaky with a real live superhero (without their fathers knowing, usually) and now each of them inherited one of their real father's powers.  Do they use those powers together to protect the city their father once watched over?  Do they branch out and try to join other hero teams?  Do they tell the world at large to "go to hell" and just try to live a normal life?

It only lasted a few years, but that's about twelve issues more than Big Hero 6 had total, so I'm pretty sure you could make a great movie out of that.  It could even be animated, I wouldn't mind.

For my number one pick, I struggled a bit.  A lot of the characters I really hoped I'd get to see in movies one day are already scheduled, as are characters like Gambit.  I was going to list Jamie Madrox, except he already appeared in an X-Men film.  Black Panther has a movie coming out.  Aquaman has a movie coming out.  She-Hulk would be tough without it simply being "a female Hulk movie" (unless you focused on the law stuff, but that might anger movie audiences who go in expecting "Hulk Smash!" and instead get "Hulk litigate!"). 

So, who's my final pick?

Well, first an honorable mention:

Number X)  Mr. Miracle and Big Barda

The more I think about it, the more these two are my favorite romance in comic books.

Back when the "old" gods died and the "new gods" (cough) were born, there were two opposing sides.  The side of good, lead by Highfather, and the side of evil, lead by Darkseid.  At one point, to broker peace between the two worlds, the two leaders agreed to trade their sons to each other.  Orion, the son of Darkseid, became a noble hero battling his own darker urges that came from his birthright.  Highfather's son, Scott Free, underwent the tortures that only Darkseid's minions could manage but became the greatest escape artist who ever lived during his efforts to leave the darker world behind.

In his struggles, he faced the whole of Darkseid's forces, including his elite forces, the Female Furies.

Not only did Scott escape, but he took with him proof that Darkseid could never win: he won the heart of Barda, the leader of the Furies, who joined him when he finally managed to escape from Darkseid.

As a concept, the two of them work beautifully.  Their love is, above all else, proof that good can and will defeat evil.  No matter how hard Darkseid tries, he can't crush Scott's spirit, he can't destroy the love these two have,

Now, there are lots of action movies where the guy is the brute force and the woman (if she gets involved in the action at all) is the agile jumper, darting in and out of the fight.  Hulk smashes, Black Widow jumps around and kicks.   Brad Pitt relies more on brute force weaponry, Angelina Jolie uses more technology and trickery.  Very rarely is the woman the source of the brute force and the guy is the one nimbly dodging about.

It'd be a great shift in the action movie genre.  There are plenty of large, muscular women who could play Barda (hello, Gina Carano!), and lots of lean, somewhat frail looking leading men who could undoubtedly have good chemistry with their female lead.  Take the story wherever you want, either being a single science fiction epic about the two meeting, falling in love, and escaping from Darkseid's clutches, or afterward when they tried to start a new life on Earth.

Or a story where they go around punching dragons.  I'm good with that, too.

(One of my favorite panels, by the way, is when Barda is talking to Scott on the phone and explaining how his actions caused a "punk" with a knife to ambush her in her car, his response is "oh my god, is he all right?"  Obviously Barda can take care of herself!)

So on to my real #1 pick.

1)  The Justice Society

There are a lot of things superhero movies are yet to discuss or try to contribute towards.  To this point, pretty much every "superhero" movie has been "hey, this good guy has powers somehow!  Now there's a bad guy with powers!  Pow, biff, boom, now it's just the good guy again!"

There are no stories about someone with powers attempting to help out during a natural disaster.  There are no stories about people with powers solving real gritty street crime mysteries.  There are no stories about superheroes and their effect on things like war.

That could be where the Justice Society comes in.

See, they handle two huge types of stories: war and legacy.  You have the old guard (the original Flash and Green Lantern and Atom, Dr. Mid-Nite, Hourman, Hawkman, Spectre, Wildcat, so on) who were around when Hitler was still a menace and the stories that had to deal with why they couldn't simply zoom over, punch Hitler in the face a few times, and end the war right there.

There's also them acting as the original "old guard" who's there to teach the newest generation what it means to be a hero.  You have the aforementioned Stargirl, but there's an entire new generation of heroes who pick up the mantles from those who have fallen and continue fighting the good fight.

A good series of JSA movies wouldn't be afraid of addressing these issues.  Use some of that Tron: Legacy movie magic to "de-age" a few actors and let them be impressive during a time of war, then let the next story be them in the modern world, dealing with things that could never have been imagined before, balancing their values against modern values, and showing that some things (courage, defending those who need it) aren't simply relics of a bygone age.

It would be everything I had hoped they would address in the second Captain America movie, showing that his values, at their core, are things that people need to remember and put more faith in.  Why do they help us?  Because it's the right thing to do.  Why don't they back down?  Because you can't let the bullies of the world win, regardless of who has what skin tone or belief.

No comments: