DC have had some great success in converting even some of their edgier titles into animated movies. Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One, Grant Morrison’s All Star Superman and the epic two part adaptation of The Dark Knight Returns are all great examples. While it’s impossible to adapt a comic to a feature film without making some changes, animation awards a little more leeway. I have had a think and put together a list of 5 of my favourite DC story lines that I would like to see made into an animated movie
1. Batman: The Killing Joke (Alan Moore, Brian Bolland, 1988)
This, for me and many others is the definitive Joker story. Legendary comic book writer Alan Moore (Watchmen, From Hell, V For Vendetta) creates a dual narrative. We start in the present day when The Joker kidnaps and attempts to drive Commissioner Gordon insane as Batman furiously searches for him, while in flashback, we go back to the beginning and discover the origin of The Joker.
Moore presents The Joker as a tragic figure, focusing on that ‘one bad day’ that finally drove him insane. He brilliantly draws parallels between Batman and The Joker, showing that they are a lot alike and asks the question, is Batman really just that one bad day away from becoming what he hates the most?
This features one of my favourite moments between Batman and Gordon. Batman has found Gordon and is about to go after The Joker, Jim stops him and tells him to bring him in by the book saying “we have to show him, we have to show him that our way works” No matter what The Joker has put him through Gordon’s devotion and loyalty to the law in unwavering (the writers of the Gotham TV show would have done well to read this book before embarking on the disaster that is that show’s second season). A Brilliant moment.
Not only did Moore bring us a wonderful take on The Joker, he also made a lasting impression on the DCU continuity. The first step on The Joker’s journey to punish Gordon is to shoot his daughter Barbara, who unknown to both parties is Batgirl, putting her in a wheelchair. Barbara would eventually go onto become Oracle, Batman’s eyes and ears in Gotham City and beyond, a role she would continue in until The New 52 relaunch in 2011.
Now a film version of this has been on the horizon for a long time with Mark Hamill (who brilliantly voices The Joker in Batman: The Animated Series) saying he would love to come back and make this his last turn as the character. Some argue that the subject matter is a bit too dark for an animated movie and Alan Moore has never liked any of his work when it was translated to another medium, but hey in a world where Deadpool can get a 15 cert, anything can happen. Bruce Timm (producer of the DC animated universe) did announce at San Diego Comic-Com last year that this was slated for a 2016 release. I live in hope!
2. JLA: New World Order (Grant Morrison, Howard Porter, 1997)
In the mid 90s, the Justice League was spread across several different titles and made up of many different members. The books were not selling, so DC decided to bring back the heavy hitters. The Big 7. Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, Aquaman and The Martian Manhunter. Who did they get to handles these titans? Glaswegian comic book writer Grant Morrison. The relaunch was a massive success and it all started with the New World Order arc. When earth is attacked by white martians, masquerading as the benevolent Hyperclan, only the combined might of the strongest heroes on earth is enough to take down the threat.
Although this is the classic line up, Flash is Wally West not Barry Allen and instead of Hal Jordan, it is Kyle Rayner who has the Green Lantern power ring. They bring a real sense of youth and exuberance to the line up. Morrison uses Kyle Rayner, a rookie when compared to the rest as the readers way into this mighty group of heroes.
As a writer Grant Morrison can sometimes, let’s be honest, disappear up his own arse but here he is on his best form, particularly his take on Batman and hey, he even makes Aquaman cool (sorry Welshy). The run goes from strength to strength, but it is this 4 issue arc that I think would make a great animated film. While the Justice League films so far have been cool and this is maybe a bit too close to Justice League: War to ever get made, but you never know.
3. Green Arrow: Quiver (Kevin Smith, Phil Hester, 2002)
An attempt was made to update the Green Arrow character in the mid 90s. DC killed off everyone’s favourite misogynist and replaced Oliver Queen with his son Connor Hawke, a clean living monk of sorts. While there were some cool moments, Connor joining the JLA and using his dad’s old trick arrows being one standout. Conner Hawke was just never as popular as his old man. So, in 2002, DC hired film maker Kevin Smith, who promised he would bring a 3rd tier DC hero into the mainstream. Boy, did he deliver.
Set 10 years after Ollie’s death, a tramp claiming to be the emerald archer is once again walking the streets of Star City. The man claims to be Oliver Queen, but he has no memory of the last 10 years. Taken in by an elderly benefactor, he slowly begins regaining his mantle. He also meets a teenage runaway Mia Dearden, who helps him uncover what has happened to him. If this wasn’t enough there is a serial killer dubbed ‘The Star City Slayer’ on the loose, not to mention Ollie’s miraculous return from the dead doesn’t sit too well with a certain Dark Knight.
Smith, who was coming off a successful run on some Marvel titles, most notably his epic take on Daredevil with Joe Quesada (Guardian Devil, check it) is on top form here. I am a huge fan of Kevin Smith’s cinematic output and have always followed his career very closely, so was naturally excited about him writing for DC but Green Arrow was not a character I was overly familiar with. This changed after this book. The story is strong, the dialogue is classic Smith and it is a very easy read, despite some of the more gruesome elements. Smith is obviously having a ball, in particular the scene on the Justice League Watchtower. He writes Batman brilliantly, has genuine affection for the Green Arrow character and even does justice to The Demon Etrigan, who I have never liked previously. He also gave Mia Dearden to the DCU, a teenage runaway who becomes Ollie’s ward here and would eventually become Speedy (Green Arrow’s sidekick) as well as the first mainstream character in the DCU to contract HIV.
Now, the more crazy elements of Smith’s tale would need toned down but there is a basis for a really good film here. I believe if it wasn’t for this book, Green Arrow would not be enjoying the mainstream success he is at the moment in comics or on TV.
4. Superman For All Seasons (Jeph Loeb, Tim Sale, 1998)
I think if I was ever pushed, I would name this as my favourite Superman story. If ever anyone asks me to give them something to read to get them into comics, there are three books I give them. This, Batman: The Long Halloween (Loeb and Sale again) and Hellboy : Seed of Destruction (Mike Mignola, John Bynre).
The thing I love about this book is that it plays a bit like a Superman: Year One story and is an easy access point for anyone new to the character and the medium itself. It charts Clark Kent’s journey from Kansas farm boy to the world’s greatest hero (sorry Marvel, he just is).
Set in the early days of Superman’s career, this is set over the 4 seasons and taken from the perspective of a different person in Superman’s life. Issue 1 is set in Spring and is told from the perspective of Clark’s father Jonathon as he deals with realising how important his son is and how much is going to mean for the world. As a father myself the fact that my daughter is going to grow up and leave me one day is terrifying enough, but here Jonathon Kent risks losing his son to the whole world.
Next is the Summer and we are with Lois Lane as she comes to terms with what being a report is in the time of superheroes and how much Superman has changed Metropolis. Next comes Fall, and it is not surprising given the name if the season that this is from Lex Luthor’s perspective as he aims to discredit and destroy The Man of Steel. Finally, The winter issue sees Clark back in Smallville licking his wounds and it is up to Lana Lang to get him back on track. This is a beautiful story that maybe a little low key on the action but I would love to sit back on a quiet Sunday and watch this. It is probably the book I have returned to the most.
5. Batman: Hush (Jeph Loeb, Jim Lee, 2002)
Although The Long Halloween is probably my favourite Batman story, I have gone for Hush as my final choice.
The story is a sweeping epic, Batman is being hunted by a mysterious stalker who is controlling his rouges gallery and using them against him. As Batman tries to figure out who Hush is, he begins a tentative romance with Catwoman.
I love this book. It pretty much features every one of Batman’s enemies as well as most of the Bat Family and a cool little cameo from Superman too. It re-introduces Jason Todd (the 2nd Robin) and in Hush gives as a great new villain with a link to Batman’s past. While the action stuff is great, it is scenes with Thomas Elliot, Bruce Wayne’s childhood friend that are the most interesting. It is very difficult to bring something new to the Batman canon, but Loeb manages it here with the introduction of Elliot. There are so many twists and turns that the book keeps you guessing right to the end. The romance between Batman and Catwoman really works too, adding a interesting dimension to the story.
There are so many great set pieces here that would transfer over to a animated movie from the beginning, when Batman’s line is cut by Hush, Batman taking on Superman (who is being controlled by Posion Ivy), Harely Quinn robbing a theatre and Batman taking on a murderous Jason Todd. This is a great read, that would most definitely make a cracking movie.
Well, there you have it 5 DC stories that I think should be made in animated movies. If you haven’t read them, then do yourself a favour and get involved. Also, check out some of the existing DCU animated films, there is some really good stuff in there.
Thanks for reading. Hope you folks enjoyed yourselves, catch ya later on down the trail.