Superheroes have inspired the bulk of film & streaming adaptations, but there are at least three indie comics that could become cottage industries unto themselves: Let's take a look at Love and Rockets, Scalped, and Maus.

What Happens When Superheroes Go Out of Style?

Clearly, there is money in super-powered fantasy, which is why caped crusaders and masked vigilantes have become the defacto source material for blockbuster Hollywood films and streaming series. Thus far, the public's appetite has been voracious but these expanding universes rely upon shared continuity, and that makes it hard for new fans to find a clear entry point. That forces companies like Disney and Warner Bros. to take habitual risks on new projects with untested characters that stand somewhat alone while still contributing to the established narrative of their interconnected franchises.

These films cost hundreds of millions of dollars to make and often an additional hundred million dollars to market. So when one of them fails (like John Carter, Warlord of Mars), it's a massive loss that can actually sink stock prices.

Subscriber-based content providers have much less budget because they can't offset production costs with ad revenue. But they still have to provide new content to keep their subscribers and the notion of additional rental fees within a subscription is new.  The pandemic forced Disney to use their Disney+ subscription service as a sort of home box office (sorry, HBO) as a means of recouping what would otherwise be massive losses via paid-premiere access. So far, it hasn't been particularly lucrative because Disney film budgets are extremely high, and they are losing repeat business since subscribers can rewatch films offered this way. Repeat business has proven to be a significant component of both Marvel and Disney Animation film grosses because of the "nag factor" in households with children.

The most successful content shown via Amazon Prime and Netflix is not science fiction nor fantasy-based (though they have the occasional hit); they are human dramas and the streaming equivalent of sitcoms. This was the bread and butter of terrestrial television for decades which became the cornerstone of cable television thereafter. That's because in advertiser-based media, you can change your ad rates almost weekly to reflect the uptick in popularity. But ad revenue is only one metric for calculating success: awards, buzz, and the value of a show as a lead-in for another show are all considerations for Network and Cable Television.

A long-running TV show can earn well beyond what even the most successful films can. The first-run profit on shows like Friends, Seinfeld, and X-FIles was nominal compared to the hundreds of millions of dollars they each make annually in syndication.

Case Point: The Walking Dead

If you want to get a sense of an intellectual property that keeps on generating income – the kind you can compare to any Marvel or DC-based franchise, look at The Walking Dead. In 2019, which was the absolute nadir of viewership of the ten seasons thus (or about one-third of the annual average), The Walking Dead generated $69.3 million in advertising dollars alone. Its spin-off, Fear the Walking Dead earned an additional $22.3 million. Multiply that first number by about 30 and that second number by 12 to get an ad-dollar gross total of $2.34 billion.

Now add to that, multiple AVOD and SVOD deals for the shows. Netflix has the SVOD rights to The Walking Dead while Hulu has the SVOD rights to Fear the Walking Dead. There are also dedicated “Walking Dead” channels on the AVOD services IMDb TV, Pluto and Dish Network/Sling. AMC has launched a Twitch channel for TWD content, including a weekly show that will do deep dives into past episodes while retaining the SVOD rights to the latest series spin-off, World Beyond, as well as the Chris Hardwicke hosted Talking Dead.

The 2015 mobile game “The Walking Dead: Road to Survival” from Scopely has generated $372.3 million in lifetime revenue while Next Games’ “The Walking Dead: Our World,” a location-based augmented reality game, has accumulated $39.6 million in revenue since launching in 2018.

While The Walking Dead isn't necessarily a cheap show to produce, it's also not terribly expensive. And that should inform the powers that be just how much gold can be mined from non-superhero comics. What follows are three comics that have the potential to become their own cottage industries.

Love and Rockets

It's crazy that nobody has adapted Love and Rockets yet. Universally considered one the greatest achievements in sequential art, the Hernandez Brothers' heartwarmingly gritty stories revolving around a group of East Los Angeles Chicanas and the impoverished residents of Palomar (a fictional Latin American country), set a new, high watermark for what comics could be and who they were for.

Utilizing Frank King's literary device of aging in real-time, the principal characters gain weight, get haircuts, change their fashion, and traverse different romantic entanglements with authenticity and earnestness. No comic (and few books) have impacted me the way that Las Locas and Heartbreak Soup did.  It would seem like a perfect project for Selena Gomez to produce as a follow-up to 13 Reasons Why, and there are thirty years of material to adapt. When that happens, the original black and white indie edition of Love and Rockets #1 achieves Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle prices. Less rare in the wild but much scarcer on the census is the color magazine-size Love and Rockets #1 that is pictured.


If Jim Thompson ever wrote an episode of Breaking Bad it might be a close approximation to Jason Aaron's Scalped #1. There have been rumors that this series was in production for over a decade with nothing to show for it –yet. Whenever someone asks me to recommend something good, I recommend the collected Hoka Hey trade paperback.

Considering the sleeper success of Taika Waititi's Reservation Dogs on Hulu, there is now proof of an audience for a show completely focused on Native Americans, but Scalped is so much more than that. Something of a modern-day Deadwood, the cast of characters runs the gamut from sexy to surly and the storytelling is nothing short of spectacular. This is classic Neo-noir with plenty of sex and violence. It's the type of project that Oliver Stone might have tackled twenty years ago that might be a perfect fit now for Noah Hawley, who adapted Fargo for the small screen.  Now that Better Call Saul is wrapping up, Vince Gilligan might be looking for his next big thing, too, and here's a project with the potential to give a lot more inclusion to a group that has been under-represented when not outright vilified by Hollywood in the past.

Scalped has been ripe for adaptation since day one, and spec has driven the prices up but it's only a matter of time until it happens.


Art Spiegelman's Maus has topped every list of the greatest graphic novels of all time because it is. It was the first (and thus only) comic to win the Pulitzer Prize. This parable about the Holocaust in which Jews are mice and Nazis are cats helps to convey the Orwellian horror of a real, historic tragedy. Just because the characters are anthropomorphic doesn't lighten the severity of their consequences and the scale helps to convey the claustrophobic reality of concentration camp existence.

Because of the scope, it does not lend itself to a film, so any adaptation would have to be a series, and once green-lit I doubt it would get canceled. Steven Spielberg had once been attached to executive produce an animated series in partnership with the Shoah Foundation, but nothing ever came of it (or these reports were merely rumors). Natalie Portman has worked on behalf of the Shoah Foundation and now has her own production company. As a person who picks her projects carefully and leans toward award-winning material, she might be the perfect champion for this long-languishing property.

First serialized in RAW Magazine #1 in 1980 through 1991, there have been several collected editions and series. Discerning the printings and publisher of origin can be very difficult, so I recommend looking for that debut issue of Raw. You won't find one slabbed because there are NONE on the census. This is a magazine that you can sometimes find in a counterculture book store, though high-grade copies have always been rare.

Bottom line: Some of the best sequential work has been reality-based. In Japan, there are successful manga about Ping Pong, Basketball, Hostessing, and coming-of-age. Publications like The Comics Journal were basically dedicated to non-superhero comics, so it's strange that Hollywood hasn't paid more attention.

What do you think? What are some other non-genre titles that could make great media? Comment below!

This blog is written by freelance blogger Matt Kennedy: Matt Kennedy is owner of Gallery 30 South and author of Pop Sequentialism: The Art of Comics. The first comic he bought on the newsstand was Werewolf by Night #32 which he somehow managed to keep in good enough condition to get it graded 9.0 forty years later. Please follow him @popsequentialism on Instagram & Twitter and visit his website:

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