Comic book culture tends to be hard for average Joes to just break into. When one takes into consideration how many different retconned storylines interweave with the established lore and background of every hero and villain, it's no wonder that becoming a true comic book aficionado is an investment, rather than simply a reward. The fan devotion to certain brands forms an barrier that can be a little intimidating, and even off-putting, to those of us unfamiliar with that particular subculture.
To be an avid fan, comic book lovers are sometimes necessitated to remember a huge library of past and current characters. Comic book heroes and villains come and go, as certain ones resonate well with fans, while others don't. Those fan favorites tend to stick around for a little while, and the ones that don't fare so well tend to meet an untimely demise or are gently faded away into obscurity. Some of them are genuinely bad characters (for example, one villain named 'Tyrannosaurus Reich' which is exactly what it sounds like) while others are actually creative and innovative ideas that just don't 'click' at the time of their inception.
Still, records of these comic book characters exist, and with Hollywood always groping for new material, we think there's still a chance to give some of these forgotten characters a spotlight. Some have already been party to a Hollywood version that's just never quite taken off. So here's some Comic Book characters you may have never even heard of, as well as our advice on how to do them silver-screen justice.
Occult superhero, famed sorcerer, chain smoker, womanizer (and man-izer too) and middleman between heaven and hell, John Constantine is a DC antihero that most non-comic readers hadn't even heard of until the movie 'Constantine.'
Constantine is an occult detective, investing everything from werewolves and vampires to angels and demons. Unfortunately, his family's acute connection and affinity with the arcane has left most of his close relatives dead, and makes Constantine a hard man to get close to as everything that he touches, seems to die or fade away. Though Reeves did do aspects of the character justice, the movie skirted around the tragic hero's past and instead focused on the war between heaven and hell.
John Constantine, while possessing a true talent for sorcery, prefers to use cunning and trickery to free himself from peril. As a result, his character is sarcastic, cynical and purposely detached from those around him.
Judge Dredd is from the popular British franchise '2000 AD' (which is a little dated now, since its' inception in 1977.) In the dystopian setting of a corrupt, and dangerous metropolitan area known as 'Mega City One' Joseph Dredd is a 'Street Judge' - a city official that is given the power of judge, jury and, if need be, executioner. It is the job of Street Judges to keep the dirty streets of Mega City One a little cleaner than the way they found them.
Dredd, like all Street Judges, is artificially grown from the DNA of the first Judges. He has the entire legal codex implanted into his brain, and is outfitted with high tech weaponry and a sentient motorcycle toting heavy machine guns.
Dredd, and Street Judges like him, were meant to both represent the law in its' purest form; both as an unflinching dispenser of justice, and heartlessly detached and antiquated. The paradox is interesting - that Dredd is forced to act only on the word of the law, and not necessarily the 'spirit' of it. The artists have, over the years, taken many opportunities to use Dredd's devotion to the legal system as satire and critiques of the American judicial and legislative process.
Rune isn't a very well known comic book character, even to avid readers. But, he does capture two things that Hollywood seems perpetually obsessed with: vampires and aliens. We wouldn't be surprised if, despite his relatively arcane status, this qualifies him for a movie appearance at some point in time.
Rune was just your average alien at one point, until discovering a set of artifacts known as the Star Stones, which made him immortal, more or less. The problem with immortality, is that it rarely comes free of baggage - and Rune was cursed with a monstrous new form and a thirst for flesh and blood. Rune has made appearances on Earth throughout the many millenia he has lived, and has been worshiped as both an angel and a demon.
Rune can survive decapitations, gunshot wounds, has powers of flight, teleportation, superhuman speed and strength, and clairvoyance. However, he is not necessarily immune to ailments of the body, as he has been diagnosed with cancer after exposing himself to radiation during an atomic bomb test in 1952.
If you're thinking that Black Panther has anything at all to do with Malcolm X and the 'black power' movement, you'd be mostly wrong. Black Panther predates the political 'Black Panther' movement, but he is the first mainstream African Superhero to be featured in Marvel Comics.
As the King, or 'Panther' or the fictitious African nation of Wakanda, Black Panther is charged not only with his duties as a superhero, but also as a politician. T'Challa, as he is known in Wakanda, took part in a number of heroic activities inside Wakanda, and in other countries. For one, to prove that he was worthy of the hereditary title of Black Panther, he disbanded the Wakandan secret police, which tormented his citizens. He defeated the archvillain Ulysses Klaw, and placated the numerous Wakandan tribes.
He later joined the Avengers, went to the US to confront Ku Klux Klan members, and battle Apartheid forces in South Africa. He also married his childhood sweetheart, Ororo Munroe, AKA Storm of the X-Men. Not bad. Not bad at all.
Street & Smith
"The Shadow knows" is a phrase some people may be familiar with. The Shadow was a serialized comic made from a number of pulp-fiction comics and radio broadcast shows in the 1930s. He's described as wearing a long cape, wide brimmed black fedora, red neck scarf pulled up to his nose, and a a black suit. His weapons of choice are two hand guns and his inherent psychic abilities.
Though the 'super hero' genre didn't properly exist in the early 30s, (the first Superman cartoon didn't debut till '38) the idea was certainly there in it's infancy, and it wasn't too much different from our idea of that genre today. The Shadow was a vigilante who was always one step ahead of the criminals thanks to his acute psychic ability. He had considerable resources at his disposal, as the character, despite many different incarnations, was always a rich, white male. Unsurprisingly, the Shadow would go on to greatly influence future comic book characters that would be titled 'Superheros' such as Batman and the Black Panther, who ascended to vigilante status through wealth and power.
The Shadow, like Constantine, had some time on the silver screen, where the Shadow was portrayed by Alec Baldwin. While Baldwin did the character justice, we think the Noir setting may be better realized with today's advanced film techniques, CG and high resolution technologies.
Rai is the spirit protector of 41st century Japan. 2000 years from now, Japan is covered by a massive robotic machine, known only as 'The Host.' Rai is the hereditary defender of the Host - the lone white blood cell in the Host's massive body. Rai, and his predecessors were created by the Host's artificial intelligence, lovingly referred to as 'Grandmother' and is a trans-human defender who can produce weapons from his body.
Rai, meaning 'spirit' in Japanese, is actually, as noted, a position. The mantle of Rai is typically passed from father to son, and the process of becoming Rai is something of an endeavor. It involves being injected with nanorobots to augment the physical capabilities of the body, and advanced training in martial arts, typically with swords.
Rai is seen both as a deity, and as a personification of the national identity of Japan. He is rarely seen, and rarely called upon, since those living in the Host live in a Utopia. As one might assume, not all is well in this gilded paradise, and Rai emerges to quell the violence and malcontents.
The hero of the Crow, as we see in the 1994 movie, is not actually the true star of this comic series. The man is a symbiote of the real power: the supernatural bird that brings life back to those who have been murdered.
As you might suspect, a comic just following around a magical crow probably isn't the kind of enticement that comic book fans are looking for. The Crow, appearing like a normal bird to most people, actually has the ability to resurrect and empower people who have been unjustly killed. The Crow becomes their link between the physical world and the afterlife, being able to communicate with its' chosen individuals known as 'Reborn.'
The Crow achieved a critical success in Hollywood, but is forgotten and overlooked by many fans of mainstream comics like Superman, X-Men and Batman. The Crow is just as worthy of praise as any of the big-budget DC or Marvel comics, and offers a deep and riveting set of stories, even if they tend to be considerably more brief than their more popular compatriots.
Never has the good guy looked so evil. Spawn was once a C.I.A. assassin named Al Simmons. Al was the best at what he did, and quickly climbed the government ladder from the guy doing the wetwork, to the guy in charge of the wetwork. Unfortunately, this exposed him to some thing he wasn't meant to see and didn't agree with. His own government had him killed by the hand of his friend and long time partner.
Al burned in Hell for taking so many innocent lives during his time as an assassin. He made a deal with the demon Malebolgia to see his wife and child once again, but as so often happens with bets with demons, the deal was not as advantageous as Al would have liked. He came back 5 years later, turned into a Hellspawn, only to see his wife married to another man.
Spawn is driven by a lot of things. He holds resentment for the demon lord Malebolgia, but is shunned by heaven. He falls in the middle of the heaven and hell conflict, where he has enemies on both sides. Spawn isn't strictly an anti-hero, but he's certainly not your typical hero either. Most would agree that despite his grisly appearance, Spawn typically preserves human life where he can, and does tend to err on the side of good.
New England Comics
Fans of the once-famous Fox cartoon show would probably love to see a proper 'The Tick' movie done. Of course there was that one time 'The Tick' got made into a live action TV series, which was funny and all, but it didn't have the look or feel of the comics or even the animated cartoon (which saw moderate success and ran three seasons.)
The Tick is either an alien with superpowers, or an incredibly strong insane asylum escapee (or both) that dresses in a tight blue suit and unwittingly confronts evil. He is blissfully unaware in everyday situations at any given moment, and despite his seeming invincibility and impunity towards bullets or being battered, he's only kept together by his friend and sidekick, Arthur.
Despite him being completely brain dead, he has an uncanny sense for crime fighting and has enlisted the help of several 'superhero' friends - namely American Maid, Sewer Urchin and Die Fledermaus. The Tick is formidable in fights, and would probably be a serious force to be reckoned with, if he could just organize all the scatterbrained thoughts inside that relatively small skull of his.
Dark Horse Comics
Some of you may recall the 1991 film 'The Rocketeer' which featured cool 1930s and 1940s clothing, and a man with a jetpack and a really cool helmet. The movie faded into nothingness after performing poorly at the box office despite favorable reviews.
The Rocketeer, much like the Shadow, is based off a series of pulp matinee fiction from th 30s and 40s, but was first published in the early 80s. It features Cliff Secord, who happens upon an experimental, Pre WWII jetpack. While the original comics weren't fully featured in books of their own, Dark Horse comics has resurrected the series, and slapped a shiny new coat of paint on it, giving it a more streamlined, sexy art-deco styling.
Maybe it's time to search the basement for that dusty old VHS of Disney's "The Rocketeer" and take another look at this forgotten gem.