Quick, what do Son of Batman, Justice League: War, and Superman Unbound have in common? Well, besides being the last three animated movies released by DC Comics, they are all based on graphic novels. This is by no means a new development. In fact, the majority of DC’s Animated Original Movies series is based off of one or more graphic novels, but it seems that since the success of 2012’s The Dark Knight Returns, every animated movie DC puts out is an adaptation of an iconic graphic novel or story arc. To celebrate this, here are five graphic novels/events that would make awesome animated movies:
1. Batman: The Killing Joke
Let’s start off with a bang (excuse the pun), shall we? This is the legendary 1988 graphic novel, written by the equally legendary Alan Moore (Watchmen, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), that gave us a reason to fear the Joker. You see it was in The Killing Joke that Barbara Gordon went from plucky heroine Batgirl to handi-capable hacker Oracle, all thanks to well-place bullet to the spine from the “Clown Prince of Crime.” If seeing that scene in DC’s trademark beautiful animation isn’t enough to get you salivating, there’s plenty more where that came from.
Killing Joke has a psychotically psychedelic funhouse, Joker’s humble origins as a down-on-his-luck comedian looking for “one big score” to provide for his pregnant wife, and Batman actually reaching out to help the Joker. Throw in the fact that this was one of several Bat-stories that inspired Heath Ledger’s groundbreaking performance in the 2008 movie, The Dark Knight (in fact the infamous “madness and gravity” quote from the movie is a paraphrase of the Joker’s “all it takes is one bad day” line in The Killing Joke). Bring in Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill to voice Batman and the Joker, respectively, and this could be DC’s greatest animated movie ever (and that’s saying something).
2. Blackest Night
Okay, so technically Blackest Night isn’t a graphic novel (even though it has been collected into one massive book), but this story arc is just too epic to not get the animated movie treatment. First off, it involves every major character in the DC Universe (meaning it won’t violate Warner Bros’ rule about not releasing movies that don’t involve Superman or Batman). Secondly it not only explores ALL the Lantern Corps, but it even introduces (albeit briefly) established characters as ringbearers. Wonder Woman, Flash, Atom, and even Lex Luthor are made Lanterns at the climax of Blackest Night.
Lastly (but definitely not leastly), it has ZOMBIES!!! And not just “Uhhh… I’m a zombie… I eat brains” zombies, but power ring-wearing-resurrected-hero zombies! Everyone from Dick Grayson’s parents to Donna Troy’s infant son are brought back from the dead, complete with their own Black Lantern power ring, to wreak havoc and spread death on Earth. I don’t know about you, but I’d sell my left kidney to watch that kind of mayhem unfold in a hard PG-13 animated movie. Plus, the full event is so long it could easily warrant a sequel. That means more “cha-ching” for DC, and in the end that’s what it’s really all about.
3. Reign of the Supermen
Yes, yes, I know what you’re saying: They’ve already made an animated movie based on the bestselling comic book storyline of all time, 1992’s The Death of Superman. And you would be very correct. In 2007, DC did put out the animated movie Superman:Doomsday amid much fanfare. Unfortunately, not only did that movie skim over much of the lethal showdown between “Big Blue” and the Big D (that’s a topic for another time), but it completely skipped over all the events that happened between Supes’ death and eventual resurrection (that’s an allegory for something or someone isn’t it?). In the comics, after Superman bites the big one (if only for a few months), we were treated to not one, not two, but FOUR Supermen stepping up to fill his red boots. Not only did this story introduce us to the villainous Cyborg Superman and a non-Shaq Steel, it also featured the appearance of the reimagined Superboy clone (whose appearance may or may not have been based on notorious comics’ artist Rob Liefeld).
For Superman fans this would be the “holy grail” of animated adaptations (especially after being disappointed with Superman: Doomsday), but it has plenty of other characters to even get Super-Haters excited. Aside from the aforementioned “Supermen” you have your usual cast of Super-suspects, including: Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Lex Luthor, Supergirl, and Bibbo the “Super Bum.” Throw in the Green Lantern and the Mongol and you have one helluva epic movie on your hands.
4. Batman: Knightfall
This is another entry that falls under the “not a graphic novel” category, but bear with me. Starting in 1993 (and encompassing all the Bat titles until 1994), Knightfall tells the story of the breaking of the Bat (a concept that helped to inspire The Dark Knight Rises) and the man who filled his shoes while he recovered. The biggest selling point here (at least for me) is that it would feature a DC character that has yet to appear in an animated film (or any kind of film for that matter): Jean-Paul Valley a.k.a. Azrael.
In the story, Batman’s back is broken at the hands of the enigmatic Bane (who makes his first appearance in this event). Faced with a long recovery, Bruce seeks out a replacement to don the iconic cape and cowl while he licks his wounds. For this task he chooses the vengeful anti-hero Azrael, a man who only recently became an ally. Outfitted with a shiny new Batsuit (complete with wicked finger claws), Jean-Paul is set loose on an unsuspecting Gotham Underworld in an attempt to bring order back to the streets. When Valley proves to be a bit unstable and short-tempered (and very, very violent), Bruce realizes he may have made the wrong decision.
So let’s see: Fan favorite character making his long-awaited screen debut? Check. Lots of drama and tension as Bruce tries to rein in his violent protégé? Double check. Awesome scenes of Batman getting his ass handed to him by a fan favorite villain? Triple check. And as a bonus, there’s also a nice fight scene between Bane and the Killer Croc. Sounds like a winner to me.
5. Teen Titans: The Judas Contract
Now this one is a bit of a stretch (mainly because it doesn’t feature Batman or Superman), but I’m also not the only one who wants to see this. There are entire Facebook groups and petitions dedicated to getting this classic Titans story turned into an animated movie. For those not familiar with this story, I’ll explain why: First off, you have to understand that we’re not talking about the Titans from Cartoon Network’s increasingly childish show Teen Titans Go! (not even from the much better, but still childish show that Go! is based on). No, these are the Teen Titans how they’re supposed to be, in all of their Marv Wolfman/George Perez wonder. Featuring the most iconic lineup of the former sidekicks; Robin (Dick Grayson), Wonder Girl (Donna Troy), Kid Flash (Wally West), Cyborg, Raven, Starfire, and Beast Boy/Changeling, this is the storyline that made Robin hate Slade Wilson.
In an effort to finally be rid of the troublesome teens, Deathstroke hatches a plan to infiltrate the Titans and bring them down from the inside. To this end he recruits the earth-shattering Terra, a conflicted young woman that Slade coerces into going along with his plan. After joining the team, and proving herself an asset time and again (and becoming the infatuation of a hormonal Beast Boy), Terra and Slade enact their master plan and soon the Titans’ world comes crumbling down around them. It was this pivotal story that not only led to Robin stepping down as leader (and stepping into his role as solo hero Nightwing) after all was said and done, but also made Wally decide to hang up the yellow tights and retire from crimefighting altogether.
Now some of this may sound familiar to those of you who followed the original Teen Titans cartoon series, as many elements of this story were used in that show. Unfortunately, it was a very watered down version that was missing several of the story’s key players (namely Wally and Donna). The only way to do this incredible story justice is to show it as it was intended (with much better animation). If you don’t agree, that’s on you, but if you haven’t read the Judas Contract you’re definitely missing out.
Well there you go folks; those are my picks for future DC animated movies. If you agree, disagree, or have picks of your own, sound off in the comments section. I’m also always open to new article ideas and any and all feedback (even if it’s to tell me I suck). Until next time True Believers (yea, I know I’m not Stan Lee) may the Dork Side be with you.