Direct Beam Comms #51
The stereotypical movie based on a comic book has characters wearing spandex and jumping around in some city in the process of being leveled while kicking one and other in the head. And to a certain extent over the last few years that’s true, most movies based on comic books are about superheroes and villains. But sometimes there are movies released where the ties to the comic book source material isn’t as obvious.
Swamp Thing (1982)
Based on the comic book of the same name created by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson , the Swamp Thing movie is an interesting modern take on the classic monster movie where the monster’s played by a guy wearing an obvious rubber suit. Written and directed by Wes Craven, Swamp Thing a decent flick that I don’t think is like any other comic book movie before or since. That’s not to say that it doesn’t suffer from a low budget, it does. Boy oh boy it does.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)
Though many think the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise came from the cartoon series that began in 1987, in fact this billion dollar empire really began in 1984 with the comic series of the same name by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. The TMNT comics were a much more hard-edge version of the characters than what they became, those turtles bled, and early issues of which are quite good and very collectible. The 1990 live-action movie was more in tone with the lite cartoon series but I think still holds up well today.
The Rocketeer (1991)
Seemingly created to try and cash in on the Batman movie craze of the late 1980s and early 1990s, the film version of The Rocketeer failed to live up to expectations and was considered a flop at the box office. Based on the comics series created by Dave Stevens, his version of the character was more in-line with something like Indiana Jones with the character zooming off with his rocket pack to all sorts of adventures which included fighting Nazis and meeting Doc Savage. The film version was interesting, but owing to the limitations of the time was a much smaller movie with the Rocketeer only really flying and doing adventurous things a few times in the film.
The Crow (1994)
It seems to me that a lot of the production design of the movie Seven was taken after the creators of that movie sat down and watched The Crow. Which is the grittiest and darkest movie based on a comic that I’ve ever seen. Originally created in 1989 by James O’Barr, The Crow comic was this sort of proto Goth masterpiece where the Crow is as likely to take vengeance on the thugs who murdered his girlfriend and himself as he is to recite poetry in a cemetry by moonlight. Much like with the original TMNT comics early issues of The Crow are quite collectible and popular.
Another action/martial arts movie like The Crow that doesn’t seem to be a comic book film is Blade. Created by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan, Blade was a supporting character in the 1970s Marvel horror comics craze as a vampire hunter but found new popularity in the early 1990s when there was a resurgence of those horror characters like Ghost Rider then. Blade the movie really doesn’t have any connection to the Marvel comics, when it was produced comic movies were uncool and anathema in Hollywood, and features the title character (Wesley Snipes) as the hunter of vampires.
Road to Perdition (2002)
The 2002 movie Road to Perdition starring Tom Hanks and Paul Newman is about a 1930s gangster looking for vengeance on the man who killed his wife and son. Both the movie and comic book, created by Max Allan Collins and Richard Piers Rayner, are quite good and it’s a shame that today Road to Perdition is a mostly forgotten movie.
I remember being really into the movie 300 when it first came out. I saw it twice in the theater, but I’m not sure it’s a movie that holds up that well today. Created by Frank Miller, 300 is essentially a condensed version of the comic book about the Battle of Thermopylae. 300 is an exciting movie with lots of action but I think in the end it doesn’t have much story.
One of my favorite comic book movies is Dredd which was originally created by John Wagner and artist Carlos Ezquerra. Dredd started as a sort of Dirty Harry of the future spoof but has since morphed into something different. It can still be seen as a spoof today, but in an age of ultra-macho action heroes it’s surprising that so far Dredd’s been unsuccessful on the big-screen since it seems like he’d be the perfect fit.
The Reading List
This week in pop-culture history
- 1951: Kathryn Bigelow, director of Near Dark and Strange Days is born