EXCLUSIVE: John Ridley and Blumhouse Productions have teamed on a movie adaptation of his comic book series The American Way: Those Above And Those Below. The Oscar-winning 12 Years A Slave writer and creator/exec producer of the ABC anthology series American Crime is writing to direct a film that uses superheroes to explore timely social issues including race and integration. Jason Blum will produce.
The comic was published as a six-issue monthly miniseries last year by DC Entertainment’s Vertigo label. Ridley wrote the story will illustrator George Jeanty, and it was a followup to their acclaimed 2007 graphic novel The American Way. The original dealt with the creation of a team of ’60s superheroes called The Civil Defense Corps, each with special powers but also a specific ethnic makeup designed to make segments of the American population feel safe and represented. There is also a group of supervillains pitted against the heroes, but the whole thing is partly a contrivance to pacify an American public growing increasingly inflamed with the times. The movie will be focused in 1972 and pick up that original story a decade later. Ridley has said his inspiration for the series was Ridley reading of LBJ’s desire to add a black astronaut to the space program. Jason Fisher is added to the superhero roster as The New American, a black man subjected to genetic manipulation to give him super strength but a limited pain threshold. His presence creates turmoil within the superhero crew, emblematic of the times, and when the government creates a new superhero called Hellbent to mask this strife, the superhero crew is devastated by the results.
Ten years after the CDC was torn apart by racism, infighting and murder and exposed as a propaganda sham, the surviving members are heading in different directions. Missy Devereaux–a.k.a. Ole Miss–is transitioning from the First Lady of Mississippi into a candidate for governor and defender of a vanishing and hateful way of life. Amber Eaton–formerly known as Amber Waves–is a domestic terrorist, using her powers to infiltrate and destroy the country’s centers of power. Fisher has remained a crime fighter conflicted with being a propaganda prop to sustain a system rigged against the black population of America. He tries to become a champion of the disenfranchised people of inner-city Baltimore, who are wary he is a tool of the heavy-handed police force. Though the film will be set in 1972, there are plenty of issues that ring relevant today and that give this a chance to be more than your typical spandex saga.
Ridley’s work includes the documentary Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992, about the culture of the city leading up to the Rodney King beating and subsequent riot. Ridley is repped by Brillstein Entertainment Partners.
The project is being fast tracked by Blumhouse, which just released Truth or Dare.