Adapting a comic is all the rage these days. Well, it has been for nearly two decades now. Marvel (with DC trailing further behind) has been dominating the industry with its shared universe. And it’s about to become a whole lot grander with their bevy of TV shows that tie directly into their film world. Though they haven’t faired as well, DC managed to turn it around a bit with Shazam and Wonder Woman as particular stand-outs. And while their streaming service may not be the most popular, their self-produced TV shows like Doom Patrol have garnered rave reviews.
The uninitiated may be unaware that there are plenty of comic companies outside of these two. And one who will be joining in on the live-action front is Image. Founded in 1992, Image has always prided itself on producing creator-owned properties. While Marvel and DC focus on superheroes whose stories continue seemingly forever, Image has mostly stuck to telling stories that have an end in sight.
Image has already seen mild success on the live-action frontier. The Walking Dead will begin its tenth season in October. There’s also a feature film starring Rick Grimes and a second spin-off series in development. Then there’s Spawn, one of the most superhero-esque books Image has. It received a not-so-great movie in 1997, but another movie is currently in pre-production.
While those two are arguably the most famous properties Image produces, there are still so many wonderful stories that could be adapted for wider audiences. Some are on the way, as Amazon recently announced they would be adapting Paper Girls into a TV show. Amazon also has planned TV adaptations of East of West and Transhuman. Then there’s a Skyward movie coming from Brad Peyton, director of 2018’s Rampage. Hopefully, the flood gates have opened. Moviegoers and TV viewers alike will soon find out how remarkable Image’s stories are. But here are 6 more that are worthy of the same treatment.
I’ll start with the most obvious, the one least likely to happen, and the one that I desperately want to happen the most. Saga is a beautiful, haunting blend of sci-fi and fantasy. It takes place in a galaxy torn apart by a war between citizens of the planet Landfall and its moon, Wreath. Alana comes from the much more technologically advanced Landfall while Marko comes from Wreath, whose citizens specialize in various magic spells. It’s their undying love for one another that is the heart and soul of the story. But it’s their newly born daughter, Hazel, that puts a bounty on their heads.
A future Hazel narrates Saga as her family comes across a multitude of engaging characters and intriguing worlds. The story can make you laugh, cry, fume, or feel ashamed depending on what page you’re on. It delights its readers with the strange and showcases just how imaginative writer Brian K. Vaughn and artist Fiona Staples are. And all of these qualities have made it one of Image’s most lauded books, winning a slew of awards in the process.
So why is it the least likely to happen? Vaughn himself has often spoken out against turning Saga into a live-action property, though he’s warmed up to the idea in recent years.
I remain not completely opposed to it. But for me, it’s so not the goal. I would rather just keep my head down and keep making a great comic book, then get out there and chase a great adaptation.”
It would certainly be difficult to pull off. There are a ton of character races and locations that would require a significant effects budget to get right. A TV series over a movie would probably be the right call. And if it were given to HBO, who certainly has the budget and talent to create a respectful adaptation, it could make for one of the most dynamic, thought-provoking, and visually stunning TV shows ever produced.
If you like your sci-fi with heeps (and I do mean HEEPS) of dark humor, then The Weatherman would be right up your alley. First debuting in 2018, it takes place in our future solar system after humans have terraformed Mars in order to deal with the increasing population. A few years before the comic takes place, the worst terrorist act in all of history wiped out most of the people left on Earth.
In comes Nathan Bright, a cocky yet charming weatherman who enjoys the fruits of being a minor celebrity. Only, he isn’t really Nathan Bright. He had a hand in helping the terrorist attack but had his memory wiped and presumed a new identity. When his cover is blown, he’s forced to comply with an organization that thinks another attack is coming. Mix in a few bounty hunters, and you’ve got something equal parts The Fifth Element and Smokin’ Aces.
At the center of the bombastic action is an excellent character study. Nathan doesn’t remember his role in the attack, but fully believes he wouldn’t do something so horrific. He has to confront who he once was, even though it feels like an entirely different person. Masked in his humor is both self-doubt and self-hatred. And it’s been a joy to watch his development.
Though it’s relatively new, it’s got all of the makings of something that would suck sci-fi film fans in. Morally gray characters, inventive technology, and a big mystery with more threads than you would initially think.
3) The Wicked + The Divine
Image Comics isn’t without its superpowered people, as can be evidenced by several titles. They just tell their stories much more differently than Marvel or DC. The Wicked + The Divine is a modern fantasy that follows a relatively normal 17-year-old girl who has various interactions and relationships with The Pantheon. Every 90 years, 12 different deities are reincarnated into the bodies of mortals. With this comes fame, power, and the knowledge that they’ll only have 2 years left to live.
That’s already a fantastic premise for a TV series, especially with various supernatural based shows like Good Omens finding success. But what would make it vastly more interesting are the themes it explores. In today’s age, where superheroes reign supreme at the box office and celebrities are treated like actual gods and goddesses, it could produce an interesting mirror for our society. Also, they come back as Popstars. And if the artwork were adapted correctly, it could produce some terrific glam-infested visuals.
The diverse cast of characters that vary between race, gender, and sexuality is another important facet of this series. If a series is going to address our current state, it’s best if the characters don’t all look or act alike. A TV show was apparently in development in 2015, but as of right now it hasn’t happened. Universal TV still holds the rights, so hopefully, it will get made one of these days.
4) Rat Queens
If you let Seth Rogen run your Dungeons and Dragons campaign, you might get something akin to Image Comics’ Rat Queens. And that’s an easy comparison to make with the amount of outrageous humor and vulgar language packed into each issue. Its blend of humor and fantasy tropes is what makes it enjoyable only at surface value. But it’s actually something much more.
Rat Queens follows a troublesome group of female bounty hunters, each with a certain specialty. They’ve tackled monsters, gods, and various other magical entities to varying degrees of success. And while the series could be defined by this and their love of partying, what makes it so special is the bond they all share.
Yes, they argue and bicker as any team does. But the longer you read on, the stronger sense you get of how they all not only love each other but strive to help through the darkest of times. These characters are not princesses nor are they simply romantic interests of some male hero. They go beyond the typical roles assigned in most fantasy. They go out to fight, they crack crude jokes, and they showcase behavior that some would deem unsuitable for female characters. And all of these elements make them feel much more organic and fleshed-out when compared to others in the genre.
With Game of Thrones over, many fantasy books are being developed for live-action to fill the void. But wouldn’t it be nice if one of those adaptations was already vastly different from the pack? Just like The Wicked + The Divine, it was considered for a TV series once before but sadly didn’t happen.
Image covers the non-comedic, epic fantasy front, too. Monstress is set in a matriarchal world that’s inspired by early 20th century China. The story follows Maika Halfwolf, a teenager who shares a psychic link with a giant monster, who is trying to avenge her mother’s death.
It’s set during a war between the Arcanics, magical creatures who look human, and the Cumaea, sorceresses who use Arcanics as a source for their power. Having it set during a war-torn fantasy world with dangerous magic is already classic fantasy, meaning that a movie or TV series could draw in fans of the genre.
But what makes it a bit different is that nearly every single character is female. Creator and writer Marjorie Liu stated that violence against female characters in shows like Game of Thrones and the lack of female heroines in epic fantasy inspired her to create a fantasy world filled with women. And more so, to be set in a world that is not defined at all by men.
We’re not accustomed to giving women the space to express the full range of emotions and flaws that men are permitted. Anger and aggressiveness aren’t part of the scale of what is acceptable behavior in women, whereas men — in reality and in fiction — are allowed a much fuller range of emotion.”
What it comes down to is that an adaptation of Monstress, whether it be a movie or a TV show, could showcase all fantasy elements audiences have shown they love while simultaneously being one of the most progressive around.
I’ll admit, Image’s Fairlady may be a bit too new for consideration of a live-action adaptation. As I type, only four issues have been released. But seeing how long it can sometimes take for an adaptation to get off the ground, and considering just how good Fairlady is, I’m including it.
While this is another fantasy title, it’s far from the monster-slaying and magic-filled worlds of Monstress and Rat Queens. It takes place in a post-war kingdom that no longer has the need for an army. As such, many soldiers struggled with finding work, with some turning to crime. Others became Fairmen, the private investigators of the time. Jenner Faulds, who disguised herself as a man in order to fight in the war, becomes the land’s only Fairlady.
Fairlady is less of a fantasy and more of a crime noir that just happens to be set in a fantasy world. It’s fairly light on the action and each issue focuses on a different mystery. It would be a perfect fit as a live-action mini-series if it were ever to be adapted. Viewers would be treated to tantalizing mysteries, great world-building, and charming characters (even the despicable ones).
The future for Image is indeed looking bright. Live-action adaptations will only increase public awareness of the dynamic books the comic company has to offer. There are plenty more where these came from, so which of Image’s titles would you like to see adapted? Let us know in the comments below.
Nintendo fanatic, comics enthusiast, and fantasy novel reader. I write about the things that make me passionate and binge the shows that hold on tight and don’t let go. Also a writer for WatchMojo and TheThings.com.