The recent success of superhero movies that have thought outside the box – the subversion of Deadpool, the politics of Black Panther – might have started a trend towards interesting, more unusual superhero stories getting adapted for the big screen.
That seems to be the case regarding the news that 12 Years A Slave writer John Ridley has teamed with Blumhouse to write and direct an adaptation of The American Way: Those Above & Those Below, a limited comic book series that Ridley created alongside Georges Jeanty as a follow up to their 2007 series, The American Way.
The original comic focused on a group of superheroes in the 1960s known as The Civil Defense Corps who each possessed special powers as well as a specific ethnic makeup designed to make segments of the American population feel safe and represented.
A group of super villains were also pitted against the team, but the whole thing was revealed as a ruse concocted by the U.S. government in order to pacify the public with mock superhero battles.
The movie will pick up a decade after that story and revolve around Jason Fisher, a black man known as The New American who was subjected to genetic manipulation, giving him super strength but leaving him with the same pain threshold as a regular human. The plot description is as follows:
“After The Civil Defense Corps has been torn apart by racism, infighting and murder and exposed as a propaganda sham, the surviving members are heading in different directions. Missy Devereaux – a.k.a. Ole Miss – is transitioning from the First Lady of Mississippi into a candidate for governor and defender of a vanishing and hateful way of life.
Amber Eaton – formerly known as Amber Waves – is a domestic terrorist, using her powers to infiltrate and destroy the country’s centers of power. Fisher has remained a crime fighter conflicted with being a propaganda prop to sustain a system rigged against the black population of America.
He tries to become a champion of the disenfranchised people of inner-city Baltimore, who are wary he is a tool of the heavy-handed police force”.
Blumhouse is reportedly fast-tracking the project. Around two years ago, Ridley stated that he intended The American Way to focus on the fraught race relations of the era:
“I want to have conversations, and I really mean conversations, about race. We are going to see it in the characters who pre-existed in the previous edition of The American Way and new characters who are going to be joining our stable of heroes”.
This sounds like an incredibly exciting and timely project, and it’s great that Ridley gets to adapt his own work and not to have to worry about someone else poorly translating his comic to the big screen.
With Avengers: Infinity War set to mark an end for some major characters as the MCU heads towards Phase 4, and with the superhero genre branching out with fresh ideas, we could be heading into a new age for superhero movies, and The American Way has the potential to be one of the forerunners.