Forgotten Heroes: The Best Untapped Comic Book Franchises Not From the Marvel/DC Universe

Joe Goldman  |

Man of Steel grossed $125 million domestically and $196 million internationally this past weekend, reminding moviegoers that superhero movies remain hugely profitable and popular in theaters worldwide.

Films like The Avengers, Iron Man 3, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knights Rises, and Spider-Man all grossed over $800 million, providing huge earnings contributions for Time Warner (TWX) and Disney (DIS), who are DC and Marvel’s respective parent companies.

However, there remain a huge population of lesser-known titles that could make for blockbuster films. Movie studios that are late to the superhero game could pick up eventually pick up one of these titles for big screen production.

Savage Dragon

Publisher: Image Comics
Created by: Erik Larsen
First Appearance: Fantasy #1 (1982)

Savage Dragon is basically the Hulk meets NBA basketball player Chris Andersen. Dragon is a bright green humanoid-amphibian with superhuman strength, durability, and healing power. His also sports a fin on his head that resembles mohawk.

Erik Larsen created Savage Dragon in elementary school and later took his ideas to Marvel for publication. He eventually left Marvel to co-found Image Comics, under which Savage Dragon is still published to this day. It is now the longest running full-color comic book written and illustrated by a single author.

Savage Dragon aired as a mini-series on USA Network mini-series in 1995, where Dragon and the Chicago Police Department battle the Vicious Circle, a group of alien “Superfreaks” who terrorize the city. The show aired with decent success for two seasons, so a movie deal certainly isn’t far-fetched. However, Savage Dragon may need a change of color because his muscular green appearance closely resembles The Incredible Hulk.


Publisher: Image Comics
Created by: Todd McFarlane
First Appearance: Malibu Sun #13

Spawn is an immortal, demonic anti-hero with just about every superpower one can think of. He has the powers of teleportation, resurrection, and healing. He also has superhuman weight, strength and jumping ability, as well as the unique ability to feed off of the world’s dark and evil energy. Spawn died as a human during a secret government mission, but agreed after death to become one of hell’s soldiers in exchange for seeing his wife one last time. 

Spawn and Savage Dragon are the only two original comic titles still published by original authors. Spawn later aired as an Emmy-winning animated series on HBO from 1997-1999. A Spawn movie also premiered on in theaters in 1997 through New Line Cinema, grossing $87 million on a $40 million budget.

With modern special effects and constant demand for fresh superhero movies, Spawn would have huge success as a re-make. However, Spawn is caught in the middle of a major patent dispute , so a movie deal looks pretty far off.

Spider Jerusalem

Publisher: Vertigo
Created by: Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson
First Appearance: Transmetropolitan #1

One of the comic sphere’s raunchiest characters, Spider Jerusalem is a foul-mouthed, drug-using, weapon-loving journalist. Spider Jerusalem is bitter towards the world and especially loathes politicians and authority figures. However, Spider Jerusalem’s redemption is his intellect and truth-seeking nature.

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Spider Jerusalem appeared in a monthly series called Transmetropolitan from 1997 to 2002. The series was hugely successful, and Spider Jerusalem was later named Empire’s 12th greatest comic book character of all time. (

Vertigo is a subsidiary of Time Warner’s DC comics. However, Spider Jerusalem’s material is too intense and mature to attract a large, typical audience of a Warner Bros. blockbuster. Yet, adult comic books appeal to a fairly significant niche market, meaning Spider Jerusalem has potential under a smaller studio.

Halo Jones

Publisher: Rebellion Developments
Created by: Alan Moore and Ian Gibson
First Appearance: 2000 AD

Halo Jones first appeared in 2000 AD, a weekly five-page installment in 1984. She later got her own comic strip called "The Ballad of Halo Jones," which was published in three separate books and takes place in the 50th century.

In Book One, Jones is introduced as a beautiful 18-year-old who lives on an estate on the Atlantic Ocean. The book follows the violent, comical, and exciting adventures she faces during a shopping trip.
Halo Jones was later named Empire’s 18th greatest comic character of all-time and could make for a fun movie on the big screen. Sophie Monk would fit the role nicely.

Y: The Last Man

Publisher: Vertigo
Writer: Brian Vaughn
Published: Y: September 2002-March 2008

In Y: The Last Man, every living mammal with a Y-chromosome mysteriously dies during a plague. The only male survivors are Yornick Brown and his monkey campanion Ampersand, who are thrown into a dystopian earth society of chaos and imminent mammal distinction.

According to Wired.comY: The Last Man already has a movie deal in place under New Line Cinema. Dan Trachtenberg, director of famous short-film Portal: No Escape, will direct the movie and a script is now being finalized.

Fans of the comic books and movie fans in general should already be excited for Y: The Last Man, as the movie has a compelling plot, an up-and-coming director, and an all-star writer in Brian Vaugh, who wrote for the hit TV show Lost. The film has trilogy potential.


Publisher: Vertigo
Created by: Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon
First Publication: 1995

Preacher was a 75-issue comic book series that published from 1995-2000. The story follows a Texan preacher named Jesse Custer, who has his congregation murdered and church destroyed by a creature named Genesis. Custer becomes possessed and in response, leads a violent cross-country revolt against God.

Preacher has a ton of movie potential because of the depth of its characters and unique storyline. Sam Mendes, director of Skyfall, was close to making the movie in 2013, but his plans fell apart according to ScreenRant.

“It’s a brilliant graphic novel, I loved it, but a lot of it takes place in the real world and we’re surrounded now by fantasy and superhero genre pictures which are full of eye candy…it was clear after a while I just didn’t have the answer.” said Mendes.

Preacher’s southern real-world elements make the comic books great, but this aspect also makes for a challenging on-screen project. Nevertheless, Preacher should get picked up for movie production eventually.

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