Oscar-winning screenwriter John Ridley ("12 Years a Slave," "Guerrilla") will be the latest Black filmmaker to helm a superhero film as he adapts "The American Way: Those Above and Those Below" into a feature.
Deadline reported yesterday (April 16) that the movie, a partnership with Blumhouse Productions ("Get Out"), draws from Ridley’s own six-part comic series of the same name, which came out via DC Comics imprint Vertigo Comics last year. Vertigo will release all six pieces in a shared volume tomorrow (April 18). That series was the follow-up to another limited series, "The American Way," that Ridley also wrote and released via DC Comics in 2006.
"The American Way" projects focus on the Civil Defense Corps, a group of superheroes developed by the U.S. government during the early part of the Cold War. The team’s members vary in both special powers and ethnicity—a deliberate step taken by the government to make different groups feel represented. The group splinters over internal racism and other tensions, including being exposed during the tumultuous 1960s as a U.S. propaganda machine.
"Those Above and Those Below," from which Ridley will adapt the movie’s screenplay, picks up in 1972, as the group’s members alternately pursue social justice and White supremacist politics. The activities of The New American, a Black team member stuck between White police and the Black community of Baltimore, prompts chaos that pits the surviving team members against one another and their former handlers.
Ridley told io9/Gizmodo in 2017 that he saw "The American Way" as capturing cycles of activism, repression and dissent that manifest in contemporary U.S. society:
You look at the John McCains of the world and the conservatives and the Jeff Flakes, and they’re going, “I don’t like that.” They may not be necessarily politicians that I would agree with issue-by-issue, but they’re looking at [the issues] and going, “We don’t agree with that.” Then, look at the left. Is it going to be the more Bernie Sanders socialistic left? Is it going to be the centrists? The Kamala Harrises of the world? Who’s that person going to be? And if they can’t figure it out, then the other side is going to have that opportunity. Then, factor in the Roy Moores of the world. What is that going to do? How is that going to explode things?
Ridley will also direct "The American Way."