Comic Books As Experimental Film Media

imagesComics, or the concept of little animated squares in your daily newspaper, have been around almost as long as mass-printed newspapers themselves.  Over the last seven decades, comics and comic books have evolved into multi-billion dollar franchises that have launched the careers of writers, artist, video game designers, and movie directors.

Today, in 2009, a year where the printed word is on life support as newspapers struggle to stay afloat and bookstores and libraries dangle by an even thinner thread because of the massive development of the World Wide Web, comic book developers have looked to other mediums to keep their artistic form of storytelling not only alive, but also thriving. As mentioned, the film director is one type of artist that has thrived because of stories already immortalized through comic books.  Just like any other medium adaptation, he has very important decisions to make regarding how he wants to show his vision and interpretation to the moviegoers.  The director now has a very delicate balancing act on his hands because when making a movie based on stories that have such dedicated followers, his choice to follow the original storyline or not becomes a form of interpretive Russian roulette.
Comic books were first printed as a collection of duplicates of old newspaper comics.  It wasn’t until 1935 that a publisher named Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson came up with the brilliant idea of creating brand new, never before printed comics and putting them in the books.  They sold for ten cents each and had tremendous success.
During World War II, comic book writers were pouring out stories in reference to the war.  The super heroes fought two kinds of Japanese, buck toothed and fanged.  The Nazis were made out to be sadistic monsters as well but the Nazi’s ultimate nightmare, The Holocaust, was never mentioned in the comics during that era.  There was an irony presented during the era that golden age of comics had been made to fight the Nazis, but the idea that they were able to do it because they were bigger and stronger than the enemy left a very fascist interpretation.
In 1948, the comic book industry was under tremendous scrutiny when German psychiatrist, Frederick Wertham, did a new study.  Wertham conducted a study on abnormal behavior in American young people.  He discovered that all young prison inmates and psychiatric patients read comic books and thus concluded that comic books were destroying the youth culture later published a book in 1954 entitled, ‘Seduction Of The Innocent.’  He coined the term ‘superman complex’ and stated that it was a fantasy of sadistic joy.  Batman and Robin (his sidekick) was a homosexual pipe dream and Wonder Woman portrayed exactly what girls were not supposed to be according to Wertham.  As a result of Wertham’s work, comic books were now given a rating according to the newly established ‘The Comics Code Authority’ out of fear of censorship by the American government.

 

As a result, comic book story lines had been altered to have the heroes working side by side with law enforcement and had unquestioned respect for authority figures such as police officers, judges, and even parents.  Batman and Robin were hanging out with girls more often and Wonder Woman acted more lady-like.
Over the next few years, the United States was in further turmoil with The Great Depression and becoming involved in another World War.  Comic books had already established what would later become two of the biggest comic book characters in existence: Superman and Batman.  Jewish immigrants or the sons of Jewish Immigrants created most if not all major comic book heroes during most of the 1900’s.  Bob Kane created Batman in 1939.  Shortly afterwards, many publishers began releasing several similar super hero-like comics in order to compete.
So now the questions mount.  If a director is given the opportunity to make a movie based on comic book characters, what sort of preparations must they do?  What happens when the director or screenwriter or anyone on the production team knows very little about these characters going in?  What if they do already know a lot about the character?  Does that mean the movie will automatically be better in the eyes of the die-hard fans?  How would following or not following storylines affect box office earnings?
You’re going to learn about a couple of box office hits (and flops) and see how the choices made by the director and the rest of the production team and writers, of course, make or break the movies, the stories, the legends.
Batman is the story of billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne who inherited his parents’ fortune after they are gunned down in front of his eyes when Bruce was a young boy.  The family butler, Alfred Pennyworth, raises him after his parent’s death.  It’s one of the first comic book series to tell a truly dark and depressing origin story.  He was also the first superhero of the day to have no real ‘super powers.’  Driven solely with his obsessive desire for vengeance and with the help of his overly abundant fortune, Bruce travels the world for extensive training in all forms of sciences and combat.  In the original comics, Batman was perceived through the eyes of the residents of Gotham City, (the city that Batman protected and where Bruce Wayne was raised) by both criminals and law enforcement alike, as a myth or at best, inhuman.  His alter ego, Bruce Wayne, was a master businessman and philanthropist.    This brings us to our first two films for analysis.
During the twenty-year span of 1989-2009, six Batman movies were made.  Only two of those were considered ‘origin stories.’  The first was the 1989 movie ‘Batman’ which was directed by Tim Burton and the second was the 2005 movie ‘Batman Begins’ directed by Christopher Nolan.  Many comic book writers and animators have also taken creative liberties over the years in telling the origin story of Bruce Wayne and Batman such as Frank Miller, author of ‘Batman- Year One.’  But one thing was always consistent; the life of Bruce Wayne was that of a young man with a huge trust fund and a brilliant mind.  The life of Batman was that of unprecedented strength, fear, mystery, and legend.  The city of Gotham was also very dark and crawling with some of the most heinous and notorious criminals ever described in storytelling.
Tim Burton was a fan of the television series and the very first live-action movie adaptation of 1966 but said he was never an avid comic book reader.  He himself said he doesn’t consider himself a ‘fanatic’ of Batman or comic books in general by any means.  At the time of the film, Burton was still an up-and-coming director with very little under his belt.  He did however, have the help and support of some of the greatest production designers in the business, including Anton Furst (‘Full Metal Jacket’) to help create the world of Gotham City.
Burton was receiving a lot of criticism from the loyal Batman fans.  Truthfully, it’s almost impossible to please or excite the die-hard fans of comic book series when they are made into movies because the die-hard fans will always point out and find the faults and flaws before they are presented with the solution or final product.  Burton’s first major criticism came when he casted Michael Keaton as the caped crusader.

 

When it was all said and done, however, the movie received very positive revues and even won an Academy Award for Best Art Direction.  I believe the most important aspects you have to look at and take into consideration for the story of Batman on film is how Gotham City is shown, how his archenemies are shown, and how Bruce Wayne/Batman is shown.  This is a deciding factor by both movie and by comic book enthusiasts.  We’ll start with the simplest of the three, recreating Gotham City.  Gotham, as mentioned, is a city being swallowed by crime and corruption.  The film did a fantastic job at bringing the city of Gotham to life in regards to comparison of the original comics.  It had many fast tilts of the camera to clue the intensity and the drama of the scene to come.
Design of the film was very distinguished.  The costumes were a contrast of dark colors of 1940-style suits.  The overall cinematography of the film had a very strong film noir feel as most of Burton’s work does.  The cinematography of the movie also made great strides to recreate the comic book styling to the silver screen.  In comics, from a cinematographic point of view, there are a lot of very long shots and a lot of very tight shots.  An example would be a series of wide shots showing Gotham City immediately followed by a close-up of the show of fear in the eyes of Batman’s enemies.
Further regarding the overall photography of the film, in the older Batman comics, Batman is seen only in silhouette form or as a shadowy figure that would disappear out of sight like a ninja.  Throughout Burton’s version, a majority of the movie was shot with very dim lighting surrounded by dark backdrops.  The movie was shot in England to avoid the American fanatics out of fear of them disrupting and slowing down production.
Film ReelEditing a movie based on a comic book can also be very challenging.  Comics are obviously presented in individual or several frames on each page to show sometimes several events happening simultaneously from several points of view shown with very little or no dialogue.  No director in their right mind would try to shoot a movie with several characters giving separate voice-overs and constant jump cuts of different characters throughout the movie.  That would probably leave the audience confused and frustrated after the first few minutes.  So what Burton did was show short scenes in between the action and dramatic scenes that were very useful and informative in moving the story along but didn’t overwhelm or bore the audience with too much information.
The other movie in question for the Batman comparison is ‘Batman Begins,’ which was directed by Christopher Nolan.  Nolan was already somewhat known for his work such as ‘Insomnia’ and ‘Memento.’  As far as story and script goes, both movies have similarities and differences.  Yes, both discuss the origin of Batman, but the newer adaptation focuses on the actual metamorphosis of Bruce Wayne to Batman, which had never been attempted on film before.  Most of the original comics didn’t even focus too much into it.  The 1989 version showed Batman as he first started showing up in Gotham.  Yes, there were a few flashbacks and a montage of Bruce as a child, but nothing like Batman Begins that told the story not only of Batman, it emphasized the story of Bruce Wayne.
Nolan, like Burton, was not a comic book fan at all.  However, screenwriter David S. Goyer is and was obviously a big influence on Nolan in helping him write the script and throughout production.  Batman Begins was nominated for an Oscar for best cinematography but didn’t win.  The cinematography was quite an achievement in the film.  The city of Gotham appeared to be a supporting character within itself in this film.  As were all the locations used.  This movie, as stated, focused not only on Batman but more so on the evolution of Batman.  In fact, you don’t see Batman until about halfway through the movie and when you do, he’s still learning.  He makes mistakes and has to learn from them quickly.  In the comics, it is shown that Bruce Wayne leaves Gotham for about seven years for his training and preparation in becoming Batman.  So not only was Gotham shown, but you would also see Bruce Wayne’s world travels and how his travels affected him in the character development for the first time ever on film.  This movie was filmed in several locations and sound stages including Iceland and Toronto.
The casting choice of Batman/Bruce Wayne once again showed a lot of criticism before production had even completed.  Many die-hard fans have claimed that it is impossible to find an actor that can ‘properly portray’ both alter egos.  Christian Bale was granted this honor and pressure.  I have always believed that in both movies, according to origin history of comics, Michael Keaton was the better Bruce Wayne and Christian Bale was a better Batman.
Another similarity that had very different reactions throughout the comic book and movie fan world was the interpretation of Batman’s arch nemesis, The Joker.  The Joker appeared in Burton’s 1989 movie but wasn’t seen in film again until the sequel to Nolan’s ‘Batman Begins’, ‘The Dark Knight’ (also directed by Nolan), which was released in theaters summer of 2008. Joker first appeared in comic books and remains to this day to be one of the most mysterious and alluring characters in the history of comics.

His origin or even his real name is still unknown.  Many comic authors have written countless issues about him but none ever fully explained how he came about or even how he and Batman became such enemies.  In fact, the most accurate attempt at an origin story happened pretty recently.  In 1988, a graphic novel entitled, ‘Batman: The Killing Joke’ was published telling a story of how the Joker once worked at a chemical plant and left in the hopes of becoming a successful standup comedian.  But it wasn’t going so well and he was running out of savings.  On top of that, he had a pregnant wife who showed nothing but blind faith and support.  Desperate, he agrees to help gangsters rob the chemical plant that he used to work at and get a share of the money to help out his financial situations.  But after his wife and unborn child are killed in a home invasion, he decides to back out.  He doesn’t see the point anymore.  The mobsters make him go through with it and he ends up falling into a contaminated stream that gives him the permanent grin and psychosis.  With no certain origin, directors and screenwriters are given a lot of liberties to play around with storyline concepts but must be careful not to go overboard.
The original concept and design of the Joker for the comic books is pretty historic within itself also.  Created by Bob Kane and first appearing in Batman #1 (1940), Kane based the character on from a 1928 silent film entitled, ‘The Man Who Laughs.’  German actor Conrad Veidt played the character that the Joker is visually based on.

jokersIn the 1989 version, Jack Nicholson takes on the role.  Jack by this time, in my opinion, had already cemented his greatness as an actor from his roles in ‘The Shining’ and ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.’  Jack himself is an odd character in his own right.  The design and directing style of Tim Burton certainly helped the cause in Jack’s interpretation of the character.  Obviously there’s always going to be doubt and speculation from fans, but they were immediately laid to rest when the movie was released.

In Burton’s version, the Joker becomes the Joker after Jack Napier, (Jack Nicholson’s character who is named after Alan Napier who played Alfred the butler in the Batman television series of the 1960’s) plays a mafia middleman falls into a giant container of a toxic chemical that effects his facial expression and psychosis.  Who can forget the classic scene when Joker’s in the plastic surgeon’s dilapidated office removing his bandages, requesting a mirror, and laughing so hard he breaks the mirror?  That scene has been parodied in several television sitcoms such as ‘The Simpsons’ since then.
I don’t think I ever saw more backlash and outcry when the world heard who would be cast as the Joker in Nolan’s sequel of Batman Begins,’ ‘The Dark Knight.’  Hell, I was part of the backlash and uproar myself.

‘Batman Begins’ reaffirmed our faith in the Batman movies following sequel after sequel of failed renditions, all by different directors and different actors playing Batman each time (From ‘Batman Returns’ to ‘Batman & Robin’).  Nolan decided to cast the young Aussie Heath Ledger to take on the monumental role.  Ledger was starting to establish himself as a respectable actor in Hollywood, but after his role in ‘Brokeback Mountain’ the instant Internet-posted opinions started pouring in throughout the Web.  People questioned Nolan’s sanity as a filmmaker despite the success of all his films.  Oh how quickly we forget.  Posters of ‘Brokeback Mountain’ were being altered to read ‘Brokeback Joker’ with Ledger donning the trademark clown makeup.
Production of ‘The Dark Knight’ was kept extremely secretive.  Despite new technology, very little of the film production leaked before it was actually supposed to and no one saw what Ledger even looked like as the Joker before producers were ready to show the rest of the world.  As we all know by now, in January 2008, just a few weeks before the teaser trailers were released in movie theaters and days after post-production had been completed, Heath Ledger died from an accidental overdose.  Then the rumors started circulating.
Rumors not so much about his death, but more about his role in Nolan’s movie.  I remember going to see a movie that had a teaser trailer of ‘The Dark Knight.’  No characters were shown.  It was just a stack of playing cards dropping to the sound of the infamous Joker laugh.  I had never heard it sounding so creepy.
A few months later, another trailer was released.  It was the first international trailer showing Batman and the Joker for the first time.  The audience went crazy.  When the film was being released for critics a few months before its world premiere, all said nothing short of being blown away by Ledger’s terrifying portrayal of the psychotic clown.

It was said that Ledger was a method actor.  He read graphic novels including ‘The Killing Joke’ and kept a journal as the Joker for months throughout production.  Heath Ledger won the Academy Award for best supporting actor and his surviving parents and young daughter received the award on his behalf.
Two other movies to compare are Ang Lee’s ‘Hulk’ (2003) and Louis Leterrier’s ‘The Incredible Hulk’ (2008.)  The reason these movies were made one after the other so suddenly was mostly due to the fact that the first installment was such a piece of crap by both comic book fans and box office expectations and Marvel Comics didn’t want to have that bad taste in their mouths over one of their most beloved and popular characters.  Neither one of these movies were considered origin or genesis movies like Batman.  Yes, both Hulk movies mention the origin of the Hulk, but neither focus on the evolution of the character.
standard_xlargeThe Incredible Hulk, as called in the comics, first appeared in 1963 and was created by ‘the godfather of comics,’ Stan Lee.  (No relation to Ang Lee.)    Stan Lee got the idea by combining two of his favorite movie characters as a child, Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  Hulk was the story of a brilliant scientist named Bruce Banner who was involved in a laboratory accident when a compound he created in order to help create super soldiers for the army for classified black fails after Banner injects himself with the compound.  This causes Banner to turn green, grow ten feet in size, and give him unbelievable strength whenever he would get angry.  “You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”  OR… He became the Hulk after being caught in a nuclear testing sight and was exposed to sever gamma radiation.  Conflicting stories, yes, but both accurate.  Comic book writers are sometimes given the opportunity, just like moviemakers, to rewrite or retell the story how they see fit.  This is similar to how different scholars give introductions and interpretations to literary classics, especially if it is written in a foreign language and requires a translation.
Now up until this point, I’ve called the Batman installments ‘movies,’ but I’m going to call Ang Lee’s installment of ‘Hulk’ a ‘film’ despite how horrible it was overall and I’m going to explain as to why.

I personally believe there are very specific semantics in distinguishing the differences between a ‘movie’ and a ‘film.’  No comic book fan wants to see a ‘film,’ that is, an artistic interpretation of a story using very specific artistic styling and symbolism in order to tell a story.  Most comic book fans don’t have the knowledge or the interest in analyzing film for artistic representation.  Either they like the movie, or they don’t.  Either they were true to the comics, or they weren’t.
Ang Lee is an Academy Award-winning director that has given us beautiful films such as ‘Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon’ and ‘Brokeback Mountain.’  He publicly said he had never read any comic books as a child nor did he during the production of the film.  Just to give you an idea as to how mad the comic book fans got, the film that ran nearly two and a half hours didn’t even show The Hulk until the last twenty minutes of the film.   It obviously had beautiful scenic shots, but comic fans don’t care about those things in movies.  In my opinion, he had no business making a movie based on a comic book character.
A good friend and avid comic book fanatic (or ‘geek’ as they are sometimes referred as) told me, “’Hulk’ is the prime example of what happens when a great filmmaker tries to make a good movie.  It just can’t be done.  We don’t want artistic representation, we just want the story to be told accurately and in an entertaining manner.”  I couldn’t have put it better myself.
Since all comic book fans suffer from a superiority complex and believe they can make a better movie.  They sometimes do.  Student films flood the Internet and local film festivals that are either their interpretation of how the film should have been shot or who should of played a certain character.  A lot of times also the fans will film parodies and even original films that haven’t been attempted yet by mainstream Hollywood.  One of the best-known student films is ‘Greyson.’  It’s the story of what Robin would do after Batman died.
Sometimes real Hollywood directors are given the opportunity to fulfill the dream of every comic book geek.  Following the 2003 debacle, Marvel Comics had wanted another film to be made on The Hulk and it was done just five short years later.  French director, Louis Leterrier was signed to direct the movie.  It wasn’t being called a ‘remake’ but a ‘reinvention.’  An avid comic book reader and fan of the television series from the 1970’s, Leterrier was well aware of the challenges ahead and the pressure he was under to please the fans, especially after such a disastrous first attempt.
The opening of the film was a very fast-paced montage of comic book animated pages and flashback sequences combined with shots of newspapers explaining the origin of the Hulk, all within the first five minutes of the film during the opening credits that explained everything masterfully.  This was something that wasn’t done properly in two and a half hours of Lee’s version.  This opening was cut and put together by photo editor Cal Cooper who also worked on the opening sequence of the movies ‘Se7en’ and all the ‘Spiderman’ films to date.
Letterier came up with innovative ideas in telling the story that even though weren’t necessarily used in the original comics, they were welcomed by comic book fans and accepted them as tools to help the character development and overall story.  One such example was the use of the watch Bruce Banner (played by Edward Norton) that would monitor his heart rate and training in Jiu-Jitsu to help him control his breathing.
The other creative liberty Letterier took on, which is done in most comic book movies, but not in such an exaggerated way as other comic book films as to distract the audience, was the use of ‘Easter eggs.’  Easter eggs are any references that are hidden throughout the movie of other comic book characters or comic book history throughout the movie.  For example, most-if not all Marvel Comic movies made over the last nine years, there is a cameo (or special appearance) made by Stan Lee, usually for only a few seconds in the movie.  There were also references to other comic book characters, and an appearance by Lou Ferrigno, (the original Incredible Hulk from the TV series of the 1970’s).

 

This movie was not an origin story but certainly stayed true to the feel of the comics by staying true to the characters.  Like ‘Batman Begins’, this movie was shot on location in several parts of the world, beautifully I might add, in places such as Brazil and Toronto which meant little set-building, which always forces cinematographers and DP’s to work more creatively.  This is so because you can’t exactly just move a building if the light in the shot is bad.
Comic book creators don’t always create characters and series one character at a time.  Stan Lee also created groups and teams of super heroes and none have been more popular or evolved than the X-Men.  The X-Men originated in 1963 and was the story of mutants who developed different super powers or abilities at around the time of puberty.  So these are all teenage characters for the most part.
To date, four X-Men movies have been made.  Three focused on the origin and evolution of the X-Men overall and one based on the origin of one particular character named Wolverine which is arguably also one of the most intriguing characters in the history of comic books.
Bryan Singer directed the first two movies, which were also the most successful both in box office and by comic book fans.  Again, because the director was a very knowledgeable fan of the original comic book series, the story was told and portrayed properly.
The cinematography and special effects were used effectively in displaying each of the characters mutant abilities.  The editing involved a lot of cross cutting because of the several different storylines the movie had to address.
Sometimes, a director would love the opportunity to direct a comic book movie, but bureaucratic red tap or politics get in the way and the result is catastrophic.  Such was the case for Kevin Smith.  Back in 1997, comic book fanatic and director Kevin Smith (‘Clerks’, ‘Chasing Amy’, ‘Dogma’) was commissioned by Warner Bros. to write a new Superman script.  Warner Bros. had already developed a working progress script and was allowed to read it and voice his opinions to studio executives.  Smith believed the script was horrendous and offered to rewrite it con gusto.
After days of meeting with different executives, Smith is offered to rewrite the script pending the approval of the producer, John Peters.  Peters worked on films such as ‘Rain Man’ and ‘Batman’ from 1989.  Smith goes to meet with Peters and proposes three rules for writing the Superman script to Smith despite the fact that Peters knew absolutely nothing about the history of Superman.  One: he doesn’t want the Superman suit, two: he doesn’t want him to fly, and three: he has to fight a giant spider at the end of the third act.  For the record, Superman never has fought a giant spider EVER in the history of Superman comics.
Shortly thereafter, Smith writes two drafts of the film and Tim Burton is contracted to direct and Nicholas Cage is signed to play Superman.  Burton decides to hire his own team of writers and they throw out Smith’s drafts, which was perfectly fine with Smith because he was paid handsomely for his effort but he was never happy with it because of the limitations of freedoms Peters was forcing upon him.   Eventually the project was dropped.  A year later, Kevin Smith walks into a new movie produced by John Peters and sees a giant spider at the end of the third act.  That movie: ‘Wild Wild West.’  (A major flop, by the way.)
It wasn’t until nine years later that a Superman movie was finally made; it’s first since the Superman movies of the 1970’s and 1980’s with Christopher Reeve.  Once again Bryan Singer was called in to direct but didn’t receive the same prestige and respect that he received when he made the X-Men movies.  This was mainly due because of a bad script.  It’s like I always say, it doesn’t matter how many Hollywood names or how much money you spend on special effects, at the end of the day, it’s all about whether or not you have a good story.  On another personal note, I will say that actor Brandon Routh who played Clark Kent/Superman did an average acting job, but he looks so much like Christopher Reeve I thought I had gone back in time.
In the 1980’s and 1990’s when comic books and their characters had their edginess back and badder than ever.  They had received dark makeovers to appeal to the cultural society changes of the time, which included greed, political corruption, and sex.  Today, comic books are developed a new light.  Another comic book writer and artist that showed up in the 1940’s named Will Eisner revolutionized comics yet again when he wrote a series called, ‘The Spirit’ in 1987 and coined the term ‘Graphic Novel’.

Graphic novels were using techniques that had never been seen before in comics.  Some of these techniques were the use of lighting for dramatic effect and the use of different points of view just like different camera angles set different moods in movies. Eisner was a pioneer and Renaissance man for the world of comic books and how the stories would be told forever.  I remember meeting Eisner’s former publishers and editors at the Miami Book Fair last year.  Will Eisner past away in 2005 at the age of 87.

One of the most famous graphic novel authors today is Frank Miller and one of his most famous graphic novels is ‘300.’  Frank Miller started out as an artist for Marvel Comics in the late 1970’s and worked on comic book series such as Daredevil.

 

‘300’ the movie was filmed in just sixty days but post-production took over two years!  This story could not possibly be told on film without the use of 21st century movie magic Frank Miller himself who also handpicked director Zack Snyder for the project supervised the movie production.  The savagery of the story shown in the movie was presented this way not only for entertainment purposes such as in Batman, Hulk, or any other comic books movies.  It was also done so for historical accuracy.  This was one of the very first times a graphic novel or comic book was made based in its entirety on a historical event and not just referencing them as the times changed such as in the mid twentieth century.
Because so much time and detail went into post-production, the cinematography and editing of the film was pretty much designed to look like whatever the director wanted it to look like.  They did use the graphic novel as reference that was pretty much recreated down to the last detail, but the reality was that there really wasn’t a right or wrong way to approach these factors.
The other significant difference between this movie adaptation and the others from other older comic books was that this story didn’t have, was much of a cult following as the other comics did and this was due mostly to the fact that Miller based his entire story on an event from actual history set in the year 480 BC.
So how did all these movies fare in box office earnings?  According to the top eighty-four film adaptations from comic book characters since 1978, Tim Burton’s ‘Batman’ is ranked 6th overall and Christopher Nolan’s ‘Batman Begins’ is ranked 11th.   The Hulk adaptations weren’t separated by much in box office gross despite disappointed comic book fans and moviegoers as a whole.  Ang Lee’s adaptation is ranked 23rd while Leterrier’s adaptation is ranked 20th with just over $2.5 million in earnings separating them.  And 300, despite not having much of an original cult following is ranked 10th overall with over $210 million in box office earnings alone.  The first X-Men movie is ranked 17th overall and X-Men 2: X-Men United is ranked 9th overall.  Oh, and in case you were wondering, ‘The Dark Knight’ is ranked number 1 with over half a billion dollars in box office earnings worldwide!
I never thought I’d see the day when I would be required to read comic books and watch movies for research and school purposes.  Looking back at all these movies and comics, I established my own assessments of these movie adaptations both as a comic book fan and a movie fan.  I faced a lot of debates and conflicts of opinion with my friends regarding both the historical accuracy of the movies and the comic book characters themselves.  And after all my research, my opinions have not changed.
It’s not only movies that gain praise, success, and ridicule as new visual interpretations.  The other market that compliments the other and vice versa is the world of video games.  Today, Hollywood and comic book publishers work side by side with video game publishers to create a marketing superpower (no pun intended) to promote and compliment each other.  Comic publishers are paid millions of dollars in royalties each year for the rights to use the comic book characters names and likeness.
img_1399.jpgVideo game fans can sometimes be just as critical as comic book fans in regards to playability, staying to the original storyline to the movie or not and the pros and cons of doing so.  Usually games are released the same week as the movie is released, if not the week before.  However, sometimes a game is released based on comic book characters without a movie being released based on that storyline.  Case in point is the new Batman video game called ‘Arkham Asylum.’  Arkham Asylum is the hospital for the criminally insane in Gotham City that houses the most notorious and dangerous criminals in all of Gotham.  The video game is based on a graphic novel written in 2004.
The future for comic books is a bright one, especially in regards to film adaptations.  As of today, negotiations are being done for the production of more and more movies based on comic book characters such as, ‘The Flash,’ ‘Wonder Woman,’ ‘The Justice League,’ ‘The Green Lantern’ and there is yet another ‘Batman’ adaptation set to be directed by Christopher Nolan to release in 2011.  There is also a sequel to Frank Miller’s ‘300’ in the works as well.

Comic books have obviously had a huge effect in society over the last seventy plus years.  They have paved the way in presenting new forms of storytelling, characters, character development, and possibly movie-making overall.  Obviously new comics and graphic novels will continue to be written and some filmmakers will heed the call to make new visual interpretations prepared to face a huge group of the most critical and die-hard fans which will continue to spark as much interest as there will be controversy.  I personally would love to be able to write my own graphic novel and then help make a film interpretation based from it.

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3 thoughts on “Comic Books As Experimental Film Media

  1. Pingback: Disney bought Marvel!! « Dark Raven Pictures

  2. Wow, that was incredibly long to read. But worth it. Lots of history on comic books man. And what? Batman and Robin a gay duo? I’ve never heard this before (riiiiight, lol.)

    One thing is that even if film makers make a movie based off a comic, I think the movie in its entirety should be considered, rather than how closely the director follows the comic book. Although I think you state that later on, so I think I’m reiterating the sentiment.

    And about Wild Wild West. I don’t consider it a flop. Did you see Salma Hayek in there? DID YOU?!! —> More comments to follow.

  3. Pingback: X-Men: First Class «

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