The Kieron Gillen written, Jamie McKelvie illustrated Image comic The Wicked & the Divine is the latest comic property to be picked up by a studio with the view of being adapted into a TV show.
This time it is Universal who are the latest studio to mine comic book and graphic novel properties in search of the next The Walking Dead ratings juggernaut.
However unlike the DC shows Flash, Arrow, Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow and even Marvel’s Daredevil on Netflix, this is a very different type of comic and could make a very interesting and unique TV show, but could also prove problematic for the studio.
Gillen is a very well regarded comic book writer at the moment with his other self created series Phonogram being one of the best received original series in recent years and he is currently enjoying a very fruitful relationship with Marvel having written Journey into Mystery and Young Avengers and currently getting great reviews for his Darth Vader Marvel Star Wars comic.
The Wicked & the Divine mixes Gillen’s usual flair for character, dialogue and a love of contemporary music and culture with a deeply personal story; crediting his father’s diagnosis with terminal cancer as the core inspiration for the series.
Following Millenial Laura Wilson, a late teen uber-fangirl, and her interactions with The Pantheon we are thrust into the world of humans living as gods. Every 90 years a group of normal people merge with deity’s and are instilled with godlike powers and abilities alongside becoming the most famous and adored/hated people in the world . The trade off to this “gift” is they now have a very limited lifespan – they will all die within 2 years.
Exploring themes such as fame, celebrity, modern spirituality and sexuality alongside pop culture references it’s not your typical comic book show.
In creating his Pantheon of Gods, Gillen has mixed a variety of myths and religions together. Featuring the Greek Goddess of Love (Dionysus); the Japanese Shinto Sun Goddess (Amaterasu); the Sumerian goddess for love, fertility, and warfare (Inanna); the All-father of Norse mythology (Woden); the Celtic Goddess of war (The Morrígan), a rockstar badboy as the Pagan Sababtic goat Baphomet and the Devil herself Lucifer (who prefers to be called Luci) the cast is large, varied and features a lot of high profile gay, bisexual and transgender characters.
Which is were I think this show could get interesting. The early stories (issue 10 has only recently been published) feature a lot of sex, casual drug taking and are not structured with a particular antagonist or mystery at it’s centre. This could make distribution and marketing difficult for the finished show. Universal have their own network, NBC but is this the right type of show for NBC? Placing The Wicked & the Divine on network TV would mean a compromise to it’s themes and a toning down of it’s sensibilities, something which I think hindered NBC’s recent comic book adaptation, Constantine, leading to it’s cancellation.
With its sexual content and religious baiting themes I think that this would be better suited to a pay cable channel like AMC or HBO or internet distribution which has been very successful for more daring shows like House of Cards, Orange is the New Black and even the aforementioned (and very violent) Daredevil.
With Lucifer as an attractive female main character, who goes so far as (possibly) replacing The Christ and dying for our sins within the first story arc, the show is also sure to attract the attention of the American religious right. As with a lot of Gillen’s work the comic has a strong British sensibility and is steeped in pop culture, so that is also another point of interest in seeing how much actually translates to the TV show.