With all the hype over comic book superhero movies in the past few decades, it’s clear that the world is obsessed with fantastic tales of superhuman figures, but what about the less flashy and grittier tales from the world of comics and graphic novels? These stories may not be as flashy as blockbuster superhero movies, but they wouldn’t be the first to make stunning adaptations.
With hits like Alan Moore’s Watchmen, the Netflix adaptation of Sweet Tooth and even the short lived run for Syfy channel’s Happy adaptation, there’s much more to be offered by the comic book world than just cliché superheroes. Just below are five graphic novels that fans would love to see on screen, big or small, in some form of adaptation.
Maus – Art Spiegelman
Perhaps one of, if not the most influential and important graphic novels of the century, Maus has become even more important in recent months with the banning of Maus starting in a Tennessee school district. Given that the novel revolves around anthropomorphic mice and cats in the events surround the Holocausts the book talks about difficult and not necessarily easy subject matter, but nonetheless it is an extremely important topic that shouldn’t be watered down.
Given the boost in sales and popularity of the book based on the ban it wouldn’t seem unlikely that an animated adaptation of the graphic novel would be produced sometime soon, though executing it well may prove to be difficult to manage. Even so given the push back that some states are having over content that is meant to be real and is based on real events of such significance, an adaptation of it would be just the thing we need to help fight against censorship.
Mr. Punch – Neil Gaiman
With the adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series set to be released this year on Netflix, an adaptation of Mr. Punch doesn’t seem like that crazy of an idea. The premise of the one off graphic novel is strange to say the least. In a sense mirroring the plot of the “Mr. Punch” style of puppet show common to British culture, the story focuses on a narrator who is subject to a series of surreal and ghastly events of his life. The traditional “Punch and Judy” puppet show is a strange and surreal show to begin with, and bringing Neil Gaiman’s take on it to life as a feature film or series would be quite a treat.
Fables – Bill Willingham
With over 150 issues worth of material there would be plenty of options to transform this series into a long term tv series or series of movies. Following characters all throughout folklore and fairytales, this is not your average happily-ever-after style fairytale. Written for mature readers war, sexual content, and murder are a few of the themes in the story. After an event with a being called “the Adversary” the fairytale beings have been thrown out of their world into New York City where they have learned to live among humans. The first plot line begins when Snow White’s sister, Rose Red, is murdered, leaving the Big Bad Wolf, (newly named Bigby Wolf and their sheriff) to solve the murder.
With so much content to cover it would only be a matter of choosing a specific plot line to create a series out of this, and the possibilities could very well be endless.
Chew – John Layman
Now this is a weird one. Chew takes the premise of a typical detective/murder mystery story and asks the question, “what if the detective could eat the body to get psychic visions of the killer?” This one isn’t a happy-go-lucky detective tale and is quite gory and graphic, but takes quite possibly one of the most unique takes on the psychic deceive story in comics. Reminiscent to a similar title adapted to tv, I, Zombie, this would make for quite an adaptation and certainly is original enough of a plot to make for a miniseries at the very least.
Shade, the Changing Man – Peter Milligan
Shade, the Changing Man, originated as a superhero comic by Marvel co-creator Steve Ditko, Shade has gone through a few iterations since the origins. The series in question for adaptation created by Peter Milligan took a much different approach to Shade than the original superhero story. Loosely following the original character design, the story follows Rac Shade, an alien from the planet Meta who travels to Earth only to become stuck in the body of a serial killer. In the long run of the series it follows Shade and Kathy George, whose parents were victims of Shades’ host body.
Going beyond any superhero story, Shade tackles the dark corners of American culture, including gun violence, race, and identity in America. The series has also been reinvented into a spin off series Shade, the Changing Girl (later retitled Shade, the Changing Woman) is a different but equally weird take on the ideas presented in it, and is a spiritual successor to the series. Using either renditions would make for a compelling series or movie, and quite frankly the underappreciated Shade, the Changing Woman miniseries would be quite an addition to modern adaptations.
You can read about more graphic novels, new and old, here!