Indie Comics That Should Be Movies

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Thor. Green Lantern. Captain America: The First Avenger. This summer, it seems like every film studio has their own big-budget entrant into the comic book-adaption genre. Usually we bemoan that the superhero movies flooding our local multiplexes lack basic canonical knowledge, that they are just excuses to mindlessly use 3D and blow things up. But, in a post-Batman Begins world, some things have changed — X-Men: First Class was, well, pretty damn good, and the superb casting for Captain America has us eager for its release date. It seems Hollywood has begun to treat the comic-book movie with some respect. Yet, with news of Fox rebooting the failed Daredevil franchise, it’s time to admit that the Marvel/DC universe is pretty much exhausted. As a solution, we present our list of indie comic books that deserve to be films and the directors we’d like to see do the jobs. Check out our picks after the jump.

Ex Machina by Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris

This Brian Vaughan-penned comic is far from the traditional superhero story — Mitchell Hundred, the series’s protagonist, is the world’s first and only superhero, known under the moniker “the Great Machine.” Following mysterious events, Mitchell, a civil engineer, gains the ability to “talk” to all electrical devices. Yet the comic revolves around Mitchell’s time as mayor, a position he rises to after 9/11 and a flawed career as a superhero. The series compellingly combines politics and science fiction and weaves real news stories into its narrative.

Dream director: David Fincher. Nowadays it seems that David Fincher has signed on to direct just about every project out there, but we believe he would be the perfect choice for an Ex Machina film. Fincher’s stylishly dark aesthetic would suit the New York City-based comic well, adeptly translating Machina‘s grittiness (courtesy of artist Tony Harris) to the screen. To be honest, we’re pulling for another Fincher-Sorkin tag-team on this one, á la The Social Network — Sorkin would be the perfect choice to adapt Vaughan’s witty, nuanced, and politically charged panels into a screenplay.

I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly and J. M. Ken Niimura

I Kill Giants is a unique and powerful comic telling the story of Barbara Thorson, a fifth-grade girl who plays Dungeons & Dragons, wears animal ears, and trains to kill giants. Barbara is bullied and friendless, and, as a result, she retreats into an elaborate fantasy world where monsters are easily conquered — a welcome reprieve from the cruelties of school and a tragic home life.

Dream director: Darren Aronofsky. With films like Requiem for a Dream and The Wrestler under his belt, it is clear that Darren Aronofsky likes to make us cry, and I Kill Giants is certainly a tear-jerker. The terrors and anxieties of Barbara’s inner life are pure Aronofsky; Barbara is just the kind of wild, jagged character he’s suited to depicting. J.M Ken Niimura’s art for I Kill Giants is raw, frantic, and uneasy, suggesting the aesthetic of many of Aronofsky’s films. It would be interesting to see how the director chooses to depict Barbara’s fantasy world — just the thought of a monster created by Aronofsky scares us.

Chew by John Layman and Rob Guillory

Synopsis: Chew is a comic book series about the life of Tony Chu, a former police detective and current FDA agent. Tony is a Cibopath — someone who receives psychic sensations off objects through eating them. In a world where all poultry has been outlawed due to fear of bird flu, he uses his gifts to solve crimes, investigating cock-fighting rings and genetically enhanced frogs. Throughout his escapades, Tony eats it all, including human flesh.

Dream Director: Quentin Tarantino. Showtime is already developing a comedy series based on Tony Chu, but we think Tarantino deserves a crack at this satirical crime thriller. With Chew‘s warped humor, demented story lines, and penchant for cannibalism, it is almost surprising that he hasn’t already written a script for a Chew film.

Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra

An earlier comic series by Brian K. Vaughan, Y: The Last Man details the plight of New York resident Yorick Brown and his Capuchin monkey Ampersand, the only male mammals who survived a worldwide “gendercide” (a plague that simultaneously killed any mammal with a Y chromosome). As declared by the new, all-female government, it is Yorick’s job as the last man on Earth to help find a way to save the human race. Y: The Last Man depicts Yorick’s attempts to understand his own survival, solve the crisis of the world’s re-population, and find his lost love.

Dream director: David Cronenberg. The film rights to Y were acquired by New Line Cinema, and for a few years DJ Caruso was supposed to direct the adaptation. But with the film on hold and disputes over a trilogy development, Caruso walked away from the project. If we could have our way, New Line would bring Cronenberg on board for Y. In recent years, the director has worked on films with broader accessibility than his cultish early fare, and we feel his interest in the relationship between the physical and the psychological would work well for Vaughan’s comic. Besides, is there any body horror more terrifying than a chromosome-based plague?

Sweet Tooth by Jeff Lemire

Jeff Lemire’s Sweet Tooth takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where most of the population has been wiped out by a mysterious pandemic. Gus, the protagonist, one of the few living creatures left, is one of the human/animal hybrids that have arisen since the catastrophe. Born with deer antlers and a taste for chocolate, he was raised in a wilderness sanctuary in Nebraska, isolated from the chaos outside. Following his father’s death, Gus ventures beyond the sanctuary’s gates and, with the help of enigmatic guardian Jepperd, discovers a world that is violent, mysterious, and deceptive.

Dream directors: Joel and Ethan Coen. Sweet Tooth is unconventional, quirky, dark, and engaging, which are all adjectives we would apply to our favorite Coen brothers films. In his journey from his childhood sanctuary, Gus encounters bounty hunters, science militias, and hybrid-worshiping cultists — these are characters that could truly come alive under the Coen brothers’ treatments. We picture Jepperd, Gus’s stocky, gun-slinging companion, much like True Grit’s Marshall Rooster Cogburn. Sweet Tooth is filled with misery, despair, and humanity; this is an odyssey the Coens were meant to take us on.