Heroes across all comics eventually deal with something a little more supernatural than your average villain. Ghosts, ghouls, vampires, and werewolves just to name a few, but when it comes to movies and TV, very few of the supernatural elements get adapted…but could we begin to see more supernatural beings in comic book films and TV shows?
Marvel’s latest Disney Plus series ‘Moon Knight’ is what brought this idea to mind and I just had to write this article to talk about it. Moon Knight is a character that feels like a far cry from the Avengers that we’ve witnessed on screen for the past 20 plus years, as he is a hero in a much darker world, battling inner demons as the deity residing within him constantly reminds him of his weak mind, as well as having to deal with fighting supernatural beings such as vampires and werewolves.
Moon Knight first appeared in ‘Werewolf By Night #32’ in 1975, so the new Moon Knight series is already giving us possibilities for more rumored appearances and possible future projects. Marvel in the ’70s had a decent cast of supernatural characters such as the aforementioned Werewolf By Night, but also Dracula and of course a character we’ve already seen on film and TV, but who is getting a new updated film with a new cast, Blade.
Blade was one of Marvel’s first R rated movies (after 1989’s The Punisher which was only rated 15 in the UK, which I guess makes Blade the first worldwide R rated movie), back in the late ’90s with Wesley Snipes bringing the titular character to life in what many consider to be an irreplaceable performance. Snipes portrayed the half-human, half-vampire, vampire slayer across three films from 1998 – 2004, and with a spin-off planned but never greenlit, it felt like Blade ended the possibility of further supernatural superhero movies, but that didn’t stop the television series from being made.
Not many people remember the Blade: The Series, as it was canceled after its first season, which is a shame as I think this show had great potential but such is the life of television shows.
However, Blade would not be the only supernatural hero in films, as in 2004, we also got Hellboy!
Hellboy comes from the world of Mike Mignola’s supernatural horror comics of the same name, and who better to direct something so fantastical, than Guillermo del Toro, creator of such films as Pan’s Labyrinth and Cronos., but not forgetting that del Toro also directed the second Blade movie which is considered the superior film of the trilogy by many fans.
Del Toro cast Ron Perlman in the titular role of the big red demon hero known as Hellboy, who battles against other demons, and even a cosmic deity whilst also battling against his destiny to become the downfall of mankind. Guillermo del Toro brought his own vision to the Hellboy world and created not just one but two brilliant films with a cast of fantastic actors who brought the characters from the Mignolaverse to life.
After del Toro’s second Hellboy film in 2008, ‘Hellboy 2: The Golden Army’, fans waited eagerly for a third installment but sadly it never came. Instead, over a decade later we got a new Hellboy film with a new director and brand new cast, which promised to be more closely adapted from the original Mike Mignola work, and whilst it delivered on that promise in many ways, the writing and editing (in my opinion) caused this film to flop, as it felt somewhat rushed and jumpy in places, making it a hard watch for many viewers. Its failure sparked new interest in del Toro to return for a third installment to the earlier adaptations with audiences demanding Ron Perlman and the rest of the early 2000’s cast to return once more and save Hellboy’s reputation in film.
DC is also in on the supernatural film hype, with what I consider to be an underrated film, starring Keanu Reeves, who has also shown interest in reprising his role as the character Constantine since he last portrayed him in 2005.
Constantine is a member of the Justice League Dark within DC Comics. He has had team-ups with many characters and his own series Hellblazer, is filled with magic and monsters from hell (literally), making him a perfect choice for a new film. Keanu Reeves has already shown interest in reprising the role in a new film if it ever gets picked up, and Matt Ryan is a fan favourite portrayal within DCTV, despite his series being canceled due to low viewer ratings, he was brought back onto our screens through Arrow (2012-2020) and then later within DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (2016-present) where he remained a fan favourite until his departure in Season Six, Episode 14. However, Matt Ryan has portrayed the voice of Constantine in three animated features (Justice League Dark, Constantine City of Demons, and Justice League Dark: Apokolips War) as well as reportedly being cast in the new adaptation for HBO Max’s Justice League Dark, as well as a solo series once again. Let’s hope they can keep it going this time because honestly, Matt Ryan is spot on for this role. Although I will admit, I love Keanu’s movie and would like to see him return…maybe multiverse?
Spider-Man’s villains are similar to a lot of comic book villains, they’re either out of this world aliens, or unlucky humans mutated by some bizarre accident that twists their minds and grants them strange abilities such as Sand-Man whose body is now completely formed of sand particles which he can manipulate into multiple forms both big and small. So when Morbius came along, having the brightly colored Spider-Man face a Vampire of all things seemed very different from the usual villains.
Morbius is getting his own film and once again, along with Moon Knight and the new Blade, this film could open the doors to bringing back the supernatural comic book movies. The MCU has given us so much but after 20 years I feel like a change in content could be the answer to preventing their content from becoming dull.
We all know how the superhero movies go, they look like they’ve lost but then a bit of hope and newfound strength means they get back up and win. The methods in which they execute this idea and the plots we get obviously get executed very differently for each character but the themes are often the same. However, with the supernatural aspect of these new characters being introduced, I feel like we could explore much deeper plot themes that don’t feel like they slow the pacing or damage the story in any way.
Moon Knight’s inner demons will be something that is a part of his character psyche so it will add new, darker elements to a comic book show that you don’t see within others already airing.
What characters would I like to see adapted into films?
So apart from the obvious ones that are already on their ways such as Blade, Moon Knight, and the apparent Justice League Dark live-action film that is in the works, I have a few ideas that could work to bring some more of the supernatural to the world of comic book movies and television.
For starters, there’s my favourite supernatural creature, as well as one of my favourite Marvel comics, Werewolf By Night. This could be either the classic comics such as the one in which Moon Knight appears, making more sense given the Moon Knight series so close at hand now, so I’ll be keeping my ears open whilst watching for any reference to the name Jack Russell, as that will be my sign that there’s at the very least, a possibility of a werewolf to appear in the MCU.
Besides the werewolf, there is also the classic vampire that has in fact already appeared in a Marvel movie, but in a more modern and rather demonic version. Dracula is a character that is of course a classic supernatural villain. He could be tied to Morbius in the upcoming film, or perhaps to Blade since Blades’s first appearance was in Tomb of Dracula #10 in 1973.
Dracula was the main antagonist of 2004’s Blade: Trinity, portrayed by Dominic Purcell (Prison Break, The Flash television series), and whilst I enjoyed his portrayal of an updated, scarier, and certainly more demonic version of Dracula, commonly referred to as Drake in the film, I think the new iteration of the character could be done in either a slightly cheesy, caped Transylvanian count style like in the original comics, or if they want to take him seriously, perhaps an older actor with a suit, like Charles Dance pulls off as the Master Vampire, in the ending of Dracula Untold (2014).
Blade Trinity nearly had its own spin-off film featuring the Nightstalkers, with Ryan Reynolds and Jessica Biel reprising their roles from the third Blade film, as Hannibal King and Abigail Whistler. There was even an alternate ending for Blade: Trinity which can be seen on the special features of the DVD, which sees Hannibal King and Abigail Whistler fighting a werewolf. However, this was ultimately cut from the film since the idea was scrapped after early reviews of the third installment to the Blade trilogy being simply a mediocre reaction.
However, if the supernatural comic book genre makes it come back as much as I hope it does, why not try their luck with a Nightstalkers series on Disney Plus. It could certainly be an interesting team series that ties into the new MCU Blade, perhaps with the team being referenced in Blade or Blade making a cameo in the series.
Marvel certainly seems to have some of the more interesting supernatural elements but I’m certainly not forgetting about DC. Apart from Constantine, DC has brought us a few various Swamp Thing projects, with the most recent television adaptation being brought to our screens in 2019, but even that was canceled before it was truly appreciated. So hopefully we can gain some reprisals from that in future projects as he is a prominent character in Justice League Dark.
There are so many characters across comic book history that could be brought into new adaptations that form a new era for comic book movies. Heroes and even anti-heroes or villains that battle against the occult and I really hope we get to see more of these types of shows and films, either animated or live-action because it will spark new interest in comics and bring in new audiences. There are plenty of chances to make darker films and whilst they don’t have to be R rated, or deeply depressing, they can bring to the screens certain horror elements that your average superhero film cannot.
I think the occult and the supernatural within comic book movies would make for some great adaptations and a nice break from the usual MCU movies or DCEU attempts that seem to be appearing thick and fast over the past 20 or so years. Blade was a huge success in the ’90s because it was different and it was dark, so I think this new era of the supernatural/horror genre of comic book movies could bring back that excitement.
Hellboy’s 2019 adaptation was a flop due to what I believe was bad editing and writing, more than anything else, but I bet if they were to adapt Hellboy into an animated film or series, following closer to the comics than ever before, it could be a huge success and a win for Mignola fans such as myself. You could even ignore Hellboy for now and just bring together a B.P.R.D. film or series that has a team of agents and paranormal investigators, investigating paranormal events and defending Earth from the occult.
Whatever happens in the future, I am certainly looking forward to the Moon Knight series, the new Blade movie, and the Justice League Dark movie, to give us something fresh from the comic book world that has been attempted and somewhat failed over the past decade or more.
I’m sure there are plenty of more popular names within occult-based comic books but I have not read as much as many of you hardcore fans might have, so I can only apologize if I’ve missed your favourites. I know there are names like Ghost Rider, who have already been adapted in Film that I have not included but that’s because I stuck to the ones I knew better, so again, apologies. I hope that many of them will come to the screens we watch our films and shows on because I am honestly growing tired of the same big-named characters getting adapted and re-adapted when there are so many great characters being ignored from across all comic book brands.