Sure, Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a movie that became a TV show that ended up as a comic book, but it’s a fine example of the cross-media value of certain nerdy properties. Comic book movies and television shows are all the rage right now, with Marvel and DC superheroes packing the theaters and shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Arrow filling the little screen.
But there are plenty of comic books that don’t feature superheroes, and we think they’d be a great match for the home television market, as they have less reliance on big-budget special effects and can sustain longer story arcs than a movie can. With that, then, here are our picks for the best non-superhero comics we’d really like to see come to a television screen near you. Or us.
Forget the insipid Once Upon A Time: We’d love to see Bill Willingham’s opus Fables fill the “fairy tales come to the real world” niche. It’s a highly charged story based on characters from fairy tales come to the real world of New York, hidden in plain sight thanks to some magical glamour.
There are smaller stories to be told about Snow White, Bigby Wolf, Prince Charming and Pinocchio, as well as a larger story arc about the adversary, a great threat from back in the land of fairy tales that's out to conquer our own mundane reality. It’s ripe for a cable outfit that could handle both the larger-than-life characters and sets that such an undertaking would require as well as the smaller, character-driven focus that makes the book such a hit.
There is some superhero meta-fiction at play here, but we're hoping for a truly mainstream Powers television show on the strength of its non-metahuman storylines, with the aging detective and his young, newly assigned partner as the focus of the show. It could be a nice alternative to shows like Agent's of S.H.I.E.L.D., which are getting along just fine, thank you, with very little big-budget superhero effects.
Saga is one of our favorite current comics, and hoping for a television show is pretty far-fetched, especially given the little screen time true sci-fi shows are getting outside of Syfy channel these days.
That said, this is a delightfully funny and poignant story that uses the trappings of sci-fi to tell a truly human tale of love across racial lines, like Romeo and Juliet in space (if Juliet was a badass soldier with angel wings and Romeo sported a set of ram’s horns on his philosophical head). It’s a fun romp with some serious themes, and if it were to show up on television, maybe even as a TV miniseries, we’d be all over it.
We’re certain TV execs are all looking for the next Game of Thrones, and Neil Gaiman’s seminal series The Sandman is the iconic comic book title they should turn to. It’s got a fully realized supernatural world based on all sorts of myths, fairy tales and horror stories from the world’s cultures, all blended together and powered by a masterpiece of a storytelling engine.
The TV show could focus on Morpheus, the emo god of dreams, and spend time fleshing out the memorable stories and characters that made this Vertigo-published book a huge hit in the late '80s and '90s.
Transmetropolitan is a sure bet for any comics nerd’s heart, with its irreverent take on politics and journalism, set in a near-future tech dystopia where privacy is a thing of the past and body modification is rampant.
This one has it all — sex, drugs, violence and a whip-smart take on our own cultural mistakes — making it perfect for one of the cable outfits like HBO or AMC. Spider Jerusalem is one of the most enduring characters in modern comics, like a post-cyberpunk Hunter S. Thompson come to monologue on the evils of society while he gets it on with your hot wife. This is one comic book property that could really take the sci-fi craze to its highest satirical potential.
If you’ve played any of the new Telltale Games series The Wolf Among Us, you’ll know who that hairy dude with the bandages is. It’s Bigby Wolf (née Big Bad), the star of the fantastic adventure game series based on the Eisner award-winning comic book series, Fables, by Bill Willingham.
The doctor here is telling Bigby Wolf, the sheriff of Fable town, to take it easy, get some rest. Eat more chicken.