Comic Strips to Comic Flicks: Jim Lee 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. Leading the charge as one of the top comic creators today with a best-selling history tracing itself back to early 90s is Jim Lee.
After spiraling up the ranks at Marvel from Alpha Flight to Punisher, Lee broke through to the top tier of comics with his work on Uncanny X-Men with Chris Claremont. The 1991 launch of X-Men #1 put Lee in rarefied air as the artist and co-writer of the best-selling comic book of all time, certified by Guinness themselves. Since then, Lee went on to co-found Image Comics and his own personal company Wildstorm, knocking out a bevy of characters, teams and concepts. When DC bought out Wildstorm in 1998, Lee became a company man, doing runs on Batman, Superman and All-Star Batman & Robin The Boy Wonder. In his Wildstorm years, Lee created a impressive slate of characters that stood out in the crowded 1990s marketplace. WildC.A.T.S. and Gen13 were both licensed as animated series, but neither captured the magic of what Lee and his collaborators did on the comics page.
Maybe now with Jim Lee sitting as co-publisher of DC Comics and being looked to as an icon by comics readers and Hollywood types, some consideration can be given to some of these great concepts.
WildC.A.T.S.: Jim Lee’s most recognizable creator-owned creation by far, the WildC.A.T.S. were the launchpad for Jim Lee’s corner of Image Comics. Best described as a superhuman covert ops team, it blended the concepts of X-Men with more spy-tinged and cosmic elements. At it’s core, it’s a team caught in the middle of an alien vs. alien race war that is happening behind the scenes on Earth. Translating this into a movie could be taxing on any budget, but a gradual rollout starting with a core team of Emp, Grifter, Voodoo, Maul and Warblade would be a great start. Josh Holloway as Grifter? Jessica Alba as Voodoo?
Stormwatch: A planetary superhuman police force, akin to Justice League but expanded into an international group that isn’t afraid to strike first. The concept became more known for the team than any individual members, but that gives a movie adaptation a chance to cherry pick the best characters. And don’t forget — if it does well, imagine the movie where Stormwatch falls and is reconstituted as The Authority, and then the all-human reaction squad Stormwatch that is reformed.
Gen13: Although best known as a J. Scott Campbell project, this series was actually created by Jim Lee and Brandon Choi, with Campbell coming in later to revise the character designs. The premise is this: a mismatched group of teens are pulled into a secret project to give them superpowers, only to discover they’re treated less as humans and more as test subjects and go on the run. Mixing the chase aspect with them trying to live a normal teenage life, it’s like The Real World meets Mission: Impossible. This would be a good live-action movie, but also a hit animated movie akin to The Incredibles.
Deathblow: Derided at the time for being too close to Marvel’s Punisher character and Frank Miller’s Sin City art style, looking at it from today’s vantage point shows an impressive three-act structure that was never properly realized. A hardened special forces agent has a change of heart after discovering he has an inoperable brain tumor, so he joins a militant religious sect to do good. He’s a man carrying a lot of sins on his chest, looking for redemption and to die doing good when he discovers he has the (un)lucky power to never die.
Divine Right: The Adventures of Max Farraday: Probably the least understood of all of Lee’s major creations, it was an amazing concept that was weighed down by too many bells and whistles. It’s a superhero version of The DaVinci Code, years before that book ever came out. A 20-year old computer student gets an uber-powerful code downloaded into his brain (minus one line, to give him something to chase). It draws him into an expansive world of intrigue going back in time, into outer space and into the shadows with Wildstorm’s omnipresent spy shop I.O. This would be a great movie franchise, or a great comic now that I think about it. Hey DC, get on this!