When comic book readers see their favorite title making the leap to a new medium, the comics’ creators can become executive producers, consultants, or play other roles in the adaptation process. Each deal is different, and how much comic creators are involved varies with each project. For Black Hammer co-creators Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston's recent Legendary Entertainment deal, expect the adaptation of their Dark Horse Comics superhero deconstruction to be handled with great care.
“TV/film development was something I was becoming more involved in, but I decided with Black Hammer, because it’s so personal and near and dear to my heart, if I was ever going to option and develop it, I had to be intimately involved," Lemire tells SYFY WIRE exclusively. "As far as that adaptation, I do have to be the one that is creatively steering that ship, like the comic."
The ink is still drying on the deal but Lemire said that he will take on each new challenge, and make decisions, as they come. Both Lemire and Ormston will co-executive-produce. Lemire's first task? “I’m the one that’s writing the pilot for the initial project and that’s my focus now.”
The pilot will be based on the Eisner Award-winning Black Hammer storyline that follows a superhero team’s fall from grace and finds itself stuck in the confines of rural Spiral City. Black Hammer spinoff titles such as Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil, Doctor Star and the Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows, Age of Doom, The Quantum Age, and the upcoming Cthu-Louise one-shot are also on the table. Details are scant on the specifics of the deal, the rollout plan, and how closely it will relate to the comics, though Lemire did say, “The idea is that it’s multiple projects — some film, some TV, and a sort of shared universe.”
Lemire considers the Legendary deal more like a partnership, as they’ve been supportive of him taking the creative lead on the adaptation. It’s a role that he’s earned, after bouncing back and forth between writing work-for-hire projects and his creator-owned comics.
“I reached a point in my life and career a year or two ago where Black Hammer, Gideon Falls, and Descender and other creator-owned books like Plutona were now my focus and not so much work-for-hire stuff. I felt more control of what I was doing creatively, and satisfied with that... It’s awesome once you get there, when you achieve something, but you look for the next challenge too. Film and television certainly started to be more intriguing to me over the last couple of years.”
The landscape of comics being adapted to television and/or film continues to swell, as more fringe superhero stories and non-superhero comics are being developed. Just take the Dark Horse Comics properties on the development slate: Harrow County (SYFY), The Umbrella Academy (Netflix), Briggs Land (AMC), as well as unattached MIND MGMT, The Fifth Beatle, and Sin City.
At his last count, Lemire has 10 of his books in various stages of development including Descender, A.D.: After Death, Plutona, The Underwater Welder, Gideon Falls, Essex County, and Sweet Tooth. Hollywood wants to go beyond Marvel and DC properties, and Lemire believes that it’s mimicking the habits of longtime comic readers who after awhile are searching for something new and something different.
“It’s been a decade since Marvel started their universe and we’ve kind of seen all the big superhero stuff done really well, and I think Hollywood and audiences are starting to look for something different. So I do think it’s time to start adapting things that aren’t superheroes per se, even though Black Hammer is superheroes, but is the anti-superhero book in a lot of ways.”
Audiences, he added, "are ready to take the next leap in seeing different kinds of comics adapted."
As Lemire wears more hats, he’ll have to decide what he has time for, but knows that expanding Black Hammer and other comics remains his passion. But he's taking things one step at a time.
“It’s scary but it’s also exciting to try and take these all of characters that I love and built over the last decade and try to work them in a new medium and storytelling style," he says. "It’s a new challenge for me, but it’s fun!”