It is universal that in Japan, around 90 per cent of animated shows are sourced from comic books. But, when one glances at the American scene, one can see that very small amount of animated shows or films are adapted from comic books.
In the US, most comic-based cartoons aren’t adaptations of specific stories but are part of the big two publishers namely Marvel and DC. For years now, Hollywood has been turning to indie comics for movies with moderate to high success.
The few examples of indie comics getting animated adaptations (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Generator Rex, etc.) still follow the familiar characters, new scenarios model that Marvel and DC shows use.
Here are CBR’s 10 Indie comics that deserve animated adaptations.
Joe the Barbarian
Written by Grant Morrison and drawn by Sean Murphy, Joe the Barbarian follows Joe, a young boy with Type 1 diabetes who starts to hallucinate when his blood sugar drops. In this state, he enters a fantasy world filled with his action figures and other fantasy elements. Throughout his journey to defeat King Death, Joe is helped by his pet rat now a barbarian warrior, his action figures and a fictional representation of the girl he likes in his new school. It is a story of adventure, friendship and family with fantasy elements like Lord of the Rings and Alice in Wonderland.
Blue Monday is a comic created by Chynna Clugston Flores and follows Bleu Finnegan, a blue-haired obscure-music-loving teenager and her group of borderline self-destructive friends during their high school years in the early ’90s as they cause mischief, pull pranks and struggle with hormones and dating. The comic is based heavily on Flores’ own high school years and many of the characters are based on her friends and family.
Blue Monday is a great contender for an adult animated sitcom; it’s got sexual humor, swearing and ’90s references galore, perfect for animated sitcom audiences, especially in the current market.
Casual comic readers and even indie comic lovers might not be well-versed in the world of web comics but fans of slice-of-life stories should be reading Questionable Content (QC).
QC takes place several years in the future where artificial intelligence, anthropomorphic computers, holograms and hi-tech space labs are commonplace. These elements take a back seat, however and the web comic focuses mainly on sitcom-esque stories like melodramatic romance, adult humor and workplace drama.
Similar to Blue Monday, Questionable Content could easily find a home in the hearts of Daria fans, though it may resonate more with lovers of the short-lived Mission Hill.
Though it hasn’t been around quite as long as QC has been, Meredith Gran’s Octopus Pie is another great slice-of-life web comic worth following. The name is slightly misleading as the comic is not about a cephalopod bakery but instead follows 20-somethings Everest Eve Ning and her stoner roommate Hanna Thompson through their misadventures in New York City.
Old City Blues
Supposed to have taken place in Greece, Old City Blues is about Solano, detective for the Special Police in New Athens, a city built on the ruins of the original. New Athens is terrorised by hi-tech criminals and corruption and it’s up to Solano and the mech police units to stop them. “Old City Blues” was written and drawn by Giannis Milonogiannis and currently has two volumes out under Archaia Entertainment.
Old City Blues would be great as both a series and a feature film as the storytelling would work well as it is or condensed slightly. The cyber-punk, neon-noire setting is reminiscent of Blade Runner and fans could easily find something to like about the comic, especially if it were to be adapted into a more popular medium like animation.
It’s almost surprising that Jim Zub’s Wayward is an American comic, since it is so deeply entrenched in Japanese culture and mythology.
Wayward follows Rori Lane, a half-Irish, half-Japanese high schooler who moves from her father’s home in Ireland to her mother’s apartment in Tokyo.
While struggling to find her place in her new home, Rori runs into a series of supernatural occurrences, which unlock her hidden abilities. Along the way, she meets a cat-god, a spirit-eater and several other allies who seek to wage war against the old gods of Japan.
Wayward has all the elements of a good supernatural anime, with a relatable new kid in school premise and fantastical Japanese mythology elements akin to Noragami and Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. It’s almost a Japanese Buffy the Vampire Slayer and would make for a great animated series. In fact, Wayward would be perfect as an anime, and it wouldn’t be much of a stretch, since Japan has made anime after several American properties like X-Men, The Avengers and The Power Puff Girls.
The Nameless City
The Nameless City is about Kaidu, a new arrival to the (ironically titular) Nameless City, referred to as such because of the many names given to it by each new country that conquers the walled community. Kai befriends Rat, a descendent of the native people of The Nameless City. At first the two are at odds, but soon find their shared love of the city is the only thing that will be able to save it.
Faith Erin Hicks’ series has currently released one out of three planned volumes and already the first part of the story is compelling, adventurous and full of great lessons. The art style has a unique look too, with a lot of expression and movement behind it, a great combination when adapting to animation. With the success of Avatar: The Last Airbender and its sequel series The Legend of Korra, The Nameless City could easily find its way onto kids’ networks as an animated series.
A somewhat short-lived series Rocket Girl created by Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder, is a time-traveling superhero cop narrative with some ’80s flare thrown into the mix. The Kickstarted series was about Dayoung Johansson, a teen police officer from an alternate future who goes back to the ’80s to investigate Quantum Mechanics, a research company wanted for crimes against time. The book is a lot of fun, presenting a young hero in a world of adults who claim to know more than her — something we can all relate to.
The art of Rocket Girl is clean and colorful, bright and full of action, making it a perfect candidate for an animated adaptation.
Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang’s Paper Girls by Image comics was a hit from its first issue, presenting a throwback to classic Spielberg films before Stranger Things had even hit Netflix. Paper Girls is about exactly what the title implies, with some crazy elements thrown in. It follows four 12-year-old paper delivery girls who stumble onto a series of strange occurrences that take them on a high-concept Sci-Fi time traveling adventure. With the success of the aforementioned “Stranger Things,” it’s easy to see “Paper Girls” getting an adaptation, but live action isn’t the way to go.
Paper Girls has a lot of high-concepts, really out-there creatures, costumes and backgrounds that wouldn’t translate well to a live action series. The psychedelic, bio-organic designs of the creatures and villains could have a lot more creative wiggle room in animated format with too much being lost in translation. Vaughan has yet to have any of his works adapted into anything, with “Y: The Last Man” dipping in and out of development hell for years. Still, perhaps “Paper Girls” could work its way towards a cartoon series.
Marcus Lopez’s high school is just like any other; there are bullies, girls he has crushes on and grades to make. The only difference is that this school doesn’t prepare teens for “the real world,” it trains them to be top assassins. At King’s Dominion School, killing is an art form, and students are expected to learn every subtle detail to the deadly act. Deadly Class an Image publication, was created and written by Rick Remender and is drawn by Wes Craig.
The series takes the “exclusive academy” premise similar to Harry Potter and throws in assassins and ancient organizations, with some added elements of late ’80s punk and drug culture to boot. There’s been talk of the Russo brothers developing “Deadly Class” for TV, and hopefully they go the animated route if only to see Craig’s unique and beautiful art style in motion. However, finding a network to pick up an R-rated animated show about assassin teenagers would definitely be a struggle.