Many of Vertigo’s comics have received some form of adaptation, namely those associated with the broader DC Comics Universe. One original Vertigo title that still gets overlooked for an adaptation is Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso 100 bullets. An award-winning noir series that put Azzarello’s name on the map, 100 bullets is the perfect series to bring to the small screen in streaming format.
Combining noir and detective story archetypes with a dark take on urban life, 100 bullets is far more than meets the eye. Its realistic setting, especially when contrasted with the sprawling backstory, makes it a great candidate for a series on HBO Max or any other streaming service. Now over 20 years old, here’s what made the book so great and why it would make an incredible TV series too.
100 Bullets combines street level noir with hidden conspiracies
The basic premise of the Pulp series 100 bullets is his armor of the same name. In the stories, a person is greeted by the esoteric agent Graves, who offers them the opportunity to exact revenge on whoever wronged them. The method they would use to do this was information about their target, along with a pistol and 100 bullets, none of which could be traced if the intended victim were killed. No matter what, the only reward is ending a personal vendetta, provided, of course, that person embarks on the prescribed mission.
These various tales of revenge are only part of the puzzle, however, as they and Agent Graves’ machinations turn out to be parts of a much larger whole. The organization Graves is a part of has ties dating back to the discovery of the New World, with their actions behind one of America’s earliest tragedies. This leads Graves and others to embark on their own mission of revenge against the mysterious “Trust,” a secret society that pulls the strings behind the scenes.
100 orbs with realistic, grounded characters in a dark world
As already mentioned, the world of 100 bullets is very realistic, even if the story is grandiose. The elements that solidify this are the realism of the characters and dialogue, with many of the stories being littered with urban slang. None of it ever strays into the cartoon’s path, and when urban Latino gangbangers churn out lines like “Let’s Motor,” it feels authentic. Because no matter how murky and dirty things may get, circumstances never feel unnecessarily glorified or demonized. Likewise, even the most terrifying characters are a pleasure to read, even if their actions are downright repulsive. An example of this is Lono, also known as the dog, who excels and revels in the most vicious and heinous forms of violence. He’s also perhaps the most egregious example of less-than-realistic elements on the show, as he’s known for getting out of seemingly deadly situations. It only makes reading about him more interesting, with his miraculous comebacks always a surprise.
Then there are others like “Dizzy” Cordova, one of the many fake characters Graves wants to “help”. Her backstory fits any poverty-stricken family that has lived a hard life on the streets, and the situation, however horrific, helps make it relatable and easy to find. The escalating events of the series also fuel her feelings that her life is out of her control, something that isn’t difficult to understand by the end. They, along with a few other characters, are urban minorities whose presence again feels natural and never falls within the realm of obnoxious “poverty porn.” Given this recipe for a great TV series, especially in today’s landscape, that’s incredibly surprising 100 bullets has not yet been modified in any way.
It’s time for one 100 bullets TV series
There have been some attempts to adapt Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso 100 bullets in other media, from video games to movies. These all failed for one reason or another, although another film version is reportedly still in the works. However, a much better idea would be to take advantage of the current landscape of prestige TV and turn the series into a quality TV series, likely on a streaming service. Given that Vertigo/DC Comics is owned by Warner Bros. Discovery, the most likely option would be to make the show available on HBO Max.
The show’s format would likely start out as a crime/noir equivalent of anthology shows like American Horror Story, before eventually merging into a more cohesive plot. Whether it could last 100 episodes is unknown, especially given how breakneck the streaming wars have become. However, as far as comic book adaptations go, do 100 bullets is a lot cheaper than adapting any other superhero series, and the footage itself is ripe for a moody, sleazy series that captures the comics and brings them to life.