With the release of Glass, M. Night Shyamalan’s trilogy surrounding the crash of Eastrail 177, encompassing that film, 2000’s Unbreakable and 2017’s Split, is finally complete (for the foreseeable future) after nineteen years. However, for some odd reason, despite being based around an analysis of superheroes and super villains, no comic books were ever produced about this franchise.
Superpowers and weaknesses are played through a relative air of realism. For example, David Dunn, a.k.a. “the Overseer,” has an intensely dense bone structure, and so has superhuman strength and durability… but that same density means that he is completely unable to swim or float in water, and is completely separate from his ability to see the crimes committed by others via touch. The Beast personality of Kevin Wendell Crumb, a.k.a. “the Horde,” has a whole host of abilities revolving around animals including a degree of superhuman strength, heightened agility, and near-bulletproof durability, but the fact that all of these abilities are essentially cognitively based means that if another personality were to take over, all of those abilities would be instantly lost, and they are each relatively weaker than the more highly specialized Dunn.
Even the mastermind archetype embodied by Elijah Price, the eponymous “Mr. Glass,” is part of the same tropes and given its own realism. There is no superhuman trait in mind, but rather highly advanced intellect and malicious aims brought about by bullying and his own physical vulnerability due to his brittle bones. Rather than have any kind of real superpowers, he manipulates events through clever use of technology, psychology, and awareness of his own story, and so can be easily killed if it comes to such an event.
As a warning, examination of this trilogy will include references to the twist ending of Glass by necessity, and so expect spoilers.
As shown in Glass, David Dunn is definitely not the first superhuman. According to a certain organization brought up toward the end of the film, superhumans have existed for more than ten thousand years, but are eliminated before they can reveal their abilities to be truthful to large groups.
However, who is to say that all of the attempts to silence them were successful on the whole? The idea of superheroes with powers came from somewhere, from mythology on some level, and literary elements on another. For example, the Beast could be a darker, adapted take on Tarzan. David Dunn might just be an earthly modification on John Carter of Mars. Urban legends also follow a “super” scheme, such as some exaggerated accounts of Victorian legend “Spring-heeled Jack,” “Mothman” of 1967 West Virginia, and more.
Of course, the fact that the history dates back to at least ten thousand years would spread the ideas across a far wider area, straight into the realm of mythology. For example, what kind of physiology would Hercules/Herakles have, or Gilgamesh? What stories would have been merely exaggerated accounts of what truly happened, and how would those powers function in more limited capacities in the proto-superhero scheme, albeit with different moral structures in place?
All of this seems ripe for an anthology of different heroes and villains across the ages as far back as 8000 BCE.
With the emergence of superhumans into the public spotlight (provided the evidence wasn’t dismissed as faked), a more consistent story can be told. Joseph Dunn (son of David Dunn), Casey Cooke (former kidnapping victim of the Horde), and Mrs. Price (mother of Mr. Glass) seem primed to start their own group in opposition to the nameless organization centered around the three-leaf clover (hereafter identified as “the Clovers”), as new superhumans on both sides of the moral spectrum are likely to pop up around the world. While the Clovers would want to get rid of every piece of evidence, that idea is no longer plausible.
In effect, the idea could be similar to that of The Reckoners Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson, albeit modified heavily: a group of non-powered individuals seeking to protect humanity from the effects of superhuman conflict, even to the possible degree of seeking to eliminate the villains themselves using relatively mundane means. However, while the Clovers would seek to eliminate all evidence, this group, which we could call for argument’s sake “the Broken” in reference to the broken nature of the heroes and villains so far, would seek to help superheroes to help others. Even if Mr. Glass’s plans are likely to lead to a continuation of the superhero paradox of villains emerging specifically to fight said heroes or as a direct result of their actions, the best that the Broken can really do is try to mitigate the effects of that conflict and hope not to fall into the same traps as the Clovers.Continued below
Furthermore, much like the anthology listing mentioned above, the emergence of superhumans in a time when superheroes are increasingly a part of the mainstream culture would cross into areas similar to DC Comics’ Earth-Prime, but on a far more grounded scale similar to some of the beings in the television show Alphas. What kinds of powers would these people have, with what benefits and detriments? What kinds of heroes and masterminds would emerge from their own thrillers, or villains from their own horror stories?
As for creators who would probably work very well with these frameworks, there are a few. Considering his artwork on “Lazarus,” Michael Lark would do a great job with the gritty realism necessary for this possible franchise. Another option that goes straight into full-blown horror would be Eduardo Pansica, with his work on “The Curse of Brimstone” being a prime example, especially when put together with the colors of Rain Beredo from that series. Judging from his gritty work on “American Vampire,” Rafael Albuquerque could also do a great job, especially when coupled with Dave McCaig on colors. For similar reasons, the duo of Gabriel Hardman on illustration and Jordan Boyd on colors would work marvelously, considering their collaboration on “Green Lantern: Earth One.”
For writers, there’s quite a selection. Scott Snyder’s work with horror for “realistic” monsters in “Wytches” and “American Vampire” would translate very well when adapted to superheroics, kind of a merger between his “Batman” work and that. Michael Moreci’s excellent work with horror and intrigue in “Detective Comics” #982 and “Dishonored: The Peeress and the Price” would make him an interesting choice for a fight between the two sides of a conflict, or even a mastermind-centric story. On the thriller aspect, Ryan O’Sullivan’s work with “The Evil Within: The Interlude” could make for a good “what is real” analysis of it all. If going into the height of the superpowered elements, James Tynion IV could do well judging from his work on “Justice League Dark,” though it would admittedly need to be modified significantly to downplay the outright supernatural elements in favor of the realism. Greg Rucka’s proclivity to do intense research in stories such as “Black Magick” and “Lazarus” would make him an excellent choice as well, as would Kieron Gillen’s similarly intense research with “Über” and attention to life off of the battlefield.
In all, the Eastrail 177 Trilogy seems to be an open field for storytelling, one that admittedly may run into some legal trouble with Walt Disney Studios and Universal Pictures, but would likely be well worth the effort overall.