There are a lot of comic book films out now, and even more on the horizon. But “comic book” wasn’t always a term that brought people flocking the theaters. Some films wanted to establish themselves as fantasy or sci-fi without being tied down to the term “comic book”. This left us with a treasure trove of movies that the general populous has no idea started out as comic books. Which franchises do you think are kicking themselves 10 years later? Here’s a quick list to improve your comic book cred and impress your friends with your in-depth comic-to-film knowledge.
The film starting Chow Yun-Fatt and Seann William Scott from way, way back in 2003 started off as a comic from the independent Flypaper press. With talents such as up-and-comer Michael Avon Oeming, Brett Lewis, R. A. Jones and Gotham Chopra on staff, the comic combined Kung Fu stories with a character based Star Wars style in an urban setting. The film saw a rocky start, Heath Ledger originally cast but bowed out to film The Order. Seann William Scott stepped in to pick up the lead role. Bulletproof Monk won’t be going down in cinema history as the greatest martial arts movie ever, the studio hoped it would ride the wave of Kung Fu mania that Crouching Tiger started with it’s hit release. But the film is a fun ride to watch on a lazy weekend. Maybe it would serve better as a rebooted Netflix series?
2017 gave life to I Kill Giants, a story about a young girl who spends her days creating traps and weapons to fight off giants from other worlds. The entire story plays on a “What is real? What isn’t real?” theme. The movie is an adaptation of a comic book by the same name. Joe Kelly, also the creator of Ben 10, followed his Image comic to Hollywood, not only screenwriting the project but consulting on casting as well. As such, the film stays true to the heart of the comic and translates well. I Kill Giants proves once again that comic books, and comic book movies, is a medium, not a genre, and a multitude of stories are being told within it.
Starring Angelina Jolie and a young James McAvoy, Wanted was an action-packed film that featured a fraternity of assassins. Besides some names and basic plot points, the similarities between the film and its source material pretty much stop there. Top Cow comics printed the Mark Millar comic of the same name. The comic actually featured a fraternity of super-villains, the costumed typed, not assassins. The lead character was called The Killer, inheriting his super-villain father’s suit and name. Jolie’s character in the comics bears a startling resemblance to Halle Berry. Mark Millar has numerous other properties turned to film, including Kingsman, Kick-Ass, Logan, and Captain America: Civil War.
Starring Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, and Olivia Wilde, directed by Iron Man’s John Favreau, Cowboys & Aliens sounded like it could be a hit. It was deemed a financial failure, raking in $174.8 million in box office tickets on a $163 million bill. Originally a 105-page graphic novel from Platinum Studios, creator Scott Michael Rosenberg generated interest for the film rights from big-name studios early on before the graphic novel was even finished. In order to make the graphic novel appear to do better than it was expected to do, Platinum Studios dropped the price of the graphic novel by half of what graphic novels usually sell for. They also struck a business deal with Top Cow Comics to list Cowboys & Aliens in Top Cow’s section of the comic distribution catalog. Giving retails huge bulk discounts also inflated the sales, causing Entertainment Weekly to list Cowboys & Aliens as a top seller for the month. Universal/Dreamworks moved forward with the film project afterward.
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen hit screens in 2003. Featuring a group of people with abilities brought together by a mysterious benefactor to fight a greater threat… (wait, is this the plot for Avengers?), League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is made up of literary figures. Captain Nemo (Naseeruddin Shah), Dorian Grey (Stuart Townsend), Mina Harker (Peta Wilson), The Invisible Man (Tony Curran), Dr. Jekyll (Jason Flemyng), an adult Tom Sawyer (Shane West), as well as Allan Quatermain (Sean Connery), all come together under a man known as M (Richard Roxburgh) to stop an insidious plot by a terrorist known as The Fantom. It’s a fun movie with steampunk elements and plenty of action. The movie does take the liberty of assuming you already know the backstories to these characters. The original comic book was written by Alan Moore, who’s properties made into films are as numerous as Mark Millar’s. V For Vendetta, Watchmen, From Hell, Constantine, and Batman: The Killing Joke have all been adapted from Moore’s stories.
2002 brought us Road to Perdition, a crime film set in 1931. The film starred Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law, and Daniel Craig. The graphic novel of the same title was passed along down the line until it eventually landed in the hands of Steven Spielberg himself. Seeing the potential for the film he sent a copy to Tom Hanks. Hanks was too busy to make sense of graphic novel but later fell in love with the screenplay. Road to Perdition follows Sullivan (Hanks) who works for mob boss Rooney (Newman). Rooney’s son Connor (Craig) plots to kill Sullivan who escapes with his older son, Conner killing Sullivan’s wife and youngest child. The movie continues as Sullivan uncovers embezzlement while seeking revenge.
History of Violence came out in 2005, starring Viggo Mortensen. Viggo plays Tom Stall, a small town diner owner. After thwarting a robbery by killing the robbers with shocking skill, Tom is thrust into the public spotlight. Days afterwards, a mobster from Philidelphia appears, insisting Tom is actually notorious mobster Joey Cusack. Tom denies this other identity and the mobster begins stalking Tom and his family. The graphic novel was created by John Wagner and Vince Locke. Wagner co-created Judge Dredd. The first half of the film sticks to the source material, with the latter half veering away to tell its own story. The LA Times called History of Violence the last major motion picture to be made on the VHS format. Mortensen calls the film a ‘close to perfect’ film noir.
And there you have it. A few tidbits of info to lock away in case you ever need it. Maybe you find yourself playing a game of trivial pursuit, as a contestant on Jeopardy or trying to impress a girl at the bar. Okay, that last one might have been a bit of a stretch. Was your favorite comic book adaptation left off the list? Have other more obscure properties that people need to know about? Leave us a comment below or hit us up on FB!