I had a blast last week blogging about horror comics.
This week I thought I would look at comics in film. It seems that every time we turn around, there is another film based on a comic hitting the theater. Some of them are amazing (300, Sin City, Iron Man) while others are steaming piles of crap (Daredevil, Howard the Duck, Barb Wire).
So, I thought I would point out a few films that you may (or may not) know were based on comics, and look at the source material. Maybe you will find something interesting!
Batman: The Dark Knight
The Dark Knight ruled the theaters this summer, and understandably so. It was a great story, shot beautifully, and wonderfully acted. The tragedy that was the death of Heath Ledger didn’t hurt the buzz on this film either.
The title of the film comes from this story. It is an amazing tale of an aged Batman coming out of retirement to face off against Superman (who has become a tool of the government). This comic literally changed the comics medium. It, along with Watchmen (which we will get to in a minute) has directly impacted every comic written since. The Dark Knight Returns showed everyone the full possibilities of comics.
The dark Knight Returns makes the perfect book end to the equally entertaining Batman: Year One. While not quite as groundbreaking as The Dark Knight, it was a solid story showing early adventures of batman, much like the film Batman Begins.
This film has not yet been released, it is already being talked about and argued over. It is seen as the Holy Grail of comic movies. The source material is the stuff of legends. Seriously. Watchmen was named to Time Magazine’s list of the top 100 novels of all time. Like The dark Knight returns, it was designed to be a completely different comic experience. The author explained that it was designed to be read four or five times before all the nuances and meaning sunk in. This was a far cry from the common thought that comics were a disposable medium.
Road to Perdition
If it has Tom Hanks in it, it has to be good. Right? This Prohibition era story shows the complex relationship between a father and a son. Throw in gunfights and double crosses worthy of The Sopranos or The godfather, and you begin to see the pleasure that is this book. The artist spent a couple of years working on the book. It is said to be the most visually accurate book of Chicago and the Mid-West for this period.
Persepolis tells the true tale of a girl growing up during the revolution in Iran. Her perspective is unique in that she was old enough to remember what it was like before the revolution and was in a family that did not necessarily agree with the revolution. But, being a member of the society, she was expected to live by the new Islamic rules. Her relationship with her family and her country is strained as she leaves, returns, and leaves again the turmoil that is Iran in the 70’s and 80’s.
Hellboy & Hellboy 2
This is one of those times when the film is just not capable of capturing the visuals of the comic. Mike Mignola’s art in the Hellboy books is a solid 82% of the joy. The other 18% is the writing, which the movies also failed to capture. As much as I enjoyed the first Hellboy movie, it just cannot hold a candle to the comics. (UPDATE: Since I wrote this, I have seen the second Hellboy movie and enjoyed it much more than the first. While the movie still does not meet the artistic merits of the comic, Director Guillermo Del Toro has definitely stepped up his game. This is a much better movie than the fisrt)
Speaking of comics which are far superior to the movies, Conan is truly a forgotten gem. We get all wrapped up in the Schwarzenegger portrayal that we forget there was a rich history of comics and pulp novels that came before. Recently, Dark Horse Comics restarted the Conan saga and did a fantastic job. The art was solid and the writing was top-notch. I picked up the first issue since it was only a quarter. I stayed on for the next four years because of the quality of the work!
There are a million more out there. I don’t want to bore you. I will leave you with a short list of films that came from comics. Maybe you will be inspired to check out some of the books and see what you think.
V For Vendetta