With the cancellation announcement of HBO's terrific Bored to Death yesterday, another TV show that many described over its run as "too smart to last" goes down the television rabbit hole. Like so many before it, it leaves a rabid fanbase behind that may be small by television standards, but would outsell the most popular monthly comics on the stands. At its lowest, for example, Bored to Death had 150,000 viewers watching an episode--which of course doesn't include people who used HBO's free and popular digital services to view the program later or (like this writer) bought it digitally on Amazon after the fact.
Licensed properties have always had sporadic success at best from DC and Marvel, but it can be argued that they haven't been top sellers in part because they're not a priority for the companies, marketing-wise. Titles like The Lone Ranger, Ghostbusters and True Blood have not only performed well for smaller publishers, but helped to elevate their company's profile in the mainstream bookstore market, which may not be watched by comic book fans as closely as direct market sales but which has more potential upside in many ways.
Series like Futurama and Buffy the Vampire Slayer have been big success stories in comic books, coming close to as many comic book issues as they had TV episodes. But for every one of those, there are botched and aborted adaptations that make readers wonder why they were ever made in the first place...or digital-exclusive comics marketed only to fans of the show, without regard for the comics market (we're looking at you, Burn Notice). There's also the questions of whether a canceled show would really even work as a comic (the fast-moving, scene-changing nature of shows like the returning Arrested Development and on-the-bubble Community make imagining how they would keep their tone in another medium a hard thing to do), or whether its fan base would buy into comics as a way to tell the story (I can't see fans of Men of a Certain Age or Memphis Beat taking in large numbers to their local comic shops).
All of that considered, what are the ten shows we'd most like to see revived as comic books? In alphabetical order, since it's hard to prioritize such a thing...!
The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. (or Jack of All Trades)
Bruce Campbell has something of a following in comics quarters and either one of these beloved and hilarious (but short-lived) series could make a go of it as a comic. Most would probably lean toward The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. as the more marketable of the two to a wide audience, although within the comics community westerns rarely make the kind of money you hope they will and Jack of All Trades seems ready for a quick turnaround on the four-color page. Sprinkle in participation on some level by Campbell and his rabid fan base wouldn't be able to get enough of it.
Where Spaced is something everyone wants to see more of, it had a strong ending and really there's little need to build off of it from a practical point of view. Meanwhile, Black Books--made by many of the same people and appealing to much the same demographic of fan--seems to just...end. With no real resolution for any of the characters, it can be argued that as long as you've got good stories to tell there's nothing in the structure of the original series that would be hurt by adding to it. A comic like this could appeal to the readers of a company like Oni, who no longer get to publish the Clerks or Scott Pilgrim comics that were once the cutting edge of their line.
Obviously, this was going to be selected. It's got a comic artist at the heart of it and the terrific Dean Haspiel won an Emmy both for its opening credits and for being the artist behind that actor's art. Taking it to comics after its life was cut short almost seems like a no-brainer, and the fact that it's just ended gives the creative team (and readers) a great jumping-on point where they don't have to worry about history, which stories "count" or whatever else. Just get the rights from Ames, get somebody with a talent for both mystery and pith (maybe Greg Rucka? He can be deceptively funny at times. Or Mark Waid.) to get the thing off the ground.
It could even be handled in a The Escapist kind of way, trying out Super Ray as a comic character for real before segueing into an actual Bored to Death book that features the characters that comic is based on. Or if that's too ambitious/confusing, maybe just use the comics as a framing device for the plot. Haspiel could do covers and any Super Ray stuff that came up, while leaving the ongoing title to somebody else if he wasn't interested.
This one (and one or two others on the list) have already been comics, but the story--produced in the waning days of WildStorm and given priority as a freebie on the NBC website, not really as a product in its own right--wasn't treated seriously and while it started with a lot of promise it descended into a barely-understandable mess by the end of its six-issue life.
The TV show has never had any sustained problems with its quality, although it's been ratings-challenged almost from the word go. The new status quo given the team at the end of last year, and then the one they seem to be building toward this season, would both be fertile ground for new stories in any potential comic series--and there's almost nothing that doesn't make sense about an action-comedy featuring a Joss Whedon alumnus and a hacker who has DC Comics posters on his walls becoming a comic series itself.
As the show moves closer and closer to its final broadcast episode in early 2012, its rabid fans will be left without what some consider the best show on network television. If at least ten percent of its current viewership were able to come along for the ride, they could start Chuck: Season 6 in the fall just in time for the new TV season.
OK, so both the TV show and the online/collected comics that went with it fell apart in a big way after the first season and have been largely disparaged as a directionless mess.
Still, the premise was strong and the showrunners' original idea to trade off sets of main characters once a season could work well as a series of interconnected miniseries that could well turn out to shine a light on the Heroes universe without spending too much time dwelling on the rather preposterous threads created to accommodate keeping characters around who were written as one-trick ponies.
While some of these shows have had their chance with comics and not fared so well, Pushing Daisies is still waiting for their chance. The idea of an ongoing seems pretty unlikely, as it doesn't have the same level of nostalgia connected to it as Brisco County or Twin Peaks, but did have the low ratings to find themselves in the same predicament.
The best way to have a sustained life for this story would have been to get the graphic novel out just after the show was canceled, or at least at the beginning of the following TV season, but at least what we've seen so far proves that the world of Pushing Daisies works well in comics and that when the book finally hits it will be worth the wait.
While Aaron Sorkin's cult classic show is the least genre-friendly of the titles listed here, but that doesn't make it less comics-friendly. I'd love to see Matt Silady, creator of The Homeless Channel, take over a book like this. Someone with a great sense of visual storytelling and an ear for dialogue could make a fun, cinematic comic that would do the show justice and broaden the storytelling genres of whatever publisher was to pick it up.
While David Lynch appears to have put the kibosh on such a project ever happening, comics artist Matt Haley once had what looks like a pretty promising start on a Twin Peaks: Season 3 graphic novel, meant to be included in the deluxe "Gold Box" edition of the home video release a few years back. We're left with a small handful of sketches that hint at what might have been, and a couple of seasons that compose one of the most enduring and creative shows ever to hit commercial airwaves.
As the first in a series of hour-long dramas like The X-Files and Lost which created massive genre buzz, a cult following and created a once-every-ten-years success cycle that still hasn't found its next member. How cool would it be if Twin Peaks itself were to return before something else stepped up to take that role?
These days, Terry Moore's Rachel Rising also revolves around a murdered girl who lives in a creepy, quirky small town--but with the subtle difference that it's the murdered girl and not the authorities who is investigating the murder.
This one's the most obvious in the whole list. Veronica Mars not only established Kristen Bell as a force to be reckoned with, but set the (very high) bar for shows that have a pretty universal agreement should never have been canceled. With Family Guy and Arrested Development back, or soon to be, it's hard to argue that this show wouldn't be worth another go-'round. With a young and genre-savvy fanbase though, and a lead actress far too expensive for the caliber of show it would be, comics are the best, most cost-effective way to finish telling the story of everyone's favorite, and hottest, teenage super-sleuth.
Sure, it's been tried before...but remember that the Topps version of the comic wasn't really a failure. Sure, it's not aged well and reviews were never very kind to it, but sales-wise it performed pretty well. Later iterations, such as the recent crossover with 30 Days of Night and even the WildStorm miniseries that preceded it, were really much better than they've gotten credit for, likely in part because the franchise itself is a bit tainted after the stink of three pretty terrible seasons of TV on the tail end and a second movie that almost nobody liked. Still, done right--and especially if given a little push from the publisher and possibly a high-profile writer, this could be a great licensed book. Imagine seeing a mind as warped as Grant Morrison's or someone as well-versed in violence and conspiracy as Nick Spencer taking over an ongoing X-Files monthly--it would get people talking, that' s for sure.
In spite of the popularity of The X-Files and repeated attempts to duplicate its success on TV, we've really got almost nothing like it in comics. Jonathan Hickman's S.H.I.E.L.D. has a lot of the mystery and espionage elements that made The X-Files appealing to so many fans, although when it starts to get into the supernatural and alien, it comes more in line with the rest of the Marvel Universe and goes far broader than the beloved TV show ever dared.