Over the last decade, shows like The Walking Dead, Umbrella Academy, The Boys and many others have become high-key to low-key phenomena after being adapted to TV series, whether for major network television or streaming platforms. One of the most recent examples is Robert Kirkman’s Invincible, an Amazon series based on a comic introduced nearly 20 years ago. The comic, which focuses on a teenager Mark Grayson’s struggles with life as a superhero and a fateful discovery about his father, had been acclaimed amongst diehards. But once it hit Amazon, a whole new group of fans who otherwise wouldn’t have known about the comic tuned in to learn about Grayson and all of his adventures.
Although they’re niche by nature, comic books have always had all the raw ingredients for compelling TV. There’s action, romance, high stakes, and even nuanced character development to go along with unique illustrations that can only come from the world of comics. Over the last 40 years, Hollywood has capitalized on this idea by coming out with countless superhero movies, but now, superheroes and other characters from outside the most mainstream part of the comics business are being turned into TV sensations.
Now, it’s time to look at other comics that should get turned into TV series. Whether they’re largely under-appreciated gems or stories that could use a follow-up, here are 12 comic books that should be turned into a TV series.
A more vicious, dystopian version of Orange Is the New Black, Bitch Planet tells the story of a society where women who are “non-compliant”— a euphemism for committing a literal crime or just being unable or unwilling to acquiesce to the desires of misogynist men — are sent to an entirely different planet to be imprisoned. Throughout the series, we learn the backstories of Kamau Kogo (Kam) and Penelope “Penny” Rolle and more for a story on prison exploitation, feminism, patriarchy and all of their intersections. Penned by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Bitch Planet is a dope read that would make an even better TV series.
If Romeo and Juliet had a baby with Star Wars, It’d look a lot like Saga, a love story that’s filled with magic, big explosions, colorful aliens and — sometimes — even robot alien sex. Written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Fiona Staples, the Image Comics series follows Marko and Alana, a married couple from perpetually warring planets. Their union — and the birth of their daughter, Hazel, the occasional narrator of the story — leads their respective races to seek them out and have them killed, and the story focuses on their attempt to survive an onslaught of freelance assassins while also raising their daughter. It’s a romantic fantasy, but nothing about it is flowery. The comic is filled with quippy back-and-forths, and characters that will tell you to fuck off. It’s also got assassins with consciences, self-aware politicians and story arcs that give everyone a meaningful reason for moving about space the way they do. It’s not hard to imagine Saga popping up on Netflix at one point or another.
When it was first released over 30 years ago, Alan Moore’s Watchmen comic series enthralled fans with holistic characterization and a storyline that bucked superhero conventions by coloring questions of right and wrong in shades of gray. That was his most notable work, but five years beforehand, in 1982, he released V for Vendetta, an equally challenging graphic novel series that saw its anarchist protagonist fight to dismantle an oppressive government structure. The initial story was already retold in the James McTeigue’s 2005’s film of the same name, but there’s a lot to be explored in a follow-up series.
First off, what, exactly, happens to V’s accomplice, Evey Hammond? Are there new battles to fight in the world V helped to create? Was V right to be against all forms of government? These are questions that can be fully explored in a new adaptation of the comic. It should be noted that Moore never liked the live action film version of V for Vendetta because he thought it veered off from the anarchist tones he designed to criticize British government years ago. Maybe, if a potential new show could just be a more faithful adaptation of the original? Back in 2017, it was reported that British TV network Channel 4 was making a new TV series based on the comic, but four years later, there hasn’t been an update on the show. If it’s done anywhere near as well as HBO’s Watchmen, it could be something that Alan Moore is actually proud of.
Legacy and generational differences are at the center of Excellence, a critically acclaimed comic series that follows a young wizard named Spencer Dales who’s recently been inducted into a secret society that dictates that he and other wizards use their powers to enhance the lives of those deemed to have great potential — not including themselves. After his grandmother is in a life-threatening accident, Spencer begins noticing some fundamental differences between himself and other wizards, specifically his father, whom he’d fought so hard to earn the approval of in the past. Co-created by Brandon Thomas and Khary Randolph, the series is one that features intriguing world building, eye-popping art and a story that captures the intra-generational struggles of Black folks, using Spencer and his father as a metaphor for that gap.
Introduced in 2015, Monstress, written by Marjorie Liu and illustrated by Sana Takeda, follows the exploits of Maika Halfwolf, a teenager who’s got some serious issues with her roommate — an ancient monster who, every once in a while, slides out of her stub of an arm to feast on anything in its path. The series unfolds in a war-torn early 20th century milieu where a group of magical beings known as the Arcanics are oppressed by the Cumea, a group of witches who use Arcanics as a way to fuel their own magic. Maika’s on a journey to exact vengeance for her mother’s murder and on the trek she grapples with the difficulties of her unrequited power. Filled with misty steampunk, art deco-inflected images, intriguing adventure and nuanced characterization, The Hugo award-winning series is a world all its own, free of derivative manga tropes. The ongoing comic is an ambitious one that seems destined to become a critically acclaimed animated series in the future.
After scaling a mountain and training in some mystical martial arts, Owen Johnson unearths a hidden inner-power that technically makes him Earth’s designated savior. The only problem is, he wants nothing to do with that role. The other problem: he doesn’t really have a choice. Written by The Walking Dead and Invincible creator Robert Kirkman, Fire Power, which features gorgeous illustrations from Chris Samnee, is a newer comic series that features all the dynamic action and careful character building fans have come to expect, and although it’s still fairly early in its run, there’s never a wrong time to begin thinking about what a TV series based on the comic would look like.
It’s been said that the vast majority of communication is non-verbal, and Isola, a comic that focuses on a main character that’s unable to speak after being magically turned into a tiger, pushes that notion to its upper limits. Created by Brendan Fletcher and Karl Kerschl, the series focuses on Queen Olwyn and her Captain Guard, Rook, who follows the queen on her journey to the titular mystical land where she hopes she can be returned to her human form. Like Genndy Tartakovsky’s Samurai Jack, the comic makes the most of silence and lets character actions do a lot of the talking. Although they are unable to speak to each other as humans would, Olwyn and Rook’s exasperated stares and warm embraces, rendered through Kerschl’s expressive artwork, tell a story of trust, struggle and enduring friendship.
Nathan Bright is living his best life as an even more unhinged Ron Burgundy when he’s told that he’s responsible for the murder of 18 billion humans. Now, after having his whole world flipped upside down, the eccentric weatherman has teamed up with special agent Amanda Cross to try to prevent another global catastrophe. Laced with vibrant artwork, dynamic action, inventive world-building — people mostly drive normal cars, but on Mars you can buy sunshine — and a multi-layered story that’s as likely to make you laugh as it is to make you think, The Weatherman is a comic that checks off a lot of boxes for TV shows you can never turn away from.
Knightfall is one of the most compelling stories in the Batman continuum, and though it was alluded to in The Dark Knight Rises, it’s a collection of stories that could also work well as a miniseries. The saga is one that sees a new criminal — obviously not so new now — named Bane, who sets out to take down Batman for both symbolic and practical reasons. Rather than attack him head-on, as countless other bad guys had before him, Bane frees villains from Arkham Asylum, leaving them for Batman to round up before Bane attacks him at his weakest. With Bane’s ground-breaking plot and Batman’s problem-solving skills being pushed to front and center, it’s a comic that would appear even more glorious in Netflix’s Trending Now section.
A sci-fi fantasy epic, Extremity is a Mad Max-esque comic that chronicles a war between the Panzina and the Roto, two tribes with an insurmountable amount of bad blood between them. In a world with gory violence, floating islands and spectacular killing machines, it would be easy to get lost in the most superficial elements of the story. But the core of it lies in Thea, a young girl who’s been consumed by revenge after her mother was killed by the Panzina and her own hand was severed by the Panzina queen. In a deft metaphor for lost innocence Thea, once a skilled artist, lost her ability to draw well after one of her hands was severed by the enemy. Grisly bits like those give pathos to the tale, and with smoky illustrations and other memorable characters, it’s a comic you can’t take your eyes off of.
The fact is, if animals could suddenly form thoughts and understand what we’re saying and communicate with each other in a more productive way, the human race would be in a lot of trouble. That’s essentially the plot of Animosity, a story that follows an 11-year-old girl named Jesse as she and her loyal talking dog, Sandor, travel the country to reach their hopeful salvation in San Francisco. Blending an imaginative premise with dark comedy, Animosity is captivating from the jump. Within the first chapter we see a formally silent pet cat threaten a domestic abuser, a whale confess their love for a woman and a pet dog save his owner from a group of belligerent birds. It’s no wonder why Legendary Entertainment has picked up Animosity for a live action film adaptation. That’s cool, but it might be better off as a TV series.
After human beings get infected with a sickness that transforms many of them into monstrous Kaiju, three others are imbued with special powers that enable them to protect the world. Visually, with its neon coloring and explosive action, Ultramega features all the epic comic book imagery a fan could hope for, and it’s got more plot than your typical Kaiju story. It’s general premise and the mystery surrounding the powers of the characters make it a story that could be explored even more thoroughly on a screen.
Peter is a writer and editor who covers music, movies, and all things dope. Catch him in the Hyperbolic Take Chamber on Twitter @pellz_.
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