Deadpool was invented in the midst of the early-’90s boom for murderous characters, with code names that usually combined ”Death” or ”Kill” or ”Blood.” (Heck, Deadpool’s creators hinted the character was an, ahem, homage to DC’s Deathstroke, another sword-swinging masked mercenary with healing powers.) But then, in the late ’90s, came the Joe Kelly/Ed McGuinness solo series Deadpool, which reimagined the character as a meta anti-hero. Ever since then, Deadpool’s been a beloved figure… and a Deadpool movie has been on the horizon ever since Ryan Reynolds played a lame version of the character in failed spin-off factory X-Men: Origins — Wolverine. Picture an R-rated action comedy that mixed Spider-Man and Cabin in the Woods with a decent helping of The Expendables; the Deadpool movie could be the perfect superhero movie for people who are sick of superhero movies.
Kurt Busiek crafted a panoramic series of stories about a city of superheroes: a day in the life of a restless Superman figure, a noirish mystery about an ex-con supervillain, a normal citizen running afoul of a supervillain. Picture a big sprawling ensemble movie — Sin City with more colors, or Nashville with more costumes.
There are plenty of reasons why perpetual B-lister Stephen Strange hasn’t gotten his moment on the big screen yet. Magic is a hard sell. His costume looks great on paper but goofy in reality. And the most iconic run on the character was dominated by Steve Ditko’s surrealist-psychedelic aesthetic — a style that few recent Hollywood directors have tried (except Guillermo del Toro). But the current vogue for fairy tales might be the right moment for master of the mystic arts.
A batcrap-crazy takedown of celebrity culture masquerading as a superhero book, X-Statix lasted barely three years in the early ’00s and has never looked more timely. Cast it with Kardashians and let the candy-colored satire fly.
The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck
A classic case of overdelivering, Don Rosa’s uncannily detailed 12-part Life and Times tracks Disney’s ornery Scrooge McDuck from his hardscrabble youth in Glasgow through every turn-of-the-century locale imaginable — the Wild West, Africa, the Yukon Gold Rush, and many more — and winds up being an oddly poignant tale of ambition achieved. This is a hidden gem in Uncle Walt’s vault just waiting for an adaptation — the rare Disney product that would play well as an HBO miniseries.
Quantum & Woody
Two childhood friends — a noble soldier and a goofball slacker — are caught in a weird science accident that makes them superheroes. Unfortunately, the accident also binds them together: If they’re apart for more than 24 hours, they’ll die. Now that’s a buddy comedy waiting to happen.
The New Gods
Jack Kirby’s cosmic tale of super-powered beings carrying on an interplanetary war is a hard sell. It shouldn’t be: Though filled with big personalities jockeying for massive power, a New Gods movie would be Game of Thrones… in space!
Ex Machina isn’t writer Brian K. Vaughan’s masterpiece — that’d be Y: The Last Man — but the tale of a superhero who becomes mayor of New York City is a better fit for a movie. Part Sorkinesque political drama, part super-powered adventure, and part mystery-mythology spine tingler, Ex Machina would be the thinking person’s superhero movie.
Jeff Smith’s unique cocktail of Walt Disney, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Bill Watterson came close to adaptation several times in the last 20 years — most infamously when Nickelodeon tried to make a version filled with boy-band pop songs — but given the current animation boom, the moment feels right for another attempt to make a movie (or three) out of the tale of magical creatures with witty dialogue.
With Hellboy III looking less likely by the second, we need more movies about foulmouthed Everydudes with big guns and colorful skin. Why not re-examine Erik Larsen’s long-running tale of a big green guy with amnesia who becomes a Chicago beat cop?
Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera’s still-unfinished tale about the criminal underworld on the Prairie Rose Indian Reservation reads like James Ellroy in the Wild West — or like a more unhinged Breaking Bad — complete with a colorful cast of criminals just waiting for a cast of scenery-chewing character actors.
Art Spiegelman is skeptical about adapting his medium-redefining Maus — he told the Washington Post, ”I keep my Maus movie rights locked away with [a sign that says]: Break open in case of financial emergency.” Fair enough, but there has to be some animator out there who could translate the raw power of Maus, which tracks Spiegelman’s father through a World War II concentration camp.
Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson’s gonzo dystopian tale was nearly filmed a decade ago with Patrick Stewart in the lead, but financing fell apart. Pity — the story of a half-crazy crusader taking on government corruption is eternal. If Johnny Depp still wants to make another Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and doesn’t mind shaving his head, Transmetropolitan would be infinitely better than The Rum Diary.
Come on, Hollywood!
Power Man and Iron Fist
The combination of the invincible streetwise badass and the kung fu master would sound like a weird mix… if a certain hip-hop collective known as the Wu-Tang Clan hadn’t risen to cult-cash ’90s glory with exactly that tonal mix. And The Avengers proves that a steady creative hand can create fireworks out of an awkward combination of superhero styles. Picture this as a movie that riffs on Blaxploitation and Bruce Lee-era kung fu, with a soundtrack by the RZA.