June 21-23, 2019
Sydney Showground Olympic Park
Superhero films are big business at the moment, so studios are taking deep dives into comic archives to bring up the ‘Next Big Thing’. Who honestly thought we’d ever get one Ant-Man film, let alone a financially viable ongoing series of films that also feature him as part of a wider universe?
TV adaptations have gone gangbusters as well, having shed (most) of their reputation for being silly or tacky, with classy adaptations like Daredevil (RIP) and Jessica Jones. Things don’t look like slowing down anytime soon, so we’ve pulled together a list of comic characters we’d be happy to see show up on the big or small screen.
A mysterious individual who works to battle sinister magical forces that lurk just beyond the veil, powers fuelled by a mystical artefact… No, it’s not Doctor Strange, it’s Doctor Fate! Predating Lee and Ditko’s Sorcerer Supreme by more than 20 years, Doctor Fate has never quite moved beyond a cult character, but still offers a very cool and in-depth mythos that could really shine on either big or small screen.
Doctor Fate is also more of a title, having been held by people of differing ethnicities and genders throughout the character’s history – and even by multiple people at the same time. This opens up a wide variety of casting opportunities, and also reduces the reliance on a single actor through the life of a franchise. Maybe an anthology-style TV series?
As cool as it is to see the Hulk unleashed onscreen, it’s not unfair to say that the jolly green giant can be a little bit of a one-dimensional character (evidence submitted: the not-bad-but-largely-ignored The Incredible Hulk). Yet in spite of starting off as a character created to claim a trademark, Hulk’s cousin Jennifer Walters – aka She-Hulk – has never really had that issue.
Entertaining, funny, and charming, she’s a lawyer by profession and a giant green fighter by virtue of a blood transfusion from Bruce Banner. Legal shows never really go out of vogue; combine that with some superhero violence and you’d have a sure-fire winner. Given the character, it would even be an opportunity to inject more comedy into the MCU – something that the Netflix Marvel series have been largely lacking, and perhaps why a lot of them have been cancelled.
The ‘90s were the best and the worst time for comics fans. They’d hit the mainstream and gotten some validation from wider pop culture, but then you also had stuff like The Death of Superman, endless novelty covers, and most of the stuff that Image Comics pumped out in its early days. It was all very exciting and flashy, but virtually all of it aged like milk left outside in the Australian summer.
On the surface, Wildcats really couldn’t be more ‘90s. It had an impossibly chiselled android leading man, ninjas, and a demon-possessed Vice President. Despite this outlandish pitch that surely sounded better at the time, it could definitely be retooled for more modern sensibilities; underlying the flashy styling was a fun team dynamic that had no doubt been influenced by creator Jim Lee’s time on X-Men. It would also expand into some truly bizarre world-building, all centred around a good vs. evil narrative, while still maintaining some intriguing moral ambiguity.
Of course, not all comic-based adaptations need to be flights and tights – The Walking Dead has definitely proven that. Originally debuting in the mid-’80s, Matt Wagner’s Mage has plenty of action, but also more of a magical realism feel that distinguishes it from similar superhero fare. With its references to Shakespeare and Arthurian myth, it’s a great mix of high and low media.
At one point, Zack Snyder was scheduled to direct an adaptation; however, not much movement appears to have occurred in a number of years. But if handled correctly, Mage could make for a low-budget, gritty series that provides a fresh take on the urban fantasy genre.
Fans of the mystic and mysterious should acquaint themselves with Zatanna from DC Comics. The concept for Zatanna is simple and a lot of fun, and a familiar one if you’ve seen the likes of The Prestige or The Illusionist. An actual magician who doubles as a stage magician, Zatanna’s powers make her one of the most powerful sorceresses in the DC Universe.
Like Scarlet Witch mixed with Constantine, her knowledge of the occult and the supernatural realm make her a rival for the Sting lookalike from Vertigo’s Hellblazer himself. Zatanna’s publication history is a long one, which sees her crossing between Vertigo and DC, where she has teamed-up with and clashed heads with the likes of Justice League, Batman, Swamp-Thing and more.
So far she’s been seen in various animated television series and movies, notably the recent Justice League Dark as well as Young Justice and all staple DC animated TV shows. She has also already been seen in live-adaptation form, most significantly in a recurring role throughout the last three seasons of Smallville. Currently she has been confirmed to be in the upcoming Justice League Dark live-action movie with plans to develop her own solo movie after her team-up movie appearance.
While on the subject of magic and mysticism, fans of Lee Falk’s The Phantom may recognise Mandrake the Magician, who pre-dated the purple spandex-clad jungle vigilante. First appearing way-back in 1934, Mandrake is actually regarded the first comic-book superhero by many comic historians.
Mandrake’s abilities stem from his incredibly powerful talent for hypnosis, allowing him to conjure realistic illusions to dabbling in invisibility, levitation, shape-shifting and teleportation. Like Zatanna, Mandrake doubles as performing magician and a vigilante who uses his powerful hat and wand to thwart gangsters and alternate-dimensional beings.
A live-action adaptation has been in the works since 2007, first with Jonathan Rhys Meyers, then Hayden Christensen, then finally Sascha Baron Cohen cast as the magician. But the last reports on a live-action adaptation film were back in 2016.
If the success of Stranger Things has proven anything, it’s that audiences love following the exploits of a bunch of bewildered youngsters. Lumberjanes finds a group of young women stuck at a scout camp for the summer who then have to battle weird creatures and get caught up in a myriad of supernatural hi-jinx.
Created by Grace Ellis and Shannon Watters, and originally beginning as an eight-issue limited series from Boom! Studios in 2014, the title was so popular it became an ongoing hit and is still kicking at 50 issues strong!
If you love Scooby Doo, The Goonies, Super 8 and E.T. you’ll love watching Mal, Ripley, Molly, April and Jo solve mysteries while collecting scout badges and compiling rocking mix-tapes. The good news is even if you’ve never heard of it, 20th Century Fox picked up the rights for a live-action adaptation back in 2015 and in August 2016, Emily Carmichael was announced to direct. Not much news on the adaptation has been heard since, but fingers crossed it arrives soon!
If you like Hellboy and Spawn, then zombie-fighting, hammer-pounding, muscle-bound tough guy The Goon is for you. Think of him like Popeye on overdrive, The Goon is a mob-enforcer/career criminal who mushes deadbeats into pulp amidst a supernatural but humorous back-drop.
Anybody familiar with Eric Powell’s crime-horror series may already know this character’s frustratingly close brush with a major-motion picture adaptation. Back in 2008 a CG animated film with Clancy Brown as the titular hero and Paul Giamatti as his side-kick Franky was announced and we even got a trailer two years later, but since then the property found itself stuck in development hell.
In 2012, Blur Studio and David Fincher launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the film, and the campaign achieved its landmark before deadline. Since then, no release date has been announced but Tim Miller is attached to the project. If the creative team could remain and they could jump from animation to live-action, yes, it would mean a lot more dollars and much more time but somebody like Jason Statham was born to play a cap-wearing hard-man who clocks monsters and wise-guys!