The following are Ron’s picks for comics that should get the cinematic treatment. For our weekly column on other books we think should be adapted, the aptly titled “Adapt This,” click here.
We are in the midst of a graphic novel renaissance. Anticipation for the upcoming Batman movie is at record high levels. The Walking Dead is a huge hit. Aya of Yop City, another favorite, is coming to the big screen in 2D soon. And so, connected to that, a question arises: What other popular graphic novels are particularly well-suited for the big screen. Here are 10 that this writer would, quite frankly, gladly by a ticket.
The character development of DC’s Jack Knight, aka Starman, spans the entire length of this graphic novel. One could even go so far as to posit that the narrative right down to the paneling (storyboarding) is the blueprint for a great superhero movie. But as superheroes go, Starman, like Batman, possesses no actual superpowers. Instead, Jack Knight uses his “Cosmic Rod” — a device invented by his father, the saintly scientist Ted Knight — to punish criminals menacing his home, Star City. Jack Knight, a fully-fleshed character if there ever was one, loves all things retro. He doesn’t wear a costume but is a legitimate tough guy that reluctantly inherits his family’s Starman mantle after his brother is assassinated by the murderous Mist family.
9. “Y: The Last Man”
A mysterious virus — or what appears to be a mysterious virus — wipes out all the men on the planet. Yorick Brown, an “escape artist,” and his pet Capuchin monkey, Ampersand are the only male survivors on a planet full of women. It sounds like male fantasy wish fulfillment but it isn’t. This Vertigo graphic novel takes Yorick on a quest across a world full of recently unattached women to find — get this — his true love, Beth, who may or may not be in Australia. This is a guy movie that a date wouldn’t mind (wink wink) either.
What complicates things are an Amazonian cult hell-bent on killing the last man on earth as well as the literally millions of women that would like to possess that last man (and, seriously, how awesome is that?). Ultimately –spoiler alert– it is Yorick’s handling of Ampersand’s feces that gives him resistance to the plague (blech). There has been online speculation that Zachary Levi would be an excellent Yorick. I will not poo-poo, no pun intended, on that speculation. A winner of three Eisner awards and written by Brian K. Vaughn I have only four things to say on this in closing: Make. This. Film. Now.
8. “The Zen of Steve Jobs”
Published in, of all places, Forbes, the Zen of Steve Jobs is one of the most brilliantly imaginative graphic novels in recent memory. It is also quite viral. Written by Caleb Melby, this graphic novel tells a fictional and very sweet story of Steve Jobs in his “Wilderness Years” — after he was aced out of the company, Apple, that he had founded. Steve at the time actually enlisted Zen priest Kobun Chino Otogawa to teach him about how Buddhism could enhance his famously acute design sense. The rest, of course, is history.
Although a heady topic, to be sure (at the intersection of Buddhism and design), it works — and is quite beautiful — as a graphic novel about a person who changed the world. After the best-selling Walter Issacson biography and the creepy action figure culturally we are still not quite over Steve Jobs. This, more than any Jobs biography, would make for a wonderful full length film.
Art Spiegelman’s “Maus” was a game changer for graphic novels. In depicting a subject as serious as the Holocaust, “Maus,” an anthropomorphic graphic novel depicting Jews as mice and Germans as cats, expanded the parameters of the subject matter of all graphic novels that came afterwards. There is Before Maus and now we live in After Maus — a space in which the graphic novel can now be properly construed as a legitimate art form.
It is astonishing that no one (Steven Spielberg? Francis Ford?) has turned this into a CGI film yet with Tom Hanks doing the voice. Fingers crossed.
6. “Swamp Thing”
It is about time to apply some bio-restorative formula to this wonderfully eerie story by Alan Moore about our favorite plant elemental and his nemesis, the relentless black magician Arcane. This story has it all: love, loss, an inquiry into the nature of power, dark magic and even a low level, unintrusive environmentalism.
The swamp thing is more than just a vegetable mass that thinks itself Alec Holland (although that’s partly true) — it, no pun intended, has legs. There have already been two movies and a TV show that have spun out of the successful DC comic. Imagine what a filmmaker like Tim Burton could do in reimagining the unforgiving Louisiana Bayou.