18 comic book movies in development you might not know about

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Apr 25, 2017

Earlier this month, it was announced that Invincible, Robert Kirkman's seminal superhero series with artist Cory Walker, is coming to the big screen. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are writing, directing and producing the adaptation, having seen success bringing Preacher to the small screen for AMC.

But that's far from the only creator-owned title, from Image Comics or otherwise, that's currently in development for the big screen. Some are farther along than others, some are more likely to actually make it than others, but these are the eighteen (yes, 18!) other comic book movies in various stages of development from Image, Valiant and BOOM! Studios.

Rising Stars (J. Michael Straczynski and Various Artists, Top Cow/Image)

Rising Stars is a new take on "what if people started emerging with superpowers in the real world" from the writer known to most as simply JMS. Written from 1999 to 2005, the series spanned 20 years and was used to comment on humanity's inability to change their base instincts, even in the face of the impossible.

Optioned a couple of times, it was most recently optioned by MGM last June, who has commissioned a script from JMS himself (he's written several TV and film scripts, including Sense8, Thor, and World War Z, as well as creating Babylon 5). Hopefully we'll get an update later this year.

Spawn (Todd McFarlane, Image)

Todd McFarlane announced intentions to reboot his Spawn character in film a couple of years ago, speaking to this reporter at Toy Fair in New York. At that time, he had nearly finished his first draft of the screenplay. Spawn, short for 'Hellspawn,' is a character empowered by Hell to bring sinners to the firey confines (that's a simplification, but the basics).

McFarlane is seeking a modest budget and the ability to direct the film himself. The screenplay, and his plan, is very different from the formulaic superhero film from 1997. Instead, the creator wants it to be a horror film with a hard R rating, where Spawn is rarely – if ever – actually seen on screen. It's a bold take that would focus on a group of people and their fear of this spectral creature rather than presenting him as some dark supernatural superhero. No timetable or studio just yet.

Chew (John Layman and Rob Guillory, Image) UPDATED

UPDATE: As mentioned in the comments, unfortunately the Chew animation is no longer moving forward! Co-creator Rob Guillory made the official announcement between the writing and posting of this article, just a few days ago with Inverse. He mentioned that the voiceover had been recorded by all three principals, but it's not coming out. However, there is a live-action TV show that is still in early stages of development and could move forward.

"The animated feature is not happening. The internet is bad with rumors, we had to go on social media and put it out there that it isn’t happening. We recorded Felicia Day, we had Steven Yeun as well as David Tennant. They all recorded and we were moving forward, and it just didn’t happen because Hollywood can be weird sometimes. But the animated feature is completely dead. We do have some movement on the live-action show, though."

ORIGINAL: Tony Chu is a Cibopath, a specific type of tactile telepath that can see the past of things and people by touch – but in this case, it can't just be holding it in their hands; instead, Cibopaths have to eat it. Got a murder victim? Well, a bite of their tongue or finger might solve the crime. That's one dedicated detective.

This one is unique and is going to animation. Jeff Krlitz is producing and directing with a screenplay by John Layman. Steven Yeun of The Walking Dead is set to voice Tony, with Felicia Day voicing Amelia Mintz, his love interest, and David Tennant as Tony's partner Mason Savoy. No release has been given, though it was reported that Yeun and Day had already recorded their voiceover work as early as mid-2015.

Starlight (Mark Millar & Goran Parlov, Image)

And this begins the extensive Mark Millar portion of this list – the guy is a content and IP machine and has several films currently in various stages of development (most notably Kingsman 2, but you know about that one already!). Starlight is a series about a long-retired space hero (think about the old pulp comics) who's called back into action by an alien population. It’s basically Old Man Flash Gordon, if you want an elevator pitch.

Gary Whitta, who was the first credited story writer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, wrote the screenplay (you'll see his name on this list again, too). However, we haven't gotten much of an update since May 2015 ... possibly due to the next title on this list, which was the other project Millar was trying to get onto the fast track at the time ...

Chrononauts (Mark Millar & Sean Gordon Murphy, Image)

Chrononauts, a time-traveling buddy adventure comedy, has been in development with Universal Pictures (one of the rare non-Fox projects for Millar) for a few years now, but just this month a screenwriter, Philip Gawthorne, was officially attached to the project. As for the buddies of the buddy comedy? Well, Millar originally developed the idea with a pair of Chrises, Hemsworth and Pratt, in mind for the leads. That may be a bit more difficult than it would've been even three or four years ago, but who knows, maybe after Infinity War the pair will be dying for a fun project together.

Empress (Mark Millar & Stuart Immonen, Icon)

Another Flash Gordon-inspired series – look, Millar's a fan of the old scifi serials, okay? – Empress is about the wife of an intergalactic dictator who takes her kids and leaves ... and he doesn’t take kindly to that, of course. F. Scott Frazier is writing the script, Joe Roth and Jeff Kirschenbaum are producing and Millar calls it "the most ambitious story I've ever come up with in terms of pure concept."

Huck (Mark Millar & Rafael Albuquerque, Image) (and other Millar projects)

Studio 8 optioned Huck just before the first issue came out, and it's essentially the anti-Man of Steel as it focuses on a superhero that more purely embodies the idea of hope in a rated-PG Capra-style film. This is one of several projects that's not gone much farther than being attached to a studio, though Millar would love for Channing Tatum to play the title role.

Millar also has Nemesis, Supercrooks, American Jesus and Superior all optioned out at the moment. We told you the guy was busy.

Harbinger (Valiant Comics)

Harbinger will be the first film adaptation from Valiant Entertainment, which saw its resurgence after a reboot a few years ago (following the company and characters being acquired by mastermind – and consummate fan – Dinesh Shamdasani). The film will center on Peter Stanchek, whose massive powers unlock within himself – and can also unlock powers in others, making him an instant target. Eric Heisserer (Arrival) wrote the first draft of the screenplay, which Sony hopes to fast track for a 2018 release; that would put the film's release near-simultaneous with the comic book release of Harbinger Wars 2 (more on that in a moment). Neal Moritz (the Fast and Furious franchise) is producing and writers Justin Tipping and Joshua Beirne-Golden were recently hired for another pass at the screenplay.

Bloodshot (Valiant Comics)

The other half of the Sony/Valiant equation is Bloodshot, which just got a director last month in the form of Dave Wilson. Wilson is part of the Blur Studio group, whose photo-realistic CGI trailers for video games and work with Marvel Studios has been long-praised. Tim Miller, Wilson's partner at Blur, directed the first Deadpool film, and the studio cut together the test footage that made that film even happen.

Bloodshot is a super-soldier with nanite-infused blood that gives him near instantaneous regenerative abilities and the ability to link up with most tech. He's been both a hero and villain as he continues to search for answers about his past. The character will come to digital screens first as part of the web series Ninjak vs. the Valiant Universe, where he'll be played by Jason David Frank of Power Rangers fame.

Harbinger Wars (Valiant Comics)

Told you we'd get back to this! After two Harbinger films and two Bloodshot films (slightly following the Marvel Studios formula here), Valiant and Sony will clash the two together for Harbinger Wars. The story slams together Toyo Harada’s Harbinger Foundation and the government's Project Rising Spirit (who created Bloodshot) in an all-out battle of superpowers that brings down the world around them in a major way. A comic book sequel to the storyline is coming in 2018.

X-O Manowar (Valiant Comics)

This one isn't part of the above Sony deal (though it could wind up there) but does have something important that makes it worth mentioning: Directors, and yes, that's plural. While the exact directors haven't leaked just yet, it is worth noting that the Russo Brothers, they of the Captain America and Avengers films, are already working with Valiant on producing a Quantum & Woody TV series. Could that relationship also mean they're on X-O? Time will tell. Valiant also has Shadowman and Archer & Armstrong in early development. They're working to bring their characters to the big screen as fast as possible while also working on small-screen and even digital adaptations.

Mouse Guard (David Petersen, BOOM! Studios Archaia)

The high concept of this is easy: Medieval warrior mice. This movie is being brought to virtual life by Gary Whitta (see, we mentioned him again!) screenwriting and Matt Reeves producing (he doesn't plan to direct). The film, for 20th Century Fox, will reportedly be done in the style of The Jungle Book, made in CG but in a photo-realistic style.

Irredeemable (Mark Waid & Peter Krause, BOOM! Studios)

BOOM! Is currently located on the Fox lot and has a first-look deal with the company, so expect lots of team-ups between the two to round out this list. The next is Irredeemable, a series about a superman-style character who got sick of saving the day and decided to take over the world instead. This character, the Plutonian, is then pitted against his friends in The Paradigm – who team-up with Plutonian's arch-villain to take him down. Yes, it's as awesome as it sounds.

The news gets better, though, as Tommy Wirkola is writing the script, and Adam McKay, who co-wrote Ant-Man, is tapped to direct.

The Empty Man (Cullen Bunn & Vanesa R. Del Rey, BOOM! Studios)

This is one of the fastest-moving films on this list as it was announced as optioned by Fox last February and already has lead actors attached. The series is about an outbreak of the 'Empty Man' disease, which causes hallucinations, rage and suicidal dementia that ends exclusively in either death or a catatonic state. David Prior is writing and directing the movie with stars Aaron Poole and James Badge Dale. It's projected for a 2018 release.

Tag (Keith Giffen & Kody Chamberlain, BOOM! Studios)

Another horror tale from BOOM!, Tag takes the childhood game to a very dark level as a man comes home after being 'tagged' by a stranger and finds his body decomposing. He then must either discover the source of the curse or pass it along to someone else, damning them to death. Director John Leonetti is attached with Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski writing the script. The last major update was late last summer.

Imagine Agents (Brian Joines & Bachan, BOOM! Studios)

The story of imaginary friends who police other rogue imaginary friends has been in development for a couple of years but hasn't had an update since it was officially announced in June 2015 that Michael Keaton would both produce and star in the film. With his role in Spider-Man: Homecoming, Keaton may have put this on the back-burner, but hopefully the fun comic will make its way to the big screen eventually. It's easy to… imagine it being a success.

Lumberjanes (Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, Noelle Stevenson, Brook Allen (BOOM! Box)

Announced around two years ago with Will Widger writing the screenplay, Lumberjanes, a fan-favorite all-ages adventure comic, got a director last fall in Emily Carmichael, who most recently wrote Pacific Rim 2 and was writer/director of Powerhouse. The comic follows five girls attending the Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's Camp for Hardcore Lady Types and investigating supernatural craziness. It is awesome.

Malignant Man (James Wan, Michael Alan Nelson & Piotor Kowalski, BOOM!)

Film writer and director James Wan is currently busy in principal photography as the director of Aquaman but he also wrote a comic that he's bringing to the big screen as a producer. Malignant Man follows a man with terminal cancer who discovers his tumor is actually an alien parasite, which he uses to become a superhero. Talk about making lemonade, eh? Zak Olkewicz has already turned in the screenplay and Brad Peyton (San Andreas, Rampage) signed on to direct the film last year.

Due to the nature of their first-look agreement, BOOM! has other films in very early stages, as well as a few TV series.