Martin Scorsese famously said he doesn’t consider Marvel movies cinema. However, there are some comic books out there that would be perfect for the director to turn into a movie.
In fairness to Scorsese, he explained in a New York Times opinion piece back in 2019 that his true grudge against Marvel movies had to do with “the gradual but steady elimination of risk” in movies in general, rather than the source material medium on which Marvel films are based.
That is to say, it’s not necessarily comic books themselves that Scorsese has taken issue with, but the manufactured dominance of franchise movies in general. In all likelihood, this criticism would probably extend to box office behemoths that were torn apart by critics, like this year’s Jurassic World Dominion and 2019’s Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker. As Scorsese elaborated,
“They are sequels in name but they are remakes in spirit, and everything in them is officially sanctioned because it can’t really be any other way. That’s the nature of modern film franchises: market-researched, audience-tested, vetted, modified, revetted and remodified until they’re ready for consumption.”
In truth, Scorsese has frequently adapted books — both fiction and nonfiction — into films. This has included Gangs of New York, Goodfellas, Age of Innocence, Raging Bull, Silence, The Irishman and Shutter Island. In fact, 2010’s Hugo, also directed by Scorsese, was actually based on a children’s novel that heavily incorporated pictures into its story, Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Although the book isn’t quite a straight-up graphic novel, it certainly incorporates elements of that medium, in addition to the written word and a traditional picture book.
All of this is to say that Scorsese could be a prime candidate to adapt a comic book to the screen if he really wanted to. We would frankly love to see him attempt such a feat, maybe even some with superheroes in them. There are plenty of comic books that take narrative risks and might make for a perfect fit for Scorsese’s style. Let’s count down our top five candidates.
Even though Scorsese has specifically called out superhero movies for not taking enough risks, that doesn’t mean there are no comic books about superheroes that have new and inventive stories to tell. That’s exactly what we get with Kraven’s Last Hunt, the comic book storyline by J.M. DeMatteis and Mike Zeck that ran in the late 1980s and was later bound into a stand-alone collection that can serve as a self-contained graphic novel.
The story heavily incorporates the poetry of William Blake and centers around Kraven the Hunter’s obsession with Spider-Man, to the point that he buries Peter Parker alive and assumes the role of Spider-Man in his place. A dark, tragic, and hallucinatory tale, Kraven’s Last Hunt strays far from the typical superhero formula that may serve as the perfect story to disrupt conventions in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and/or Sony’s Spider-Man Universe.
A forthcoming Kraven the Hunter film from Sony is expected to hit theaters next year, directed by J.C. Chandor and starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson as the titular villain. We could imagine the attention-grabbing news of Scorsese helming a follow-up in an adaption of Kraven’s Last Hunt as one of the more unlikely headlines to come out of the world of comic book movies. However, the psychological and gothic tale would not be outside of Scorsese’s wheelhouse, since he tackled similar themes in 2010’s Shutter Island.
A murder mystery that reimagines Batman in the 19th century as he tracks notorious serial killer Jack the Ripper? Not only is that the plot of Gotham by Gaslight, but it might also make the perfect vehicle for Scorsese to break into the comic book and superhero movie genre. Far from being the usual spectacle, Gotham by Gaslight is certainly a story that takes risks, owing to its standalone universe — created by Brian Augustyn, Mike Mignola, and P. Craig Russell — that turns the traditional Batman formula on its head. There’s even more untapped potential in the world due to the existence of a follow-up comic book by the same creators, Batman: Master of the Future.
Even though there’s already been a Gotham by Gaslight animated movie, we still think Scorsese might just be the perfect director to helm a live-action adaptation, since he’s quite experienced in creating brutally violent crime stories, like Goodfellas and Casino, as well as period pieces along the same lines, like Gangs of New York.
Black Hole by Charles Burns revolves around a group of teens in Seattle who are affected by a fictional sexually transmitted disease that causes them to take on grotesque and unique mutations. Serving as a metaphor for adolescent alienation, it is a story that has been begging to be adapted into a movie for years. For a while there, David Fincher was attached to a movie project based on the acclaimed graphic novel, but he has since stepped away.
Variety reported back in 2018 that Dope director Rick Famuyiwa had been attached to a Black Hole movie. We would love for Famuyiwa to helm the project as well, but since that news is now almost five years old, with no further updates since then, we think it’s entirely possible that it may have fallen through, too. If it did, why not consider Scorsese as a candidate to direct a Black Hole movie?
Scorsese has certainly made movies about disaffected youth, particularly in his early work like Who’s That Knocking at My Door, Boxcar Bertha, and Mean Streets. And he’s also dabbled in the noir and gothic themes present in Black Hole. However, should Scorsese choose to helm Black Hole, it could mark a late-career artistic risk — something he loves to champion — by delving into the surreal, a genre that Scorsese has rarely tapped into, other than some of the dream-like moments in Shutter Island and the absurdist comedy After Hours. A Scorsese riff on a genre normally dominated by David Lynch? Now that’s a reason to buy a movie ticket.
If there’s one thing Scorsese is known for, it’s being a master of crime drama. That is why he might just be the perfect director to adapt Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso’s 100 Bullets. Although the comic book series later expanded its universe to include an interconnected plot with a John Wick-like secret society underlying it, the Vertigo title initially started out as a series of self-contained episodic tales working in the wheelhouse of the noir genre, something Scorsese is heavily experienced with, such as his film Goodfellas. It may be best for Scorsese to hypothetically focus on one of these stand-alone tales, rather than the larger lore of the series. What’s more, 100 Bullets is a series that focuses on revenge, a major theme in Scorsese’s film Gangs of New York. Famous Authors summarized the plot of 100 Bullets in a way that makes us wish for a Scorsese adaptation sooner rather than later:
“The story involves a mysterious agent, Agent Graves, who approaches an innocent man who has become a victim of a misunderstanding and something terribly wrong. He is given the chance to take revenge with no account of his criminal act and give[n] a hundred bullets. It is up to him to decide what should be the right thing to do. In fact it targets all on mankind and what their instincts would be if given a situation and opportunity to act on the desire of violent revenge.”
Perhaps this is just the type of tale ripe for Scorsese to re-team with The Departed star Mark Wahlberg since the Uncharted actor remarked in an interview with Total Film (via GameSpot) that the only way he would participate in starring in a comic book movie himself is if Scorsese directed one.
Paul Auster’s City of Glass: The Graphic Novel by Paul Karasik and David Mazzucchelli is based on Auster’s post-modern novel of the same name. The neo-noir story shares a lot of characteristics with Scorsese’s previous work: It takes place in New York City and follows the main character who is apparently on the verge of madness, not unlike the plot of Taxi Driver or Bringing Out the Dead.
However, City of Glass is no retread of Travis Bickle’s descent into violent vigilantism. Instead, the story follows a pulp novelist named Daniel Quinn as he is thrust into a tale of intrigue when he receives a phone call that was meant for a private detective by mistake. Rather than dismissing the phone call, he pretends to be the private detective that was requested — who happens to be named Paul Auster — and meets up with the client in question. What follows is an existential journey that strikes at the heart of the nature of language, authorship, and identity that ruffles the unaddressed grief caused by the loss of Quinn’s son in the past. By the end of the story, we’re not sure what was real and what was merely the machinations of Quinn’s imagination, perhaps getting lost in the plot of one of his own novel ideas, due to his overwhelming loneliness. Either way, the story has nevertheless transformed how we see the world, and Scorsese might just be the perfect person to bring the story to the screen.
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