Comic Book Films That Many Don’t Know are Comic Book Films
Recently, a few of my neighbors and I were talking about summer films to see, and the topic of “Wonder Woman” came up. I enthusiastically said I wanted to see it since it was getting great reviews and one of my neighbors stated that she would never go see it.
I was surprised, as she is a self-professed feminist who is always preaching women’s empowerment; ergo I assumed this movie would be just the top of action-adventure she would want on the big screen. While she agreed with my premises and added that many of her friends had seen it, she declared she would never watch the film because “I don’t watch comic book movies.”
“Never?” I asked.
“I have never seen a film based on a comic book and never intend to.”
Challenge accepted, as chances are, she has seen comic book films. She just doesn’t know it.
While this list is not complete, here are some of my favorite comic book films that most people have no idea are based on comic books.
“Road to Perdition.” This fantastic 2002 film starring Tom Hanks, Paul Newman and Jude Law was nominated for numerous Oscars and won for best cinematography. It’s based on the 1998 graphic novel “Road to Perdition,” which itself was based on a cross-up between the manga novel “Lone Wolf and Cub” and the true story of Chicago gangster John Patrick Looney, whose son was murdered by another mobster during a feud within his own gang.
“Barbarella.” This is a sci-fi cult favorite, starring a very young Jane Fonda who wears incredibly revealing clothing, while she searches for a missing scientist with a doomsday device in space. The film was generally panned by critics, but still did incredibly well at the box office. Today, the cheesiness of the film is what mostly interests film buffs. The movie itself was based on the 1962 French comic book “Barbarella.” The comic book itself was controversial as it was considered pornography by the French government.
“Weird Science.” Yes, the 1985 classic from the late, great John Hughes and starring Anthony Michael Hall was based on the story “Made in the Future” that appeared in the 1950’s comic book series “Weird Science.”
“Ghost World,” “Art School Confidential” and “Wilson” are all movies based on graphic novels produced by Daniel Clowes. “Ghost World” is probably the best of the three, as the story is interesting, it includes a great performance by Steve Buscemi and a performance by a very young, then unknown Scarlett Johansson. “Art School Confidential” has John Malkovich, Anjelica Huston and the then-unknown Adam Scott and is interesting to watch. “Wilson,” which stars Woody Harrelson, came out earlier this year and was universally panned by critics and on Rotten Tomatoes. I will admit that I saw Wilson in the theater with my daughter, and I enjoyed it, but then I like Daniel Clowes’ repressed odd humor. I may have been the only person in the theater laughing, so that’s your warning.
“Monkeybone.” Released in 2001, this starred Brandon Frasier, Bridget Fonda and Whoopi Goldberg, with voice work by John Turturro. Oh, and this movie was terrible. Just god awful. Even on IMDB, it gets a rating of 4.6 stars, and IMDB pretty much rates every film at a six or seven, so that’s how bad it is. That said, it did attract a lot of teen-age dollars at the time because of Frasier and Fonda and because it’s visually stimulating, as it’s a mix of live-action and animation. The movie is based on the 1995 Canadian comic book “Dark Town.”
“30 Days of Night.” This is a 2007 vampire film about a town in upper northern Alaska that is in a long-winter night (sun doesn’t rise for a month) and is invaded by vampires at the time. Reviews were mixed, but the film made nearly double its budget, so a straight-to-video sequel “Dark Days” was released in 2010. Both are based on the three-issue series “30 Days of Night” which was released in 2002.
Here are a few other films that some people may not know were based on comic books, though a some (such as Tank Girl or Scott Pilgrim should have been obvious that they are based on previously published works):
· Scott Pilgrim vs. the World — 2010
· Constantine — 2005
· Big Hero 6
· Cowboys and Aliens
· I, Frankenstein
· Kingsmen: The Secret Service
· Mystery Men
· Tank Girl
I guess the point of this column is to say that comic books are a valid source of material for films beyond just action superhero fodder. With the exceptions of “Big Hero 6” and “Mystery Men,” none of the films above deal with a “superhero” in the contemporary sense of a person in tights fighting crime and super villains. So for those who stick their nose up at “comic book films,” the joke may be on you, as you probably have seen a comic book film and may have also really enjoyed it.