Black Hammer Needs to Be Hollywood's Next Big Franchise Gamble

It's the year 2020 and franchises reign supreme in Hollywood. Even then, franchise-building isn't a new notion in the slightest — it's been around since the earliest days of cinema; even Universal crafted an intertwined franchise — dare we say cinematic universe — back in the 1940s. Done right, franchises lead to brand recognition, something that leads to loyalty which, in turn, leads to customers to return to your product time and time again; but you don't need to take a Marketing 101 class to tell you that.

In a world where franchises continue to have a firm grasp on Hollywood, Dark Horse's Black Hammer deserves to be the next one up, for a whole host of reasons. Before we jump too far into it, let's talk about what exactly Black Hammer is. Launched in 2016 by Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston, the Dark Horse Comics hit is an Eisner-winning cape tale that's received widespread acclaim from critics and fans alike.

In addition to a 12-issue main series, the world of Black Hammer has since expanded to a handful of spinoffs, fleshing out one of the most expansive universes outside of the comics worlds created by Marvel and DC. In fact, as we speak, there are at least three splinter titles ready for release — Skulldigger + Skeleton Boy, Colonel Weird: Cosmagog, and Barbalien: Red Planet.

Besides being a massive world (at just four years old, mind you), what else would a Black Hammer franchise bring to the table? Right out of the gates, it's apparent Black Hammer is something that takes the traditional superhero tale and reduces it to its core. It takes everything you know about the genre and turns it on its head, leading to the freshest of stories — even though you expect otherwise time and time again.

Black Hammer straddles the line of familiarity and fresh new tales, the perfect recipe for a tone attractive to seasoned and new comic readers alike. You have the likes of Barbalien, a shape-shifting alien from Mars, that reminds the masses of Martian Manhunter; or there's Golden Gail, who takes another form by yelling "Zafram!," ending up as a Reverse Shazam! of sorts. On the flip side, there's Colonel Randall Weird, a bizarre interdimensional traveler that holds the keys to the universe, even though he's not lucid enough to share the information with his teammates; or Madame Dragonfly, a spooky sorceress with more secrets than anyone else on the face of the planet.

With the success of Deadpool, Joker, and now Amazon's The Boys, the world is beyond ready for a darker universe where characters are shared between film and television properties. That's not to say Black Hammer is something that needs to have a hard-R rating, but at the same time, a lot of the content within certainly isn't worthy of a family-friendly matinee showing.


The universe also happens to very much be in its infancy. Four years in and dozens of issues later, a shared universe at this point in its lifespan could even take notes from what the Star Wars universe has done of late, sharing the same canon between film, television, and comics.

But arguably the most important piece of the puzzle is the main purpose of the Black Hammer universe itself. It's very much a story born out of the love of superhero storytelling and worldbuilding, at times taking on an almost satirical take on the Marvel and DC worlds. Quite frankly, it continually churns out story after story that could make one hell of a film franchise.