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If anyone tells you that comic books are just for kids then you can be sure that that person doesn’t actually read comic books. Even in the typically-child friendly world of superheroes there are plenty of books filled with sex, violence, profanity and other material meant to appeal to adults and adults alone. Writers and artists even occasionally take what are typically considered family-friendly characters, and make them better by giving them more edge and loosening restrictions on how they think, what they do, and how they speak.
Unfortunately, Hollywood has never been too supportive of the R-rated superheroes. While studios have tried to make it happen, producing films like Watchmen, Kick-Ass and Punisher: War Zone, for the most part if a comic book hero can’t fit into a PG-13 rating they are either ignored or changed to the detriment of the character.
But what if studios were to change their mind about these heroes? Where would be the best place for them to start looking for great characters and stories? With Kick-Ass 2 due out in theaters this weekend, I’ve dived into the world of comics to find the characters who not only would be served well by an R-rated live-action movie, but have actually come at least somewhat close to getting one. Check it out!
What’s the best way to describe Wolverine? He’s a mutant with six knives built into his hands, extreme rage issues, and the ability to take a seemingly endless number of bloody beatings and survive. Basically, he was born to exist in an R-rated movie. The best parts of James Mangold’s The Wolverine were the action scenes simply because they actually translated the intensity and animalistic brutality of the superhero, but the truth is that it can be taken further. At the end of the day the truth is that I would actually like to see 20th Century Fox move on from Wolverine and find a different member of the X-Men be the center of attention for a while, but if they insist on keeping Logan in the spotlight they should at least get a little experimental and show what really happens when adamantium punctures through human skin.
Let’s start by saying what we already know: the first and only live-action version of Deadpool that we’ve seen was absolutely horrendous. X-Men Origins: Wolverine stripped away everything that comic book fans love about the character, and the PG-13 rating certainly didn’t help (not a single drop of blood on his swords after cutting down a room full of guys? Really?). In the comics Deadpool is as psychopathic and violent as they come, and that just can’t come across unless a studio is willing to all but completely cut off audiences under the age of 17. The real tragedy in this case is that 20th Century Fox has been holding on to an R-rated script for years now and just haven’t had the guts to pull the trigger on the project. Screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick have said that their future of their film could end up being linked to the box office fate of this weekend’s Kick-Ass 2, so we’ll have to see where that leads.
Like Wolverine and Deadpool, Spawn has had his chance in a live-action movie before, but the problem is that it came back in 1997 before studios realized that some superhero movies actually need a budget to be any good. The movie may have looked good when it was first released, but time has not been very kind to it (in fact, it looks like it’s been beaten with an ugly stick). I’ve pitched the idea of a reboot before, but to take it a step further what they really need to do is make a hard-R version of Spawn. After all, the title character is an anti-hero assassin who is killed, sent to hell, sells his soul to see his wife again and comes back as a violent vigilante. Make it sit on the border of horror and action, find a director who can harness awesome visual effects without overshadowing the story, and you have the makings of a pretty badass comic book movie.
Of the entries on this list, Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson’s The Boys is probably the most obscure, but that doesn’t mean it deserves any less attention. The story is set in a world where superheroes exist and have been corrupted by celebrity status, leaving the CIA to hire a group of powered individuals to help maintain order. And in addition to having a cool story and a lot of great characters, boy is it insane and over the top (arguably even more so than Ennis’ controversial Preacher books). There actually has been some real-life forward motion on an adaptation, with Anchorman director Adam McKay attached to direct, but sadly it’s been a good long while since we heard anything about it. Hopefully one day somebody will get the balls to fully finance it and let Simon Pegg fulfill his destiny playing Wee Hughie. After all, it’s not like obscurity has really been a problem for comic book movies of late. If Marvel Studios can pump a huge budget in the sci-fi epic that is James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy then we should be able to see an R-rated, live-action version of The Boys.
We’ve discussed clawed mutants, psychotic mercenaries, hellspawn and wacked-out superheroes, but let’s close out by talking a bit about motorcycle-riding alien bounty hunters. A part of the same 90s muscles and guns culture in comics that Spawn was a part of back in the early 90s, Lobo is a rather ridiculous, wacky, incredibly entertaining character that would be fascinating to see come to life on the big screen – albeit only in the right way. The character is all about excess, be it in terms of drinking or extreme violence, and a movie that downgrades the character to a PG-13 rating just wouldn’t be worth it. Sadly, any current plans for a Lobo movie currently rest six feet underground, as while there was a movie in the works with Dwayne Johnson starring and Brad Peyton directing, The Rock has confirmed that the whole thing fell apart. Here’s hoping the folks over at Warner Bros. and DC Comics are still trying to come up with a way to do it, and if they do hopefully they do it right.