So Captain America: Civil War finally came out and the consensus seems to be that it’s pretty good. This is sort of odd because Civil War the comic book is mostly remembered for being an eensy wincy tiny itty little bit god-awful. Infamously mopey, overlong and stupid, it is the Batman vs Superman of Marvel comic books.
So we already knew that good comic books can make for successful movies, and now we know that bad comic books can make for successful movies too. So because I suck at intros, here are some more that they should do.
#5) Batman: Zero Year
Expect a lot of Batman on this list.
So Batman is currently a bit of a loner in the DC cinematic universe. Sure, he’ll set up the Justice League, but he’d really need his own journey to become more of a people person. And what a coinkidink, that is exactly what the best Batman in the past five or so years was all about.
If there’s a character you don’t really associate with being one of Batman’s biggest threats, it’s probably the Riddler. Unless he riddles you with bullets, there’s not a whole lot of harm he can do. But Batman is the smartest superhero in the world, and the Riddler is smarter than him. That’s what the writer of this Batman story realised, and they took full advantage. After he floods Gotham and turns it into his own personal playground, Batman must team up with Commissioner Gordon and Lucius Fox to stop the Riddler, because he’s too much of a narcissist to rely on others and three heads is greater than one.
We might finally break the cycle of superhero films only being able to be action films, too. How cool would it be for Batman to be in a detective or a heist film? Or a heist detective? Heist movies are already about a huge group of broad characters with designated abilities, it’s just that they’re breaking into a building rather than breaking faces.
#4) Order of the Stick
Order of the Stick is sort of the most difficult one to adapt on this list, partially because it is longer than (Rob’s note, insert penis joke here) but also that it’s about as inaccessible as a (Rob’s note, insert sex joke here)
The Order of the Stick, to briefly catch you all up, started as a pretty popular (for nerds) comic that lightly parodied Dungeons and Dragons. It is now an extremely popular (for nerds) comic that brutally parodies the very idea of narrative fiction, certain recurring tropes in stories, and at this point it’s a parody of itself.
The swords and sorcery genre is not going great in film right now, despite all logic to the contrary. Lord of the Rings was supposed to usher in a new age of fantasy in cinema like the Second Coming of Christ (or, if you prefer your gaming term, unlocking his Resurrection ability), and instead we got Eragon. Outside of The Hobbit, another Tolkien property, the fantasy genre has been on life support for ages. To save the genre, maybe it needs to dive deep into self-parody like horror in the 90’s. The Order of the Stick could be to fantasy what Scream is to horror.
… hold on, Scream sucked. Ok, scratch that, #4 is another Batman comic now.
#3) Ms. Marvel
“Harrumph!” I hear you say, and yes, I know you are a WWI general. “I want comic book movies, and the only superhero you’ve ever mentioned is Batman! Just because your favourite comic book film is Persepolis doesn’t mean you can avoid superheroes forever!”
“So… Ms. Marvel?”
“But Ms. Marvel is soooooooooo silly!” You insist, and yes I know you are a snooty monocle wearing toff at the races. “What with her robots and her colours besides grey and actually being fun? And interesting and relatable themes of teenaged life and being a non-white character with breasts? Who could possibly relate?”
“But your main problem with superhero movies is that they’re all the same, so why not have a very different…”
“Nein nein nein nein nein!” You interject, and yes I know you’re Hitler. “When I say I want different, I don’t want a Muslim superhero, I just meant that I want Wolverine to wear a tank top instead of a leather jacket.”
#2) Lost At Sea
So I lied earlier about Persepolis earlier, but only because my actual favourite comic book film of all time would get me kicked out of critic’s club, where we all go to drink fine whiskey and complain. Scott Pilgrim vs The World is absolutely my favourite comic book of all time. It is also already a film that is solid gold awesome, so as easy as it might be to say “just make Scott Pilgrim again” that would be very unfair.
Of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s non Scott Pilgrim works, however, Seconds is too close to Groundhog Day to not receive a backlash, so Lost At Sea is the most likely candidate. There’s quite a lot of Kubrick in this comic, because Lost at Sea is as boring as a drill and yet impossible to put down. Also, it makes no sense.
It is absolute indie-fodder. A girl called Raleigh who goes on a road trip with three other teenagers, bonds with a girl called Stephanie. She also might have had her soul sold to the devil and put inside of a cat, Canada is south of California, and Raleigh had a long-distance relationship with this dude called Stillman who is either dead or they broke up? Lost At Sea admittedly sounds rubbish, but the book is far more about the unmistakable and hilarious O’Malley dialogue and a strange ethereal mood than the actual plot. Just put Michael Cera in a dress to play Raleigh, get PJ Harvey to ramble about ghosts and cats on a guitar, and you’ve just made $500,000,000,000 in t-shirt sales.
#1) Batman: Mad Love
So Warner Bros has gone on record saying that the Harley Quinn of Suicide Squad is not going to have the old backstory of Harley Quinn from the comics and is instead going to be a whole new beast who will be super interesting and cool and not only worth watching for Margot Robbie in short shorts. A fine ambition, but I think the flying pigs are going to have to win the lottery with Elvis before they come up with a backstory for her that’s better than Mad Love, possibly the greatest Batman comic of all time.
Batman’s greatest element is the pathos that you can wring out of remarkably silly concepts and characters. This is a world where it’s perfectly reasonable for orphans to dress up as rodents and punch clay men. And Harley Quinn’s story of her starting as Joker’s psychiatrist and becoming his assistant and lover after hearing of the tragic events that formed him is one of obsession and abuse. It’s the story that, for me, is Joker at his most villainous; he doesn’t need to beat Santa Claus to death with a baby to be hateable, all he needs is absolute control over one life, and Harley’s unyielding and undeserved loyalty is as sympathetic as it is sad.
Besides being a great character study, it’s also a great hero vs villain story. Harley Quinn actually steps out of her role of sidekick into a fully-fledged baddie who’s a match for Batman, and as odd as it is to see Batman so easily bested, the way that our hero triumphs (because spoilers, the good guy wins) ties back into the theme and shows his detective skills rather than his punching skills. A simple story that’s easy to understand and could make for a phenomenal DC film.
Also, Margot Robbie in lingerie. Suddenly, clown make-up is a real turn on for me.
And if you want to hear Rob complain about Civil War, join him and comedians Michael Cook and Cree on the Battleship Potemkast, three times a week!