Top Ten Indie Comics That Should Be Movies

A column article, Top Ten by: Danny Djeljosevic, Nick Hanover & Alison Stevenson

You probably just saw the teaser trailer for the Avengers movie. Pretty cool, right? Well, here are 10 non-superhero comic books that we'd like to see in movie form.

Blankets would probably make a terribly cloying movie, and Lost at Sea would be like Choke to the Fight Club that is Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.

10. Skullkickers
by Danny Djeljosevic

Here's the pitch: an axe-toting Scottish dwarf and a gun-toting bald guy fight monsters like Peter Jackson mainlined some John Woo and depleted the entire economy of a small country. It's a very funny comic, and full of both skulls and the kicking of them. The use of a firearm in a strictly D&D setting is a highlight, among many other things.

And here's how we make it: we all pool together a big pile of money a la the one Heath Ledger sets on fire in The Dark Knight and pay Weta to retroactively insert the big guy and the little guy into only the fight scenes of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and cut it all down to 90 minutes. Or get someone to make a CG animated adventure.

Either way, skulls will get kicked.

9. Girls
by Nick Hanover

In my mind, The Luna Brothers' Girls is the perfect vehicle for David Cronenberg's return to the body horror that made him famous, complete with ample room for the director to explore the small town settings and questionable loyalties that have dominated his latter day works. A truly horrifying work that makes great use of influences like Stephen King (whose Under the Dome shares some similarities) and George Romero,Girls is the embodiment of small town values coming up against unfiltered sexuality, featuring alien invaders who prey on male desire.

While deeply symbolic, Girls is nonetheless as tense and efficient as the best horror films and under the direction of a master like Cronenberg both those qualities could truly shine, with the director's talent for distorting sexual iconography into terrifying imagery particularly well suited to an adaptation of the series.

Failing that, though, I'm sure James Gunn would love a shot at making a more erotic variant of Slither.

8. Studs Kirby
by Alison Stevenson

Peter Bagge's Hate is legendary, but I have a special place in my heart for Studs Kirby. He's just so cool. What's not awesome about a failed, middle-aged loser who goes from calm to furious in about .04 seconds and uses that bitter and pissy attitude of his to be a no-bullshit radio host? He lives the dream! A Studs Kirby movie would be pretty funny, and quite dark. Lots of cursing, beer and, yeah, a strong hatred for everything.

7. Kill Your Boyfriend
by Danny Djeljosevic

When was the last time the kids got pissed off and Mom and Dad were worried? I feel like we haven't had a proper decent controversy about the social responsibilities of popular art in a while, and Harry Potter being a devil-worshipper doesn't count. Nor does whatever the fuck Twilight is supposed to be.

Let's get an adaptation of Kill Your Boyfriend happening. The short graphic novel by Grant Morrison and Phillip Bond is the story of a bored, unassuming teenager who meets a mysterious older boy who talks her into shooting her pizza-faced boyfriend and then into going on a crime spree. Parents will hate it! Fox News will spend countless hours unintentionally promoting it by condemning it!

But the kids'll love it. Not just for the Natural Born Killers-ness of the thing (but hardly as sadistic), but for the way it speaks to teenage suburban ennui and identity engineering. At an age where you're trying to figure out what you want to be, the story of a teenage girl deciding she wants to try being a badass for a little bit will fuck shit up. And it's really funny -- like darkly hilarious, slowly killing your husband with rat poison kind of funny. The best kind of funny.

And it doesn't necessarily have to be British. Shit's universal.

6. I Kill Giants
by Nick Hanover

Continuing the trend of just going ahead and picking directors for these fantasy adaptations, is there anyone better suited to adapting Joe Kelly and J.M. Ken Niimura's masterpiece I Kill Giants than Terry Gilliam? Think of it this way: Gilliam has tried and failed to get his Don Quixote project off the ground, but in I Kill Giants Gilliam might just have the perfect replacement.

Concerning Gilliam's favorite subject, the line between fantasy and reality, I Kill Giants is Don Quixote if he were a troubled little girl rather than a lost, lonely hero. On top of that is the series' exploration of how grief can push you over the edge, plus, well, all those giants. Kelly and Niimura made a child's imagination deadly real with their series and only a mad genius like Terry Gilliam could bring that off the page and onto the screen.

5. High Soft Lisp
by Alison Stevenson

Out of all the 6,000 characters in Love and Rockets, Fritz is a personal favorite. Though she's highly sexualized, she's also intelligent, vulnerable and has a nerdiness to her that would overall make for a great presence on screen. This graphic novel in particular has a good amount of melodrama (the enjoyable kind), varying character perspectives and lots of good old fashioned BDSM. Who wouldn't want to see that?

4. David Boring
by Danny Djeljosevic

I love Daniel Clowes, but David Boring is the only Clowes book I'd save in a fire, provided this hypothetical fire was happening at a Daniel Clowes factory and not, say, in an apartment where I have a cat. By the way, the cat is hypothetical, too.

David Boring is about, among a few things, the eponymous dweeb's attempts to obtain the perfect woman, his attempts to get to know his absent father through superhero comics he's created and an apocalypse scenario that results in a handful of people (Boring included) living in a house on an island. Considering that Clowes made David Boring in the late '90s installments of Eightball (the collected version came out in 2000), he had to have been working on at least some of it in tandem with his screenplay for Ghost World. Divided into three acts, complete with a credits sequence at the end and even lobby card mockups but with a paradoxical cover description ("A Comic Book by Daniel Clowes"), Clowes seems to be incorporating screenwriting structure into his comic work, while simultaneously daring filmmakers to even try adapting something he made to specifically be a comic.

Which I'd love to see -- to see how an appropriately ambitious filmmaker approaches a work that, while courting cinematic language, is decidedly a graphic sequential narrative ("comic book" seemed a bit too pejorative). It would be brilliant if done properly, but the right kind of fuck-up could be just as interesting.

3. Louis Riel
by Nick Hanover

Back in 2004, when Bookslut covered Chester Brown's magnum opus Louis Riel, reviewer Karin L. Cross described the work as lying "somewhere between the rigours of the scholarly biography and the accessibility of the movie biopic." Seven years later, no one has yet fulfilled the promise of that statement, which is a pity when you consider both how interesting Louis Riel's story is and how well structured a portrayal Chester Brown crafted.

Jumping between the most important stages of Louis Riel's life, Chester Brown may not follow the exact truth of the history but he does offer incredible perspective, particularly in regards to Riel's self-proclaimed prophet status and how that belief would lead to both his eventual undoing and the downfall of the Metis rebellion he came to lead. Riel may not be a household name outside of Canada, but his revolutionary spirit and troubled mental state would undoubtedly be cinematic gold in the proper hands. 

2. Shortcomings
by Alison Stevenson

Shortcomings has a pretty strong "indie romantic comedy" vibe and it also touches a lot of issues concerning assimilation, ethnic self-hatred (I thought only us Jews did that, but I guess I was wrong), and tension between cultures.

It's hard to find romance movies that are not just about love, but are also smart and thought provoking. Shortcomings could definitely be that film.

1. Black Hole

Alison Stevenson: Horny suburban teens living in mid-'70s Seattle start contracting an STD that turns them into mutants. That's pretty cool. This film could be like Dazed and Confused meets The Elephant Man. If it's done right, the awesome tails, horns, bubbling skin and other deformities Charles Burns illustrates can be brought to life. I'm surprised we haven't had a Black Hole movie yet. Its been in talks for years, the screenplay has been written, and at one point David Fincher was attached to direct it but for some reason it just hasn't got the green light. 

Nick Hanover: There have been rumblings for some time that Charles Burns' phenomenal, defining work Black Hole would be coming to a screen of one sort or another. Briefly attached to figures like Fincher and Alexandre Aja, with a script penned by none other than Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary, Black Hole is quite possibly the most star-studded bit of comic book movie vaporware that ever was.

Black Hole may not seem like the kind of work that would attract someone like Fincher, but the work is also an exploration of the alienation of adolescence, a universal theme that's as appealing to those living through that experience as to those who have survived it. Burns' stunning linework may not be replicable in film but the artists' keen use of sexualized symbols and expert framing is exactly the kind of thing the best cinematographers aim for and its split focus on a seemingly disconnected group of characters is especially cinematic. 

Danny Djeljosevic: If Gaiman and Avary's last collabo was any indication, Black Hole will come out around 2018 as an underrated (but pretty great) mo-capped 3D extravaganza directed by Robert Zemeckis.

Here's a (NSFW, duh) short film version of Black Hole by Rupert Sanders. It has its moments.

Danny Djeljosevic is a comic book creator, award-winning filmmaker (assuming you have absolutely no follow-up questions), film/music critic for Spectrum Culture and Co-Managing Editor of Comics Bulletin. Follow him on Twitter at @djeljosevic or find him somewhere in San Diego, often wearing a hat. Read his newest comic, "Sgt. Death and his Metachromatic Men," over at Champion City Comics.

When he's not writing about the cape and spandex set, Nick Hanover is a book, film and music critic for Spectrum Culture and a staff writer for No Tofu Magazine. He also translates for "Partytime" Lukash's Panel Panopticon.

Alison Stevenson lives in Oakland, CA, where she is pursuing stand up comedy around the Bay Area and writing. She does not have a website yet, but recommends that anyone who wants to speak with her, attend one of her comedy events or talk about comic books to email her at

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