To say that Hollywood has run out of ideas is not a particularly bold stance. People have been saying that for decades, although it seems especially relevant right now. Our theaters are being flooded with remakes and reboots such as Robocop, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Total Recall with little to no regard for audiences.
Listen, I know it seems a bit ridiculous for an adult to care whether or not a movie about robot Jesus cop or personified reptiles who practice martial arts gets remade. I know that no one is taking the movies I know and love away from me. That being said, it still seems like a lot time, energy and money that could be going toward new stories.
Hollywood is desperately trying to hit reset (which is to say trying to shake down moviegoers nostalgic for their younger days) on movies that were as perfect as they could be in relation to their place and time in the cultural landscape. I’ve long believed that, if we are going to be subject to repetitive reboots, it would make more sense to try again on movies with interesting concepts that didn’t quite hit the mark.
So, what’s to be done in a sequel and reboot crazed market? Where shall we find these new and interesting stories you so desperately seek?
The answer is Image Comics. You’re probably familiar with Image, but you just don’t know it. The Walking Dead is one of the biggest shows on TV right now and most people are aware that it’s based on a comic–a comic published by Image. For the uninitiated, the publisher has long been a space for creativity without bounds.
It started early with books such as Spawn and The Savage Dragon and has led to unprecedented embarrassment of riches. It seems like every time I come across an interesting new book, Image is behind it. If studios and producers were smart (I’ll let you make your own joke), they would look into adapting them.
So which Image books deserve consideration? Well, I mean, all of them. But, for the sake of structure, here are a few standouts from the catalog.
I know! I know nerds! Brian K. Vaughn said he doesn’t particularly want Saga to be adapted. So save your comments and just keep an open mind.
Saga is one of the most insane and funny and beautiful things I’ve ever read.That might take some explaining. You see, Saga is, uh, a space saga…I guess. It’s kind of like if Stars Wars dropped acid and chased it with shrooms.
It takes place in a universe where the planet of Landfall (whose inhabitants all have wings btw) is at war with its moon, Wreath (whose inhabitants all have horns). Proxy wars have ravaged large parts of the galaxy, but in the midst of it, two soldiers on opposite sides of the conflict–Marko and Alana–fall in love and have a baby.
Oh, also, the ruling royalty are people with televisions for heads and there are spider-legged assassins, ghosts, a cat who can tell when anyone is lying and a giant tree that is also a rocket ship. Yeah, it’s straight bonkers, but it’s also incredibly real. Marko and Alana aren’t looking for any kind of glory. They’re just looking to escape the violence and unrest in the world and raise baby Hazel in peace.
Yes, it’s most likely unfilmable, but I think a more adult cartoon would certainly be feasible–especially if it were animated in Fiona Staples’ gorgeous style.
Chew is another comic I’ve been taken with lately. It’s equally as insane as Saga but for different reasons.
After an outbreak of bird flu kills 23 million people, the American government outlaws the sale and consumption of all poultry. In turn, the USDA becomes the most powerful law enforcement agency in the country, and chicken is the most coveted item on the black market.
It gets crazier, though. It’s also a world where some people posses extrasensory abilities related to food. Tony Chu, a USDA agent, can see the history of anything he ingests (he’s called a Cibopath) except beets. The ability comes in handy in the field but also leads some pretty gross moments in the name of duty. A number of other unique food abilities are also revealed throughout the comic.
I’ve been impressed with Chew because, admittedly, my initial interest stemmed from the concept, but I’ve seen it turn into a genuinely interesting conspiracy caper. It’s also (and believe me I hate the overuse of this word) quirky and has a style and rhythm all its own.
Finally, Hollywood has taken my advice for once. An animated movie is being made, but I can’t help but think it would be a great series. Making an animated show would be the best way to keep the aesthetic of the comic, but, ideally, I would love to see a live-action version. Steve Yeun and Felicia Day are already perfect as Tony and Amelia. Why not see what they can do on camera?
Hannibal proved we’ll watch a psychopath grotesquely murder people and feed them to his dinner guests as long as the show is styled and acted well. I don’t see why that wouldn’t work with Chew.
I haven’t had a chance to read Southern Bastards yet, but I can’t wait to pick up the first trade paperback. Thus far, the buzz has been good. I haven’t seen a negative review.
Southern Bastards is a pretty straightforward title.
It takes place in the fictional Craw County, Alabama, which happens to be home to some real sons of bitches. Earl Tubbs returns to his quiet Southern hometown after an extended absence to find it’s changed. His dad–a former sheriff–isn’t in charge anymore. Now, Euless “Coach” Boss, the local high school football coach and owner of a BBQ joint, is running things. Let’s just say the goings-on aren’t exactly above-board.
Before I go on, can I just stop so we can appreciate how great a villain named “Coach Boss” is? Darth Vader wouldn’t even mess with a dude named Coach Boss.
From what I’ve read about Southern Bastards, it’s a real homage to Southern crime stories. It’s written and illustrated by two real Southern boys, and the general consensus is that it’s more grounded than other comics, movies or TV shows that take place in the South. That’s exactly why I think it would be an amazing TV show or movie.
In my mind, it would combine the best of Justified and Walking Tall (Tubbs’ bat is an obvious reference to it). Great dialogue. Tense drama. Over-the-top action. And the music!
I’ve already been dreaming up a soundtrack composed of blues (R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough), classic country (Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings), classic rock (Lynyrd Skynyrd) and contemporary Southern rock (Drive-By Truckers, The Whigs, The Weeks, Kings of Leon, The Futurebirds, Langhorne Slim and the Law, Shovels and Rope and Benjamin Booker).
Incidentally, If you want to listen to one of the creators’ reading soundtrack for Southern Bastards, click here!
You know when you’ve had too much to drink and your friend cuts you off? I’m afraid I’m going to have to do that to myself here. I wanted to write about a few other comics, but I tend to get carried away when I write about things I like. This single post would have ended up being roughly 5,000 words.
If you’re lucky, I might do a follow-up post highlighting these comics:
Manifest Destiny: A retelling of the story of Lewis and Clark. In it, the West is filled with a number of fantastic and strange creatures seemingly not of this world.
East of West: A sci-fi Western set in dystopian America that is not divided into 50 states but seven nations. The Four Horseman of Apocalypse are on a mission to assassinate the president when Death goes rogue.
Black Science: A pulp sci-fi story about an anarchist scientist who has finally found a way to bend reality to travel to alternate dimensions. An altercation leaves him and his team stranded, hopping from alien world to alien world.
Nailbiter: An NSA agent heads to a small town in Oregon to investigate the disappearance of his friend. The town happens to be the birthplace of more than dozen serial killers.
Hollywood would do well to keep any of these stories in mind.