For anyone who enjoys densely plotted crime dramas and/or inky black noirs, one of the genre’s most acclaimed modern efforts, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ Criminal series, is set to make some bullet-ridden mayhem on the small screen. Amazon Studios officially ordered its in-development Criminal adaptation to series in early January, so fans with Amazon Prime subscriptions can look forward to meeting the Patterson and Lawless families, among others.
With all the upcoming superhero movies and shows set for the 2024 TV premiere schedule and beyond, a comic book adaptation like Criminal will definitely stand out. While waiting for updates, here’s everything we know so far about the Prime Video original.
When Will Criminal Season 1 Premiere?
Amazon Studios announced the Criminal series order on January 8, a little less than a year after development was first unveiled. But despite that lengthy set-up time, the company unfortunately didn’t indicate any kind of release goals for the first season.
Given the street-level crime at the heart of Criminal, the production will likely be largely fueled by practical effects, which hopefully means it won’t require as lengthy and complicated a post-production process as more fantastical comic book stories. That said, the various timelines that pull focus throughout the series may be where the most CGI tweaks are needed.
Criminal Is Based On The Award-Winning Comic From Ed Brubaker And Sean Phillips
Set in and around the seedy fictional location of Center City, Criminal builds upon multiple generations of crime lords, ballsy underlings, and the few innocents caught up in all the violence. Each volume focuses on a specific arc and characters, with lots of connective tissue throughout, and the combination of Brubaker’s writing and Phillips’ art somehow draws reader empathy for the ruthless and murderous messes that drive each story forward, from brutes Teeg and Tracy Lawless to the teen junkie Ellie to the endlessly miserable Archie send-up Riley Richards.
The first issue of Criminal was published in October 2006 by the Marvel imprint Icon Comics, where the series remained for its first six story arcs, with 2011’s The Last of the Innocents as Icon’s final arc-specific trade paperback, though the Deluxe Edition Vol. 2 compilation was released the next year. Thereafter, the crime noir shifted to Image for later releases. The full line-up is laid out below:
- Coward (won Eisner Award for Best New Series)
- The Dead and the Dying
- Bad Night
- The Sinners
- The Last of the Innocent (won Eisner Award for Best Limited Series)
- Wrong Time, Wrong Place
- My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies (won Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album – New)
- Bad Weekend
Clearly, there’s a lot of story that could make it to TV in a best case scenario, so here’s hoping the show comes together in the most ideal way possible.
Has Criminal Set Its Cast, Episode Count, Or Rating?
At this early point in Criminal‘s development at Amazon Studios, no casting information has been revealed just yet. Similarly, no information was shared during the initial announcement that indicated how many episodes the new series’s first season could be.
While those two topics would be rather difficult to make guesses for, there’s no doubt that Criminal will earn a TV-MA rating for its violence (domestic and otherwise), sexual situations, drug and alcohol use, explicit language, and all the emotional damage that usually comes with noir gems.
Ed Brubaker Will Serve As Co-Showrunner Opposite Another Award-Winning Writer
While this will be the first time Ed Brubaker will be working directly on an adaptation of his own creation, Brubaker previously served as co-creator and co-writer of Amazon’s 2019 crime drama Too Old to Die Young with Nicholas Winding Refn. He also co-wrote a Season 1 episode of Westworld with Jonathan Nolan.
Brubaker won three Eisners for Best Writer partly for his work on Criminal (as well as his and Phillips’ Incognito, among some Marvel titles), and he’ll be paired up as co-showrunner with another writer also known for taking home major awards: Jordan Harper, whose 2023 release Everybody Knows was named a best Crime Novel of the Year by the New York Times. His 2018 novel, She Rides Shotgun, took home the Edgar Award for Best First Novel, and is currently being produced as a feature film starring Taron Egerton.
On the TV side of things, Harper had a stint as writer and supervisiing producer on both The Mentalist and Gotham, and later worked as a writer and consulting producer on Starz’s Hightown. He was also on the creative team trying to spin L.A. Confidential into a TV show in 2019.
Criminal Is The Latest A+ Comic Adaptation From Amazon Studios
Anyone who gets a lot of use out of Prime Video — older viewers, anyway — has likely watched one of the service’s A+ comic book shows: The Boys, Gen V, and Invincible. All three have attained large fandoms and widespread acclaim for bringing their source material to the screen in big and blood-splattered ways, and it has only seemed to boost confidence levels at Amazon Studios for more comic-specific series. (Can The Boys Season 4 just get here already?)
As far as its upcoming slate goes, here’s what fans can hopefully expect, with each of these in varying levels of development. There’s the two DC animated series Batman: Caped Crusader, for which Ed Brubaker was a head writer on its first season, and Bat-Family, while former Batman scribe Scott Snyder and Jock’s stellar horror Wytches was ordered to series in February 2023.
And when it comes to projects that are earlier in the formation phases, there’s Charles Soule and Ryan Browne’s all-genre Eight Billion Genies, announced in July 2022, and an unexpected Spider-Man Noir project. Maybe we’ll get to see a crossover between Spidey and Criminal at some point? Probably not.
This Isn’t The First Attempt To Adapt Criminal
While Amazon Studios’ Criminal series is already the closest anyone has come to bringing the series to live-action, it isn’t the first time an attempt was made. Ed Brubaker wrote a script for a feature film version back in 2011, with Hard Candy and 30 Days of Night helmer David Slade tapped to direct. The filmmaker later exited the project.
Then in 2013, The Last Stand and I Saw the Devil director Kim Jee-woon was named for a Criminal adaptation, with Brubaker also delivering a screenplay for this version. Sadly, it also fell through early on in development.
Brubaker And Phillips Created Other Series That Could Also Make Great TV Shows
Starting with 2000’s Scene of the Crime, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips are comic industry royalty for their many projects together, with the bulk of them falling within the crime drama genre. And if Criminal ends up turning into a huge hit, then fans could bear witness to a glorious wave of Brubaker/Phillips adaptations. Here’s a list of the non-Criminal books the duo have put together over the years.
- Scene of the Crime
- The Fade Out
- Kill or Be Killed
- Night Fever
- Where the Body Was
I’d be most interested in seeing either Fatale or Kill or Be Killed being adapted into TV shows, but I’d easily welcome anything from the list above. Such is the excellence of Brubaker and Phillips.
Stay tuned for more pulpy Criminal details being slipped under the door in the dead of night as the production process gets underway, and check out some of the best TV shows streaming with Amazon Prime while waiting.