Comic Strips to Comic Flicks: Mark Millar movies they haven’t made (yet)
In recent years, we’ve seen a boatload of comic books and graphic novels make their way to the silver screen, from “big two” stalwarts like Spider-Man and Batman to independent titles like Scott Pilgrim and 30 Days Of Night. Among the various adaptations, though, some creators have emerged as magnets for Hollywood types — one creator who seems to love it more than anyone else is Mark Millar.
After bouncing around the UK comics scene and later DC, Mark Millar made a name for himself for his big-picture epics on The Authority and The Ultimates. Working with artists like Frank Quitely and Bryan Hitch, Millar borrowed some of the wide-screen cinema techniques of film to display comic stories in a new light. From very early on, movie-makers have been cribbing notes from his comics; X-Men: The Last Stand screenwriter Zak Penn said Millar’s work was influencing his own. He was even brought in to act as an informal brain trust to give advice to Jon Favreau during the production of the first Iron Man film.
After seeing glimpses and glimmers of Millar’s influence on company-owned comics-turned-films, it was when Hollywood took notice of his creator-owned work that his bibliography became catnip for movie producers. After back-to-back successes with feature film adaptations of his comics Wanted and Kick-Ass, virtually every creator-owned comic from Mark Millar comes with the question, “How soon will there be a movie announcement?” This attention from movie producers has even led Millar to begin filming his own original movie, which is currently underway.
The question today is this: Of the creator-owned work Mark Millar’s done that haven’t become films yet, which should, and how should they look?
Nemesis: The recently completed four-issue series with Civil War collaborator Steve McNiven saw a look into the dichotomy the Batman/Joker relationship if looking through a funhouse mirror: what if Batman were bad, and acted like the Joker? Hollywood was quick to take notice of this series, snapping up the rights after only a couple issues had been released. Veteran filmmaker Tony Scott snapped up the rights through his film company Scott Free, optioning to direct it as well. Scott’s style would be perfectly suited for Nemesis – if Tony Scott were to ever want to make a superhero movie, this would be a perfect fit.
Savior: The second comic of Jesus Christ, and he’s coming back as a superhero who looks like British TV host Jonathan Ross. As Millar’s debut comic work, it is woefully under-the-radar but presages his later creator-owned work, specifically Chosen. This six-issue series from UK publisher Trident is hard to find but worth the looking. As for its big screen potential, it might have some issues due to the subject matter; if you thought Kevin Smith’s Dogma raised some ire in religious circles, this could easily outpace that.
War Heroes: Promoted by Millar as what he originally intended a third volume of The Ultimates would have looked like, War Heroes pits the real-life War on Terror with the idea of drugs administered to U.S. soldiers to give them superpowers. This is put on its head when a group of con artists infiltrate the military, steal the pills and sell them on the black market — unbeknownst to them, Al-Qaeda. Launched in August 2008, only three issues of the expected five have been released — but the rights were bought up a month after it’s debut by Sony & producer Mike De Luca (Fright Night, Ghost Rider). This idea has real cinematic potential — combining modern war movies with super-heroic action and power, it could be Three Kings meets Kick-Ass.
Chosen: Described by Millar as his sequel to The Bible, its concerns a twelve-year-old boy who discovers he’s the resurrected Jesus Christ. In some ways is a de-horrorfied version of The Omen, but Millar is very true to the biblical aspects and makes this a special kind of drama. Published as part of Millar’s initial “Millarworld” line of books with Dark Horse, it is the first in a planned trilogy going under the moniker “American Jesus”. It’s a spiritual book for Millar — in the same way that his first work, Savior, is — but through his own unique lens. Taking this to Hollywood would need some careful hands, but Sony Pictures has already optioned it. Someone like Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker, Near Dark) would be an ideal candidate to bring this story to life.
Silo: Another rarity from Millar’s ouvre, Silo was serialized in UK comics mag 2000 AD and followed to American soldiers stationed in a nuclear missile silo that is haunted by the ghost of a 19th century British writer prone to hyperbole and ending the world. Taking place in a very confined and volatile place, the added enhancement of being haunted gives it a unique vibe — think Dr. Strangelove meets The Haunted Tank. All-in-all its a short work, but an able-bodied screenwriter & director could spin this into a full-fledged movie that would be a great suspense story.
Cannon Fodder: After the End of Times has come and gone and the dead are rising from their grave, the Catholic Church partners with what’s left of law enforcement to create ‘The Priest Patrol’. Created with artist Chris Weston for 2000AD, this would be ideal for more attention — if not a movie, at least an American comic collection. Rumor has it that the rights are in dispute with the publisher and Millar, going back to a sequel story that was unapproved appearing after the original.
Superior: As Mark Millar’s latest ICON book, Superior is in many ways Mark Millar’s take on what Superman would be like in the real world. Illustrated by Leinil Francis Yu, the book owes much to the original Superman mythos but the creators aren’t afraid to take the story in places Clark Kent would never go. If DC somehow let Superman — or closer yet, Captain Marvel — be Ultimate-ized, this would be it. Back in September Millar said he was discussing a feature film adaptation with Kick-Ass helmer Matthew Vaughn, and he’s been quoted as saying that Mad Men‘s Jon Hamm would be ideal for the titular role.
Big Dave: This is probably the closest thing we’ve seen from Millar when it comes to straight-up comedy. Created with Grant Morrison, Big Dave is an over-the-top affair with the so-called “hardest man in Manchester” taking on Saddam Hussein, a robot version of the British Royalty and a German football team managed by Hitler. Big Dave even ends one story by bedding a very drunk Princess Di and Sarah Ferguson. This strip in 2000AD stirred up considerable controversy in its time and many of its jokes are so comic-centric that filming this might prove impossible. Might.