The comics medium has made its Hollywood credentials on the bountiful crop of super-hero fiction it’s served up to be adapted into movies and film, but there’s more to comics than capes and cowls. And with Warner Bros. slowly coming around to the bumper crop of great stories it has not named Batman or Suprman, there’s a certain steel-eyed sergeant they should get to know: Sgt. Rock.
Created by a pair of army veterans-turned-comic-creators named Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert, Sgt. Rock burst onto the comics scene in the late 50s in the military series Our Army At War. Serving alongside his comrades in Easy Company, Sgt. Rock fought on the front lines (and behind enemy lines) in the European theater of World War II. Years before there was Nick Fury & The Howling Commandos, there was Sgt. Rock. And unlike that eye patch-wearing Marvel hero, Sgt. Rock kept in the military — and kept fighting in the WW2 — for over 50 years in comic books worldwide.
There have been several half-hearted attempts to bring Sgt. Rock to the big screen with everyone from Arnold Schwarznegger to Bruce Willis talking about the role, and writers as illustrious as John Milius (Conan) working up stories and directors like Guy Ritchie (Sherlock Holmes) signing on them promptly dropping off the project. Sgt. Rock wouldn’t stand for that kind of pussy-footing and lily-livered nonsense, so we’re giving Hollywood a cheat sheet to get a great Sgt. Rock movie made.
Although there hasn’t been one definitive Sgt. Rock tale told (yet), he benefits from having a wealth of material created in his 50+ year history, many with artist (and sometimes writer) Joe Kubert. One story I always thought would make a great movie (or talkie as Sgt. Rock might call it) would be Sgt. Rock’s imprisonment in a Nazi POW camp called Stalag 9, a rustic European castle led by a classic war villain straight out of a James Bond movie named the Iron Major. An ideal movie would show Rock and his Easy Company brethren getting into some Uncle Sam-endorsed trouble in the hinterlands, with Rock being captured. Once in custody, we’d see dual perspectives of Easy Company trying to rescue Rock while Rock mounts a one-man escape plan with the Iron Major as the ultimate foil.
In terms of tone and scope, you can leave your Green Lantern-scale budget behind and strap up for a classic WW2 type of movie that just so happens to be based on a comic. This is dirty, shake and unkempt — just like Sgt. Rock should be.
To bring this movie to life, I’d tap Justified‘s creator Graham Yost. Yost has a certain way of getting to the heart of character and their subtleties, and he has a surprisingly large track record doing war movies — albeit on the small screen — directing episodes of both Band of Brothers and The Pacific. He’s shown he’s got a real Midas’ touch when it comes to storytelling if given the right room and the right actors, and boy do I have a group for him.
Sgt. Frank Rock – Guy Pearce: While he’s had a shot at being a Hollywood leading man before with uneven results (The Time Machine), he continues to deliver knock-out performances like in Memento, The Proposition and the recent Lockout that tells me he needs a second chance, and Sgt. Rock needs him. Pearce is due for some well-deserved comic fan attention coming up in 2013 with his role in Iron Man 3, and it would be a coup for DC to reel him in to do this.
The Iron Major - Terry O’Quinn: Say what you will about the season finale of Lost, but Terry O’Quinn remains a A-lister when it comes to delivering in film roles. He’s been relegated to guest-starring roles on TV series like Hawaii Five-O while waiting for his own television show to get off the ground, but DC would do well to grab O’Quinn up to play the Iron Major to deliver a great villianous performance that’s more than just a generic Nazi general.
Horace “Bulldozer” Nichols – Owain Yeoman: Bulldozer’s always had a soft touch to me despite being a gun-toting second to Sgt. Rock, and I think The Mentalist‘s Owain Yeoman would be a great fit to deliver both in the muscle and in the heart for this role.
Harold “Wildman” Shapiro – Domhnall Gleeson: No it’s not Snowjob from G.I. Joe, it’s Wildman — known for his beserker-like antics when on the battlefield. Outside the war zone, Wildman is better known as history professor Harold Shapiro, and I’d love to see Domhnall Gleeson live up to both sides of that in a Sgt. Rock movie.
Jackie Johnson – Nate Parker: Nate Parker might be tired of military epics after filming Red Tails, but I can’t go without listing him as the ideal actor to portray this champion boxer-turned-soldier. I’d love to see what Graham Yost would do with Parker in this role, especially when he comes head-to-head with the Nazis on the other side.