R-rated comic book movies aren’t as frequent as some might like. Most comic book adaptations try to cater to a wide audience. That often means we get a lot of comic book films that stay away from harder material like graphic violence, sexuality, and harsh language. But, the success of films like Deadpool and Logan are helping to usher in a new wave of R-rated comic book adaptations.
So, we wanted to highlight a few comic book characters who should get their own R-rated feature film.
Lobo is an alien bounty hunter and mercenary. He was born on the peaceful utopian planet of Czarnia, but he murdered the entire population of his home planet just for fun. His appetite for violence and hedonistic lifestyle cause him to cross paths with any number of superheroes and supervillains.
If you want to do Lobo in a film, you have to lean into the parodic nature of the character. He was created as a satire of grim and gritty comic book stories and characters, but eventually became an unintended champion of these kinds of tales. If Deadpool can effectively sendup the Marvel universe, Lobo can be the foul-mouthed, aggressive, and grimy jester of the DC universe. There is a fairly decent little fan film made back in 2002 you can watch (link here but it is NSFW) that captures a little bit of the spirit that a Lobo movie would need.
Spawn is the superpowered spirit of murdered CIA agent Al Simmons. When Al dies, he is sent to Hell for his crimes against innocents. He makes a deal with a demon in order to return to Earth and see his wife, Wanda. In exchange, Al must lead the armies of Hell against the eventual war with Heaven. To do so, he is transformed into a Hellspawn, a powerful soldier with a magical costume that protects him.
Spawn got the feature film treatment in 1997 but the theatrical version was trimmed down to be PG-13. Even the R-rated home release didn’t save the film. Instead of making a Spawn film that’s a generic superhero story, a new R-rated version should embrace the horror elements of the character. The HBO animated series got the closest to a good Spawn adaptation, but it’s high time this hero gets another shot at the big screen.
The Mask isn’t so much one hero as it is a series of people. The titular mask is the embodiment of an ancient trickster god. Whoever wears the mask is given immortality and the ability to bend reality to their will. After prolonged use of the mask, the wearer begins to descend into violent madness and mass murder.
Though most people are only familiar with the Jim Carrey version of the character, the comic book iteration of the Mask is often described as “Tex Avery meets the Terminator.” It’d be great to see a hard-R version of the character in a major motion picture, especially now that modern effects can take the Mask’s reality-warping abilities to any extreme.
The Red Hood was originally a criminal guise that various thieves would use in order to pull off big heists without revealing their identity. One of the crooks to use the Red Hood persona was the Joker. After the Joker murdered Jason Todd, the second person to take on the mantle of Robin, Jason was resurrected and became the Red Hood as a symbol of defiance against criminals and Batman.
Red Hood is basically the Punisher of the DC universe. His extreme methods make him an enemy to both heroes and villains. This puts him in an interesting place of conflict that would be perfect to explore in a film. Besides, if Marvel is going to keep the Punisher on television, it only seems fitting that DC should put their über-violent, gun-wielding vigilante into theaters across the globe.
Animal Man seems like a silly gimmick. It’s the story of a man who is able to call upon the abilities of any animal and channel it through his body. However, the character has been used for surprisingly mature stories during his run. One story had him actually becoming self-aware of his existence as a fictional character. Another has him acting as an avatar for the animalistic lifeforce known as the Red. This version became straight-up horror with mutating monsters.
Animal Man is a lesser known hero and therefore can be manipulated in ways that won’t feel like a betrayal to fans. His animal powers can be explored in more disturbing ways and he can even be used as a way to examine the nature of comic book storytelling. Basically, make Animal Man an adult character with very mature themes and visuals. Basically, pull a Logan on this one.
Howard the Duck
Howard the Duck is an interplanetary duck who often finds himself in the midst of ridiculous adventures. Many of his stories are satirical looks at society and social norms. Creator Steve Gerber has said that the point of the character and his world is that there is no joke. He says, “…life’s most serious moments and most incredibly dumb moments are often distinguishable only by a momentary point of view.” This was definitely lost on the 1986 film adaptation which mostly became a sci-fi cartoon of a film.
Though Howard is now part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’d be great if Marvel Studios proved that they can branch out with an R-rated character like Howard. He’s a foul-mouthed, grumpy character that often pokes fun at everyone and everything. Giving him his own movie would help show that the Marvel Cinematic Universe isn’t always going to cater to all audiences. And we definitely need a much better Howard the Duck movie.