Last year's release of Batman: The Killing Joke marked the first time in nine years that Warner Brothers Animation released an R-rated DC Comics adaptation, after some 25 PG-13 rated films. After that release, however, and Justice League Dark, the studio mostly went back to producing PG-13 animated movies, like the recent Teen Titans: The Judas Contract. So can fans expect more R-rated animated films coming anytime soon? At the most recent WonderCon, producer James Tucker said he's not 100% sure there will be more, but that the studio is “open” to it if the film warrants that kind of rating, saying the following, (via Comic Book):
“It’s hard to say. I will say this, that they have said that if the content merits the R they’ll look into it, they’re open to it, which was not something that was a part of the landscape until recently. I like having that option because there’s certain things that you just can’t do without being a little edgy, without being a little more violent.”
So which DC comics would make the best R-rated adaptations? Here are just a handful of choices that seem to make the most sense. And remember, that of the 30 DC Animated films released thus far, 9 have featured Batman, 4 have featured Superman, 2 have had a Batman/Superman combo, 9 have been Justice League-centric, and only the handful that remain have spotlighted characters like Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and the Teen Titans.
So based on the last decade of animated releases, clearly Warner Brothers animation has a pattern, which is to focus on Batman, Superman and Justice League stories, which is why I haven't included more varied choices like Sandman and other Vertigo titles--ones with a more obvious adult focus--despite how much I'd love to see them. The following picks are the most likely candidates based on Warner's history.
Batman: The Long Halloween
Apart from The Killing Joke and The Dark Knight Returns, this storyline by the creative team of writer Jeph Loeb and artist Tim Sale, originally published over 13 issues back in 1997-98, is considered one of the most seminal Batman stories ever told. Taking place roughly a year into the Dark Knight's career, The Long Halloween finds Batman beginning his working relationship with Commissioner James Gordon and DA Harvey Dent, as the trio begin to attempt to wipe out crime in the city (a lot of these aspects inspired Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight).
But just as their crime fighting bond is formed, a serial killer going by the name Holiday begins killing people once a month, each time on that month's respective holiday, leading Batman into a year-long murder mystery which begins and ends on All Hallow's Eve. Almost every major villain from Batman's rogue's gallery makes an appearance here, and in memorable roles too. Much like The Dark Knight Returns adaptation, this graphic novel would likely need to be split into two movies to do it proper justice - it's called the LONG Halloween for a reason. 75 minutes simply won't cut it. But it definitely deserves an adaptation.
Why R- Rated?
Much like The Killing Joke before it, The Long Halloween doesn't need to be R-rated, but since the series is all about a string of grisly murders, why not just go for broke and make the adaptation as faithful as possible? It would likely sell more if the fanbase knew that Warner Animation wasn't pulling its punches.
Justice League: Identity Crisis
The 2004 mini-series from novelist Brad Meltzer and artist Rags Morales, much like The Long Halloween before it, is about a series of grisly murders that hit close to home for the members of the original Justice League of America. This series of killings also uncovers a series of events that members of the JLA have kept buried and secret for many years, some even from the trinity of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. Oops. Maybe not a good idea to keep secrets from those guys.
At seven issues long, this self contained, noir-ish story could be condensed into 75 minutes (the average running time for a DC Animated film). Although some changes would likely be made. This is a controversial comic among fandom, for several reasons, but it definitely has a reputation, and could make for a very interesting film.
Without mincing words, Identity Crisis is controversial because it depicts the rape and subsequent murder of a beloved DC character. Although it's not explicit in its depiction of said sexual assault, nevertheless, the mere subject matter of sexual assault in an animated film would pretty much demand an R-rating.
Justice League: Kingdom Come
This is probably the most requested DC animated film there is, and for years DC animated movies producer Bruce Timm has said no to that request whenever asked by fans, saying the painterly art from Alex Ross is too hard to adapt properly. But how about not trying to adapt Ross' art style, and just adapt the story by writer Mark Waid instead?
Kingdom Come, originally published in 1996, was about a potential future of the DC Universe, in which Superman, Wonder Woman, and other classic heroes have retired. They are subsequently replaced with a generation of young heroes who are extremely violent, and who care more about fighting among themselves and killing villains than with protecting the innocent. When a horrible incident happens killing thousands, Superman and the classic Justice Leaguers come out of retirement to set things right...but things do not go smoothly.
Why R- Rated?
While this one doesn't NEED to be R-rated, I'd say there are enough deaths, impalings and mass murders depicted that an R rating could be warranted for sure.
Green Lantern: Blackest Night
There have been a lot of DC "event series" over the past several decades, but few are as memorable in the eyes of fandom like the Green Lantern centric Blackest Night. This mini series was the ultimate payoff to years of Geoff Johns created Green Lantern mythology, in which we were introduced to other Lantern Corps, exhibiting the colors of the emotional spectrum - Red, Blue, Yellow,Indigo, etc.
But there was one more sinister Lantern Corps out there, waiting in the wings: the Black Lanterns, representing death itself, and whose members of were the zombified corpses of dead villains and heroes of the DC Universe. This was the closest thing to a horror comic that one of the big crossovers ever came to, even if at its core it was still a superhero story.
Why The R-Rating?
Again, this is another one that could be done with a PG-13 rating, but considering that it features decaying, zombie versions of beloved DC characters, who then spew Black Lantern rings out of their black, oozing mouths, then maybe an R rating is more than called for here.
Which classic DC Comics stories do you think deserve the R-rated animated treatment? Sound off down below in the comments.
Images: DC Comics
Meanhwile, in live-action...