Director John Ridley is teaming up with producer Jason Blum and his Blumhouse Productions company for an adaptation of Ridley’s superhero comic book The American Way. Ridley, who won an Oscar for writing 12 Years a Slave and created ABC’s American Crime, is currently working on the screenplay adaptation, which will use superheroes to explore timely issues like race and integration. It’s possible that this project could be released by Universal, since the studio is in its fourth year of an unprecedented 10-year first look deal with Jason Blum and Blumhouse Productions, although a studio home has not yet been confirmed.
The movie will be based on the 2007 limited comic book series The American Way: Those Above and Those Below, which was published as a six-issue monthly mini-series last year by DC Entertainment’s Vertigo label. That series was written by Ridley and illustrated by George Jeanty, and was a follow-up to Ridley and Jeanty’s 2007 graphic novel The American Way, which was set in the 1960s. The graphic novel followed the creation of a new superhero team in the 1960s called The Civil Defense Corps. While each member of the team has a specific super power, each member of the team is also from a different race, so each race/ethnicity in society can be represented.
The American Way: Those Above and Those Below comic is set 10 years later, with the movie set in the year 1972. Ridley has said in the past that the inspiration for this comic came from President Lyndon B. Johnson, who reportedly wanted to add a black astronaut to the NASA space program. The story follows a black man named Jason Fisher who is added to the superhero roster as a hero known as The New American who gained super powers of extreme strength and a limited pain threshold, due to genetic mutation. His presence creates tension and strife for this superhero team, with the government creating a new hero called Hellbent to mask this tension.
The team also includes Missy Devereaux, a.k.a. Ole Miss, the First Lady of Mississippi who is now running for governor, while Amber Eaton, a.k.a. Missy Waves, is now a domestic terrorist trying to destroy the country’s centers of power. As for Fisher, he tries to become the champion for the impoverished and disenfranchised citizens of an inner city Baltimore neighborhood, although its citizens know he’s part of this government team, and therefore a part of the “system” the community is railing against. This project will mark the first superhero adaptation for Blumhouse, and could ultimately become the first superhero franchise for Universal, one of the few studios who don’t have a tentpole superhero franchise.
John Ridley started his career as an author and a playwright, with his first novel Stray Dogs turned into the 1997 movie U-Turn. He got his start in TV by writing for Martin, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, The John Laroquette Show and Third Watch before creating shows like Platinum, Barbershop and the web series Undercover Brother, which was adapted into the movie of the same name. Ridley has also written features such as Three Kings, Red Tails, 12 Years a Slave, Jimi: All Is By My Side, which he also directed, and Ben-Hur. Deadline broke the news on The American Way earlier today.