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June 10, 2011

Top Five: Period Comic Movies That Should Happen

Posted by on Jun 10, 2011

X-Men: First Class has now arrived, and has left a fairly good impression with us. Granted, First Class does crib the concept of superheros entering into the Nuclear Powers equation from Watchmen, but the idea of the X-Men being involved in the Cuban Missile Crisis is too cool to get caught up on the technicalities of originality. Between the solid 60s vibe of that film, and the WWII setting of Captain America: The First Avenger, we here at Nerd News And Reviews started to wonder: what other period comic movies are out there, waiting to be made? So we came up with a list of five other comic book stories that might very well never become movies.  But that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t.

1. Marvel: 1602

For something that was almost a direct result of the epic Marvelman/Miracleman debacle, the NNAR approved Marvel: 1602 is some really cool stuff. In 17th Century Europe, our classic cast of Marvel characters, including the Fantastic Four, Nick Fury, and others wage war against a familiar foe. If Hollywood made this into a movie, it would be like crossing the upcoming Avengers movie with the recent Sherlock Holmes flick. Awesome, right?? Now keep your pants on for a second. The reality is that in order for someone to make Marvel 1602: The Movie and have it be remotely successful, they’ll have to do it exactly like they’re doing the Avengers. If people don’t know who Nick Fury is, they won’t understand what motivates him – and in an ensemble piece, there’s not enough time for character development (wearing tunic and hose does not count). That being said, we have no problem with watching the equivalent of Captain America, Thor, and the other new Avengers movies reset in 1602.

2. Atomic Robo

Remember when you first saw Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and couldn’t wait for another Indy movie?  Then you saw Crystal Skull and realized that there’s nothing George Lucas can’t/won’t ruin.  Picking up that horribly, unforgivably dropped ball, Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener’s Atomic Robo has all of the action, adventure, self-deprecating humor, and fun of vintage Indy with a little (a lot) of sci-fi thrown in to boot.  And, thanks to “The Promise” (the tenets of which perfectly explain this writer’s motivations for reading, almost exclusively, creator owned comics), it’s guaranteed to stay that way.  The five (and counting) volumes thus far have seen Robo and his team of “Action Scientists” (Why isn’t that a real job?  When, Lord, when? When’s gonna be my time?!?) pitted against Nazi occultists, Lovecraftian monsters, the nefarious Thomas Edison, and the evil genius known only to us mammals as Dr. Dinosaur.  Yes, he’s a velociraptor.  Not only would any one of the larger arcs make a great period movie, Atomic Robo has the potential to spawn an entire franchise of great period movies, all in different periods.  Apparent immortality is just one of the perks of having a robotic protagonist.  Another perk?  Indestructibility.  Admittedly, there’s a pretty cool looking animated short already in the works (Atomic Robo: Last Stop), but something tells us that will only whet our appetite for a live action adaptation.

3. Gotham by Gaslight

Sometimes you throw a whole bunch of great ideas together and it doesn’t pan out. And sometimes you get Gotham by Gaslight, Brian Augustyn and Mike Mignola’s brilliant alternate take on Batman. This thing has Batman (great start), set in a late 19th-century Gotham. And in that time period, any special tech that Batman might be carrying automatically falls under the category of steam-punk. You throw in a little Jack the Ripper mystery, and Mike Mignola’s ability to draw amazing brick buildings as well as amazing everything else, and you have a winner. While Mignola’s artistic ability wouldn’t factor into the movie adaptation, his art has translated into the two wonderful Hellboy movies, so you already have the proven success often needed to convince Hollywood execs. I can’t quite see Christian Bale or Christopher Nolan being interested in this one, but Guillermo Del Toro? We should be so lucky.

4. 100 Bullets

So writer Brian Azzarello and artist Eduardo Risso made their (very convincing) bid for the Best Crime Comic Ever with 100 Bullets. This could go on a top 50 comics ever list, easy. But you’re probably wondering, “How the heck does this belong in a period piece list?” Well, that would indicate that you have yet to make your way through the series, so allow me to explain: all that business with Graves, and the 100 untraceable bullets? That’s just the tip of the iceberg. As with so many classic  narratives, the truth goes way, way deeper than it first appears. While the main storyline is in the present, there is literally endless potential in the portrayal of the Trust and their involvement in the founding of America. Think about it: with the crime narrative and extensive flashbacks to the past, it could be like The Godfather: Part II, the greatest movie of all time (or second-greatest, depending on who you ask). Also, the single issue with Joe DiMaggio and JFK and Marilyn Monroe could be a great movie all on its own. That one literally gave us goosebumps.

5. The Umbrella Academy: Dallas

We have now wandered far from conventional period dramas by bringing up Dallas. But with The Umbrella Academy in general and Dallas in particular, writer Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance and artist Gabriel Bá of Daytripper fame leave most conventions behind, so that’s perfectly alright. This would be a mixture of period piece and time travel, a la Back to the Future, but with deeply emotionally scarred characters that make it much, much darker – sorta like Back to the Future II, except better. With the singular character of Number Five having engaged in a large amount of time travel already in the first book, The Apocalypse Suite, it comes as no surprise that the group would be forced to return to one of history’s most important moments: November 22, 1963. Dallas, Texas. The Kennedy Assassination. And given that the previous entry on this list also took a look at this moment in time, you might think it would get cliched. You would be absolutely wrong. When you consider the amount of screen and page time that the JFK assassination has accrued in American culture, Dallas could take an iconic moment in history and cinema and completely reinvent it.


What period piece comics do you want to see?