10/9/2015 1:23:07 PM
By Tambay A. Obenson, Shadow and Act
They've already secured a space for themselves in the theatrical universe, and now, comic book/graphic novel adaptations are doing the same on the small screen, with a handful of new TV series already airing, and others still to come, joining existing shows, entering their second or third seasons, like ABC's "Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," Fox's Batman prequel, "Gotham;" The CW's "Arrow" spin-off, "The Flash;" The CW's "iZombie;" ABC's "Agent Carter," and of course there are Netflix's "Daredevil," and the upcoming "Jessica Jones," "Luke Cage," and more, all part of the Disney/Marvel/Netflix deal that will see several series based on Marvel characters debuting on Netflix, starting in 2015, and thereafter.
Did I leave anything out?
I'd readily admit that I'm definitely not a comic book/graphic novel aficionado (the last time I read a comic book/graphic novel was likely Alan Moore's "Watchmen," some 5-10 years ago), so I'm deferring, and opening up the floor to those of you who are, who can educate me (and others like me) on the subject. Specifically, with all these new TV series rooted in the comic book universe, I'm most interested in hearing from you about those source works with stories that center around characters of African descent, that you'd like to see adapted to TV as weekly series.
A title that I can immediately think of, which has been previously recommended to me, is Frank Miller's 4-issue comic book series "Give Me Liberty," published in 1990 by Dark Horse Comics - a work of dystopian fiction, set in a United States that has been split into several extremist factions, and tells the story of Martha Washington, a young African American girl from a Chicago's Cabrini–Green projects, who eventually breaks free to become a war hero and major figure in deciding the fate of the United States.
Per my research, the series was a huge success for Dark Horse Comics, and was one of the biggest selling independent comics of the period. A trade paperback was later released and Miller followed up Give Me Liberty with several sequels continuing the story. All of these sequels were drawn by Dave Gibbons and published by Dark Horse.
It was also very well reviewed.
So given the accolades and commercial success of the graphic novel series, it's a wonder that it has yet to adapted to the screen. But maybe it's not such a wonder, for what should be obvious reasons.
I did buy all 4 titles in the series, but have yet to read any of them. My to-read list is a 10 miles high, but I will get it them eventually. Maybe it'll be picked up by a studio, or TV network by then. Apparently, the series was to be adapted years ago, but nothing ever materialized.
In 2008, there was talk of bringing the comic book/graphic to the big screen. At the time, writer Miller expressed his desire to see the story of Martha Washington, get the screen treatment.
MTV quoted Miller as saying, "It's just a matter of finding the right venue, because 'Martha Washington' isn't a movie, it's a series," he said. "It would have to be like 12 episodes to fit the whole story in. I would not let it be truncated."
A year later, in July 2009, it was reported that Miller’s top choice to play Martha Washington on film would be actress Rosario Dawson. Public reaction to that news was mixed as you might expect, given how the character is drawn as you can see above.
There've been no new developments since then - nothing reported anyway.
Other obvious potential sources for material would be Milestone Media's library of characters.
You will recall that, in January of this year, it was announced that the company was being revived, almost 4 years after the sudden death of its founder (February 21, 2011) Dwayne Glenn McDuffie.
Behind the revival are Reggie Hudlin, and artists Denys Cowan and Derek Dingle (also co-founders of Milestone), who begun discussing relaunching Milestone almost immediately after McDuffie's death, to carry on McDuffie’s career-long efforts to diversify comics both on the page, and behind the scenes (and eventually on the screen).
Originally founded in 1992, Milestone began publishing comics in 1993 as an imprint of DC Comics. Although DC later integrated some of Milestone's characters into DC's superhero line (including the popular Static), Milestone retained ownership of all its characters and had merely licensed usage of the characters and the content they produced in the 1990s.
Hudlin said the trio had been "sorting out all the business" over the last couple of years, with regards to reviving the company, with plans to reboot past Milestone characters, as well as introduce new ones, and bring in a new group of diverse creators as well, to continue McDuffie’s mission of having a cast of characters that represent all races, genders, sexualities, and perspectives.
"There are all kinds of challenges that are facing people of color...that part hasn't changed," Hudlin said in January. "What has changed is, there are a lot more characters of color in comics. What we feel is now, Milestone is necessary because of the types of characters that we do, and the viewpoint that we come from. We've never just done black characters just to do black characters. It's always come from a specific point of view, which is what made our books work. What we also didn't do, which is the trend now, is have characters that are, not blackface, but they're the black versions of the already established white characters, as if it gives legitimacy to these black characters in some kind of way, [that] these characters are legitimate because now there's a black Captain America. Having been a creator of these characters and a consumer, I always looked at it like, 'Well, geez, couldn't you give me an original character?' Black Panther worked because he was original. Static Shock worked because it was an original concept. It's a good time to come back and reintroduce original characters, as well as some new ones."
Dubbed "Milestone 2.0," included in the reboot plans is a new live-action "Static Shock" series, which is in the works with Warner Bros.
I'm wondering if black TV networks like BET especially (since they seem to have the most funding behind them, thanks to Viacom, to spend on projects) have given any thought to partnering with Milestone (or some other black comic imprint) in much the same way Marvel has teamed up with Netflix, to bring some of these black comic book characters to the small screen. Even just one of them would be a start. Although I wonder how BET's target audience would respond. It would likely be an expensive venture, however, there are a variety of comic book characters, and "comic book" doesn't mean "superheroes" only. There are comics about everyday characters, and a variety of genres that wouldn't require expensive CG effects and lengthy post-production.
And, based on what my Twitter feed tells me (I follow quite a few comic book geeks), there are apparently tons of independent artists and writers creating their own comics and distributing them online, and in other formats. So there's a deep well to pull from.
But I'd love to read your thoughts on other comic books/graphic novels centered on characters of African descent that you'd like to see join the current crop of TV series adaptations, set to debut this season, and in the future.