Alternate Cover: four comics that won’t be getting their own movies

Not every comic book can easily be translated onto the big screen...

Not every character in comics is an A-lister. Or a B-Lister. For every Spider-Man and Batman, there’s a Ghost Rider or a Daredevil, and for every Ghost Rider or Daredevil there’s a Moondragon or a Photon. Unfortunately, there are some concepts that, for whatever reason, aren’t ever going to be graving your local cineplex. Here are four comics that aren’t going to make the movies without some serious re-working.

1. Thunderbolts

Marvel’s team of villains-turned-heroes is based on a remarkably strong core concept. The comic was launched by Kurt “Marvels” Busiek and was recently graced with a 12-issue stint by Warren “Internet Jesus” Ellis. The Thunderbolts series has been running for 10 years and is one of Marvel’s few late 90s launches to make it into the triple digits – so why couldn’t there be a film?

The problem, really, is that in order to work best, a movie would need recognisable villains, and those are mostly tied up with other franchises. Likewise, the big reveal of the debut issue of Thunderbolts – that the new team was actually composed of the Masters of Evil impersonating heroes – would be incredibly hard to pull off on film, especially if it was using a cast of otherwise unknown villains. It’s not an impossible task, but the chances of it ever happening seem unfortunately slim.

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2. Captain Marvel (Marvel Comics version)

Again, while the core concept of Captain Marvel is strong – an alien sentry who decides to become the protector of his adoptive planet – the character itself is far too wrapped up in Marvel Universe mythology to translate properly to the movies. Remove the Kree element from Captain Marvel’s background and you’re dangerously close to turning him into a poor Superman analogue. Include it, and you risk driving away casual viewers by trying to tie outlandish Kirby/Lee concepts into a more grounded narrative. It’s a lose-lose situation.

3. Green Arrow

The “heroic archer” archetype is, in itself, an enduring one. Who amongst us hasn’t heard of Robin Hood, for example? It’s a concept so strong that both DC and Marvel (in Hawkeye) both have their own versions – unfortunately, translate the characters to the screen, and what you have is less a super-hero movie, more “Robin Hood in New York.” In Oliver Queen’s case, you’ve also got some fairly ridiculous facial hair as well.

The idea of a super-hero who fights villains using a bow and arrow is simply too weak a concept to hold a movie alone – and it seems that Hollywood has noticed, because while the Green Arrow is actually on the brink of having his own film, it’ll actually see him stripped of his costume and bow and confined to a prison for super-villains, essentially reducing his super-hero status to a throwaway gag for the film’s opening, before his capture. The film’s called “Supermax” and all reports say that it’s remarkably close to being greenlit. Stranger things have happened!

4. Captain Britain

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It doesn’t matter how fantastic the current comic, as written by Doctor Who writer Paul Cornell is, nor does it matter that Alan Moore himself wrote plenty of Captain Britain material – in a country where jingoistic flag-waving types are currently looked down upon as being slightly backwards at best, and bigoted racists at worst, a country where the national traits are mild embarrassment and a love for understatement, – the very people Captain Britain would be directly aimed at to are the same people who would treat the concept with the most amount of disdain. Britons: don’t try to understand us.

Furthermore, it’s widely suggested that films can’t really carry more than one ridiculous concept at a time. A Captain Britain film would not only ask viewers to believe in the need for a patriotic, flag-wearing Brit vigilante who ISN’T a member of the National Front, but also with the fact that he gets his powers from the same place as King Arthur and fights an invincible reality-hopping robot from another dimension. Er, right. I’ll file that under the “maybe” pile, shall I?

Now, bear in mind that I’m not suggesting that these characters could NEVER make it to the screen – after all, if someone out there has the correct ratio of money to sense that lets them fund a Man-Thing feature, anything is possible – but chances are that these characters and concepts will require extensive reworking in order to make it onto screen. The kind of re-working that will make you wish they hadn’t, in fact.

Still, if you think I’m wrong, feel free to say – and if you think you have your own ideas about a comic that’s never getting made, well, let’s hear it!

James Hunt writes Alternate Cover every Monday; read his last column here.