A foul-mouthed 9-year-old with a taste for booze and cigarettes. An alien shape changer struggling with his sexuality. An addled space explorer out of sync with time. These are some of the colorful characters of the comic book series "Black Hammer," and they are now potential stars of film and television in a deal announced last week.
The series is being picked up by Legendary Entertainment, which has produced more than 50 feature films, including "Batman Begins." "Black Hammer," first published by Dark Horse in 2016, was created by writer Jeff Lemire and artist Dean Ormston. "With our development team, one of our big initiatives was to bring in a superhero universe," said Nick Pepper, president of Legendary Television Studios. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed, and timing is not yet set on the debut of the first project.
In "Black Hammer," heroes such as Golden Gail, a woman in her 50s who feels trapped by her young, superpowered body; Barbalien, a gay Martian; and Col. Weird, whose explorations have left him on edge, find themselves stranded in a farm community year upon year with little hope of getting home. Each issue reveals more of their plight, their efforts at connection with their fellow residents and the quest by a family member to find them.
The comic is one of several projects by Lemire, a prolific writer and cartoonist, that have been optioned. But "with 'Black Hammer,' it's not just one book. It's a whole universe with multiple books — and it will be multiple projects for film and television," he said. The "Black Hammer" universe includes the main series and three miniseries, so far, that take staples of the superhero genre (such as magic words that grant special abilities) and turn them on their head.
In 2017, "Black Hammer" received the Eisner — the industry equivalent of an Academy Award — for best new series.
The farm setting is a special place for Lemire, 42, who was born and raised in a rural area in Essex County, Ontario. He began his career with "Essex County Trilogy," a fictional version of his childhood upbringing.
"I never thought in a million years I'd actually be able to write for Marvel or DC Comics," he said, although he eventually found himself working, usually as a writer, for those companies, which are primarily known for their superhero fare.
" 'Black Hammer' is my love letter to superhero comics as an indie comic," he said. The series, he said, gives him a chance to explore stories that he might not have been able to do with flagship characters.
Lemire will be involved in writing the adaptations, adding to a workload that includes a graphic novel, "Frogcatchers," to be published by Simon & Schuster next year. "With 'Black Hammer,' I'm at least a year or two ahead of being published," which allows him to take breaks, but those often involve other projects, such as screenplays or drawing comics.
"It doesn't even feel like work for me," he said. "It's what I would be doing anyway. The more I can do, the more I'll do."