Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark is known as one of the most expensive musicals to date and an absolute disaster. Having seen the show on Broadway, I can confirm the musical’s story is convoluted and has more in common with Sam Rami’s Spider-Man than the comics it is based on. But the failure of Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark was not because Spider-Man cannot be adapted into a musical but instead, the creative team ignored the rich, lively, and kooky characters that would have fit perfectly on the stage.
Yet, despite being movies, TV shows, video games, and more based on comic book properties, none have returned to the stage. Even though Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark left a sour taste in theater-goers mouths, comic book properties can still work well as musicals, if done right and treated with care. With that being said, here are seven comics that I think would translate fabulously into musicals.
With the success of Monty Python’s Spamalot, Into the Woods, and Wicked, Broadway musicals have clearly never shied away from the fantasy genre. Image Comic’s Rat Queens fits the bill perfectly thanks to its diverse cast of characters and a clever, though at times vulgar, sense of humor. The series, which takes inspiration from Dungeons & Dragons, follows a group of female adventurers who take various odd jobs. During its initial release, Rat Queens was nominated for the 2014 Eisner Award for best new series and won the 2015 GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Comic Book for its portrayals of LGBT characters.
The Wicked + The Divine
Rock musicals are often hard to get right, just ask Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark. However, Image Comics’ The Wicked + The Divine has all the pieces to make a rock musical. The series is told through the perspective of Laura, a young teenage girl, who finds herself interacting with the Pantheon, a group of twelve people who discover that they are reincarnated deities. As gods among men, the Pantheon have taken the form of the ultimate pop stars. With its gritty themes, similar to that of Spring Awakening, and fantastical but modern take on the deities, it is no question that The Wicked + The Divine would work spectacularly on stage especially considering the success of Hadestown, the 2019 Tony Winner for Best Musical that tells a version of the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice inspired by the world of Jazz.
Captain America has a long history on the panels and has become an even bigger household names thanks to the MCU and Chris Evan’s spectacular performance. Yet, the character has never been given his dues on stage. With the first Captain America movie within the MCU giving us a solid musical number, there is no reason that can’t be adapted further. A Captain America musical in the vein of Newsies or even Hamilton following Steve’s journey during WWII could be a smash hit.
Batman: The Court of Owls
Another character with a vast history both on and off the panels is Batman. While Batman might have a lot of stories to draw from one that sticks out for its drama, intricate designs, and engrossing story is Batman: The Court of Owls. The comic run follows Batman as he attempts to hunt down a powerful underground organization within Gotham made of the wealthiest and more influential citizens. With dramatic panel design that could be translated into really interesting and show-stopping set pieces, Batman: The Court of Owls could easily be a darker and gritter Phantom of the Oprea.
Peter Parker might have not blown away audiences but he also wasn’t a drummer. Spider-Gwen is a fairly new character to Marvel Comics’ lineup and while her story is similar to Peter, her rock n’ roll attitude sets her apart. Drummer for the Mary Jane’s by day and Spider-Woman, now using the moniker Ghost-Spider, by night, Gwen has a dramatic but different enough origin story to fill seats at any Broadway venue. Add pulse pumping action, a killer score, and a female lead with some serious vocal range and you are bound to have yourself a winner.
Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman, originally published by Vertigo Comics, follows The Sandman, also known as Dream, Morpheus and other names. The Sandman is one of the seven Endless with the others being Destiny, Death, Desire, Despair, Delirium, and Destruction. At its core, The Sandman is about Morpheus learning the inevitability of change. The comic was praised for its emotional story and brilliant, jawdropping artwork. Those designs would translate beautifully in a theater. This is another series that could easily take notes from Hadestown.
Archie and the rest of Riverdale got a redesign and modern update in 2015 from Mark Waid. What followed was a loveable teen drama that had a lot of emotional depth. Considering the success of Waitress, Dear Evan Hanson, and even High School Musical, slice of life teen dramas with compelling romances absolutely have a space on the stage. And with the show Riverdale having a musical episode and Archie being in a rock band within the comic itself, it is only logical the next step be Broadway.
Overall, comic books are a medium diverse so it is no surprise there are certain series, runs, or characters would do well on the stage. But do you have any comic runs or comic book characters you think could be adapted into musicals? Let us know on Twitter!