I really wanted to write a blog post on research in writing and what that means, but I had another idea that uprooted that one this morning. I was hanging out with my son (he's five months old) and I decided to indulge on an activity I haven't honestly indulged on in some time: watching cartoons. Now with a five year old, I get my fill of cartoons between Disney and Nick Jr, but they aren't necessarily entertaining to me. Granted, there is a prolonged series of blog posts about Disney Junior's Sofia the First, but that's not this post. (Seriously, between the world building, succession drama and magic system there's plenty for an aspiring fantasy novelist to comment on.) This is about something else.
I watched a few different shows: Ben 10 Omniverse (I talked about Ben 10 in my Hugo post), Justice League Unlimited and Beware the Batman! It was the last show that got me thinking. It depicts a younger version of Batman figuring out his way fighting crime. It was okay, but I was left wanting. I'm not an expert on the canon of Batman, but it felt as if it were trying to hard to be "different" than any other version of Batman and that bothered me. It got me thinking (and I tweeted a little about this) about what existing properties in media today deserve a YA makeover/prequel. Here's my list:
I know that Beware the Batman is being billed as a "younger" Batman, but if there's a hero in the DC universe that deserves a YA version, it's Batsy. It has all the hallmarks of what's in YA right now: a dark loner orphan trying to fit in while trying to seek justice for his parent's murder. I know there was a "Gotham High" thing circulating around a few years ago and there's a very Smallville Bruce Wayne TV script out there too and both of those were attempts to make the Dark Knight YA-ish. There are a lot of different approaches one could make. One is a straight up, as close to the canon prequel with hints and clues about who would become what in the future. This would be your Smallville route. Another could be similar to "Gotham High," just completely de-age the villains and make them fit within the new setting that is created for the YA audience. A third way could be a straight up "younger" Batman facing the villains we know and love.
My Pitch: Bruce Wayne appears to be a spoiled rich kid with no parents and a Lamborghini in the student parking lot. What his classmates don't know is that Wayne is a vigilante in training even though he doesn't realize it yet, surrounding himself with allies like former NFL player and technology genius Lucius Fox, rookie cop Jim Gordon, quirky, Sherlock Holmes obsessed English teacher Maggie Adler and a mysterious martial arts master, all unknowingly teaching him everything he needs to know for his future career as the Batman.
NOTE ABOUT SUPERHEROES: I'm sure I could do several pitches for superhero themed YA concepts, but I won't. I'll give you the two that I think almost NEED any kind of quality project dedicated to them: Wonder Woman and Luke Cage. I'll say this as well: ENOUGH WOLVERINE ALREADY.
2. STAR WARS
I know there are already YA Star Wars books, but those all seem to focus on EU characters and mostly are about the Jedi. Let's face it the Jedi are boring and the EU canon has gotten as convoluted as that of the Transformers or Godzilla. So why not focus on the original stories and the Holy Trinity of characters: Luke, Han and Leia. They are the more interesting than any of the Clones or Madalorians or whoever else is out there.
My Pitch Luke: Luke Skywalker lives on a moisture farm on the backwater planet of Tattooine where he stares at the stars waiting for his chance to leave the sandy rock and fulfill his imaginary destiny. Time whittles away slowly and Luke falls in with a group of racers and scamps trying to find the next challenging race in this "Fast and the Furious" meets "Buck Rogers" YA scifi adventure.
My Pitch Han: Han Solo is a grease monkey building starships out of spare parts. After winning several sublight races between the various planets of the Corellian system, Han runs afoul with the local authorities and reluctantly agrees to take his skills to the Imperial Military Academy on Cadria. Han's cockiness and lack of respect of authority makes him a target for his commanders and fellow cadets. Everything changes when he is sent as part of a support crew for a mission to Kashyyyk and he meets a wookiee named Chewbacca.
My Pitch Leia: Princess Leia Organa is the youngest human to ever serve in the Imperial Senate and hates every moment of it. She can sense the rot in the place and is disgusted by it. With the help of her father, Bail Organa, she becomes a member of the Rebel Alliance and becomes a leader to the younger people of the galaxy with a message of hope in dark times. (Okay, that's the weakest of the three, but I'm imagining it as a very political/courtly drama kind of thing.)
3. THE SOPRANOS
Okay, this one might be a stretch, but the more I thought about this one, the more I liked it. Who doesn't like a decent gangster story? And has there been a better gangster story than The Sopranos? It's soap opera like situations are perfect for a YA story.
According to Wikipedia, Tony Soprano was born in 1959, meaning he'd be a teen in the late 70s. Perfect. You could play in the wilderness that is the late 70s in NYC/NJ and maybe pull some adults in with a nostalgia for that time period. Plus, how great an adult foil would Tony's mother make?
My Pitch: Anthony Soprano worships his father, renown gangster Johnny Boy Soprano. So it only makes sense that Tony pretty much runs his high school the same way his father runs northern New Jersey with his friends Silvio, Ralph and Jackie. Desperate to be noticed, Tony cooks up a scheme that is as crazy as it is dangerous: rob a card game being run by one of the most dangerous men in northern New Jersey: Feetch LaManna.
4. DISNEY PRINCESSES
I know that Disney is sort of covering this for a younger audience with Sofia the First and that the source material they mine for their stories are the same ones that a lot of YA authors are also mining but the Disney Princesses are iconic and there's some room to play with some of the more contemporary ones. I'm thinking of Belle for the most part. My daughter adores her and there's lots of room for something to be done with her. You could go an adventure route or a prequel route, focusing on either Belle or Prince Adam/The Beast. But again, the problem with this one is that the "rewritten fairy tale" niche is really, really crowded.
My Pitch: The people of her village consider her eccentric but Belle could care less. She seeks adventure and excitement where most girls her age jockey for position for the attention of Gaston. The problem is that Gaston is in love with Belle. The woods that surround the village are filled with dangerous creatures and the only two people in the village that seem to notice are Belle and Gaston, who have different methods of dealing with them: Belle with compassion, Gaston with the end of a musket.
NOTE ABOUT DISNEY PRINCESSES: There are a lot of different combinations. A Snow White sequel with Snow White and the dwarves becoming witch hunters is another. An aged up Sofia the First in some kind of succession conflict/war would be harsh but interesting to me. But again, the problem comes with a crowded market.
5. DORA THE EXPLORER
Nick has sort of tried this already a few years ago and they haven't done anything with it since, but an adventure series focusing on her adventures could be very interesting if done right. Now, I'm not going to write a pitch, instead I'm going to let you watch this video:
There's plenty of other ones that I'm leaving out. Sherlock Holmes and James Bond almost instantly come to mind, but they've been done are being done. I contemplated a pitch for Conan, but decided not to, as appealing as he is, I wonder if he'd work as a YA character. Superman was done, and done well in Smallville, so despite the popularity of the character, I think it's still too soon for there to be a rehash of his character.
Are there any other characters for pop culture, television, comics, movies, etc that deserve a YA makeover?
Also, any publishers/owners of the above characters that like my pitches, please contact my agent Bob Mecoy.