Well, well, well. X-Men Origins: Wolverine is finally, officially in theaters. At the risk of sounding like a shill for Fox, might we suggest you go out and see it and actually pay for a ticket?
But we’re not here to proselytize against movie piracy. We’re here to talk about one thing: kickass X-Men source material ready for cinematic adaptation. Before getting into the main focus of this feature, whet your appetite with a glance at some of the major comic book stories that directly influenced X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
Quite a lot to go off of, eh? Well, some of you already know that almost all the X-Men flicks have used comic book back issues as source material. Brett Ratner’s X-Men: The Last Stand borrowed from the famed "Dark Phoenix Saga," and the "Gifted" story arc from Whedon and Cassaday’s Astonishing X-Men run. And Bryan Singer’s X2: X-Men United was a companion piece to Claremont & Anderson’s "God Loves, Man Kills" 1982 standalone graphic novel.
We think X-Men Origins: Wolverine will help make the case that the X-Universe has tons of untapped stories ripe for big screen translation, whether as a virtual shot-for-shot remake, or as a loose adaptation of existing X-Men stories.
Here’s the Screenjunkies wish list.
So, we’ve had four X-Men theatrical releases so far, and still no Sentinels (we don’t count the Danger Room sequence after the opening credits of The Last Stand). Wanting a movie version of X-Men’s giant effin’ robots is a no-brainer. It’s picking which Sentinel stories to film that’s the tough task. The more obvious choice might be their introduction in X-Men #14-16 (1966). Those issues mark the first time in printed X-History that we see humanity’s prejudice against mutantkind manifest itself in big time physical violence. But the film series has explored the whole human-on-mutant bigotry thing already, so maybe that’s a little played now.
The story arc we’d pick is "Where No X-Men Has Gone Before," which ran in Uncanny X-Men #98-101 (1976). Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum (you’ll be reading a lot about their work in this list) have the Sentinels attack the X-Men when they least expect it: On Christmas (Die Hard X-Men-style, anyone?). Of course, the X-Men’s response is to attack the Sentinels right back at their own home base… in OUTER SPACE!!! Then the current X-men team in the series has to fight the original team… aaaaand then they have to crash land back on Earth. There’s a whole bit about Jean Grey’s Phoenix powers manifesting themselves, which you’d have to take out ’cause Jean’s dead and all as far as the movie continuity’s concerned. But seeing our favorite mutants taking it to the Sentinels in zero gravity would be something.
Cain Marko, a.k.a. The Juggernaut, was a vastly under-explored character in The Last Stand, yet he’s had a ton of stories that cross over a ton of Marvel titles, mutant or not (Juggernaut himself is not a mutant in the comics). Jack Kirby & Stan Lee’s story from the original X-Men #12-13 (1965) would be a nice, manageable reboot for the character in a standalone film. In this comic, his first face-off with Xavier’s students – SPOILER ALERT – Juggernaut actually wins, too. It’d put an unexpected twist on things. Plus, it’s revealed that the Cain Marko is Professor X’s stepbrother, which they failed to mention in The Last Stand. (Maybe Vinnie Jones’s character will turn out to have been an impostor Juggernaut.) And here’s another reason to film this story arc from a marketing standpoint: the Human Torch from Fantastic Four shows up. Both X-Men and Fan 4 are Fox properties. A little cross pollination never hurts, does it Mr. Rothman?
Uncanny X-Men #207-209 (1986) is John Romita Jr.’s first run on the series, and features a murderous scuffle between X-Man Rachel Summers (Phoenix II) and Selene, a member of the infamous Hellfire Club, the mysterious "Inner Circle" of which likes to control world affairs a little more than they should. Think the Illuminati from Da Vinci Code and the masked people from Eyes Wide Shut without the blindfolded pianist and orgies. High drama abounds when Wolverine has to physically confront Phoenix II so that she doesn’t kill anyone (how’s that for a role reversal?), and it results in a huge brawl in Central Park with the whole Hellfire Club taking on the X-Men. And then, as in all great dramas, the heroes have to team up with the villains to take on an even greater villain. In this case, it’s Nimrod, the super mega badass Sentinel programmed to destroy all mutants. So… let’s see… that’s Cloverfield + Da Vinci Code + Eyes Wide Shut. Well, two out of three ain’t bad for a movie pitch. You want to give it a think? Oh, I should get out of here? And take my bottled water with me? Okay.
Who likes giant battles in the sewers? *TMNT fans’ ears prick up* If you do, then you’ll love "The Morlock Mutant Massacre" arc. The main story of this massive X-Universe crossover from 1986 – the first of its kind – runs primarily through Uncanny X-Men #210-213, but also bleeds into issues of New Mutants & X-Factor, as well as Thor & The Power Pack. The Morlocks are a cadre of misfit mutants who live in the subterranean Big Apple. Sometimes friends of the X-Men, the Morlocks come under attack by The Marauders, who are hunting them down like Gary Busey did Ice-T in Surviving the Game. Ties to cheeseball (but awesome) ’90s movies aside, this arc is cool because the Marauders are comprised of some ultimate badasses that we haven’t seen on film yet. Mr. Sinister, Malice and Blockbuster are a few. Plus Sabretooth is part of the gang, and we wouldn’t mind seeing Liev Schreiber bring his extra 40 lbs. of muscle to the New York Underground. Sinc Thor shows up, too, we’d technically be getting an Avengers/X-Men crossover. Those last words are almost always followed by the cartoon sounds of studio executives ejaculating.
The Brood is Marvel’s foray into a predatory alien race not all that far off from H.R. Giger territory, only they infect their victims like a virus, eventually turning them and assimilating them into the Brood collective. The "Broodfall" story arc from Uncanny X-Men 232-234 (1988) is one of the most compelling – and film-friendly – tales. Essentially, the Brood show up on Earth and start wreaking havoc, eventually even infecting Wolverine, whose healing factor makes for an interesting struggle, and ends with him scaring the ever loving poop out of an old fashioned christian revival. Add that little moment of levity to the X-Men participating in Starship Troopers-worthy big bug battles, and you got yourself a summer blockbuster.
So there’s all this talk of other X-Men spinoffs if Wolverine does well opening weekend, but what about a Wolverine sequel? If they do it, then the "Wolverine’s Wedding" arc from Uncanny X-Men #172-173 (1983) wouldn’t be a bad way to continue Logan’s saga. First off, it takes place in Japan, which is a setting we haven’t seen in the cinematic X-Universe. Secondly, it’s date night-friendly, what with the whole wedding aspect, where Logan (almost) ties the knot with his Japanese lover, Mariko. And thirdly, there’s a whole assassination angle with Mariko and the Yakuza. The whole thing ends tragically, and carries on the cinematic tradition of Wolverine looking for love in all the wrong places. Plus it’s got Nightcrawler and Rogue and Kitty Pryde in supporting roles. This seems like the natural follow-up for Jackman.
This is a total wild card, and quite possibly box office poison. But it’s a story so good I can qualify it as "good-ass." X-Men #46-47 (1995) brings back "The X-Babies," mini versions of the X-Men created by the evil Mojo in order to keep his massive television audience entertained (X-Babies first appeared in Uncanny X-Men Annual #10). Wait, let’s rewind for a second. Mojo is one of the "Spineless Ones," an alien race that is immobile without advanced technology (think Jabba the Hutt, but with snappier dialogue). He commands the Mojoverse, a dimension where everyone’s addicted to his gladiator-like TV shows. Basically, it’s like Mark Burnett, circa 2000, but fat and yellow and handicapped. I digress. The X-Babies escape captivity and head to New York, where they do a bunch of damage and the grown-up X-Men have to clean up after them. There’s also some character-based drama between Gambit and Bishop, the latter of which needs to be in an X-Men movie at some point. Why not one that conjures up images of a live action Muppet Babies? Yeah, this is never happening… but a straight-to-DVD animated version would suffice.
Uncanny X-Men #120-121 (1979) take a step out of the action and into the cold, character-driven tundra of Canada, where the X-Men get caught in a blizzard and have a run-in with Canadian supergroup Alpha Flight, who are only interested in bringing Wolverine back to his Canadian roots. But they can’t woo him with Tim Horton’s donuts and hockey, so they try in other convincing manners, and it tests Wolverine’s allegiances, what with him being a natural born Canuck and all. It’s a story in which two heroic sides are pitted against each other, vying for the affection of a man whose inner turmoil is bad enough as it is. Oscar-worthy, people. Plus, Alpha Flight’s North Star is the first openly gay comic book hero. Sure, he came out in a later story (Alpha Flight #106 from 1992), but you could easily work that into this one, what with a bunch of dudes being snowed in together and all. That’s like, two Independent Spirit Awards already, and the movie hasn’t even been made yet.
This isn’t really a whole story arc, so much as a moment that I’d really like to see on film. Indulge me. So far the only times Professor X has stood and walked in the cinematic version of X-Men… were in a flashback or in his head. Dramatic… but a tease that can be taken to heartbreaking levels. Uncanny X-Men #297 (1993) is the perfect example. It’s the epilogue to the critically bashed "X-Cutioner’s Song" mega crossover, but as a standalone issue it has a lot of fans. The bottom line is that by the end of the story, Professor Xavier was healed from his leg injuries, but he is painfully aware that it’s only temporary. And then he and Jubilee share a day out that’s like The Bucket List condensed into one issue, minus the mawkish fogey-ness. There’s a roller-skating scene in it that’s pretty classic. Seriously. Shut up. Leave me alone. It’s a good story.
I’m not alone in thinking that arch-villain Apocalypse deserves to be in a film. But if you’re gonna do it, do it right. You know what I’m thinking. That’s right. "The Age of Apocalypse" story arc. Take a deep breath…
It’s the most ambitious crossover in the X-Universe, because for what seemed like about half a year, Marvel stopped publishing their regular titles and instead put out bizarro versions of each one. All of them took place in an alternate world where Apocalypse defeated the X-Men. There are obviously a ton of X-Men characters in this, including Rogue, Iceman, Sabretooth, Magneto, Wolverine, Jean Grey, Colossus, Kitty Pryde and Cyclops, but given the logic of the alternate history, you might be able to get away with recasting some of the roles. Oh, screw it. Who cares about logic, here? You have Wolverine and Jean hooking up. You have Sabretooth as an X-Men member. Magneto and Rogue hook up (a McKellan and Paquin sex scene would be off limits in my version). You have an epic drama with Cyclops going apeshit on Mr. Sinister. Too much to talk about here. Just buy the collected works here or see if your local library has it. Then go petition Fox to make this movie.
Forget the Deadpool solo project. Let’s be more ambitious. How about a trilogy of films with the New Mutants and Cable, too, culminating in a freeze frame of Cable and Deadpool blasting their way out of the X-Mansion and firing at an army of enemies like a genetically enhanced Butch and Sundance? Part 1 introduces us to the New Mutants around the beginning of Rob Liefield’s tenure in Issue #86 (1989). At the end of the first film, everyone’s favorite son from the future, Cable, shows up and he takes control of the New Mutants. In the second film, we’re introduced to Deadpool, the Merc with the Mouth, when he infiltrates the X-Mansion and tries to kill Cable. We also meet fan favorite Domino, Shatterstar, Warpath and Feral, and see the formation of the badass X-Force team (last part not necessary, but the fans would like it, and you can’t beat a brand whose first issue sold 4 million copies). The climax reveals that Domino, Cable’s lover, is really villainess Copycat; Deadpool shows up and blows up the X-Mansion. X-Force escapes and saves the real Domino from mastermind baddie Tolliver, whom Cable kills in the process. Okay now here’s the part where I’m stumped… all I know is that I want to see Cable & Deadpool team up like they did in their short-lived series, and I think that can be the focus for the third film. But until the studio pays me to do so, I’m not going to wrack my brain to connect the dots.
Okay, so if we don’t ever see the Sentinels in space, then at some point, we need an X-Men in Space epic on the silver screen. Here’s an idea. Start out with the "Where No X-Men Has Gone Before" story from Uncanny #105-108 (1977). It’s Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum’s swan song, and boy did they do it up right with a space opera that rivals Star Wars for sheer visual pop. You have Professor X getting nightmares about an alien invasion. You meet the Starjammers, a group of space pirates that includes Cyclops’s Dad, Corsair. You get the Shi’ar, an avian alien race with deep roots in the X-Universe and beyond. WIth that comes Lilandra, the hot Empress who gets away with being the color of a bad spray tan. And then there’s her badass Imperial Guards that the X-Men and Starjammers have to team up with to battle. Plus, we have a crystal that can change reality, which opens up all sorts of possibilities for a film adaptation. Now, here’s the thing: if we really wanted to do it up right, we’d make this into multiple films, and segue into the "Shi’ar & the Savage Land" arc from Uncanny X-Men #273-277 (1991).
That arc had the same writer (Claremont) coming back to send the X-Men into orbit once more, this time getting them into a political story of galactic proportions and consequences. We also meet up with the Skrulls, who impersonate Lilandra, Professor X and Psylocke to gain entry into the Shi’ar’s home turf. We smell intrigue… and it smells like B.O. That’s Box Office, to you. If there’s anyone to cram together two story arcs with 10+ years between them, it’s an adept screenwriter. Might we suggest giving Michael Chabon a crack at this epic?
Okay, this is the one I would suggest doing when every other X-Men story has been exhausted. This is the one to retire the franchise with dignity, because it’s one of the most well-written, beloved X-Men stories of all time, and because a lot of the characters mentioned in this article meet their end. In the story, set in the not so distant future, humanity has completely turned on mutantkind, and the Sentinels (how many times can a guy push for Sentinels on film?) watch over them all in their internment camps. Sort of a Children of Men for Xavier’s kids. Escapees Kitty Pryde, Wolverine and Storm try to travel back in time to prevent this version of reality (Earth-811 in the Marvel Universe) from ever happening. It ends with them succeeding… sort of. Earth-811 remains as an alternate reality, but the heroes’ immediate future changes for the better. The ambiguity finishes things off, but also leaves the X-Universe open to a REBOOT (!!!) if anyone ever wants to touch it down the road. God knows Hollywood loves to travel there.
Well, that’s what we got.
You can start by commenting here, then help your cause way more by seeing X-Men Origins: Wolverine this weekend.
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