Thanks to a feature film adaptation of James O'Barr's The Crow in 1994, the character immediately developed a passionate cult following, with wudiences connecting to his pursuit of vengeance in honor of his murdered love. That film's success also inspired three sequels, none of which managed to capture the public's attention like the original film. Had the franchise followed O'Barr's original plans, however, the series might still be thriving today.
In the original film, Eric Draven (Brandon Lee) and his fiancé are killed under orders from a slumlord, the day before they were set to be wed. A year later, a mystical crow brings Eric back from the dead, granting him invulnerability and heightened strength. Eric uses these powers to exact his revenge against the gang that killed him, allowing him a modicum of peace once the night is over.
Subsequent films follow similar formulas with varying characters and actors, with the third and fourth installments being relegated merely to home video releases. Repeating a familiar formula was clearly ineffective, which might be why O'Barr initially wanted to second film to focus on a female driven by revenge.
"My intention was to take it to a completely different direction," O'Barr told ScreenGeek. "So I wrote a story that was a based on a little incident that happened in Chicago about a woman who was killed at her wedding. I remember reading it in the paper and it was just a horrible tragedy. Some Irish gangsters tried to rob
Based on these descriptions, it's evident that romantic love would be the core concept that would prove most effective for the franchise's mythology.
"That story always stuck with me and that day is supposed to be the happiest day in someone’s life and it couldn’t get more tragic than that," O'Barr shared. "So my idea was, 'Okay, what if I take that scenario and call it The Crow: The Bride?' and she comes back. It was super cool, she’s still wearing her wedding dress with barb wire and nails in her head."
When a comic is adapted into film, the original creator doesn't always get to have input, but this is a unique instance where O'Barr got to be involved with his characters coming to life.
"I wrote out a treatment which is 16 pages, it tells you every plot point and tells you everything in the story, and they paid me for it," O'Barr pointed out. "It was like $10,000, they said, 'Nah, we can’t make this. First of all, no one is going to see an action movie with a female lead.' And I was like, 'If you do it right, it doesn’t matter if it’s about gender. It just has to be handled right.'”
Sadly, it was the studio's limited vision that prevented the concept going further than the original treatment.
"They declined and so, there’s the script and I did a bunch of illustrations for it as well and they threw on the shelves at Miramax," O'Barr confessed.
Despite the original film's first sequel not coming to light the way O'Barr had hoped, he did point out that the project came back from the dead years later.
"I think it was ’95. I think I wrote it at the end of ’94," O'Barr recalled. "By the time it went through the lawyers and pressmen, it ended up in the dusty back room of Miramax. It was the end of ’95 and about four or five years later, this movie Kill Bill comes out and I’m sitting in the theater like, 'This looks vaguely familiar!' Mine didn’t have any of the Kung-Fu nonsense. I mean it’s the exact same story. They paid for it, so they had the right to do whatever they wanted to do with it."
The creator also took his hand at bringing the project back to life, but in a different medium than intended.
"Like a couple of years ago, I dumped it out and thought, 'This is a good solid story,'” O'Barr admitted. "So I decided to turn it into a graphic."
In lieu of another sequel, O'Barr also revealed that plans for a reboot of the character are moving forward, with the new incarnation set to head into production in February.