Last night I went to see Marvel Studios’ latest big screen offering, Ant-Man. In a recent article, The Ant-Man Cometh, Soon, I detailed why I was going to see it, despite it being such a huge divergence from the original comic book lore. A few months ago I wrote a very different article, 3 Reasons I Won’t Pay to See Trank’s Fantastic Four, about another film that will soon be released in theaters. You might think that these two articles are contradictory. On the surface they might seem so, but there is one difference that should explain why both opinions are valid. That simple factor is need versus ego. Fant4stic, helmed by Josh Trank, seeks to correct the mismanagement of one of Marvel Comics cornerstone franchises by changing key plot points, characters, seemingly out of ego and hubris more than anything else. Changing 70 years of lore for no better reason than to fix prior mistakes is a slap in the face to the creators, publisher, and the fans, and I cannot justify paying to see it.
Ant-Man, on the other hand, had to change from the lore due to continuity in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It just made sense. Hank Pym was left out of the Avengers. He was also replaced by Tony Stark as the creator of Ultron. If Marvel’s brain trust wanted the character in the MCU, he had to change drastically.
Clearing that up, let’s talk Ant-Man, no spoilers! Despite turmoil in creative direction and sluggish opening ticket sales, this is not a movie to miss with the kids. The story, although a bit corny at the beginning, is smart and funny throughout. The history of Ant-Man as a hero is woven into the existing MCU lore seamlessly and without a heavy hand. The acting is excellent. Paul Rudd was a perfect choice to play Scott Lang. His matter-of-fact style of comedy plays extremely well in this tongue-in-cheek look at the Marvel hero. I even liked Michael Douglas as Hank Pym, maybe a little too much. In the comics he was much more of an anti-hero, possibly too much for a Disney fronted film. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I loved the movie. The effects were brilliant, as you’d expect from Industrial Light and Magic. To top it all off there were two, yes two, credits scenes that will lead us into the future of Marvel movies.
Discussing the movie and the post-credit scenes with my friends and their 11-year-old daughter, who asked to see this movie as her birthday present (cool, huh?) got me thinking about what other comic book properties that I would love to see on either television or the silver screen. I gave this considerable thought and found that although I do enjoy the superhero genre quite a bit, most of my choices were not based around superheroes at all.
5. Strangehaven: This self-published work by British writer Gary Spencer Millidge was not a mainstream comic by any means. Published from 1995 to 2005 Millidge managed 18 issues, collected in three trade paperbacks volumes. The story focuses around Alex Hunter who gets stranded in a small strange town in England. Run by a group called The Knights of the Golden Light and populated by some very odd and powerful characters, Strangehaven was always good for a twist or a mystery. I know this sounds a lot like the plot of Syfy Channel’s show Haven, and maybe it is, at least on the surface. Strange happenings are a regular occurrence in this town and something else is at work. Some of the residence think that the town itself is sentient and in control. With the Knights, witches and other forces at work to steal that power, I think it would make a great movie. I may be biased by my desire to see the end of the story that was put on indefinite hiatus in 2005.
4. Alien Legion: Created by Carl Potts, Alan Zelenetz, and Frank Cirocco under the Epic Comics imprint at Marvel, the Alien Legion comic books told the story of a unit in a space faring Foreign Legion called Force Nomad. Led by a humanoid reptilian named Sarigar, Nomad consisted of the best and worst people that various worlds had to offer. Comprised of both dedicated soldiers, professional mercenaries and the dregs of society escaping prison sentences (or worse) from various planets around the universe, there was only one rule… survive! This was not always easy as members didn’t often see eye to eye on how to get things done. Straight-laced legacy soldier Torie Montroc just wants to fulfill his family duty, while Jugger Grimrod seeks any opportunity to profit. A cross between the Punisher and Wolverine, Grimrod despises authority but may be the most loyal of all of the Nomad Legionnaires. Along with the rest of their comrades they fight the good fight, the bad fight side by side quite often on suicide missions. This might work best as a television series due to the multiple possible story lines. This is about heroism, tradition, honor with a lighter side at times and unending darkness at other times. In the 2007 Jerry Bruckheimer and The Walt Disney Company optioned an Alien Legion screenplay written by Potts. Rumor has it that Bruckheimer bought the screenplay and hired David Benioff (Game of Thrones) to do a rewrite, but nothing further has been heard about it since.
3. Transmetropolitan: If you like completely off-the-wall stories, laced with real-life current events problems then Warren Ellis’ Transmetropolitan would be right up your alley. The comic series ran from 1997-2002, written by Ellis and drawn by Darick Robertson and was one of the few gems from the short-lived Helix imprint at DC Comics. When Helix folded the series was moved to Vertigo for the rest of its run. Transmetropolitan tells the story of retired gonzo-journalist Spider Jerusalem who is forced out of retirement by his angry editor and a world gone wrong that only his drug and sex addled wit can fix. Along with his “filthy assistants”, Yelena and Channon, Spider writes stories that disrupt the status quo of this dystopian world in the distant future. He goes up against the police, big business, and even the future President. Nothing is sacred in this series and nearly twenty years later it seems that Ellis isn’t all that far from the reality of our lives today. This might make a great television series, but sadly smart and funny shows don’t last on television, dumb and funny is what the people want. I’d settle for a movie or series of movies. Thought there were rumors of a film adaptation in 2003 with Patrick Stewart attached, nothing came of it and creator Warren Ellis denies that any production is likely.
2. Y, The Last Man: Written by Brian K. Vaughan for DC Comics Vertigo line, Y, The Last Man is another look at a dystopian world. This time devastated by a virus that killed all mammals on Earth with a Y chromosome except Yorick Brown and his Capuchin monkey, Ampersand. The world is thrown into chaos as the inevitable struggles for power ensue. The President, who happens to be Yorick’s mother, assigns Agent 355 of the Culper Ring, named after the spy group during the American Revolution that was under the direct command of George Washington. Her job is to keep Yorick’s existence a secret, and failing that, protect him with her life. Rumors have abounded since 2007 and many names have been bandied about. Most recently in January 2013, it was announced that Dan Trachtenberg would direct the film version, but a year later Brian K. Vaughan himself stated “It’s my understanding that the rights to Y: The Last Man will revert back to co-creator Pia Guerra and me for the first time in a decade if the planned New Line adaptation doesn’t start shooting in the next few months.” In September, Trachtenberg confirmed via Twitter, that the film was “Not happening. But it’s in trusted hands (the creators).” I’m not sure what that means in terms of a film actually happening, but I know it should happen.
1. Starman: Written by James Robinson and drawn by Tony Harris for DC Comics, Starman is one of my favorite comic book series of all time. Jack Knight is the last person that you would expect to take on the role of a hero. Although he grows into it nicely, learning about himself and his capabilities along the way. The son of Ted Knight, the original Starman of Justice Society fame, Jack grudgingly accepts the cosmic rod after the death of his brother David, but vows to do it his way. He wears no uniform and values Opal City and her people above all else. Robinson and Harris used words and pictures to breathe life into characters that were background material at best. There was no better example than Shade, a little known Golden-Age villain who for reasons all his own, aids Jack in his battle to maintain peace in their city. This was a fun romp that featured a reluctant hero, a villain with a heart, and the city itself as a main character. You think you couldn’t ask for anything more, but there was so much more anyway. It was a sad day for me when Jack passed on the cosmic rod. I would feel a lot better if we were to see his story on the silver screen.
I feel like there is a ground-swell of negativity among the nerd culture surrounding comic properties being made into movies. It’s almost as if they want the movies to fail and end Hollywood’s obsession with the genre. I feel the opposite. Although I have predicted the failure of some specific movies, based on their choices and subject matter, I do want them to succeed. I don’t care if they come from Marvel Comics, DC Comics, or some basement production. I want more. Dig deep Hollywood, by sticking with the mainstream comic properties you are missing some of the greatest stories and characters ever created.