Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s as a film obsessed comic nerd who loved anime and video games, there are many things I never thought I would see. I never thought a faithful adaptation of Watchmen would see the light of day and alas that happened.
I dreamed of seeing an animated version of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and that happened too. I never thought we would ever see a Star Wars episodes 7,8 and 9 and yet the internet is going nuts over every little titbit of information about The Force Awakens. Even a live action Ghost in the Shell is becoming dangerously close to reality whilst a live action Akira churns its way through development hell.
So my point is what now, what happens next? We are at a point where effects technology has meant that Hollywood constantly puts two fingers up to the label ‘Unfilmable’ and any toy, comic, game, book or random twitter meme is fair game for a film adaptation.
Here are ten somewhat tricky adaptations I would like to see:
10. Spares by Michael Marshall Smith
What?: Spares was Michael Marshall Smith’s second novel from 1996 which was pretty far out there in terms of concept. Basically a future war veteran turned cop in a gigantic grounded flying shopping mall is hiding out with a bunch of clones he rescued from a farm after bonding with them whilst working as a security guard. Whilst back at the mega mall his clones are stolen and the man goes on the warpath encountering old enemies and demons and being forced back into an alternate dimension where he fought the war.
Marshall-Smith has abandoned sci-fi more recently for more typical horror stories (Intruders is now a BBC America series which he wrote under the name Michael Marshall) but Spares was so well received it made headlines when the film rights were snapped up by Spielberg’s newly minted DreamWorks studio in the late 90’s for a record fee.
The possibility of rich people owning their own clone to be farmed for spare parts was a tantalising possibility and after Jurassic Park, cloning etc was the new cyberspace for Hollywood. Since then nothing has happened but elements from Spares have popped up in The Island and Minority Report to name a few. Spares was so well written, badass and at the time original that those who read it waited for the film with bated breath, and waited, and waited…..
Pitched As: It’s like Point Blank crossed with Blade Runner via The Island
How: I’m not sure that a screenplay was ever even written for this but it’s hard to see how any adaptation could ever keep the surreal and blackly comic nature of the source material and still be accessible to the masses with the budget that this needs to make it work. There are elements now which have been strip-mined by others and some concepts have dated so it would need to be re-invented.
The name I keep coming back to is District 9 director Neill Blomkamp who has the style and talent to re-invent it and make a kick ass adaptation in the process.
Chances of Ever Happening: 20%, I suspect it has simply been too long and not enough people are aware of the source material. The masses will annoyingly claim it’s a rip off of The Island if it ever does happen. Still if Intruders enters the mainstream it might re-ignite interest in this property.
9. Freaks of the Heartland
What?: 30 Days of Night creator Steve Niles’ comic book from 2005 is a slight but atmospheric and heartfelt affair. It revolves around a small town in the American South and the inbred, mutant freaks that are kept in several basements. One kid sets out to free his six-year-old brother from his abusive father and the kid has some terrifying telekinetic talents. The town inevitably gets a bit narcy and sends out an armed posse through the wilderness.
Around the time that Pineapple Express came out, director David Gordon Green was working on a live action adaptation but then as of 2011 it was on the back burner. It’s a shame because just by looking at the covers of the individual issues you can tell that Green is exactly the right man for the job and he hasn’t really ever tackled horror despite wanting to remake Argento’s Suspiria for years now.
Pitched As: Like a white trash X-Men with a dash of Carrie via Jeff Nichols Mud.
How: Last we heard David Gordon-Green was considering making this an animated feature working with the same lot who did Rob Zombie’s The Haunted World of El Superbeasto. Whilst I think this is a mistake, if Green doesn’t want to make this live action then he should pass it on to Mud and Take Shelter director Jeff Nichols who can do this sort of thing in his sleep. Otherwise a TV mini-series on Sy Fy would appear to be in its future.
Chances of Ever Happening: 60%, people seem keen on the idea but if it doesn’t happen in the next two years then its dead.
8. The Joe Pitt Casebooks by Charlie Huston
What?: Charlie Huston wrote the Joe Pitt books (5 in total) as a reaction to writing a previous noir where the lead was constantly beat up and so he wanted to write something with a hard as nails hero. Joe Pitt was that hero, a former hustler turned vampire/enforcer who lives in New York which is home to many factions and clans of vampires who live in harmony with the humans. Pitt works all sides, kind of like Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, with the vampire aspect called ‘The Vyrus’ and treated more like a disease than something with people with fangs who fly.
The most appealing thing about the books is the way it is about New York City and the various factions from the perspective of someone who has evidently spent a lot of time there. You have the upper west side lot who operate like the mafia, the lower Manhattan hippy crew who want to promote awareness and then the weirdo cult who starve the vyrus until the point of death to achieve enlightenment. It’s incredibly vivid stuff and without chapter breaks over about 200 pages per book, which is endlessly appealing on a pulpy level. Plus it has an intriguing romance between Pitt and his HIV positive girlfriend which raises all kinds of moral conundrums.
Pitched As: Near Dark meets The Sopranos via Yojimbo
How: It’s got to be on TV and would be an easy sell to somewhere like AMC or Showtime as something to rival HBO’s past shows. Huston recently became the show runner on the PlayStation network’s adaptation of Powers so he could well make this his next project. Other than that it needs someone who loves the material to step in and guide it accordingly, Frank Darabont would be a good fit and John Cusack would make a good Joe Pitt. A screenplay was apparently written once which Huston liked but nothing ever came of it.
Chances of Ever Happening: 50%, it’s been a few years since the books ended and they never really became mainstream so the time may have passed. There again people are constantly looking towards books for inspiration for TV and film and the ideas in the Pitt books haven’t really been covered elsewhere yet.
7. 100 Bullets
What?: Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso’s pulpy noir comic book is a kind of anthology piece that has a fiendishly good central conceit. The mysterious Agent Graves approaches people who have been wronged and essentially turns them into assassins by offering them a gun, 100 bullets and a dossier of their target who wronged them, all in the name of some mysterious purpose.
The art is very simple but evocative; however the writing is where 100 Bullets excels with great characters, scenarios and an always intriguing central mystery which is revealed over 100 issues.
Pitched As: Payback meets Wanted via that web show The Booth at the End or maybe Lost.
How: Again I would imagine this would have to be done on TV and could make a great anthology show with each episode revolving around a case of vengeance with Agent Graves (played by Kevin Spacey) popping up at the start and climax of the episode.
In this day and age this could probably be done on any cable channel or regular old TV. It’s such a great concept and so much of the material is already there so it wouldn’t need much in the way of an expert handler, the only risk would be if audiences started to demand the central mystery be revealed early and the producers get in a flap and compromise.
Chances of Ever Happening: 99%, this is simply too good an idea and too rich to not happen. David Goyer got close in 2011 with the show nearly happening on Showtime but a spate of mass shootings stateside meant that the time wasn’t right. Apparently it is now on Warner Bros slate of DC Comics projects to become movies along with Fables, Shazam and Justice League Dark.
6. The Boys
What?: Preacher creator Garth Ennis can frequently be too extreme and crass for his own good but apart from Preacher, the other time he created work that was as enjoyable was with Wildstorm/Dynamite’s The Boys. Over 72 issues Ennis showed us a world in which superheroes exist but act like spoilt rock stars. For example a character a bit like The Flash runs a bit too fast and stumbles, completely obliterating another characters girlfriend and then doesn’t apologise.
This is where The Boys come in, a squad of CIA sponsored hard nuts tasked with monitoring the superhero community, and if they get out of hand then they inject some enhancement drugs which give them super strength and put them on a par with the superheroes. It’s violent, profane and very offensive but the premise is sound and suitably strong. One of the main characters was drawn to look exactly like Simon Pegg much like the main character in Wanted was drawn to look like Eminem, practically begging for the screen.
Pitched As: Watchmen meets 24 Hour Party People
How: Funnily enough a film version has been in the works for a couple of years but has completely the wrong talent attached. Fast and Furious producer Neal.H Moritz is on board and Will Ferrell’s frequent collaborator Adam McKay was attached to direct, indicating that this will be a watered down version of the comic.
Since then the project has moved studios and has new writers attached. McKay and co might well get the central premise but to do this justice you need one of these mavericks that work within the system, someone like Wayne Kramer or Joe Carnahan, the late Tony Scott would have been a good choice.
Chances of Ever Happening: 75%, if it does happen it won’t be the comic and will be a variation on it like Mark Millar’s Wanted.
What?: If you don’t know what this is then I feel bad for you. This 80’s toy line spawned a popular cartoon series shown on the BBC and was also the subject of a recent comic revival and a really good animated reboot. It’s that rare example of where the mythology behind something made to sell toys was actually really cool, with a warrior race evolved from cats instead of apes crash landing on a version of earth removed from our own and coming into conflict with a mummy like sorcerer.
All this coolness aside, it also tried to teach you something about morals and responsibility in every episode much like He-Man. I’m surprised a live action version of this hasn’t happened already honestly.
Pitched As: Hmmmm it’s like TMNT with Cats or Krull with Planet of the Apes/Cats, a crazy cat lady wet dream….
How: There was an actually pretty good fan made trailer from a couple of years ago for a live action movie using edited material from other sources and that’s the tone they should be going for here. This could make an epic trilogy of big budget films as long as they keep Michael Bay away from it and hire someone with vision and passion like Alfonso Cuaron, Matthew Vaughn or maybe even Tarsem Singh.
This could definitely capture the audience that made Guardians of the Galaxy a hit if they get the tone and sense of fun just right. There was talk of a CG animated feature in 2007 which seems to have died but recently James McAvoy said he would be keen on being in a possible film.
Chances of Ever Happening: 95%, in these days of successful live action GI Joe, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Transformers films it seems inevitable this will happen.
Here’s that trailer…
4. As She Climbed Across the Table by Jonathan Lethem
What?: Hollywood has never really known what to do with author Jonathan Lethem. For a while his tourettes detective novel Motherless Brooklyn was going to be turned into a film by Edward Norton as a directorial follow-up to Keeping the Faith, sadly the film never materialised. Lethem’s books tend to defy easy categorisation into any genre.
One of my top five books of all time is Lethem’s 1997 novel As She Climbed Across the Table. This one is just as difficult to categorise as everything else he has written, it’s ostensibly a story about the break-up of a long-term relationship but has an interesting sci-fi twist in that Alice Coombs breaks up with Professor Philip Engstrand in favour of a void of nothing they have unlocked in their laboratory using a particle collider.
The science part is just as well written as the relationship stuff and it strikes a chord with anyone who has ever been dumped in favour of someone they perceived as a lesser being. Things get more sci-fi when the ‘lack’ as it becomes known, only allows certain objects to pass through it, then things get even more meta-physical.
The book was scheduled to be turned into a film by no less than David Cronenberg a few years back but it’s all gone quiet.
Pitched As: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind meets Altered States via (500) Days of Summer.
How: If Cronenberg doesn’t want the job then perhaps it could be a redemption project for (500) Days of Summer director Marc Webb after Spider-Man or even Cube director Vincenzo Natali. It is definitely very tricky material though and the lack of clear visuals for essentially nothing is going to put a lot of people off. Could only ever be done as an independent feature most likely and would appeal to all those people who put Spike Jonze’ Her at the top of their 2013 lists.
Chances of Ever Happening: 30%, it may just be too tricky to pull off into a coherent film with commercial prospects unless a big star throws their weight behind it.
3. The Maxx
What?: When Todd MacFarlane’s Image comics appeared in 1992 most of their titles consisted of riffs on stuff that MacFarlane had worked on over at Marvel comics before his exit. Then there was The Maxx, Sam Kieth and William Messner-Loeb’s comic ran for five years and revolved around a homeless behemoth in the real world who is also a warrior in a dreamy outback location that is shared with freelance social worker Julie Winters.
These two misfits are plagued by a serial rapist known as Mr Gone who seems intent on revealing a horrific truth about their true pasts and identities. It asks some big questions about reality, memory and how identity works based on perception. It’s so 90’s it hurts and became a short-lived but weird and perfect late night MTV animated series too. The Maxx had a small cult following that led to an action figure and a re-painted re-release of the comic last year. A film has been talked about for years but never moved beyond talk.
Pitched As: Inception meets The Crow with a dash of Cool World (yes, Cool World)
How: The Maxx’s time may have come and gone, visually and emotionally its straight out of the grunge era so would either have to be updated or made into a period piece. Someone with some vision who grew up in the era may come forward and make it their pet project otherwise a re-invention with a hot-shot commercial or music video director could be the best way to go.
Chances of Ever Happening: 20%, it may be too far into another era now but once the world is done with electro pop, then grunge is due a comeback on the endless rotational saga that is music, so who knows.
2. Paranoia Agent
What?: One of the great losses of recent times was anime director Satoshi Kon. Probably his most famous work is Perfect Blue and then Paprika which many claim was the inspiration for Inception. Kon was pushing the boundaries of what animation could be even for Japan, with films like Tokyo Godfathers and Millenium Actress a world away from the typical anime we get imported to the west. Kon’s best work however was this 13 part TV series which tackled themes of alienation, media and connection in modern society.
It does this by telling the vaguely connected stories of several troubled people who are attacked by a phantom dead kid on roller blades with a bent metal baseball bat known as ‘Lil Slugger’ and the encounter changes their lives. Oh and it has something to do with the increasing popularity of a Hello Kitty like cartoon character too called Maromi. Sometimes the metaphors are too on the nose but the operatic opening credits hook you in and soon it becomes addictive viewing.
Watching Paranoia Agent through for the first time it reminded me of the first time I watched Twin Peaks, I was obsessed with it. A few years back a live action one-off film was somehow in the works from Ju-On The Grudge director Takashi Shimizu but it hasn’t come to fruition.
Pitched As: The Grudge meets Lost in a city bound Twin Peaks.
How: In these days of one-off shows with self-contained stories like True Detective and Fargo, this seems ideal for adaptation into a cable series. The mystery would draw people in and it could become massive if done correctly. It may not seem like it sometimes but audiences are becoming more sophisticated (hence why Twin Peaks is coming back) and this would fit right into this golden age of television.
Somebody with some talent for this kind of thing will make this their mission one day and Donnie Darko director Richard Kelly’s career needs a kick in the pants so someone show him this okay?
Chances of Ever Happening: 80%, I would say this is too unique and too popular in the sub sub culture to ever not happen, and if live action Akira and Ghost in the Shell hit big then it’s a dead cert
What?: One of the best things about owning a tablet is that it can get you back into comics in a big way and one of my favourite things of the last couple of years is Y: The Last Man creator Brian K.Vaughan’s sci-fi comic Saga.
Pitched as Game of Thrones meets Star Wars initially, over twenty odd issues so far Vaughan and artist Fiona Staples have told the story of a decades long intergalactic war between the Landfall Coalition and the Wreath people, all of this is micro managed by the debauched android royal family. Amongst this chaos two beings from opposite sides Alana and Marko met, fell in love, fled the scene and gave birth to a child who sometimes narrates the whole story.
The couple become the most wanted people in the galaxy and are pursued by Prince Robot IV and a bounty hunter known as The Will all whilst trying to find a home. Saga is addictive, brilliantly written and often hilarious.
The writing is so strong that every time a character dies or a major event happens you feel it like in any great work. The sci-fi world they present you with is so unlike anything ever seen before that even though it riffs on Star Wars and Game of Thrones, it feels fresh thanks to the details they plant here and there that keep it grounded and familiar such as tabloid journalists, reclusive authors and even washing machines.
Pitched As: Star Wars meets Game of Thrones will do but it has a touch of Preacher’s anarchic spirit to it as well.
How: Difficult is the word applied to any adaptation of Saga before pen is even put to paper. For a start you would need a huge budget and multiple films to do it justice and it’s perhaps too weird to get that greenlit. It’s most likely you would have to go the HBO series route but it might even prove too costly for that with its multiple planets, monsters and assorted races on display.
Chances of Ever Happening: At the moment about 10%. Brian K.Vaughan has stated previously that he has no desire of ever seeing Saga adapted into other media because he could do in the comic everything he couldn’t do in a movie or TV show. There again he also said in the comics own letters page that he would accept an offer from someone who came up with a brilliant and faithful take on the material.
I expect someone with talent in their teens right now will make it their life’s mission to adapt the comic they love as soon as they are old enough. It will happen just not whilst we are in the 18-49 demographic.