Switching Media, Part 2

By | Tuesday, March 07, 2006 Leave a Comment
Yesterday, I talked about movies and TV get translated into a comic format; today I'd like discuss comics being transferred to film.

Generally, I have no problem with this. There are a near-infinite of directions one can take. From the campy Adam West portrayal of Batman to the more series portrayals in the X-Men movies. From the almost literal translation of Frank Miller's Sin City to the I-wouldn't-have-known-it-came-from-a-comic-if-you-hadn't-told-me approach of Men in Black. All of those and more are equally valid, and I know that I for one certainly appreciate that it's not just superheroes making the transition from the comic pages to the big screen.

However, I do have a problem with so many people citing the superhero movies AS comic book movies. The History of Violence, Road to Perdition, and American Splendor were all excellent movies that were based on comic book properties, but the source material from those are often ignored by the general population for whatever reason(s).

Here's the issue that ends up confusing many people: comic books are a medium. They can be about any subject matter and can be created in any genre. Films are a medium and they, too, can be about any subject matter and can be created in any genre. Superheroes are a genre that happens to be popular in the comic book format. Film noir is a genre that is generally out of vogue right now, but was quite popular in the first part of the 20th century. The notion of a "comic book movie" is really invalid because you're effectively saying that you're using the two very different mediums simultaneously. Although, one could make a cogent arguement that Sin City was indeed a "comic book movie" that blended the two mediums, those arguements would by and large be invalid for Batman Begins, Superman Returns, or any other movie based on a comic book property. Even animated shows like Justice League Unlimited and Teen Titans owe little more than the original character designs to comic books -- the stories, framings and formats are based more directly on the accepted norms of the TV format. The only animated show that seems to owe more allegiance to comic books would be the 1966 Marvel Super Heroes cartoon, which lifted panels directly from the comics and did the most minimal of animations.

Again, I have no problems moving stories from the comic medium to a film medium, but I would like people to recognize that "comic book movies" really should include the excellent (and, let's face it, not-so-excellent) material that aren't superheroes. Let's not dismiss Ghost World and Bulletproof Monk just because the characters don't wear capes. Let's place credit where credit is due and highlight the vastly more creatively free medium of comic books (which is another post for another time!) when we talk about "comic book movies."
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