Joe Michael Straczynski has been one of the biggest names in nerd circles over the past 25 years. After initially getting his start in children’s animated series, such as He-Man and The Real Ghostbusters, he went on to create and act as showrunner for one of sci-fi’s biggest cult shows, Babylon 5, which is currently in the process of being remade into a series of feature films, just like Star Trek. Then, he segued into the realm of comics, tackling the likes of The Amazing Spider-Man, Squadron Supreme, and Superman. More recently, he has worked on films such as The Changling, Thor, and World War Z.
It is his comics work that has, in a lot of ways, made some of the biggest splashes. His creator-owned series – including Rising Stars, Midnight Nation, and Ten Grand – have consistently been some of the best that the medium has to offer, with Rising Stars serving as something of a modern-day take on the classic Watchmen template. Now, just like its 30-year-old inspiration, it’s finally getting the big-screen treatment.
Deadline is reporting that Straczynski has signed a deal with Atlas Entertainment to write the screenplay for a Rising Stars adaptation. He will also be a producer on the project, and it will be handled through his still relatively new Studio JMS production company.
While it’s not much information to go on, it’s still absolutely worthy of excitement. The title was a 24-issue miniseries that ran from 1999 to 2005 (there was a hold-up when Top Cow, the comic book publisher, attempted to interfere with the movie adaptation – ironically enough – that was already being negotiated at the time, causing a several-year delay). Rising Stars followed the birth, lives, and eventual deaths of 113 individuals who were born with superpowers after being exposed to an inexplicable light in the night sky while still in utero.
The work, as already stated, took Watchmen’s real-world perspective on how humanity would react to the sudden advent of “specials” (not unlike Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel eight years later), exploring the political, social, and historical consequences – of which there were many. Even though it was Straczynski’s very first crack at a creator-owned comic, it easily ended up being one of his best pieces of work. There is more than enough material with which to attempt a whole series of films, particularly in this age of big-budget, summer tentpole superhero extravaganzas.
Then again, with the burgeoning DC Extended Universe already attempting to monopolize the market on “adult” comic book fare – and, perhaps more importantly, with the huge critical backlash against Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’s similarly dark and somber tone – Atlas’s delayed attempt at releasing Rising Stars in theaters might be a case of too little, too late. You better believe that everyone involved will be carefully watching Suicide Squad, the next DCEU installment, and how it is received by the worldwide marketplace.
We’ll keep you updated on Rising Stars as more information becomes available.