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The next big comic-book movie adaptation

Posted by Joshua Glenn  May 7, 2008 08:41 PM

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After Iron Man, and the Hulk (again), that is?

Graeme McMillan, of the SF blog io9, has heard rumors about Thor (please no! can only be cheesy), the Avengers (too many of 'em! Plus: Thor), and Ant-Man (actually makes a lot of sense, now that small is beautiful again, but... small guy, giant ants = cheesy). Dissatisfied with these options, McMillan made a few other suggestions on Monday.


Like Doctor Strange, for example!

McMillan's pitch:

Created by Spider-Man's combination of [writer] Stan Lee and [artist] Steve Ditko, Marvel's "Master of The Mystic Arts" has all the potential to crossover to mainstream success. The story of an arrogant famous surgeon who survives a terrible accident but without the finger dexterity to keep slicing and sewing, only to become the world's most powerful magician after a Tibetan retreat, it's Nip/Tuck meets Iron Man meets Harry Potter. Get someone like Guillermo Del Toro to direct and George Clooney to star, and your summer blockbuster is all taken care of.

Sounds great. Except for

Clooney, of course. The worst work he ever did was as a superhero. You need someone tall, thin, elegant, troubled but articulate. Like Leo:


NB: My friend Greg Rowland (HC) pointed out recently that in Roger Corman's Poe-inspired horror-comedy, "The Raven," the tall, elegant, refined Vincent Price plays a magician who uses mystic power bolts in what Rowland calls "a fairly Ditkoesque manner." Since "The Raven" came out on Jan. 25, 1963, and the first appearance of Doctor Strange (in "Strange Tales" #110) was in July of that same year, it seems likely that Ditko might have designed Strange's look after seeing the Corman/Price movie. (Shades of the Iron Man origin mystery!)

Doctor Strange
Vincent Price, 2d from left, in "The Raven"

McMillan also suggests, less seriously, that someone make a movie based on the little-known 1970s comic book "U.S. 1." Published in the early 1980s, in "U.S. 1" a truck driver whose metal skull plate allows him to not only telepathically control his truck but to pick up CB transmissions "ends up traveling the highways in the sky after aliens introduce him to the concept of space trucking," according to McMillan.

I don't think that would fly (as it were), but here's an idea I've been sitting on for years. One that only became possible in recent years, thanks to the invention of CGI animation. A movie version of... wait for it... "The Haunted Tank," a comic book feature that appeared in the DC anthology G.I. Combat from 1961-87. "The Haunted Tank" never had its own comic book; I only know about it because my younger brother was a big fan of "Sgt. Rock," another long-running series from G.I. Combat.


"Haunted Tank" follows the adventures of Jeb Stuart, commander of one of America's Stuart tanks fighting with the Allies in the North African and European campaigns of WWII. Although he's young and inexperienced, Stuart is an incredible tactician... thanks to the ghost of Confederate general J.E.B. Stuart, who flies along next to the tank on his ghostly horse. Oh yeah, and Stuart flies a Confederate flag on the tank. Think Johnny Knoxville, plus Sam Elliott as the ghost. It'll direct itself. Can't fail.

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7 comments so far...
  1. I don't know about Dr. Strange. I think the appeal of superheroes on the big screen has to do with physical or technical transformation more than magic powers. Plus, really cool bad guys help out a lot. Who is Strange's arch enemy? I'm sure he has one but it's certainly not a household name like the Joker or even Doc Oc.

    Even with heroes who have multiple powers, like Superman or Spiderman, the physical powers totally outweigh the more subtle x-ray vision and spider-sense kind of stuff. I always kind of dug Black Panther. Cat-like prowess, super-strength and stealth...international appeal...political ramifications. Plus the superhero movies of the last decade or so have been noticeably lacking in diversity for the most part. Wesley Snipes as Blade was alright, but maybe bring him back as Nutty Tax-Evader Guy.

    Posted by Rick May 8, 08 08:59 AM
  1. Rick, you make excellent points.

    Ordammamu (sp?) is Dr. Strange's enemy, I think.

    What do you think about my "Haunted Tank" idea, though? Isn't it great?

    Posted by Josh Glenn May 8, 08 10:00 AM
  1. I cannot imagine a movie with a haunted tank and a Confederate general failing. It writes itself.

    Posted by Rick May 8, 08 12:32 PM
  1. Dormammu! Baron Mordo! Silver Dagger! Eternity!

    Plus, in Clea, we get a real superheroine who is hot and can be part of the action, not a damsel in distress or a sidekick.

    Let's introduce non comics geeks to the Neal Adams theorem: "It's not the character, it's how they are handled."

    Dr. Strange would need someone like Darren Aronofsky to direct (I am thinking of Pi). As far as an actor, someone serious, not a Hollywood type.

    Posted by Solo500 May 8, 08 01:04 PM
  1. I don't know about "Haunted Tank" ... "Tank Girl" didn't do well, and that had Lori Petty and mutant kangaroos.

    Posted by Mr Punch May 8, 08 10:17 PM
  1. Am I the only one smitten by Green Lantern? That guy used to creep me out.

    Posted by Peter Keough May 9, 08 10:23 AM
  1. Stay through the credits at the end of Iron Man. Nick Fury, the head of SHIELD, shows up, and wants to talk to Stark about "the Avengers Initiative." So no doubt about it, they are doing the Avengers, probably within the context of the next Iron Man movie. Oh, and Samuel L Jackson is Nick Fury.

    Posted by Comic Geek200 May 10, 08 09:10 PM
About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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