It’s been discussed for some time now–either cynically or matter-of-factly, depending upon the source–that with Marvel owned by Disney and DC owned by Time Warner, the American comics industry has become a low-cost proving ground for intellectual properties on their way to becoming movies. For better or for worse, it seems that the time has come for the last stragglers among us to recognize that there’s at least an element of truth to that.
In the last two weeks, Marvel has announced that they intend to make a Guardians of the Galaxy movie (which would tie in nicely with the presence of an alien menace in The Avengers); the CEO of 20th Century Fox indicated an interest in a New Mutants movie during an interview with Collider, and Syfy officially added a television show based on Booster Gold to their development slate.
All of these series have something in common, and it’s something intriguing: Their comics don’t sell that well. New Mutants is in and out of publication as often as Firestorm; Guardians of the Galaxy was canceled and Booster Gold would have been if it weren’t for the New 52. The same can be said for Hawkeye and Black Widow, members of The Avengers expected to have their own solo films sooner or later, as well.
I know shamefully little about New Mutants, but can say this much for the most recent iterations of Booster Gold and Guardians of the Galaxy: they were terrific books that never got the kind of audience they deserved. Big-name creators at the top of their games on those books and it was a true shame to see the titles go. Seeing those properties adapted into other media, given the chance to build a new audience and return to comics stronger, would be a fantastic proposition. And that, at the end of the day, might be what’s going on here–quality is willing out.
That sounds strange, doesn’t it? The idea that a good comic can be turned into a movie on the strength of being a good comic alone?
Well, here’s how it could be happening: Somebody takes the first trade paperback of Booster Gold or Guardians of the Galaxy, and hands that to an executive with the sensibilities to make it work. He’s not involved with any of these three projects, as far as we know, but let’s take American Original founder Jeff Katz as an example. Katz himself is a champion of unlikely projects, turning Freddy vs. Jason into a reality and Snakes on a Plane into an unexpected cult classic. He’s also a comic book fan and–notably, for the purposes of this conversation–former co-writer (with DC Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns) of Booster Gold. Even if you can’t or don’t want to sell it to him, Hollywood isn’t much bigger than the comics industry, people know him, and seeing his name on the book may tell other producers or developers that the property is something to be taken seriously. With a half-decent treatment and a few good ideas for casting, Booster Gold goes from a second-tier DC property nobody’s ever heard of to an hour-long drama on Syfy.
Will this be the new rule? No, it’s likely to remain the exception. But after The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises blow away the box office, with The Amazing Spider-Man and Dredd likely to be smashes in their own right, expect to see more such exceptions as, on the whole, superhero properties are seen as extremely fertile ground for adaptation and by sheer numbers, not all of those can be members of The Avengers or the JLA.