With Hollywood turning more of its attention to the world of graphic novels for inspiration, I’ll cast the spotlight on a new comic book each week that has the potential to pack a theater or keep you glued to your television screens. At the end of some “Adapt This” columns, you’ll also find thoughts from the industry’s top comic creators about the books they’d like to see make the jump from page to screen.
This Week’s Book: The Spectre
The Premise: A murdered policeman is possessed by a powerful spirit that has been tasked with exacting vengeance on anyone who who deserves punishment. The spirit’s new host must reconcile his belief in law and order with the spirit’s need to deliver retribution, and use his skills as a police officer to determine exactly who deserves The Spectre’s wrath.
The Pitch: A few years ago, a live-action movie or television series based on The Spectre was probably impossible, given the limitations of special effects and audiences’ tastes. Now that we have hit shows like “American Horror Story” and “Fringe” regularly offering up moody, intense scenes of a supernatural or science-fiction nature, something like “The Spectre” seems entirely possible.
In fact, a good television series based on The Spectre would combine both of those series into a single show that relies on both procedural elements and supernatural horror.
Each episode of a “Spectre” series would feature detective Jim Corrigan (or Crispus Allen, depending on which incarnation of The Spectre is chosen) investigating vicious crimes and wrestling with the spirit inside him to make sure no one is punished before he’s proven their guilt beyond any doubt. The Spectre could also assist Corrigan in his work, much like he did in writer John Ostrander’s celebrated run on the character’s solo comic book series.
Along with offering a look at the procedural side of investigating crimes, the series could also explore the contrast between law and vengeance, science and supernatural, and the practical vs. the magical.
Rather than the more comics-accurate version of the character seen in last year’s animated “DC Showcase: The Spectre” (shown above), imagine the character portrayed as something more akin to the Dementors from the Harry Potter series or the Ringwraiths from Lord of the Rings. While he could assume his traditional form at times, envisioning The Spectre as less of a human and more a force of magical nature should offer some indication of the possibilities here.
Given that each episode would only require one or two scenes featuring The Spectre – both to maintain the impact of his presence in the show and to keep costs low – it seems like an entirely viable way to present the character.
The Closing Argument: At a time when audiences seem to be looking for more from comic book adaptations than just a dark tone, why not go back to one of the original “superheroes” of horror comics for a unique spin on the genre? Equal parts procedural investigation and terrifying tale of supernatural vengeance, The Spectre has always walked the line between traditional superhero stories and edgy horror – two genres that have no shortage of fans right now. Add a heavy dose of procedural drama, and there’s a lot to like about the notion of DC’s spirit of vengeance finding his way to the screen.
Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that the character was created by Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel. Seems like a ready-made tagline to me!