This coming weekend sees the first installment in Universal’s Dark Universe franchise as The Mummy hits theaters. It’s the latest attempt from a studio to cash in on the success the Marvel Studios have found with their Marvel Cinematic Universe which interweaves a number of superhero franchises into a larger filmic tapestry. And whether it succeeds or fails, it won’t be the last attempt either. And while studios have plundered a number of different intellectual properties for proposed cinematic universes, there are still a number of potential franchiseable ones still out there waiting to be discovered. Here’s a few we think they should give a look at.
While throughout his six decades long career writer Isaac Asimov may have written books in every major section of the Dewey Decimal system, it is science fiction stories that he is predominantly remembered for. Specifically, he wrote stories set in three specific settings – a near future world where robotic technology was becoming more prevalent, a far future where a galactic empire has risen and an even farther future where that galactic empire has fallen and a small group of scientists and scholars struggle to rebuild things. While for years these three series – the Robot series of short stories and novels, his Galactic Empire and Foundation novels – all seemed to be separate, Asimov started to weave connections between them in his later works. At first the connections were very slight mentions of various things until his 1986 novel Foundation And Earth, which served through one character as a grand unifying theory for the three series. An enterprising and ambitious studio could go set up a release schedule that would alternate between the three separate series until they all culminate with the reveal of their interconnectedness in a Foundation And Earth film. For now, this can only be a pipe dream as HBO currently holds the rights to the Foundation Trilogy. — Rich Drees
Archie Comics Superhero Line
Hollywood is all bout the comic book superhero. If there is a comic book property that has stood the test of time and has a modicum of popularity, Hollywood will pounce on it. Which makes it strange why they haven’t thrown any attention to the superheroes of Archie Comics.
Maybe that’s because they aren’t aware Archie Comics publishes superheroes. While the only characters we think of when we think of the company is the red-headed teen and his wacky entourage (who has a movie in the works already), Archie Comics started our in 1939 as MLJ Magazines and like many comic book companies of the time, they published superheroes. Characters such as The Shield, Hangman, Black Hood and the Fly have graced the company’s pages. And while Archie Andrews captured readers fancy when he was introduced in 1941 and eventually became so popular that the company’s name was changed to reflect it, the superheroes lasted throughout the years, with almost every decade bringing and revamp of modernization of the characters. The latest is taking place right now with the company’s Dark Circle line. The Dark Circle heroes are just what Hollywood should want: interesting characters with longevity in the comic book market yet a certain amount of anonymity so the studios could put their own unique stamp on them. — William Gatevackes
Shared universes are all about inter-connectivity, but the stories have to stand alone. And the perfect example of a series of novels as of yet untouched by Hollywood is the late Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series.
The novels are a fantasy series about a world that is a disc resting on the back of four elephants who are standing on a giant turtle. That should give you a hint at the tone of the series, which is often laugh out loud funny. Forty-one books have been published in the series, and characters created for one novel often appear as supporting characters in other books. Pratchett has already done the heaving lifting in this shared universe, all we need is someone to bring it to the big screen–WG.
King Features Syndicate
Few organizations have as rich an IP farm as Kings Features Syndicate. For over 100 years, they have producing comic strips featuring characters, many that have already been adapted to other media, characters such as Flash Gordon, Mandrake the Magician and Popeye. But there are a lot of characters in their stable, both appearing in newspapers today and lost to the annals of history like Brick Bradford and Radio Patrol that could be reintroduced into a shared film universe. Or, if drama is more your speed, a soapy film marrying Mary Worth, Judge Parker and Rex Morgan, M.D. Or maybe a CGI animated film that brings together Dennis the Menace and The Family Circus. With the right amount of creativity, you can find five or six shared universes in a Kings Features license.–WG
Disney has experience with trying to ring as much money as it can out of its animated fare by doing live action versions of them. It also has experience doing shared universes with its Star Wars and Marvel acquisitions. So, the next logical step would appear to be creating a shared universe out of all their many princess characters from its animated films. This seems like a sure fire idea where it’s not a question of if but rather when it will come. Fans have already started building connections between the princesses The idea of a shared universe has already been explored in TV shows like Sophia the First and the interactive Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom card game in Walt Disney World. All Disney has to do is come up with a globe spanning adventure that can tie all their princesses together and just start raking in the money.–WG
The Works of Robert A. Heinlein
The world of classic science-fiction has been untapped by Hollywood for the most part, and one of the most glaringly overlooked authors is Robert A. Heinlein. It’s not that Heinlein has not been adapted for the screen, Starship Troopers was a bastardized version of a Heinlein teenage fiction novel, but the prolific Heinlein has a body of work that would not only lend itself to a shared universe, but Heinlein has connected them for you himself. Scholars have grouped his books into three unified categories: The Heinlein Juveniles, books that would fall into the young adult genre today which have no shared characters but show a an evolution of technology as it applies to space exploration; Lazarus Long, a character some say Heinlein based on himself that he used in a number of his works–some as a main character, some in a supporting role; and the Future History, which, like the title says, tells the future history of the universe. But there are characters, concepts and locations that cross between all three. Adapting Heinlein might not be easy–his views on sexuality were controversial to say the least–but his boundless imagination and detailed world building would provide a studio with a ready made shared universe–WG