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Adapt This: “Incognito” by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips


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With Hollywood turning more of its attention to the world of graphic novels for inspiration, I’ll cast the spotlight on a cool 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 various comic creators and other industry experts about the books they’d like to see make the jump from page to screen.

This Week’s Book: Incognito by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips (Icon)

The Premise: Zack Overkill is a former supervillain living a heavily restricted, low-key life in witness protection after testifying against the world’s most dangerous kingpin of the “science villain” community. When he discovers that his powers are no longer being dampened by the government-issued drugs he’s required to take, he begins moonlighting as a superhero. But how long until his secret is discovered? And who will discover it first, the good guys or the bad guys?

The Pitch: After being optioned by 20th Century Fox way back in April 2010, there’s been little news on the “Incognito” movie front since October 2010. (In fact, it looks as if I was the last the person to get an update from Brubaker on the adaptation.) And since it seems criminal for a great story like this to languish in development hell, consider this another nudge to bring Brubaker and Phillips’ gritty story of supervillain redemption to the big screen.

Like much of Brubaker’s work, Incognito‘s noir-fueled storytelling environment lends itself well to adaptation, as audiences have embraced the notion of darker, grittier superhero stories set in a world not too different from our own. While the world of Incognito is no stranger to super-powered heroes and villains, they still operate on the fringes of public awareness and their clashes are often covered up by the government and media. People wearing capes and masks in public are more likely to be off their meds or institution-bound rather than stopping muggers or robbing banks.

In many ways, the world of Incognito is only a slightly more colorful version of Christopher Nolan’s Gotham, filled with bleak, gray buildings and shadowy alleys. And like the world Nolan created around his version of Batman, the addition of super-powered humans and bright costumes feels intensely foreign, making their rare appearances — and inevitable, explosive brawls — that much more thrilling. Much like the modern Batman franchise, Incognito offers a nice chance to focus on the story’s characters, but also provide some impressive, wildly destructive set pieces to pepper throughout the film.

That’s not to say that an “Incognito” movie would just be retreading well-worn ground, however.

An adaptation of Incognito would set itself apart from other “dark” comic book movies by giving the audience a main character that no one wants to root for at the start of the film. To put it bluntly, Zack Overkill is a scumbag at heart, and his initial decision to go the heroic route has nothing to do with noble aspirations. Still, given the right combination of screenwriter, director, and lead actor, Zack’s evolution from deplorable jerk to cheer-worthy hero could make for one of the most memorable character arcs we’ve seen on the big screen.

Casting Suggestions: When I spoke with Brubaker back in October 2010, he mentioned Leonardo DiCaprio and “Star Trek” star Chris Pine as actors likely to bring out the best in Zack Overkill, but it’s also easy to see someone like “The Dark Knight Rises” actor Tom Hardy doing well with the role. With liberal sampling of his performances in movies like “Inception” and “Bronson,” it’s not too hard to see the smug, self-possessed traits of Zack Overkill take shape.

There’s also a case to be made for Jon Hamm in the role, given that the world of Incognito feels tonally similar to the smokey, classically stylish universe inhabited by Hamm’s character in “Mad Men.” If the adaptation were to skew younger, someone like “The Social Network” actor Armie Hammer, who’s set to star in “The Lone Ranger,” could also provide a nice mix of tall, dark, and other noir-friendly attributes.

Would “Incognito” make a good movie? Chime in below or on Facebook or Twitter.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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