As a lifelong comics fan I can’t help pinching myself at the flood of graphic novel adaptations that we’re being treated to in this current golden age of comic book movies. Quite apart from the Marvel and DC superhero features which are unsurprisingly garnering most of the headlines, there are quite a few adaptations of lesser known properties, both on television and on the silver screen, which their legions of fans might be surprised to know were ever comics in the first place e.g. The Walking Dead, 300, A History of Violence, Road to Perdition, Sin City etc. Whilst I love seeing spandex-clad superheroes and villains going at it as much as the next person, it’s particularly gratifying to see that film-makers are also appreciative of the wide range of more eclectic comic books out there and that the lesser known properties are also getting their chance. Of course, there are plenty of excellent graphic novels that haven’t yet been treated to film or TV makeovers, e.g. Sandman, Fables, The Books of Magic, Preacher and The Unwritten, to name just a few, but almost all of the ones that come to mind immediately are either in development or are likely to be adapted at some point in the near future. This may well be because of their links to one of the big two – Marvel and DC – express or otherwise, as much as for any other reason. But there are in my view other comic book publishers out there whose properties are just as worthy of adaptation in my view, and of these the universe of Top Cow appears to have several that appear particularly suited to the big screen.
With the recent release of Man of Steel, the mind naturally turns to the superhero genre. Whilst this is mostly characterised by larger-than-life comic book heroes like Superman, possessed of extraordinary powers and abilities, the term superhero is actually far wider than this and stretches back to long before the debut of the Man of Steel in 1939. Mankind has always been intrigued by tales of those who possess superhuman attributes – Classical mythology is full of stories of heroes like Hercules (superpower: strength), Odysseus (superpower: intelligence) and Cassandra (superpower: clairvoyance). What were the likes of King Arthur, Merlin and Robin Hood if not early superheroes? With the dawn of the printed book, the protagonists of many early literary works were also often extraordinary in some way, whether it was in the form of the fantastical adventures they had (see Gulliver or Baron Munchausen), their deductive genius (see Sherlock Holmes or Hercules Poirot) or their dazzling charm and rugged durability (see Allan Quartermain or James Bond). With such an august literary and mythic heritage, it is clear that tales of superheroes are far more than a genre of children’s fiction, fit only for comic books and cartoons. Maybe it’s because everyone craves stories where the good guy wins and evil is vanquished. Or maybe something inside each one of us just wants to believe that a person really can fly.
Discworld is a flat world supported by four elephants standing on top of a huge turtle swimming endlessly through space. Using this classic mythological concept as his starting point, Terry Pratchett has, since the publication of The Colour of Magic in 1983, cheerfully lampooned a vast range of targets – Shakespeare, Creationism theory, heroic fantasy, etc – and ventured into such far-flung realms as ancient Egypt, the Aztec Empire and Renaissance Italy for further raw material. When he is not satirising historical periods or cultures, Pratchett allows much of the action to centre around Ankh-Morpork, a melting-pot of a fantasy city that’s a mix of Renaissance Florence, Victorian London and present-day New York. The series uses fantasy as a fairground mirror, reflecting back at us a distorted but recognisable image of modern concerns (for example, equal-opportunity and affirmative-action laws take on new dimensions when you’ve got vampires, werewolves and zombies among your citizens…).