Let's see... what was a-buzz at Comic Con International this year: Green Lantern. The Avengers. Captain America. Thor. Deadpool. The Crow. Red. Young Justice. The Walking Dead. The Goon. Scott Pilgrim. Cowboys and Aliens.
Comics, yes, but not comics. TV shows. Movies. Comics, let's face it, are now primarily viewed as properties - not stories - like swollen red cherries, ripe for the picking. The money is in licensing and commercializing less than making funnybooks month after month, though thankfully people are still interested in making those the best they can be too. But even with the glut of comics-to-film-and-television, there are only a few smash successes, most of which are big, recognizable names like Batman, Spider-Man or the X-Men. It'll be interesting to see whether Green Lantern or Thor can draw the $400million numbers of Iron Man or if they'll pull the smaller, tidier sums of, say, Hellboy (or, dear lord, Jonah Hex).
And on the small screen, Smallville's embracing of it's comic book roots has lead to resounding success, while the team-up frenzy of Batman: The Brave and The Bold and the quasi-Avengers of Superhero Squad are generating their own little slices of the youth market. But again, it's big names: Superman, Batman, Wolverine, Captain America. What about the little guy.
You may not remember (likely because you weren't old enough or even alive) how exciting it was when any comic book properties made it to the big or small screens, like the Flash live action tv show, the Plastic Man cartoon or the low-budget Punisher films. These endeavors didn't know how to take advantage of their comic book roots, and, in some cases, seemed embarrassed by them. We've come a long way, now that comic properties are as mainstream as chick flicks and pro sports.
I want to see more adventurous adaptations. Not retarded ones that completely forgo the comic book history of the character and take merely the concept of the character, like Jonah Hex or Steel, but ones, like Justice League Unlimited or Iron Man which dare to bring the fun of comics and their characters to the masses.
To cop a format from Devon, I present to you my fab-four superhero properties with the most potential for mass appeal, and the format within which to do it.
4. Madrox (network primetime)
There's a couple dozen cop/detective shows on television, and more than a fair share of paranormal investigation programs, but a mutant detective agency? Hasn't been done, especially with a character like Jamie Madrox who can duplicate himself to infinite degrees, and each dupe has one facet of his personality wildly exaggerated. The effects needed would be minimal, and if you follow the bulk of what Peter David set up for Madrox in character traits, powers and story arc, it'd be an incredibly awesome show. Humour, action, and mystery noir... I'd be unique but still broadly appealing.
3. Metal Men (saturday morning cartoon)
So there's five (or six, if you count Copper) robots, made from pure alloys, with disparate personalities, who can change shape into any form or merge together to form a giant baddie-fighting unit. It's the best of Transformers, Voltron and Plastic Man. What's more, the Metal Men aren't human, so they have to learn about humanity (like manners and etiquette and customs and cultures, y'know education for the kids), and they can also be wrecked time and again but still be repaired back to normal at the end of an episode, so there's never any real danger or threat to our heroes.
I don't really understand why the Metal Men haven't been exploited (the merchandising bonanza alone, with all the different possible variations on the characters would be mindboggling)I don't think there's a more kid-friendly concept in DC's stable, except perhaps for...
2. Captain Marvel/Shazam (any format)
Captain Marvel, in his heyday, outsold Superman. To understand, this was also, pretty much, Superman's heyday as well, when comics were sold by the millions (they also only cost a dime). Well, since then there were lawsuits and "Seduction of the Innocent" and Gomer Pyle and Marvelman and a cheesy live action series and many different iterations thrust through DC Comics in an attempt to make him an "A"-grade player again. What DC lost focus of, which they seem to be getting once more, is that Captain Marvel and the Shazam family is all about wish fulfillment. You're a 5 to 12 year old boy, full of frustration at being to small, too weak, too oppressed, too incapable, but with one magic word, SHAZAM!, you're the most powerful human on the planet with the voices of gods ringing in your head guiding your way. The current "Johnny DC" Billy Batson and the Magic of Shazam is my 8-year-old's favourite comic book, as it should be. But if there were a movie (all talk, no action in development hell for years now) geared towards kids, but striking the kid in us all (ala the Incredibles), it would be gangbusters. Maybe they should give the project to Pixar?
1. Blue Beetle (cartoon series and live-action made-for-tv movies ala Ben 10)
After reading the first issue of the Keith Giffen-revamped Blue Beetle series, I thought, almost immediately, that if I were 8 years old I would think this was the greatest thing ever. I was bordering on 30 and I still thought it was up there. The whole teenager-gets-superpowers thing is time-tested, from Spider-Man through to Static Shock, but with Blue Beetle you have an alien backpack (rather than a towel-cape, kids would be running around with their backpack screaming "I'm Blue Beetle") who is at once performance enhancing and a super-computer, not to mention all the wild gadgets and weapons the suit creates. Jaimie networks with his friends, rather than other heroes, to help him out, and he doesn't keep secrets from his family. It's not just fresh, but super-modern. Normally, the whole Shazam thing would be #1 but, after seeing this test footage, I mean, come on! That's awesome!
Yes, Blue Beetle is appearing on Batman: Brave and the Bold on occasion (and on toy shelves across the continent) and will be in this season's Smallville, but I think he could be huge if given a shot at going solo. He just needs a rogues gallery of aliens and kooky earth menaces.