Comic Book Critical Mass: Producers Dish on What Title Could Be Next

The geeky executive producers behind today's crop of superheroes weigh in
From left: 'Y: The Last Man,' 'Powers' and 'Preacher'

Call the 2014-15 broadcast season the Year of the Comic Invasion.

The Big 5 broadcast networks will bow five new dramas that all have their roots in the comic book world: Fox's Batman prequel, Gotham; The CW's Arrow spinoff, The Flash; The CW's iZombie; NBC's Hellblazer take, Constantine; and ABC's midseason bridge show, Agent Carter. They join a roster that includes CW's Arrow, ABC's Agents of SHIELD and AMC's monster hit The Walking Dead as every network looks for a piece of the fanboy pie.

"We're at the point where all the 'A-list characters' have been spoken for and realized in either TV or film," Arrow EP Marc Guggenheim tells The Hollywood Reporter. "What that does is it creates this incredible opportunity for all these other characters to be explored. I don't think it's about what the next tier is; the beauty is we're post-tier, we're past the point of 'This is the next level.' We're actually at the point where we're just looking at all the characters in all the different levels in all the different publications and going, 'This is an opportunity.' It's the character that's going to drive the next round of these projects as opposed to the name recognition and to me, as a comic book fan and a fan of TV, that's the most exciting thing for me."

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The trend doesn't appear to be stopping anytime soon. TNT is developing Titans, WGN America is readying Scalped, Cinemax is looking to The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman's exorcism comic Outcast, while Syfy has Kirkman's Clone and Frank Miller's Ronin all in various stages development. And there are more, including Netflix's five already greenlit Marvel series, starting with Daredevil, as well as AMC's Walking Dead companion series, buzzy Preacher adaptation and PlayStation's first original scripted drama Powers, which was picked up straight to series.

And a handful of comic titles have already been announced this development season, too, with Arrow and Flash EP Greg Berlanti reuniting with No Ordinary Family's Ali Adler for a Supergirl show that landed at CBS with a massive series commitment penalty attached.

So what could be next?

"Y: The Last Man and anything by Brian K. Vaughan. I would love to see Saga," Agents of SHIELD EP Mo Tancharoen says, singling out the comics great who adapted Stephen King's Under the Dome for the small screen but left the series ahead of season two. The rights to a movie based on Y have been sitting with New Line for years, but recently reverted back to Vaughan.

For Arrow and Flash EP Andrew Kreisberg, it's Brian Michael Bendis' long-gestating Powers adaptation, which was in the works for years at FX before landing as a straight-to-series pickup at PlayStation. "I was a big fan of that book. I do think that's something we haven't seen — that grittier, harder-edged superhero that's more of a deconstruction," he says.

ABC's Agent Carter showrunners Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters, meanwhile, want to see a different take on Batman other than Fox's Gotham come to the small screen. "I love The Dark Knight Returns and they touch on that in the feature world," Fazekas says. Adds Butters: "But there's a way to do that with Michael Keaton and bringing him back at his age now and doing it gritty and dirty."

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DC's Geoff Johns, who exec produces many of the comic imprint's TV titles, including Arrow and Flash, sees an opportunity for new comics characters to invade TV that goes well beyond the superhero space. "It's not just DC, it's Vertigo and Mad; we have so many different comics that aren't just superheroes," he says, singling out Vertigo's iZombie, which many hadn't heard of before Veronica Mars mastermind Rob Thomas adapted the title for The CW. "The whole goal for us is to take the opportunity to work with these great writers and get as many characters out there in the best way we can."

Speaking of anti-heroes, AMC may have the darkest — and most controversial — one of them all with Preacher. Garth Ennis' and Steve Dillon's Vertigo comic, published as a monthly series from 1995 to 2000, revolves around a badass Texas preacher who, after losing his faith, learns that God has left heaven and forsaken his duties. Jesse becomes the only one who is able to track God down and hold him responsible for his abdication. The story includes a beer-guzzling vampire woman who accompanies him on his quest for answers and a villain dubbed the Saint of Killers, an immortal killing machine and Western lone gunman type who is hot on their trail. Breaking Bad's Sam Catlin will adapt the comic and exec produce alongside This Is the End duo Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, both longtime fans of the comic.

"If you read Preacher, it has some obviously graphic violence and language and other things that we will not bring to the commercial television series," AMC president Charlie Collier tells THR of the comic that was previously developed as a movie. "But I love that the fans will know that we'll treat it with respect and that will elevate it and not dumb it down. And that matters. It's an amazing piece of writing and character. Where do you see a character like that on television?"

What comic would you like to see come to the small screen next? Hit the comments below with your thoughts.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@THR.com
Twitter: @Snoodit

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