DC Comics has been having a lot of luck getting its superheroic properties onto TV screens of late. At present, the comics giant—working with its owners at Warner Bros.—has four live-action shows on the air: Arrow, Gotham, The Flash, and Constantine, along with an animated Teen Titans series on Cartoon Network. It’s the kind of success that might make a publisher think it’s capable of doing anything, which could explain why DC is taking its third run in a decade at transforming Warren Ellis’ genre-shifting cult series Global Frequency into a successful TV show.
This latest effort is being spearheaded by producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who secured a pilot production commitment from Fox for the new series. Rockne S. O’Bannon, creator of Farscape and SyFy’s Defiance, will handle writing duties on the pilot, an adaptation of Ellis’ tale of globalized smart mobs being activated to combat paranormal, extraterrestrial, and man-made threats to the safety of the world.
First published under DC’s WildStorm imprint in 2002, the comic centered on The Global Frequency, an international collection of experts from every walk of life. Scientists, adventurers, diplomats, thieves, assassins, athletes, cops, and more were brought together by mysterious superspy Miranda Zero to pool their talents and save the world from government experiments gone awry. The Frequency’s 1,001 members collaborated via high-tech cellphones that acted as handheld computers, allowing them to communicate with each other—and Zero’s right-hand dispatcher Aleph, one of only two recurring regular characters in the series—from around the world. (In author Warren Ellis’ defense, this idea was a lot more revolutionary and high-tech-sounding when the comic was first published, five years before the debut of the iPhone.)
Ellis used the series’ diverse cast and global setting to switch genres from issue to issue, following a paranormal investigation of murderous ghosts with a fast-paced parkour adventure across the roofs of London, before switching to a tense counterterrorist narrative set in post-Cold War Berlin. The series ran for 12 high-concept, high-body-count issues from 2002 to 2004.
In 2005, the-then WB commissioned a pilot for a TV adaptation, with Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica’s Michelle Forbes starring as Miranda Zero. The WB eventually passed on the finished product (with Ellis hinting that executives were so annoyed by the pilot being leaked onto Internet piracy sites, they killed the failing project out of spite.) Another effort was made to get a series together for The CW in 2009, but never made it past the script stage.
And now it falls to Bruckheimer, O’Bannon, and Fox to give Global Frequency a third shot at making it onto the air. It remains to be seen how they’ll handle the comic’s constantly changing setting and genre, as well as its lack of much in the way of a regular cast (though we’re guessing they’ll take at least a few pages from the 2005 WB pilot, excerpted below). But hey, if DC can get Baby Batman and something called iZombie on the air these days, a pan-global espionage thriller with ghosts, aliens, and out-of-control cybernetic soldiers can’t be that much harder, right?