Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The translation of comics to movies

The history of comics being made into movies is fairly long, having started in the 1940's, and the comics in question weren't always from DC or Marvel. There has been a public perception for many years that comics don't translate well to live action movies but at the same time we were actively supporting and promoting (by our ravings) movies that had in fact come from comics, we just hadn't realised it. Yes, there were some live action movies made from comics that were terrible; Daredevil, Catwoman and one or two of the Batmans for example. But even if this is the where you find out their comic origins it will not mean that you loved and still love Alien vs Predator, 30 Days of Night, Iron Man, Kick-AssThe Men in Black, Sin City , From Hell and Tank Girl any less. You certainly didn't hold it against Batman and Superman for half a century when there were a few dud movies amongst their number too.

So here's a list of live action movies made from comics. There are probably more, I had to add a few from the list I was using as a source and I haven't kept up with the origins off all those movie I've watched.

  • 30 Days of Night 2007, 2010
  • 300, 2007
  • Adventures of Captain Marvel, 1941
  • Alien vs Predator, 2004
  • American Splendor, 2003
  • Archie: To Riverdale and Back Again, 1990
  • Art School Confidential, 2006
  • Barb Wire, 1996
  • Batman, 1943 - 2008
  • Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, 2000
  • Blackhawk 1952, serial
  • Blade, 1998-2004
  • Bulletproof Monk, 2003
  • Captain America, 1944-2001
  • Catwoman, 2004
  • Congo Bill, 1948
  • Constantine, 2005
  • Cowboys & Aliens, 2011
  • The Crow, 1994 - 2005
  • Daredevil, 2003
  • Doctor Strange, 1978 - 2007
  • Dylan Dog: Dead of Night, 2011
  • Elektra, 2005
  • Fantastic Four, 2005 - 2007
  • Faust: Love of the Damned, 2001
  • The Flash, 1990
  • From Hell, 2001
  • G-Men from Hell, 2000
  • Ghost Rider, 2007-2012
  • Ghost World, 2001
  • Green Lantern, 2011
  • Hardware 1990, unauthorized
  • Hellboy, 2004 - 2008
  • A History of Violence, 2005
  • Hop Harrigan, 1946
  • Howard the Duck, 1986
  • Hulk, 1978-2008
  • Iron Man, 2008 - 2010
  • Jonah Hex, 2010
  • Josie and the Pussycats, 2001
  • Judge Dredd, 1995
  • Justice League, 1997
  • Kick-Ass, 2010
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, 2003
  • The Losers, 2010
  • Man-Thing, 2005
  • The Mask, 1994 - 2005
  • The Men in Black, 1997 - 2002
  • Model by Day, 1994
  • Monkeybone, 2001
  • El Muerto, 2005
  • Mystery Men, 1999
  • Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., 1998
  • Painkiller Jane, 2005
  • The Phantom, 1946 - 2008
  • Power Pack, 1991
  • Prehistoric Peeps, 1905
  • Punisher, 1989 - 2008
  • Red, 2010
  • Red Sonja, 1985
  • Richie Rich, 1994 – 1998
  • Road to Perdition, 2002
  • The Rocketeer, 1991
  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch, 1997
  • Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, 2010
  • Sheena, 1984
  • Sin City, 2005
  • Spawn, 1997
  • Spider-Man, 1977 – 2007
  • The Spirit, 2008
  • Spy Smasher, 1942
  • Steel, 1997
  • Supergirl, 1984
  • Superman, 1941 – 2006
  • Surrogates, 2009
  • Swamp Thing, 1982 - 1989
  • Tales from the Crypt, 1972 - 2001
  • Tank Girl, 1995
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, 1990 - 1993
  • Thor, 2011
  • Timecop, 1994 – 2003
  • Up in Flames 1973, unauthorised
  • V for Vendetta, 2006
  • Vampirella, 1996
  • The Vault of Horror, 1973
  • Vigilante, 1947
  • Virus, 1999
  • Wanted, 2008
  • Watchmen, 2009
  • Weird Science, 1985
  • Whiteout, 2009
  • Witchblade, 2000
  • Wonder Woman, 1974
  • X-Men, 1996 - 2011

The accurate and impressive translation of comics to movies has improved as technology has progressed. Computers can now produce decent flames, glowing lasers, sky and cityscapes and can be used to speed up and slow down motion where before it was a much more manual task, results not always convincing enough. Costume design and makeup have improved too as new materials have been produced and gone into mass use. More money is being poured into the average comic movie now than ever before.

But in the last few years, especially since the production of Iron Man and Transformers (oop, there's another one), public expectations have grown enormously. What passed as a good live action comic movie before these can no longer pass muster with the viewers. Even the acting, how seriously the role is taken or how woodenly it comes across due to an actor's inability to move freely or the comic character's own stiffness, can make a big budget movie with all the bells and whistles completely flop. Now, comic book movies have to be well acted, be doctored with CG, contain real action and stunts, have well constructed costumes and a whole whack of cash spent on production. Anything less and the movie won't meet mass expectations. One to tread that fine line of late is Thor.

New heights have been reached and now the movie makers are expected to reach them every time. This is a little unreasonable but I guess it is how the movie industry goes. Unfortunately, it isn't just the movie makers who suffer from making what the public perceive as a dud. Those who aren't fans of the particular comic are turned away and those not fans of comics in general say it is because comics aren't any good anyway.

Even with this new wave of expectation and big spending, comic book movies and comic books themselves are not always viewed in the best of lights. They are seen as less than literature and requiring, funnily enough, less art. To me this opinion can only be resultant from a complete misconception as to what a comic is and just how much skill is involved in making one that is publishable to the mass market, the ones so often derided.

The writing is on a level with poetry or script writing due to the brevity required: the plot and dialogue have to be squished down into an easy flow or words that will portray each character accurately, convey their internal reasoning without seeming forced and provide enough quick information to fill in all the gaps that occur between panels. The art has to be of top quality and the skill involved in endlessly repeating the same faces and figures accurately is phenomenal. Try it and see. Tracing only gets you so far. It cannot even be said that no serious topics are addressed within comics. All that can be said is that those serious topics are amusingly presented using costumed (or not, depending) men and women as their mouthpieces.

Personally, I'm glad to see so many comics being taken seriously enough to be made into movies and appreciated by viewers. At the same time I wonder at the percentages of those actually produced solely by scriptwriters. Between comic books, novels and remakes there aren't nearly as many original ideas coming out of the movie industry as previously thought. And there had been some cynicism there already.

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