Q&A #71: What comic would you like to see made into a musical?

In Q & A, a weekly feature of Fantastic Fangirls, we ask our staff to tackle a simple question — then open the floor to comments:

What comic would you like to see made into a musical?


It’s not Spider-Man. The problem with Spider-Man, and most superhero-comic-book stories, is there is no “finale”. It just keeps going. And the origin story can only be told the same way so many times before it loses all the magic that makes it worth telling in the first place (sorry, re-boot, but that’s how it is). Obviously, adding music makes it different but it doesn’t solve the problem of no clear ending or arc (something required of mainstream stage shows). I don’t want the Spider-Man musical to fail but I think all the trouble it has had coming together is indicative of the issue. It’s like my idea for a Spider-Man themed zip-line ride through Manhattan: theory? AWESOME. Execution? IMPOSSIBLE.

The stand alone stories would be easier to adapt and the one that springs to mind is: V for Vendetta. Already theatrical, already verbose and lyrical, self-contained, controversial, and familiar but not so familiar it is tired. There is a built-in comparison to The Phantom of the Opera and I can imagine the opening looking something like the video for Alejandro.

Basically it would be AMAZING.


For years, people said that Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ great comics series, Watchmen, was unadaptable — and more than a year after a big-budget Watchmen film was released, a lot of people still feel that way. And, even though I am more or less a fan of the Watchmen film, I think there’s a point to this. It’s not that the story is unadaptable, though; it’s just not that suited to adaptation as a standard Hollywood superhero movie. The point of a superhero movie is taking a rather fantastic story and making it literal. As the poster for the first Superman movie promised: “You will believe a man can fly.”

But any attempt to literalize Watchmen misses the point. The whole aesthetic of the comic comes out of grafting realistic, and often unheroic, human behavior onto the hyper-real aesthetic of a superhero comic. A more effective method of adapting the story would have been to transfer it from one hyper-real medium to another. . .and what, my friends, is more hyper-real than the rock opera? I half-suspect that’s where the folks at Warner Brothers would have liked to go with Watchmen. They pretty much showed their hand when they decided Ozymandias was basically David Bowie:

I’m not being facetious about this. I would really love for this musical to exist. Imagine the comic’s complex backstory condensed into the “Minuteman Tango”. Imagine Rorschach’s dance-off with his prison psychiatrist. Imagine, most of all, Ozymandias’s show-stopper: “Thirty-Five Minutes Ago.” Don’t thank me for saving your franchise, Warner Brothers. Just send money.


One of my first posts on this blog was an essay comparing comics and musicals, and discussing the high percentage of crossover fans. Musical theater was my main fandom before I discovered comics, and I still adore it. But I’ve never been too enthused about the idea of the two things being combined in a meaningful sense. The things I love most about superhero comics — lengthy, tangled backstories, huge universes of characters, open endings– are exactly the things that would be impossible to translate to the stage.

But I do think there are ways to meld the two media, and one of those ways is going back to the Golden Age roots of each. The combination of old-school, Rodgers and Hammerstein-style musical theater with Golden Age comics characters and plots would double the nostalgia factor and give license for the inherent absurdity of both. I’m not suggesting the musical should be a parody — and if there’s mockery at all, it should be light and loving, like The Drowsy Chaperone. But mostly I’d just want something fun, lighthearted, and heroic. And since I’m me, and I’m a Marvel girl at heart, I think the focus of this play should be on Marvel’s Golden Age characters — Captain America and Bucky, the Human Torch and Toro, Namor, Union Jack, Spitfire, Miss America, and any others the writers wanted to rustle up. In other words, what I really want is The Invaders: The Musical.


I like most musicals, and I like most comics, so narrowing the field down is a huge problem for me. But, as the characteristics of comics I like the most are drama, relationships, high emotions, and near-death experiences; and, as the qualities of musicals I love are witty dialog, insight into the human condition, and high emotions, I think I can find a match.

Batgirl: Year One

Book by Jane Espenson and Stephen Sondheim
Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Music by Stephen Sondheim and Michael Giacchino
Adapted from the DC comic by Scott Beatty and Chuck Dixon

This story has everything I like — personal development, action, intense relationships — without requiring too much in the way of super-powered effects. The show would be incredibly athletic, with aerial work, great stage fighting, and some highly-charged dance numbers. With Espenson and Sondheim writing the book, the pace would be fairly quick. And Sondheim’s lyrics would capture the wry tone of Barbara Gordon while maintaining the enthusiasm and freshness of the story.

What comic would you like to see made into a musical?

  • Dazzler, without a doubt.

    A good opera could be made from the Cloak & Dagger origin.

    It’d fun to try to convert Jack Cole’s Plastic Man into a slapstick musical.

    Green Lantern, he’s already got a prewritten chorus.

  • I APPROVE OF EVERYTHING IN THIS POST. Seriously, the caps are not containing my glee at these suggestions.

  • ToddPM

    I don’t know if a costumed superhero can be the *main* character of a musical, so I’d love to see what they could do with a musical named “Pocket Full of Kryptonite”.

    (Yes, the actual song title is “Jimmy Olsen’s Blues”, but that’s simply not marqueeable.)

  • Caroline

    @ToddPM (a) I love the Jimmy Olsen idea (b) I am now unfortunately envisioning it as a Spin Doctors jukebox musical.

  • I’d have to say, Ooku v2, the Tiptree winner. I mean, look at the setting! Feudal Japan, and mostly set in the palace itself so you’ve got quite a bit of fabulous costuming and gorgeous sets to work with. And importantly for adaptation, not bajillions of locations so the playwright can focus on the few key locations for the set designer to do something stunning. The subject matter is edgy but actually pretty directly adaptable to a 3 hour dramatic arc. The protagonists journey is a very changing one, and the villians of the piece are changeable with enough twists to do the job.

    The flashback scenes would be kind of tricky to work in, and serious bits would have to be dropped to make it fit into 3 hours, but this is a story that could be adapted pretty straight forward. The music would be the hard part, and this is not the kind of show that had broad comedy. Dark comedy flavors are the thing, but not too much. This is Sondheim territory.

  • JennyN

    Hmm… I don’t know about a musical, but Identity Crisis has opera written all over it.

  • xenokattz

    Dark Phoenix Saga. But, like JennyN, it’s probably more of an opera than a musical complete with death in the end.

    No joke, I read Jean’s Death scene with “A Little Fall of Rain” from Les Mis playing in the back of my mind. Wept gobs of emo-geek teen tears.

  • Menshevik

    Actually, I think Spider-Man: The Musical could work, maybe even Spider-Man: The Opera. Pete’s monologues would lend themselves to be turned into solo arias/numbers, or howabout a duet in which JJJ envisages one of his anti-Spidey editorials and Robbie counterpoints it as the voice of reason? As for a finale – well, you could easily do it with the wedding of Peter and MJ (or if Joe Quesada prefers, their decision to move together, something similar to the ending of the movie Spider-Man 2), leaving room for a sequel: Spider-Girl! (Of course, if you want to do it as a tragedy, you could use Gwen Stacy as the main love interest and finish with her death).

    But taking off on an entirely different tack, and considering that both “Peanuts” and “Doonesbury” have actually been turned into musicals, I really want to see “Dykes to Watch Out For: The Musical”. You have quite a few different characters to work with and would be able to use all sorts of different style of music.

  • Andi

    I could see a musical created for Death from the Sandman series. It would be a combination of The High Cost of Living, where she takes human form and her adventure with Sexton as well as the issue of Sandman in which she takes Dream with her while she works except she can take Sexton with her instead of Dream or something like that. There are a lot of possibilities with it. Each person has a different reaction to her so they get a different song, Sexton learns about Death and his understanding of her, and Death gets all kinds of fun songs.

  • Here’s one from left-field: The Umbrella Academy. Possibly a bit on the nose, given who’s writing it, but it does have that sort of quality.