comic book tv shows letter 44

Peter Sciretta: Letter 44

This is probably the hardest /Answers question to date, as I have so many possible answers to contribute. However, the comic I’d like to spotlight today is Oni-Press’ Letter 44 from writer Charles Soule and illustrator Alberto Jiménez Alburquerque. The pitch may as well be 24 or House of Cards meets Alien, with a bit of the Lost-style mystery and suspense. The plot goes like this: a newly elected president is informed that his predecessor has been running a secret space mission. Seven years earlier, NASA discovered an alien construction project in the asteroid belt. A crew of heroic astronauts was sent to investigate, and the new president is taking office just days before they arrive at their destination. What they will find could and will change…everything.

The story is split between the craziness of the science-fiction space mission and the political drama on Earth. It’s exciting, suspenseful, intriguing, and enthralling. It plays with big ideas without sacrificing fun. I haven’t read the latest run of this series (and I’ve heard it has gone downhill a bit), but I’m sure a television adaptation could chart it’s own course from this compelling set-up.

A couple years ago, Syfy Channel was developing a pilot based on this series, but I’ve always felt this story had bigger ambitions than a Syfy show. But the science fiction portion of this story is probably too inaccessible for mainstream audiences on a network station. I could see a cable network like AMC or FX making a go of this, or maybe even a premium network like Starz or a streaming service like Amazon or Netflix.

comic book tv shows optic nerve

Christopher Stipp: Optic Nerve

There is something wildly satisfying about the work that cartoonist Adrian Tomine has put out in what has to be one of the genre’s slowest comic series: Optic Nerve. Whereas some comic titles try and break land speed records for how many issues can come out in a year (and forget about it if there’s a crossover event that pushes even more content out there), Tomine has been perfectly okay with putting out issues of these small, intimate, hand drawn, black and white, short stories. Sometimes, it takes another year or two before another issue comes out.

What made the interminable wait so worth it is how Tomine would craft characters that felt fully realized, yet would only exist for a handful of pages. The introspection and explorations of average people living quiet lives of frustration, or longing, or simply dealing with a world that does not feel cartoonish at all…there was and is gravitas in the actions of our protagonists. This is what lends itself, easily, to what could be a miniseries or even something akin to Short Cuts or Sideways, imperfect characters living disparate existences, with a through line connecting all of them.

Imagine a series like a collection of stories that play like shorter versions of In the Bedroom. You could see where this series would shine as something of an oddity. There are no flying robots, humanoids possessing extraordinary powers, or some other sci-fi tie-in. The work that Tomine has put out in the 14 issues that have come out since 1995 is the kind of comic storytelling I have grown to cherish. There are truths that resonate deeply and, in the right hands, you could see how this would be an interesting diversion to some of the more fantastical fare out there now.

Rising Stars

Ethan Anderton: Rising Stars

Rising Stars by J. Michael Straczynski has kicked around development in Hollywood for years as a potential feature film with the rights jumping between a few different studios, but never moving forth as a full fledged project. During this “peak TV” time, I think Rising Stars would make for the perfect series that, along with a show like Legion, will subvert what audiences expect from comic book properties.

The premise of Rising Stars initially sounds somewhat similar to other superhero stories, especially that of X-Men. Instead of mutation being an inherited trait among the human race, 113 people are born with special abilities following the appearance of a mysterious light in the sky above the Midwest town of Pederson, Illinois. Much like X-Men, we get to see how the public responds to people with superpowers appearing in society, but only through flashbacks, as the primary story is set in the present day where these people, dubbed “Specials” are all grown up.

The roster of characters is one of the most interesting parts of Rising Stars (not all 113 are prominent characters, obviously) as each of the children affected by this phenomenon deal with the super powers in different ways. Some have become signature superheroes, others have become villains. Some use their powers simply to be famous while others just want to live a normal life where they’re not held to a different standard or looked at a certain way just because they’re different.

What makes Rising Stars stand out from X-Men is the story arc that sees a stream of Specials being murdered. As these murders continue to happen, with an unknown culprit at large, the Specials realize that each time one of the others dies, the deceased Special’s energy is transferred to the remaining specials. What follows is an eventual reveal of who is behind the murders, an escalating battle between the Specials and much more. There’s even the potential for multiple limited seasons as large spans of time pass between the larger story arcs. Now is the time to turn Rising Stars into a TV show, and I hope someone makes it happen eventually…but with Legion being a hit and a new X-Men series on the way, it seems less likely all the time.

Lazarus

What do you think of our picks? Which comic do you think should be adapted for television? Talk about it in the comments below or email your personal answer (a paragraph or more) to slashfilmpitches@gmail.com with the subject title “Comic Book TV Show.” Our favorite responses will be featured on the site in a future post!

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