To our delight, we recently found out that one of our favorite graphic novelists, Daniel Clowes, is working on a pilot for HBO. Though Clowes’s new TV show is apparently an original, the news got us thinking about great graphic novels that we think would be absolutely perfect for television. Note: for simplicity’s sake, we’ve excluded graphic novels that have already been made into movies (Clowes’s Ghost World, Persepolis, Watchmen) or are best known as series (Sandman, Tintin). Click through to check out which graphic novels we desperately want to see for six seasons and a movie, and then let us know which ones you’d watch on the small screen in the comments.
The Death Ray , Daniel Clowes
How’s this for a superhero origin story — orphaned teenager (complete with obnoxious sidekick) discovers he has superpowers whenever he takes a puff of a cigarette. A morally complicated story that both indulges in and subverts the age-old tropes of the superhero genre, our only issue with this book is that it’s too short, so we’d love to see Clowes expound on the idea with 22 episodes at his disposal.
Black Hole , Charles Burns
Sure, this classic graphic novel — about an STD that turns a town full of teenagers into mutants — is a little dark for television, but hey, that’s what HBO is for. We think the characters could get into numberless hilarious/horrifying hijinks with their various mutations while still maintaining the serious tenor of the original book.
Asterios Polyp , David Mazzucchelli
This is a perfect setup for a TV show: arrogant, womanizing New York City aesthete moves to a small town when his apartment (and life) goes up in flames. Hijinks — and a perfectly paced, slowly unfolding backstory — ensue. Sure, it’s been done before, but never in Mazzucchelli’s insane, wonderful style.
Stitches , David Small
In David Small’s graphic memoir, David wakes up from what should have been a simple operation to find that one of his vocal chords has been removed, and he can no longer speak. But it’s worse than that — he has cancer, and David struggles from a sickly childhood through his troubled teenage years, running away at sixteen and searching for his true self. We love the idea of a television show starring a character who can’t speak, forced to go through some of the most difficult parts of life — plus, it totally reminds us of that awesome silent episode of Buffy.
Shortcomings , Adrian Tomine
We love Adrian Tomine in all things, but even if we didn’t, we think this graphic novel, centered around the experience of being a young Asian-American male (with a wandering eye) in Berkeley, California, could make an excellent show. It has everything: romance, betrayal, Gen-X meanderings, race relations, and that trademark Tomine brand of sad, chilly whimsy.
Blankets , Craig Thompson
Another graphic memoir, this time about something a little more ordinary, but no less powerful: a boy growing up in a harsh Evangelical Christian family, feeling lost and misunderstood until he meets his dream girl, complete with a band of charming misfits, and begins to grow wings. We think that simple premise alone would be enough to fuel seasons.
Palomar: The Heartbreak Soup Stories , Gilbert Hernandez
Okay, we’re cheating a little — though this book is definitely marketed as a graphic novel, it’s really a series of Hernandez’s “Heartbreak Soup” stories from Love & Rockets. Still, it was always intended to be a single epic graphic novel, so we’re counting it. Plus, it would just make the best television show — already episodic, it’s a portrait of a single imaginary Latin American town and the interconnected lives of its people, drenched in magical realism and dark and sweet in equal measure.
Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth , Chris Ware
In Chris Ware’s first book, shabby, lonely loser Jimmy Corrigan, marked only by his secret fantasies of himself as “The Smartest Kid on Earth,” is faced with an opportunity to meet the father who abandoned him as a child. Switching back and forth from 1890’s Chicago and a small Michigan town in the 1980’s, Ware traces the history of the Corrigans to Jimmy’s current sad state. Though the absent father storyline would probably not be the focus, we’d love to see a show where Corrigan’s fantasies begin to encroach on his daily life, creeping in where unexpected, whether to his detriment or to his surprise success.
What It Is , Lynda Barry
Man, Lynda Barry is just the greatest. This autobiography/graphic novel/workbook is an explosion of ideas and images, and though we have no earthly idea how we could make it into a television show, we bet Barry does. After all, this novel is itself a collage of forms and formats, asking questions about the nature of images and memories and demanding participation from the reader. We think her wild creativity would only take wings on the screen.
Fun Home , Alison Bechdel
Okay, okay, so what we really want is a TV show version of Dykes to Watch Out For . But we’d be up for pretty much anything by Bechdel. Please?