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Vertigo Comics has published some amazing series. For much of the 1990s and 2000s, Vertigo was publishing the most complex and deftly written comics. Consequently, many of their series have already been adapted into live action. Even beyond movies, Preacher and iZombie are two recent Vertigo series to be made into TV shows, joining Constantine (the comic was called Hellblazer), Human Target and (sort of) Lucifer. In general, I feel TV series are a better fit than movie adaptations for long-running series. There is more room and time to develop stories in a TV series as it was developed in the comic.
There are a number of Vertigo Series that are in development. This past week, FX selected Michael Green, currently working on the Neil Gaiman project American Gods for Starz, to be the showrunner for their adaptation of Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra. Others on this list may be on their way to TV screens in the somewhat near future. So let’s look at 10 Vertigo Comics that could be great TV shows.
Fables has been one of the biggest successes of the 21st Century at Vertigo Comics. Some form of Fables was published by Vertigo from 2002 until 2015. The series, from writer Bill Willingham, with art originally from Lan Medina and Mark Buckingham, deals with fairy tale characters coming into our world. The series had many storylines and characters over its 13 years, so there would be ample material. The premise of the series might run a little too close to the show Once Upon a Time, which started in 2011. However, Fables is currently in development, so the beloved show might make to TV after all.
Astro City is the long-running superhero series from writer Kurt Busiek (Avengers). Many of its previous volumes were actually published by Wildstorm, but it is currently being published by Vertigo. Busiek has populated his Astro City comics with a whole range of superheroes, though the stories are often more grounded and character-based. Overall, Astro City is a tremendous series. The current appetite for superhero stories could make a producer intrigued by Astro City. At the same time, the vast amount of super hero activities and costumes would require a decent budget for the show to do justice to the comics.
Transmetropolitan is an interesting series that seems to have faded a bit in notoriety. The series from writer Warren Ellis and artist Darick Robertson used to be cited in the early 21st Century as one of the best series of the 1990s-2000s. I feel like it doesn’t quite seem to get the same sort of esteem these days. Transmetropolitan centers on Spider Jerusalem, who is a sort of cyberpunk Hunter S. Thompson, fitting corruption of politicians through gonzo journalism. Some of the appeal of Transmetropolitan, with its sci-fi, dystopian future, may have felt a bit dated not long ago. However, with a new Blade Runner movie on the way and Ellis’ strong reputation, there may again be an appetite for stories like Transmetropolitan on TV.
The Sandman from writer Neil Gaiman is revered as one of the best comic book series of all time. It has also been in development for a movie (potentially multiple movies) for some time. Joseph Gorden Levitt was recently attached but he has left due to creative differences. So does this not rank higher? The Sandman is a fantastic series, but it has always been a difficult thing to pull off in live action. The look of Dream is so particular and the mood created in the series is quite unique. The catch-22 with The Sandman is that a TV series would better serve the long unwinding of the series’ story. Yet a movie budget would likely be better in regards to production design, costumes, and visual effects. This seems like the kind of project that could be in development for many years. Hopefully, there is a way that it could someday go to a platform willing to spend the money on making The Sandman the right way.
Clean Room is the newest series on this list, having debuted in 2015. However, it began to rave reviews. The series from writer Gail Simone and artist Jon Davis-Hunt is a creepy horror story. Based on Simone’s good reputation within comics, the general buzz of the series, and there being an appetite for horror television, Clean Room strikes me as the kind of project that could get fast-tracked into development. It might be best served on cable or a streaming platform, where the horror elements could be fully explored.
100 Bullets is the long-running Vertigo Comics series that put writer Brian Azzarello into the comic mainstream consciousness. Co-created by Azzarello with artist Eduaro Risso, 100 Bullets is a violent crime saga, influenced heavily by noir movies and novels. It was popular with fans, running for 100 issues from 1999 until 2009. It also won numerous Eisner and Harvey Awards. 100 Bullets is in development as a film project produced by Tom Hardy, with the possibility that Hardy may also star. I have reservations about 100 Bullets as a movie, feeling that it could get lost in theaters and would be better as a TV show. There, its slow-burn drama could really bring to life the stories that Azzarello and Risso produced in the comics.
Okay, I know Ex Machina isn’t actually a Vertigo Comics series. It was published by Wildstorm and never had a Vertigo packaging. Still, Wildstorm and Vertigo were both imprints of DC Comics, and I’m not going to do a separate list on Wildstorm. So I’m throwing Ex Machina on this list with a giant asterisk. Regardless, Ex Machina, from writer Brian K. Vaughan and artist Tony Harris, seems to be a great project for a TV series. It deals with Mitchell Hundred, a superhero elected to be mayor of NYC. The series does have many connections with 9/11, so some may find that element dates the series too much. However, the combination of political intrigue with subtle superhero elements is a really unique and intriguing premise. New Line was considering making a film version in the 2000s, but that fell through. If Y: The Last Man gets made, that could ignite interest in Ex Machina.
Sweet Tooth is one of those series that didn’t do crazy numbers but is still highly respected. Chances are that most comic fans haven’t read Sweet Tooth but those who have loved it. Jeff Lemire wrote and drew the series, which ran from 2009 until 2013. It is an odd story, about creatures with animal and human hybrid forms who are in a post-apocalyptic environment. Its unusual story, which still carries a lot of emotion, could be done without a ridiculous budget. As streaming platforms proliferate, it’s possible that Netflix or a younger competitor could take a chance with Sweet Tooth and end up with a very well-regarded show.
Jason Aaron is on a hot streak. He has been writing Thor and Star Wars at Marvel Comics, and Southern Bastards, his Image Comics collaboration with Jason Latour, won an Eisner Award this year. However, Aaron’s series Scalped was when many comics fans first heard of him. Scalped is a crime drama set in a fictional Native American reservation in South Dakota. It ran for 60 issues from 2007 until 2012. Scalped also features many elements that could make for a great TV show: political fighting, drug abuse, violence and organized crime. Some have compared it to the lauded show The Sopranos. Scalped has been in development for some time from WGN America. In March, the company ordered a pilot for Scalped, so there is a pretty good chance Scalped might be coming to TV soon.
As I mentioned above, Y: The Last Man is being produced and now has a showrunner. There are many things that could fall apart and there is no certainty that the series will make it to air. However, right now chances look pretty good that we might see Y: The Last Man on TV. There have been rumors of an adaptation of Y: The Last Man almost since the series began in 2002. The story is about Yorick Brown, who after a sudden incident, seems to be the only human male alive. He travels with his pet monkey Ampersand and guardians Agent 355 and Dr. Allison Mann through a semi-post-apocalyptic world where woman are trying to regain a form of society. The series, while not perfect, is very engaging and won many awards. It also has a very specific ending arc as well. So it would be interesting if producers follow that, were the TV show to be become a hit.
What do you think? What are some other series from Vertigo Comics that would make great TV shows? Add your suggestions in the comments.