Following the success of Deadpool, Hollywood is interested in bringing more Rob Liefeld creations to the screen. One such property now in the works (as if we willed it into existence) is Prophet, which writer/producer Marc Guggenheim (Green Lantern, TV’s Arrowverse franchise) is adapting as a movie.
Liefeld (who wants Jake Gyllenhaal to star) originally envisioned his character John Prophet as a member of Marvel’s X-Force, but he ended up debuting in a 1992 issue of Image Comic’s Youngblood series instead. The response to the character was so positive that he was given a solo spinoff the following year.
The story in the comics follows a homeless man from the 1940s who signs up to become a cryogenically frozen supersoldier. Although meant to be evil, Prophet is instead programmed to be a religious badass by the time-traveling scientist Dr. Horatio Wells, who then hides the Christian supersoldier from the clutches of wrongdoers.
The plan is for Prophet to remain frozen until he can be called upon in the distant future to defeat Philip Omen and his Disciples. But the character wakes up early, goes ballistic, and is forced to take charge of his own destiny in a world that is alien to him.
Prophet was initially dismissed by many as an “edgy” riff on Captain America because he’s not clean-cut like his fellow out-of-time supersoldier. At one point, he kills a pregnant woman because she’s aligned with the enemy, but the subsequent guilt causes him to go berserk and take out his frustrations on more bad guys.
Slaughter of pregnant women aside, the Prophet comics are quite funny. The titular hero sports long black hair and a tight purple suit with shoulder pads that makes him look like a member of an ‘80s hair metal band. He also has a sidekick called Jackson Kirby, an homage to the great Jack Kirby. Prophet is derivative of other comics in many ways, but it’s still very entertaining.
Prophet’s early adventures focus on the interconnected Image Comics universe. The hero fights Youngblood and later teams up with them. He also encounters Bloodstrike, an elite group of undead government operatives who are very reminiscent of the X-Men. This movie could launch an interesting cinematic universe down the line.
Over the years, the Prophet comics evolved and became even better and more ambitious. Brandon Graham’s 2012 run reimagines him as a Conan the Barbarian-type character in space, and it’s exquisite. The series combines dense science fiction, brutal savagery, and adventure in a way that’s original, thought-provoking, entertaining, and full of imagination.
The early comics revolve around standard superhero plots, but the Graham saga is always throwing surprises into the mix. The series boasts Conan’s sense of pulpy exploration, but its sci-fi elements are heady and complex. Dune fans would love it. I hope the movie contains more aspects from the 2012 run than the original, but elements of both can still complement each other rather well.
Chances are this movie is bound to elicit its own comparisons to Captain America. A World War II character wakes up in the future, after all. But an R rating and a focus on the series’ more complex and satirical qualities could make Prophet stand out from its Marvel counterpart.
The comics also explore the notion of superheroes being exploited, and the movie should embrace this idea. Liefeld adaptations have been praised for their anarchistic sensibilities, and while Prophet isn’t as wacky as Deadpool, it still has some bite.