So, Marvel fans. We’ve finally bid a farewell to 2016. A year that will forever be mired in infamy, largely due to the huge volume of people associated with the Silver Screen that were seemingly cruelly taken away from us. It’s a slightly sinister trend to have developed, but can be explained away by the fact that it’s perfectly natural for the older personalities of the 1940’s and 1950’s (when cinema really started to produce internationally recognized film stars) to be passing away. That, and the fact that the cult of film celebrity is eternally expanding and developing as new media trends evolve, meaning there are now record numbers of recognizable names for us to lose.
Which is a bit of a shame, because it was an otherwise good year for film fans. There were impressive new releases for both the Star Trek and Star Wars canons, as well as a number of rebooted franchises such as Independence Day and Ghostbusters coming back into the public eye. All that, as well as Marvel and DC Comics taking an absolutely obscene amount of cash off of us. Pausing to take a look back over the live-action cinematic releases of the two big comic-book studios, it’s easy to declare that Marvel emerged the clear victor, but when you then expand that assessment out to look at the other arenas they locked horns in, the results are a little less clear-cut.
In terms of comic-book sales, DC enjoyed a couple of brief periods last year where they were clearly well ahead in their sales, and a number of recent Marvel storylines/character changes have not gone down well with the fans at all. Then there’s the TV shows. Whilst the Netflix resurgence that Marvel have been enjoying is clearly far and away better than their own in-house attempts, DC are still enjoying a highly successful run on the CW, with the arrival of Supergirl and the massively enjoyable Flashpoint storyline boosting their audience figures. There’s also one remaining field where Marvel don’t even bother to compete with their white and blue opponent. Animated features.
DC went all-out last year, continuing to push their traditional cartoon Batman and Justice League outings, as well as branching out into a number of new areas, such as the highly controversial Killing Joke adaptation and their hilarious Caped Crusader re-imagining. Marvel, on the other hand, continue to avoid picking a direct confrontation in this field. What little output they’ve had has either been associated with existing kids TV series, or has come via some incredibly random Anime adaptations.
Which kinda sucks, to be truthful. Even if you only go back over the last few years of Marvel Comics storylines, there are a wealth of utterly compelling tales that could easily be trimmed and altered to fit in alongside the Marvel Cinematic Universe timeline. Releasing some new animated material would be a cost-effective and risk-free way of potentially experimenting with new characters, and also expanding the backstories of the existing MCU characters. Equally, it would be a simple way of bringing audiences some of the more bat-shit crazy stories that would never work in a live action format.
So, we’ve gone and combed over the last few years’ worth of Marvel Comics releases, and compiled a list of the top 10 projects we want to see Marvel bring to the screen in an animated form:
10. Captain Britain and Mi:13
We kick off with a series it’s rumored that Marvel are already looking to develop, which is the story of the Braddock family, Britain’s mightiest heroes. And whilst most of the time, Great Britain spends it’s time on our TV screens as a quiet and sleepy place of myth and magic, the GB depicted in Marvel is anything but. Aliens. Demons. Vampires. Danger and death are continually sweeping through Britain’s streets. And it falls to Government Agency’ Mi:13’ to try and stem the tide.
With the UK version of Captain America at their helm, this rag-tag and oddball collection of characters are deployed time and again either at the fringes of larger Marvel storylines, or against a variety of their own supernatural foes. Be it the knife-wielding Union Jack, half-vampire Spitfire or alien turncoat ‘John The Skrull’, Britain’s defenders are characters that are infused with heart and humour. The narratives are funny, with a fresh take on life for the people of the Marvel Universe, so what better way to break ground with it than trying it out in an animated form first? With the crazy goings-on contained within the source material (Alien invasions, vampire wars, demonic invasions of tower-blocks), Marvel would probably struggle to find the budget for a live-action version anyway…
9. Marvel 1692
In this cult Marvel series, the beautifully illustrated storyline pitches the idea that Christopher Columbus wasn’t the only person ‘sailing the Ocean Blue’, as a group of very familiar looking young mutants flee the tyranny of the Spanish Inquisition to start a new life at the Roanoke colony over in the new America. Alongside this, there are political intrigues aplenty, and the Inquisition also has to contend with the burgeoning political machinations of a certain Latverian ruler, who has murdered Queen Elizabeth I, and has the Storm/Richards family imprisoned deep in the dungeons of his castle.
A midway twist in the series then goes on to reveal that as all these retconned versions of modern Marvel heroes go about their business, their dimension is slowly being torn apart, due to the fact that one of their number has been thrown back in time from an apocalyptic future, and this arrival will ultimately destroy reality unless brutally corrected. It’s a wonderfully fantastic view of the Marvel canon, that would be instantly accessible to any non-Marvel fan, but would also tantalise and thrill the existing fan base. It’s a series that’s an entertaining and emotional roller-coaster, which ultimately leads to a heart-wrenching conclusion.
8. Secret Wars
One of the more recent entries to the list, this series played out in the aftermath of the existing Marvel variants all having been smashed together, in a Universe-Extinction event. What few survivors stranded managed to endure have been dropped into the centre of a nightmarish hybrid of the differing worlds, menaced by a whole host of new threats. But, luck is on hand, as Victor Von Doom has managed to make the trip with them, and formed their new world in his own Utopian Image.
There’s just so much going on in this storyline that the only way to do it any real level of justice would be to go down the animated route. The differing timelines and universes on show would also offer the opportunity for a number of animation styles and artists to be incorporated on the same project, to give each variant its own distinct identity. With the 90’s animated X-Men, the Marvel Zombies, Wild West and a whole new Civil War all on show, this would have the potential to put even DC’s ‘Flashpoint Paradox’ to shame.
Out of all of the choices found on the list, this one is probably the one we’re ever most likely to see a live-action version of. The Netflix TV shows have already produced MCU versions of most of the main players involved in ‘Shadowland’, and the audience interest that has been created means that fans are hungering for more and more tales from the TV version of Hell’s Kitchen. And in keeping with a fine tradition of Daredevil tales from the comics, this storyline is filled with deep drama and high spectacle in equal measure.
As Matt Murdock suffers a temporary loss of faith, he agrees to take on the mantle of leadership of The Hand, hoping to re-educate and moralise the criminal organisation from within. What follows is the corruption of his soul, as he deploys an army of ninjas onto the streets of New York, to bring bloody and brutal justice in his name. With the body count rising, and Bullseye becoming the most high-profile victim of Daredevil’s descent in madness, it falls to the Heroes For Hire, and a mis-matched host of other Marvel renegades to stop Matt in his tracks. Truthfully, if this storyline doesn’t touch you whilst you’re reading it, you may as well stop reading comics.
6. Marvel Noir
There just simply isn’t enough Steampunk around in comics these days, don’t you think? Well, this series chooses to redress the issue, and retcons a whole host of Marvel favourites back in time to the 1920’s and 1930’s, into the smoke and shadows of the Prohibition Era. Lacking some of the more fantastic and technological ways of producing heroes that the modern day Marvel Universe produces, the Noir heroes are a lot less high-tech, but just as entertaining.
The material is moody and menacing, with Logan prowling the streets as the classic boozed-up PI who’s a sucker for a dame. A masked version of The Punisher stabs and shoots his way through Capone’s gangsters, whilst a goggled Wall-Crawler lurks through the rooftops above them. All this, alongside a young Tony Stark finding new and exciting ways to adapt the technology of the day to fight off foreign invaders. This is the stuff of pulp comic strips and the old TV serials of their day, and it’d be brilliant to see them bought to life in an animated format.
5. ‘Vs The Marvel Universe…’
Very similar in tone to AMC’s ‘The Walking Dead’, three different titles were released between 2010 and 2012 that explored the lives of the few Marvel heroes who had managed to survive a plague that decimated the world, leaving nothing but destruction in its path. Whilst the disease depicted in this run doesn’t turn people into zombies, it does convert those with powers and abilities into feral creatures, who carve out their own territories and do war with not only each other, but the remaining pockets of human survivors.
It falls to a small group, including Hawkeye, Captain America and the Punisher to try and get the survivors to the relative safety of Canada, whilst also trying to keep some humanity alive in what remains of America. Somewhat controversially casting Hulk and Spiderman as the main villains, the imprint heaps misery onto the survivors, who have to contend with cannibalism and insanity in the ruins of what was once the Marvel Universe. And, there’s a predictably hilarious appearance from everybody’s favourite Merc With The Mouth, too…
4. Five Ronin
With Hugh Jackman finally looking to leave the X-Franchise after 16 long years playing Logan, Marvel will have to be looking for some new ways of portraying Canada’s most famous superhero son on screen. And if they opt for an animated adventure, this charming little construct would work very well. Relocating the setting to Feudal Japan, the story sees five famous Marvel anti-heroes (Wolvie, Hulk, Psylocke, Deadpool and The Punisher) all reimagined during a bloody and brutal period of warfare.
What follows are four heart-rending and ultimately tragic medieval tales, all linked by their involvement with a wandering, and utterly demented version of Deadpool. Unable to die, he drifts from one conflict to another, watching from a distance as each of the other characters are forced to come to terms with what they are, and how society perceives them. Lacking the use of radioactive spiders or scientific mishaps as a means of producing their heroes, the story finds some innovative ways of re-creating the feudal versions of the characters, and in the right hands, this could be both bold and beautiful to behold.
3. Age of Ultron
Sure, the Marvel Universe’s most lethal AI system has already made his MCU debut, but the original ‘Age Of Ultron’ storyline is much more epic than the one we saw bought to the big screen. In that version, Ultron’s already won. He’s come back from the future, laying waste to most of the Earth’s surface, and leaving only a small band of Marvel heroes desperately trying to figure out a way to save the last pockets of human life from annihilation. And, would you believe it? It just so happens that Nick Fury’s been hiding a time platform in the Savage Land for just such an occasion.
As a storm of morality rages about the rights and wrongs of finding a way to stop Hank Pym from ever creating Ultron in first place, Logan decides to take matters into his own adamantium claws, and travels back in time to fix the problem the only way he knows how. The resultant tear in space and time throws him and Sue Storm into an apocalyptic future, where they cross paths with yet another time travelling version of Logan, and some hard choices have to be made to put right what the Crazy Canuck has wronged.
The storyline is perfect for an animated version, offsetting the nightmarish and apocalyptic future timelines with not only the modern day Marvel Universe, but also a retro 1950’s past where Ultron was first conceived and bought to life. Add to that the various moral issues that are explored around time travel, and you’ve got some pretty explosive material to work with.
2. Dark Reign
Whilst some of the other storylines featured on this list have either already been lifted from the page, or are regularly touted as being in the pipeline for future projects, the ‘Dark Reign’ storyline has never really achieved the recognition it deserved. When the Avengers are blamed for a Skrull Invasion of Earth, and Norman Osborn manages to fool the world into thinking he is the only reason the invasion failed, he finds himself promoted to the head of SHIELD, forcing the superhero community to go to ground, whilst trying to find moral and realistic ways to expose his true nature, and fight back within the letter of the law.
It’s a storyline that digs deep into the heart and soul of each of the Marvel universe’s heroes, as the degree to which they’re each prepared to rebel varies from hero to hero dependant on their situation and backstory. Of particular note are the brutal execution of Frank Castle, who becomes too great a thorn in Osborn’s side to tolerate, and the deployment of new ‘hero’ teams such as the Dark Avengers and Thunderbolts as a means of keeping the Avengers off the streets.
There have been a number of narratives over the years where the Avengers have been forced into hiding, or into conflict with the government, but it’s the degree to which Osborn misleads the public and brings so many Marvel villains into line with him that sets this story ahead of the rest. Who wouldn’t want to see Osborn working alongside Loki and Dr Doom to bring his own twisted version of order to society? Or indeed the final all-out assault on his empire that all the heroes of the Marvel Universe carry out?
1. Marvel Zombies
One of the most successful variants ever to have been conceived by Marvel, the Zombies have been munching their way through their own dimension, and a number of neighboring ones since 2010. On their less successful incursions, a zombified Deadpool threatened to start the virus off on Earth-616, only to be stopped by a ragtag team of occult heroes, whilst the Fantastic Four of the Ultimate Universe found themselves facing off against their own un-dead doppelgangers.
It’s the sheer scale of the environments used in the zombie tales that make them so perfect for an animated outing. Be it devouring every square inch of Ego The Living Planet, filleting their way across the surface of the Skrull homeworld, or trying to topple Galactus himself, there’s simply too much going on for any live-action version to capture the appropriate level of insanity and carnage needed to make the jump from page to screen.
It’s not just the death and destruction that endears the zombies to the readers though, it’s the comedy that comes with it, as the infected heroes so quickly turn their backs on their perfect pasts, and adapt their skills and superpowers to the purpose of filling their stomachs. C’mon Marvel, and give the undead of the Marvel Universe their own movie.
After all, who doesn’t want to see a zombified Quicksilver infecting an entire planet in less than a minute?