Hollywood seems to have picked up a new habit; that of adapting comic books into films. There’s Batman, Iron Man, Spiderman, Superman, the X-Men… OK, so I jest about the unfortunate name legacy left to some of these franchises, but a lot of them have translated successfully into high grossing films.
Now you may be seeing a trend in these movies, there’s a large showing for Marvel and DC’s finest, but there’s still a lot of love out there for the more obscure, more adult comics. I’ve already mentioned the WE3 movie on these digital pages and works like From Hell, Sin City, V for Vendetta and 30 Days of Night have shown that the graphic novel format can translate just as well.
I have to admit I’m not a fan of superheroes in comic books, the trappings of the underwear pervert have formed a gestalt of ideas it seems hard to break out of (with the exception of Animal Man.) Don’t get me wrong, I like the films that have grown from these established characters, but I’m more of a Transmetropolitan kind of guy. With this in mind I went to see The Spirit last week and was thoroughly disappointed; with Frank Miller, a man with an amazing eye for using shadow contrasts, and the source material from Will Eisner, the father of comics I expected a triumph, instead I left the theatre bored and bemused.
To this end I’ve decided to list, for your delectation, 5 movies that you may not know were based on comic books…
Based on the graphic novel of the same name, A History of Violence tells the story of a cafe owner trying to escape the repercussions of a horrendous crime he committed as a youth. The comic was written by John Wagner, one of the creators of British comics icon Judge Dredd (which also became a film, but a truly abysmal one) and drawn by Vince Locke, famous for his work on the Brief Lives run of Sandman. the film holds an 87% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes and was nominated for two Oscars, one of them for Josh Olsen’s adaptation of the original comic’s script. The film differs quite a lot from the graphic novel, but the central themes and tone are retained effectively.
The original Road to Perdition was written by Max Allan Collins, an insanely talented writer of novels and script, as well as directing and writing for a band. The bast. The art for the books was drawn by Richard Piers Rayner, an old DC/Marvel hand and now Middlesborough FC’s resident artist. The books themselves tell the story of a disgraced mafia enforcer trying to raise his son in a world of violence, a theme which is retained in the film version. Sadly David Self‘s treatment of the adaptation was tinkered about with by a rotating group of writers at the behest of Spielberg and resulted in the dilution of the film’s message.
Perennial goth posterboy Eric started life as the main character of J. O’Barr‘s The Crow. As the writer and artist James created The Crow as a way of dealing with the death of his fiancée at the hands of a drunk driver, a fact mirrored in the fiction as Eric’s fiancée is killed in the book. In this case I feel the film outshines the comic. O’Barr’s personal misery is evident in the book, but comes across as a little too goth for my tastes. The film was directed by Alex Proyas, director of the fantastic Dark City, and the production of the film famously led to the death of it’s star Brandon Lee.
Yeah, if you’ve seen this then you know it’s a biopic of autobiographic comic creator Harvey Pekar. the film takes aspects of Pekar’s life and mixes them with the elements of his American Splendor series to tell the story of Pekar’s life and the creation of the series he’s famous for. Drawn by different artists, including legendary underground comics genius R. Crumb the comic series is to my mind one of the best examples of exactly what can be done with the graphic novel medium. The film currently enjoys a 94% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes. See it, its bloody good.
Not strictly its own comic book, Ghost World was a story arc from creator Daniel Clowes‘ alt comic Eightball. It tells the tale of two 90’s high school graduates and the decline of their friendship as they transition into adulthood. Directed by Terry Zwigoff the man responsible for Crumb, a documentary about the life of R. Crumb (which I’ve not managed to see yet) the movie garnered Clowes an Oscar nomination for his treatment of his own work.