We’re most likely a short two years away from the August 2014 premiere of Marvel Comics’ "Guardians of the Galaxy." If you’re wondering who the hell the Guardians of the Galaxy are, you’re not alone. There are a hole slew of more awesome, but obscure comic book characters who might never make it to the big screen.
Let’s take a look at ten of those great comic book properties and why or why not they could be made great films.
FOR: When people think of X-Men with weird/interesting/complicated backstories, they immediately think of Wolverine. That’s selling Scott “Cyclops” Summers a bit short, though.
Not only was his dad abducted by aliens only to become the freedom fighter and space pirate Corsair, his son traveled back in time from a post-apocalyptic future to fight alongside various X-Teams as the mega-popular Cable, the mutant with the power to carry guns the size of oak trees.
Despite not being terribly suave, Summers has gorgeous women throwing themselves at him right and left, an inspirational message for millions of similarly awkward square guys with vision problems.
AGAINST: As the leader of a super-team famous for internal drama, Cyke has to manage his co-workers effectively and he does that by being calm, collected, and to a certain degree, boring. He’s the best there is at what he does, and what he does isn’t very interesting.
FOR: Born into a centuries-long tradition of superhuman warriors trained to defeat the apocalypse-bringing Aztec god Tezcatlipoca, Aztek faced a unique problem when his handlers decided to bring him out of secrecy as a superhero: Having never lived a normal life, he had no plausible secret identity.
During his brief ten-issue run in his own comic, Aztek managed to adopt the identity of Dr. Curt Falconer, befriend the Kyle Rayner Green Lantern, and even managed to join the Justice League. Although the fact that creator Grant Morrison was also writing the Justice League certainly made that last accomplishment a bit easier.
AGAINST: No matter how compelling Aztek’s story was, it was never a crowd-pleaser — even his Justice League career relegated him to the sidelines. Aztek’s most memorable accomplishment was to sacrifice himself to rescue Superman from the psychic influence of Mageddon the Anti-Sun, meaning that even in his greatest moment he was playing second fiddle to DC’s superstars.
FOR: James Robinson’s 81-issue run on Starman took the now-familiar tactic of reinventing classic Golden Age heroes and used it to tell a compelling and popular story of family relationships, heroic obligations and awesome blasts of cosmic radiation.
Antique and collectibles dealer Jack Knight is compelled to take up the family business of being Starman after his brother is murdered by his father’s senile arch-nemesis, spending the rest of his series dividing time between fighting crime in Opal City, reconciling with his father, and trying to sustain his collectibles business.
Knight’s adventures were popular and engaging enough that he came close to having a Starman TV show along the lines of Smallville and the short-lived Birds of Prey, although the latter show’s failure led to the idea being permanently shelved.
AGAINST: Starman was one of the very few superheroes to ever successfully and voluntarily retire, giving up his cosmic staff (ladies) in order to start a family. Additionally, the long-form slow-burn character development that made his series so much fun to read would be difficult to compress into a typical superhero movie.
POWER MAN AND IRON FIST
FOR: Luke “Power Man” Cage (one of the first black superheroes to star in his own comic) and Danny “Iron Fist” Rand (mystical product of the Seventies' kung-fu craze) were selling poorly, and the decision was made to smoosh the two failing comics into one as a sort of '70s-fad sandwich.
The whole turned out to be way more than the sum of its parts, with the duo smashing all manner of costumed jive-talkers under the guidance of luminaries like Chris Claremont and Kurt Busiek all the way into 1980.
AGAINST: Many have tried to revive the Power Man and Iron Fist formula but few have met success. So any PMIF movie would almost have to use the original characters, who are so seventies it hurts.
During his solo career as a “hero for hire,” Power Man once flew out to Doctor Doom to collect on a $200 debt with the memorable line, “Where’s my money, honey?”
FOR: One of the few success stories of DC’s Milestone Comics imprint (a universe launched by black writers and artists like Dwayne McDuffie and Denys Cowan to focus on minority superheroes), Virgil “Static” Hawkins was originally going to be pitched to Marvel and was largely inspired by young Peter Parker.
He was geeky teenager with a smart mouth and a super-powered secret who has to deal with superhuman foes and the general crappiness of high school. Caught up in a gang war where the police unwisely made use of a tear gas chemical that gave a number of people superhuman powers, Static gained electromagnetic powers allowing him to levitate, zap villains, and (oddly) resist mind control.
While Milestone shut down in 1997, Static got a second chance in 2000 in the WB cartoon series Static Shock, which ran for four seasons and cemented his place in the DC universe with a number of crossover appearances on Cartoon Network’s popular Justice League Unlimited.
AGAINST: Static and a few other Milestone refugees were originally going to be a major part of the relaunched “New 52” DC universe, but after McDuffie’s death in 2011 few writers were willing to tackle a character so closely tied to its creator. As a result, Static’s development has unfortunately remained … well, static.
FOR: Originally a putzy, one-shot Batman villain, Floyd “Deadshot” Lawton became a fixture of John Ostrander’s legendary run on DC’s Suicide Squad for three reasons: he was funny, he was a consummate professional and he was insane in a unique and compelling way.
Deadshot was both superhumanly capable and psychologically crippled; he was one of DC’s deadliest assassins but when it came to Batman he always deliberately pulled his shots, and by the time he was working on the Dirty-Dozen-esque Suicide Squad he barely cared whether he lived or died.
AGAINST: A crucial fixture of Deadshot’s origin story is the murder and possible rape of his eight-year-old son as a result of a contract called in by Lawton’s own mother, which is going to be a tough sell to any movie studio.
Additionally, Floyd’s distinctive Errol Flynn mustache isn’t likely to work out in the 21st century, and Deadshot sans mustache is no Deadshot at all.
FOR: One of a handful of interesting ideas from DC’s Wildstorm imprint, the Authority was pieced together from the remnants of the UN-affiliated Stormwatch super-team, many of whom were invented or popularized by renowned writer and madman Warren Ellis.
The Authority swore to fight what they saw as the actual sources of evil in the world: totalitarian governments, unscrupulous corporations and an informal international agreement to maintain the status quo, no matter who suffered from it.
Preachy as it may sound, Authority comic books were marked by fantastic cinematic action scenes drawn by Bryan Hitch and Frank Quitely and featured sharp, funny writing by Ellis and subsequent writer Mark Millar.
The Authority also featured one of comics’ most popular gay couples, the Midnighter (a shadowy ninja supersoldier similar to Batman) and Apollo (a solar-powered superhuman similar to Superman) who later married and adopted a little girl who just happened to be one of the most powerful beings ever born.
AGAINST: Hopefully America is able to accept the Midnighter/Apollo relationship, but many of the Authority’s other adventures are probably too controversial for wider audiences.
The story arc where the Authority deposes the American government and assumes control of the country would be problematic enough if it weren’t for an earlier adventure where they fly into space and kill God.
FOR: A product of the late Eighties' “British Invasion” — like Alan Moore’s Watchmen and Neil Gaiman’s Sandman — Grant Morrison’s "Animal Man" was a reinvention of a z-list '60s superhero with the ability to absorb the “powers” of nearby animals, ranging from the handy strength of a gorilla to more esoteric stuff like the sonic attack of the pistol shrimp.
Morrison initially used the Buddy Baker to discuss and popularize animal rights (Buddy’s sensitivity to animal powers soon extended to empathizing with his steak), but as the series went on it began to explore the weird metaphysical world of the DC Universe: Animal Man found himself confronting his embittered '60s-era alter ego, lost characters of DC universes deleted in the Crisis on Infinite Earths, and eventually even Morrison himself. Today, Animal Man is one of the few critical successes of the relaunched New 52 universe.
AGAINST: The Greenpeace/PETA rhetoric can come on pretty strong, as even Buddy’s friends and family acknowledge. Additionally, if Grant Morrison was to reprise his role, he might end up marooned in our universe, unable to return to the fantastical parallel world known as “Scotland.”
FOR: Preacher is the story of disillusioned Texan minister Jesse Custer, who was granted bizarre supernatural powers which he uses to hunt down God and make him answer for all the bad things He had done to good people, assisted by Jesse’s sharpshooter girlfriend and a charismatic Irish vampire.
If that premise wasn’t interesting enough, consider that it was pitched and written by Garth Ennis, one of a handful of funny-book authors who can write dialogue for comic books that sounded like genuine conversations between human beings.
The property was considered so lucrative that a film version almost was made before being tweaked and reworked as an HBO miniseries.
AGAINST: HBO eventually decided against the adaptation, citing the series’ “controversial” nature. Considering that Preacher included a developmentally disabled messiah (a result of centuries of inbreeding among the descendants of the original), an immortal cowboy who sets out to kill his way through the afterlife and beloved comic relief character Arseface, “controversial” is probably understating things a bit.
Next: Worst Changes To Comic Characters in Movies
FOR: One of the most powerful non-superpowered characters in the DC Universe, Dr. Amanda “The Wall” Waller left a tragic life in the Cabrini-Green projects behind on a career path that took her into the highest echelons of superhero espionage as founding director of the Suicide Squad and the world-spanning superhuman control agency Checkmate. She accomplished this with nothing more than a genius-level intellect and a complete refusal to take crap from anybody, up to and including Batman.
A hands-on administrator and crack shot, Waller got into the habit of accompanying her teams in the field either deliberately (to share the risk with her operatives and/or keep an eye on Captain Boomerang) or accidentally, such as the time she and most of the Suicide Squad got Boom-Tubed to Apokolips and The Wall had to unload a clip into bizarre Jack Kirby villainess Granny Goodness.
AGAINST: America is in no way ready for someone as fat, sassy and hardcore as Amanda Waller, no matter how awesome it would be to watch her diss Christian Bale's Batman. The Wall has been featured in a few DC film and TV properties, including an appearance on "Smallville" where she was played by the legendary Pam “Foxy Brown” Grier.