Blumhouse made an ingenious move by helping empower Jordan Peele, whose masterful "social horror movie" (or "social thriller", depending on who's applying these arbitrary genre labels) became not only a box office hit, but a now storied critical success - winning the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay while being nominated for Picture, Director and Actor Academy Awards, as well.
Now, it looks like Blumhouse is going to continue investing money in genre projects exploring complex sociological issues, as they've hired Oscar-winning screenwriter John Ridley (12 Years a Slave) to bring his own graphic novel duology, The American Way, to the big screen. Those Above And Those Below was originally published as a six-issue monthly miniseries last year by DC Entertainment’s Vertigo shingle, and was a follow-up to his acclaimed 2007 graphic novel The American Way. Ridley will write and direct the cinematic iteration of his story, which will reportedly mostly draw from the series' sequel.
The first book revolves around the inception of a squad of ’60s superheroes named The Civil Defense Corps - a multi-ethnic group designed to make each segment of the American population feel safe and represented - who fight an equally diverse collection of supervillains. However, this entire struggle is nothing more than a theatrical plot to pacify an American public dealing with the emotionally inflammatory issues of the time.
Ridley's film adaptation will be set in '72 and focus on the fall-out of that original story a decade on. After Jason Fisher - a black man subjected to genetic experimentation - is added to this faux Avengers' roster (and nicknamed "The New American"), his presence creates racial tension within the ranks. The government (as is their way) intervenes, leading to inevitable tragedy and public rage. Like Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' Watchmen, we also see these heroes years later, after they've gone their own ways to become political candidates and terrorists alike.
This sounds like a wildly ambitous project, and Ridley is an incredibly talented artist. Seeing him bring his words and George Jeanty's art to life is going to be one hell of a thrill. Jason Blum's socially-minded cheap thrills - which also include the Purge franchise - are some of the most important genre works helping make up today's cinematic landscape. Here's hoping Ridley can continue that trend with The New Americans.