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Not too long ago, I looked at 10 series from Vertigo Comics that would make good TV shows. Yet they are hardly the only publisher with (mostly) non-superheroes stories that could make excellent TV shows. Image Comics is celebrating their 25th Anniversary this year. The publisher may have only one series so far that has been turned into a prominent TV show. However, it happens to be one of the biggest series on TV – The Walking Dead. With that series about to return on Sunday, let’s look at 10 other Image Comics series that could make for great TV.
I should note that I’m not saying that these are the best Image Comics series of all time. I have selected these because they have elements that would make for strong TV shows while also being realistic to film. Image has many incredible comic book titles, but some would require extensive special effects and large budgets. The ones I have selected are a mix of good series that are popular and filmable with a reasonable budget. Still, considering that the majority of Image series are relatively dark, nearly all of these would have to be on cable or streaming platforms.
Deadly Class is about a school for assassins and is set in the 1980s. The central character, Marcus, is a loner who is the “new kid” and befriends a group of somewhat like-minded outcasts. Then things start to go terribly wrong. The premise of the series from writer Rick Remender and artist Wes Craig is fantastic, combining elements of John Hughes and Battle Royale. There are lots of fights, so stunt work would be a big component of the series. It’s also very violent, which could limit its options, though you could have said the same thing about The Walking Dead many years ago.
Lazarus, a dystopian series from writer Greg Ruck and artist Michael Lark, would seem to be a good companion series for fans of Westworld. In the future of Lazarus, governments have dissolved and a handful of families battle for the world’s resources in a feudal-like set-up. Most families have a super-strong cyborg-like warrior, almost like a samurai, called a Lazarus. The series follows Forever Carlyle, the noble Lazarus from the family Carlyle as conflicts both within and outside of the clan threaten their existence. There are some big battles in Lazarus, but it’s mostly about the characters so it seems like a series that could work well for TV. The biggest drawback is that the tone is pretty somber and dark.
I was tempted to put a different Matt Fraction’s series, Sex Criminals, on this list since it a big hit. I’m not exactly sure how TV would show some of the sex in the series without it being highly censored, though. However, Satellite Sam, a 15-issue series Fraction wrote with Howard Chaykin on art seems tailor made for television. In part, it’s because Satellite Sam is about TV. The comic is set in the 1950s on a children’s television show. When the star of the show is found murdered and there is a trail of illicit behavior around him, the star’s son must take over and figure out what happened to his dad. While there have been prestige dramas set in this period, such as Mad Men (which does seem to influence Satellite Sam), the pull of the mystery and the strangeness of Satellite Sam would make it unique.
I’m not entirely sure that The Wicked + The Divine would work on television, but it certainly seems worth trying. It’s a very good story with an intriguing idea: gods are reincarnated on Earth as celebrities and continue their feuds. There are supernatural elements to The Wicked + The Divine, a creation of writer Keiron Gillen and artist Jamie McKelvie, but most of the time it is not extraordinary. At the same time, there are many characters and a complex story. So it would not be the easiest TV show to film, even if it could be quite good.
I’ve listed Saga at the mid-point in the list for reasons similar to The Wicked + The Divine. It’s a tricky show to film with different alien races, magical elements and many different celestial locations. Still, Saga is a huge hit for Image and creators Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. It almost seems inevitable that someone will try to make Saga for the airwaves at some point. Saga does have many elements that would make for great TV shows: compelling characters, huge twists, heartbreaking deaths and emotional resonance. It wouldn’t be cheap or easy to make, but if Saga was done well, it could be fantastic.
Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips have had a number of hit series for Image Comics, which led to the team signing an exclusive contract with the publisher. One of their best series was Fatale, about a mysterious woman who causes mayhem everywhere she goes. There are monsters and demons involved, too. Despite Fatale sounding like a horror series, most of the stories are much more about relationships and disastrous ends. It has arcs that would form good demarcation points for a season and would not require too much special effects. Though Fatale is not well known outside of comics, TV shows have been made of material not familiar to the mainstream. Most importantly, Fatale is very good source material.
This is another comic book that could do well in the aftermath of Westworld. The series East of West from writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Nick Dragotta combines a number of genres, including sci-fi, Western and fantasy. The characters are somewhat elusive and the stories are complex (as they usually are with Hickman). Still, in the right hands, East of West has elements that would make for an excellent television series, especially if a good budget allowed for the visuals to match the intricacies of the stories.
Chew has come close to being on TV before. It was optioned and in development beginning in 2010. Showtime has agree to make a half-hour show, but it eventually fell through, and so Chew still has not made it to TV. The series, from writer John Layman and artist Rob Guillory, ran for 60 issues from 2009 to last November. It centers on Tony Chu, a U.S. FDA agent who can solve crimes by receiving visions from food he eats. This sometimes involves people. The series was popular and award-winning. It does have some similarities to the current comic-adapted CW series iZombie (minus the zombie part), but that might actually help Chew because TV shows will frequently take one success and look for something like it.
Bitch Planet is another comic that owes its origins to filmed mediums. In many ways, Bitch Planet is a hybrid of “women in prison” exploitation movies of the 1970s and futuristic, dystopian survivor-in-a-competition movies like Rollerball and The Running Man. However, writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and artist Valentine De Landro have made it more. They have injected political commentary and feminist ideas into the mix. While Bitch Planet would probably inspire some comparisons to the other women in prison TV program, Orange is the New Black, they are really very different things. Bitch Planet would require a bold network or platform because the show would no doubt be controversial in the current political climate. At the same time, it could be very popular as well.
Southern Bastards, a crime drama from writer Jason Aaron and artist Jason Latour, might not really belong on this list because it has been optioned and is in pre-production to actually become a TV show. Still, shows get canceled or linger on hold. So I’m keeping it on the list of “should be” until it actually hits the air. I’d describe Southern Bastards as the intersection of high school football, which is almost a religion in Craw County, Alabama, and small-town crime. There are some major twists so far in the relatively new series (issue #16 was recently published). The show would be dark and violent while also necessitating some realistic football scenes (harder than it sounds). However, these would not likely break the budget. Plus, the storytelling and characterization of Southern Bastards is so good that it could be a big hit.
What do you think? With which of these choices do you agree or disagree? I have not even come close to reading every Image Comics series, so I’m probably missing some great ones. Which Image series do you think would be excellent TV shows?