Upcoming comic book films that aren’t Marvel Studios or DC

From Bananaman to Sin City, Rob looks at some of the more left-field comic book movies coming soon…

The inside of a cinema

As you surely know, the cinematic slate of the next five years is already populated by a huge amount of comic book movies.

Marvel, after expanding its shared on-screen universe with Guardians Of The Galaxy this summer, will be bringing out Avengers: Age Of Ultron and the seemingly-saved Ant-Man around summer 2015, as well as rounding off a trilogy of Captain America movies by releasing a third shield-slinging instalment in May 2016.

We can assume there’s plenty more Marvel movies we don’t quite know the specifics of yet, too.

Meanwhile, DC has claimed that it has eight movies in the works, meaning there will be a whole lot more comic book content hitting the big screen after Warner Bros and DC take their first major steps into shared universe territory with Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice and the Justice League movie. The comic book movie age certainly doesn’t look in any hurry to wind down.

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It isn’t just about Marvel Studios and DC though – the rest of the comic book world, and the left-out movie studios, are now getting hungry for similar success. Dark Horse comics, 2000AD, and many more are all vying to take a slice of that steaming box office pie.

Having done a bit of digging around, we’ve compiled a list of the non-Marvel Studios-or-DC comic book adaptations, all hoping to secure a few bites of that tasty cash filling, and all purported to hit our screens from 2015 onwards (we have, to be clear, included some titles that are published by Marvel through imprints, but that Marvel Studios won’t be making itself).

Here’s what to expect…

THE SURE THINGS

Flash Gordon

The comic: Created by Alex Rogers (later cited as influence for George Lucas’ Star Wars) to rival Buck Rogers back in 1934, this classic comic strip has been adapted into many mediums in the years hence.

The low-down: Flash Gordon is the story of a dreamy polo player (an American-footballer in the 1980 film version) thrust into a weird and wonderful alien world. Hilarity, oddity and much fighting ensues. Expect evil facial hair, football-themed fight scenes and endearing hammy-ness. Or a straight-faced Nolanised version…

The probability:  “Gordon’s alive?!” I hear you exaggeratedly intone – and the answer is a hefty yes. The news broke back in April, with J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay attached to write after finishing work on Star Trek 13. Chronicle producer John Davis reportedly spent a year chasing the rights to this bizarre but brilliant space epic, so it seems unlikely that he’d drop the project now.

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Bananaman

The comic: First appearing in the 1980s British comic Nutty, Bananaman went on grace the hallowed pages of both The Dandy and, more recently, The Beano.

The low-down: Already gifted with ‘intense stupidity’, young Eric Wimp is endowed with super-strength from the consuming of bananas. His ongoing adventures as his heroic alter-ego Bananaman have always been a tongue-in-cheek play on the superhero formula, as well as an unlikely inspiration for nerdy types in the UK. He’s like our very own Captain America, with added potassium. Expect more of that at the cinema.

The probability: This one is another definite, with a refreshing amount of good will behind it, given the growing talk of audience apathy to caped crime-fighting on the big screen. Elstree Studios will be home to the production, which is currently mooted for release in 2015.

Nemesis

The comic: This one’s a bit of a cheat, seeing as it’s printed by Icon Comics (a Marvel offshoot and home for edgier content and big names’ original ideas – with this one being a dark Mark Millar brainchild). But, seeing as we covered DC’s Vertigo imprint which serves a similar purpose in another article, we decided to give Nemesis some space here.

The low-down: “What if Batman was The Joker?” was the initial marketing line for Nemesis, before DC cracked down on the references to its property. Essentially, Nemesis twists the old superhero formula into a dark subversion of itself – what if the troubled guy, with all the money and means to become a saviour to society, actually became pissed off and got into villainy instead? The result is the eponymous Nemesis who goes on a murderous rampage in revenge for his father’s suicide, which he blames the police for. Expect Kick-Ass levels of violence and a big death toll.

The probability: It’s safe to mark this one ‘fairly likely’. Joe Carnahan (The A-Team, The Grey, Smokin’ Aces) has produced a script with his brother Matthew (The Kingdom, Lions For Lambs) which apparently went down a storm with Mr Millar.

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Beasts Of Burden

The comic: Dating back to 2003, Beasts Of Burden was created by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson and is published by Dark Horse comics.

The low-down: That title isn’t figurative, folks. Beasts Of Burden is the story of the intelligent animals of Burden Hill – five dogs and a cat who investigate the all-too-frequent supernatural crimes of their local area. If you think they can’t handle it, fear not – they also have the shaman-like ‘Wise Dogs’ to call on for advice and help. Colour us intrigued, if a little perplexed.

The probability: Another sure thing here, a CG animated movie based on Beasts Of Burden was announced last year. On producing duties is Andrew Adamson (Shrek, The Chronicles Of Narnia), Shane Acker of 9 fame will direct, and Darren Lemke (Turbo, Jack The Giant Slayer) will write the screenplay. An interesting mix.

Emily The Strange

The comic: Beginning life as a marketing mascot adorning skateboards, backpacks and the like, Emily The Strange made the leap to graphic novels back in 2001. Three sequels to this book, all published by Chronicle Books, followed. After this Emily jumped ship to Dark Horse and then HarperCollins.

The low-down: An icon for disenfranchised youths, Emily The Strange is a 13-year-old alternative type accredited with snarky catchphrases like ‘wish you weren’t here’, ‘be all you can’t be’ and the charmingly simple ‘get lost’. She has four cats, her own band and an aptitude for science which has seen her invent time-travel, clone herself and create an amnesia machine.  She’s a self-professed pacifist, but also carries a slingshot in her ‘abnormally large’ dress pockets.

The probability: Looks like another sure thing. Creator Rob Reger has been touting ideas for an Emily The Strange film since 2000, but it seems like they’ve finally got some traction in the last few years. Chloe Grace Moretz was attached to star back in 2010, with the film being produced by Universal’s Illumination Studios. Melisa Wallack, of Mirror Mirror and Dallas Buyers Club, is said to be working on a script with Irish writer-director Kealan O’Rourke.

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Sin City 3

The comic: Kicking off in 1991 with The Hard Goodbye, Sin City is a lengthy intertwining story by Frank Millar. It’s told through ‘yarns’,  brief snippets into the lives of the inhabitants of the sordid Basin City, explained from various insightful perspectives.

The low-down: With the original Sin City movie primarily collecting the events of Frank Millar’s yarns The Hard Goodbye, The Big Fat Kill and That Yellow Bastard, as well as the movie version of A Dame To Kill For dropping later this year, there’s still plenty of stylised, pulpy crime stories left for development.  Lost, Lonely And Lethal might be a hot contender, boasting hit men, spectacular vocabulary and dog-food-devouring war criminals. That sounds like the just the right mix of action, wit and creepiness.

The probability: This one’s already at the planning stage according to reports. Robert Rodriguez and Frank Millar are surely just waiting to see if A Dame To Kill For hits big before announcing anything more formal.

THE STRONG RUMOURS

Chickenhare

The comic: With a third edition cancelled, the Chickenhare saga currently comprises of two graphic novels written and illustrated by Chris Grine. The first was published by Dark Horse comics back in 2006.

The low-down: The central character of Chickenhare certainly lives up to the expectations written on the tin. Yep, you guessed it – he’s part chicken, part hare. Don’t let that bizarre-sounding premise put you off, though. Designed for both adults and kids to enjoy, the first graphic novel pits Chickhare and Abe (his bearded turtle BFF) against an insane, murderous taxidermist while the second sees a trip into the fiery depths of hell. The joyously simply style of Grine’s illustrations and the wacky nature of his stories makes it easy to imagine this as a much-loved animation flick for all ages.

The probability: Sony and Dark Horse announced an animated feature length version of Chickenhare back in 2011. Since then, Tweets have revealed that two drafts of the script have landed on the original author’s desk. “Man, if this thing makes it to the big screen, you guys in are in for a treat!” read a Facebook post by Grine. “It’s SO full of adventure and laughs I almost can’t believe it. Let’s all cross our fingers.” Consider our digits doubled over, this one sounds brilliantly bonkers.

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3 Guns

The comic: Joe Public may not know it, but the Denzel Washington and Mark Whalberg cop team-up flick 2 Guns was based on a graphic novel written by Marvel alumnus Steven Grant and published by BOOM! Studios. The comic book sequel 3 Guns was published around the time of the original movie’s release.

The low-down: Having finally cleared their names after desperately fighting-off mobsters and federal agents alike as a result of accidently stealing $50m in the first film/comic, Trench and Steadman’s eyebrows are raised by an odd assignment which sees them attempting to broker an arms agreement between the Russian government and some anti-establishment revolutionaries. The addition of a duplicitous third gun to proceedings, and the fact that the original duo are fighting on opposite sides, means serious shit most certainly goes down.

The probability: “I don’t want to be so bold as to say, you know, it’s 100%” producer Randal Emmet told Collider last year. “It comes down to Denzel and Mark and the director, Baltasar [Kormakur], who’s doing Everest now … We, of course, would love to do a sequel and we are pushing for a sequel”.

Seeing as the original made over $130m worldwide from a budget of just over $60m, we’d wager that all involved are probably happy to pursue a follow-up.

Men In Black 4

The comic: Although having veered away from the source material significantly on-screen, Men In Black began life as a comic in 1990. Originally published by Aircel comics and later bought by Malibu comics, comic book rights technically belong to Marvel now. But, seeing as the films are an altogether separate entity, we’re going to include the MIBs here anyway

The low-down: The original comics might be worth plundering again for screen. Therein, the eponymous MIBs were a much shadier organisation – killing witnesses, shaping history to their own corrupt means and investigating paranormal legends like werewolves, zombies and demons. Although making all that click for a family audience might be tough (particularly the killing people bit), showcasing something a little darker could be very interesting.

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The probability: You never quite know where the MIBs are at. The same is true from our real-world perspective on the franchise. Men In Black 3 picked up some very negative reviews but also some noteworthy support (the late Roger Ebert loved it) and a hefty box office total of nearly $625m. The two leads – now Josh Brolin and Will Smith – would consider returns apparently and (hopefully jokey) rumours of Jaden Smith taking over have been circulated. The main indicator of a sooner-than-you-think sequel though, is the fact that Oren Uziel began work on a script in 2013. Uziel helped with scripting 22 Jump Street, which can only be a good thing for the future of Barry Sonnenfeld’s mixed-bag franchise.

Kick Ass 3

The comic: Mark Millar and John Romita Jr’s latest Kick-Ass installment follows on on, inevitably, from Kick-Ass 2 and closes the story off. The series so far has been published by Marvel’s Icon imprint.

The low-down: What we do know about Kick Ass 3 came from a Mark Millar interview from June 2013. “Kick-Ass 3 is going to be the last one,” he said. “I told Universal this and they asked me, ‘What does that mean?’ I said, ‘It means that this is where it all ends.’ They said, ‘Do they all die at the end?’ I said, ‘Maybe.’”

This might be an empty threat or just a tease to try and stimulate some interest. However, upping the stakes and bringing back the ultra-violence might be the best way to bring the franchise back up to the standard of the original.

The probability: This one comes last in the likely rumours section because it’s hard to decide whether it belongs in this group or the next one down. In August 2013 it was “in the pipeline” according to Millar, but Aaron Taylor-Johnson recently admitted that while he would personally be up for it, he wasn’t contracted to return and hasn’t heard of any plans. The fact that Kick-Ass 2 did less money than Kick-Ass doesn’t help. Yet both were economical projects, and both made a good profit.

THE LESS LIKELY RUMOURS

Captain Planet

The comic: Better known for his televisual legacy than his brief stint in the comic book world, Captain Planet nonetheless starred in his own 12-issue run published by Marvel (sorry, again), albeit outside the realm of its main universe.

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The low-down: Not the most subtle of messages to be relayed through costumed heroes, Captain Planet (oft-summoned by his supporting cast of Planeteers) protects Gaia, the spirit of our planet, from pollution, oil-drilling and other environmentally dickish things. His costume isn’t lycra, it’s comprised of elements of the planet summoned together… So, y’know, that’s cool.

The probability: There have been conflicted accounts surrounding attempted screen adaptations of Captain Planet, but this time it looks like the real deal. Transformers producer is Don Murphy attached, although there’s been no word on the film for a while.

Hellboy 3

The comic: Beginning life under the banner of San Diego Comic-Con Comics, Anung un Rama now lives at Dark Horse comics. With stories dating back to 1993, there should be plenty left to plunder for screen adaptation.

The low-down: The big red demon with a heart of gold needs little introduction, seeing as he’s made it to the big screen twice under Guillermo del Toro’s stewardship already. There’s plenty of folk out there who want to see more from the kind-hearted Right Hand of Doom as portrayed by Ron Perlman.

The probability: As with any Del Toro project, it’s wise to take the likelihood of this one with a big ol’ pinch of salt. “I’d like for there to be a third film because the first two films were set up for a huge resolve” said Perlman recently, also noting that del Toro had a “rather broad strokes sketch” of how a threequel would play out. del Toro, however, is less positive. He thinks that, thanks to funding problems, we’ll never get to see Hellboy 3. We hope he’s wrong…

Dredd 2

The comic: First appearing in 1977, Judge Dredd is now the flagship property of 2000AD comics, the British bastion of panelled goodness. He was originally conceived as the result of pushing a Dirty Harry type character to the limits and has spawned two vastly different films so far.

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The low-down: “I think you could do a second film which is all about the city and the law and where it comes from, and Judge Fargo and the pro-democracy terrorists,” writer Alex Garland told Empire of his sequel plans. He also added the suggestion of “Dredd’s struggle with the state that he’s part of” and hinted at building up to a Judge Death story in the third instalment. Count us in.

The probability: One of the most well-documented audience campaigns ever followed the purported ‘failure’ of Dredd at the cinema, with a petition by 2000AD picking up a shed-load of signatures.  According to reports of Karl Urban’s function appearances, the powers that be have at least called the team behind the original in for negotiations. Join the petition here.

Spawn

The comic: Invented by Todd McFarlane (the first man to draw published works featuring Venom for Marvel) and published by the creator-friendly Image Comics, Spawn is a leftfield comic which has run since 1992.

The low-down: Spawn first hit the cinema in the form of a much-maligned (that’s an understatement) Michael Jai White vehicle. It looks like any new film would retell the origin tale of Spawn, which sees former skilled assassin Al Simmons make a deal with a demon to bust out of hell to see his former love. Returning with new powers and a sense of purpose, Spawn became an anti-hero and famously murdered a paedophile/child murderer in one of his first outings.

The probability: Sequel chatter surrounding the original film circled for a long while, partly due to the moderate box office success of the previous movie. Now it seems far more likely that we’ll see a straight-up reboot though, with Jamie Foxx purportedly ‘aggressively pursuing’ the role and McFarlane developing a script with a hope to begin filming before 2014 is out. The fact that the original sequel idea stayed in development hell so long, and McFarlane’s famed fussiness over his character’s use, is what puts this in the unlikely section.

MISSING, PRESUMED DEAD

Jonny Quest

The comic: Originally incepted as a cartoon in the 60s, with a few fleeting spin-off comic adventures, Jonny Quest became a comic book regular when Comico picked up the rights in 1986.

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The low-down: Jonny is an eleven year-old with a penchant for scuba diving, judo fighting and shooting things. With lots of family-friendly responsibility vibes, a top scientist dad and quirky pet dog, he responds to the death of his mother by helping save the world regularly, without verging into any kind of dark vigilantism. A perfect example for kids these days? Maybe…

The probability: Not the best likelihood here. After a batch of rumours in 2009 that Zac Efron was signed up to portray the pre-pubescent hero, with Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson on-board as his body-guard Race Bannon, everything went quiet. Don’t expect this anytime soon, especially not with the now allegedly edgy and definitely 26-years-old Efron.

Red Sonja

The comic: Despite originally being at Marvel (sorry) in the 1970s, Red Sonja has lived at Dynamite Entertainment since the mid noughties. Her scantily-clad adventures are loosely based on the novel The Shadow Of The Vulture by Robert E. Howard.

The low-down: Boasting a whopping great sword, some bad-ass martial arts skills and a strange God-given stipulation that she should never lay with a man unless bested by him in combat, Red Sonja’s motivation is a classic vengeance story which sees her hunting down some family-murdering mercenaries with her new powers bestowed by the red goddess Scáthach.

The probability: This one’s seemingly as dead projects ever get, to be honest. Back in 2008 Robert Rodriguez announced he was working on a big screen reboot for Red Sonja, who had previously been played by Brigitte Nielsen in a fairly awful Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle. Soon after, Rodriquez’s then-fiancée Rose McGowan was cast. Six years later though, and nothing’s happened – the would-be director has cited financial troubles with his backers as a problem, while McGowan’s arm injury didn’t help either.

The Umbrella Academy

The comic: Created by Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance ballad-belting fame, The Umbrella Academy was first published by Dark Horse Comics in 2007. The first run picked up an Eisner Award leading to a second collection with quite possibly two more in the pipeline.

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The low-down: Kicking off with the quirky premise that 43 women would fall pregnant with super-powered infants after a cosmic bust-up, The Umbrella Academy’s debut instalment Apocalypse Suite unfolds as a young superhero team-up story with a dark twisted undertone that Tim Burton would be proud of. The surviving seven of the 43 make up the eponymous academy, united by a famous alien inventor, resulting in a world-saving show-down with the villainous White Violin.

The probability: “It’s kind of up to the universe,” said Way of a rumoured film back in 2012. He also praised the script, written by The Wolverine’s Mark Bomback and Dodgeball’s Rawson Marshall Thurber. The lack of talk since then makes the film look incredibly unlikely though. Over to you, universe.