Comics, Films and Comics Again

As anyone likely to read an article about comic books and films has noticed, there are a lot of Comic Book movies being made. This is nothing new. I remember being surprised when I found out that Road to Perdition is also based on a comic book. Comics have long been mined for stories. But in the past decade or so superhero comics in specific have been converted to the silver screen. These are also the most obviously comic inspired features. Movies featuring gangsters, gunmen, or even quite family dramatics, often seem to all but deny their comic origins. A superpower or a colorful costume (even if it is suspiciously de-colored) is like a flickering sign that says “I’m from a comic.”

And these movies do things. And the comic changes. Maybe. I can’t say where the cause lies for sure. But I can say there is interesting timing. X-Men with to black leather in both film and four-color. Remember that Catwoman movie? There was a great comic at the time that had art you wouldn’t feel like a creep reading in public. Then, in the lead up to the movie it went from a more cartoony and classic style to a return to the boobtastic version of Selina that is still with us. With her utilitarian leather suit much tighter and much more unzipped.

Comics follow closely along with the properties that come from comics. It’s the nature of the beast. And people talk about the positive changes this can bring. Take for example Guardians of the Galaxy. How many people had heard of them before the movie? How about now? The difference numbers in the millions. The movie is beloved. Speculations exist that it may become a generations Star Wars. And as a fan of the comics I agree that the movie was super fun. I recorded a whole podcast basically gushing about the flick.

But now Starlord is no more. At least not the version of Starlord that I had grown attached to in Annihilation. The Giffen penned Starlord mini in Conquest set the tone for the amazing DnA version of the Guardians that really seemed to gain the interest in its becoming a movie. And then the movie overwrote the characters that inspired it. (With a little help from Bendis, whose run… suffers.)

It wasn't just a visual change. The personality changed as well.
It wasn’t just a visual change. The personality changed as well.

And I hear who great this is. Fans of the movie, really any comic book movie, can pick up an issue and see the characters they so recently saw on screen. On podcasts and on other review sites I hear how great it must be to be able to continue those on-screen adventures. I hear how much easier it will be for new readers to know what is going on just by re-characterising anyone appearing in movies or on TV to be just like their movie counterpart.

But I don’t know. I have also heard that there seem to be no real translation of movie sales to comic sales. Maybe there are. I don’t analyze numbers, but I do know that more money is better for a company that less. It is obvious that you want characters  in a movie to be available. But does there need to be personality transplants to match a movie? I can see how this would be a tricky proposition. Writers tweaking, altering, completely changing a personality has also been a long feature in comics. I wonder if it seems more common now because it actually is or am I just more aware of such things as an adult?

But I also wonder, when did it happen that everyone just assumed that new readers were stupid? I started reading as a child in the 80s. My first few comics all i had to go one were the twenty odd pages in the issues. And they were magical. Spider-man looked nothing like he did on the Tv and he had no amazing friends with him. Did not bother me. The X-Men were in space or in a jungle and the girl who was the Pryde of the X-Men was off in England in a comic that was impossible to find on a spinner rack. To find her or Nightcrawler I needed to grab X-Men Classic. And this was an age before an internet search could summarize the history of any Avenger ever (he said without actually searching out the more obscure Avengers. Although there is an impressive entry on D-Man. I miss Gruenwald’s take on Cap. Is Remender done yet?)

Maybe it isn’t characters completely matching up to moving picture versions that is the key to making comics new reader friendly? Maybe less overly deconstructed, issue spanning, world altering Events and tie-ins that seem to occur one right after the other would be neat? Seriously, how much time was in between the last Original Sin comic/tie-in and the first for Axis?

I need to wrap this up because I can feel myself getting grouchier as I continue. My ultimate point is that it is great that we are getting some fantastic movies based on comics. I love that there are some new comics readers as a result. I don’t think the way to keep these readers is to change existing characters to sync up with movie/tv counterparts. After all, weren’t there pre-movie versions strong enough to inspire the films?

2 thoughts on “Comics, Films and Comics Again

  1. The Morrison/Quitely post-movie X-Men were a revelation to me as a new reader so I can appreciate the value of a refresh/soft-reboot as a jumping on point. Generally though I do have some misgivings about aligning the comics so closely with the movies for the sake of corporate synergy (I’m looking at you Inhumans).

    Not sure if I really believe it but here’s a timely note from Marvel publisher Dan Buckley on this topic –

    1. Thanks for your comment! I can see the value of an easy starting on point for new readers, but I don’t see the need to make it one that so essentially changes existing characters. As great as the Morrison run might have been for new readers, as someone who loved the Claremont run and the first few runs that followed, Morrison never seemed to have any interest in maintaining those characterizations.

      That article was one of the motivations for writing this. It is a well spoken piece that denies the heaviest meanings of the headlines but also affirms the subtler ones.

      Again, thanks for chiming in!

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