Perhaps once seen as an unlikely candidate for success, Robert Kirkman‘s long-running The Walking Dead has become one of the most successful current television shows. It’s large cast, keep-you-guessing plot twists and willingness to push the envelope have made it a fan favorite. So much so that AMC has announced a second Walking Dead show featuring all different characters that will start next year.
Last year FX ordered a pilot for a show based on Powers by Brian Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming. The series was never put into production but this (and the success of Walking Dead) beg the question: what other graphic novel series could be successfully adapted for television? The stations that could fund these projects are numerous these days. HBO, AMC, FX and Showtime have all shown themselves willing to produce series that push the boundaries of television.
Here are five candidates for future television stardom.
Perhaps Robert Kirkman could make lightning strike twice? The mastermind behind ten years of The Walking Dead comics and The Walking Dead show also has another incredible comic property, Invincible.
The story follows Mark Grayson, a.k.a. Invincible, the young son of the world’s greatest super-hero Omni-Man. Invincible goes on to join the Teen Team and encounter the Guardians of the Globe, among others. It is a coming-of-age story that celebrates the best in the long history of comics. The stories pay homage to the classics of comics without ever seeming like an imitation of them. The story grows from the story of a young super-hero to encompass a massive self-sustained superhero universe that could provide for numerous seasons and even spin-offs if the show were successful. Invincible is a relatable lead character and his allies (including Atom Eve, Rex Splode and Monster Girl) and enemies (including The Mauler Twins, Machine Head and D.A. Sinclair) could provide a nearly endless supply of characters for a multi-season show.
For casting, I recommend Kyle Gallner for Invincible, Tom Selleck as Omni-Man and Arrow’s Willa Holland as Atom Eve.
A lesser known graphic novel from First Second Books, Life Sucks follows Dave, a young man who hates his dead-end job at a convenience store, pines after the cute goth girl who doesn’t know he exists and just wants to hang out with his roommate and watch Spanish soap operas. Oh yeah, and he is a vampire. I know, I know, vampires are done to death and what could a new vampire series tackle that hasn’t been done by True Blood, Angel, Forever Knight or even The Vampire Diaries? That’s what I thought when I started reading Life Sucks. But writers Jessica Abel and Gabe Soria have taken the subject of vampires and given it their own twist, a twist which I believe would make it a prime candidate for television.
Dave was made a vampire by his boss, Radu, in order to work the night shift at his convenience store. Radu and his old-world buddies use their little vamps as essentially wage-slaves in their quest for the almighty buck. This is a take on vampires I have never seen before. The idea of granting eternal life to someone just so they can eternally rotate the hot dogs and restock the candy bars is brilliant. And Dave’s dissatisfaction with this life, his various friendships and his interest in goth girl Rosa (and competition with surfer vampire Wes for her) are the stuff good television is made of. In the right hands this could be a great show about vampires, without all the sordid Southern Gothic of True Blood or the wimpy teen-angst of Twilight, but more about people stuck in the dead-world of modern city life.
For a cast, I see Ken Davitian (the fat guy from Borat) as Radu, Alexa Vega as Rosa and Trevor Fuhrman of Clerks II as Dave.
As the sole entry on this list intended to be an animated television series, King City stands out among comics. It is difficult to compare King City to anything else I have ever read. It is bizarre, brilliant and just plain weird. It follows Joe, a man with not much going for him but his cat. But what a cat! With a small injection, Joe can seemingly turn his cat into anything, from a periscope to Swiss Army Knife. Joe is a catmaster, and has just returned to King City after a couple years training to master the things his bizarre cat can do. Upon return he runs into his ex (now dating a veteran of the Korean Zombie War and addicted to a drug that turns it’s user into the drug eventually), a mysterious woman connected to the Owl Gang and Pete, his best friend and machine making genius.
King City is Brandon Graham‘s vision of a dystopian near-future and a brilliant one at that. The city is a character unto itself and really provides a stylish and intriguing backdrop to this one-of-a-kind series. Joe’s struggle to find himself, Pete’s struggle with his employers both really have the potential to resonate on an emotional level, something which could be very tricky to balance with the bizarre things that happen in the comic but which King City really pulls off. You pull for these characters, even as Joe holds his cat up to his face to use a periscope. I see Frederator Studios, the people behind Adventure Time and Bravest Warriors, being the ones to pulls this off, as they possess a style that really lends itself to making a series of extremely bizarre shenanigans fit together into a great story.
Y: The Last Man
Brian K. Vaughn and Pia Guerra‘s dystopian masterpiece feels like it was written with television in mind. The series began in 2002 under DC’s Vertigo imprint and released ten collected volumes before concluding in 2008.
The tale is set in a world where every male mammal in the world dies simultaneously except young amateur escape artist Yorick Brown and his monkey Ampersand. Brown and his bodyguard (the mysterious Agent 355) travel a world devoid of men, encountering many figures such as Dr. Allison Mann, the militant Daughters of the Amazon and Alter Tse’elon, the Israeli chief of staff.
A television show with only one (human) male protagonist would be groundbreaking. And the opportunities for creative casting abound as the series is rife with unique and compelling characters. I personally suggest Elijah Wood for Yorick, Gina Torres for Agent 355, Morena Baccarin for Alter Tse’elon and Katherine Isabelle (the vastly underrated lead in the werewolf classic Ginger Snaps) for Hero Brown.
For some, Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon‘s Preacher is the holy grail of comic-to-television adaptations. The series, which ran from 1996-2001, has long been rumored for development both as a television series (rumored for HBO with Samuel L. Jackson as the villain) and film (with James Marsden at one point attached to star, Rachel Talalay directing and Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier among the producers). All adaptations have failed to appear at this time but with the success of The Walking Dead, perhaps the time is right for another television series to push the envelope.
The story follows Jesse Custer, a Texas preacher possessed by the love child of an angel and a demon and gifted with the power of the Word, able to make anyone do what he says. He sets out on a journey across America with his ex-girlfriend Tulip O’Haire and his drunken vampire friend Cassidy. The trio attempts to find God while being confronted by fallen angels, religious cults and Jesse’s own depraved family.
Many would find the subject matter too controversial but the series is brilliant and ripe for an on-going television show. On HBO or perhaps AMC, Preacher wouldn’t have to shy away from it’s signature violent and sexual nature, allowing for a true and accurate adaptation of this amazing series.
For casting I recommend Ewan McGregor for Cassidy, Rose McGowan for Tulip and I actually believe the originally cast James Marsden could do wonders with the part.
Obviously, there are many more great graphic novels out there that would make terrific television shows. These are just a couple I thought of. Astro City would work, as would Ex Machina. But if we could get a few of these shows made, at a similar quality to the work on The Walking Dead, the ratings would be off the charts.