Much ado about graphic novel movies

It’s gotten to a point where there’s an almost constant stream of them; Movies based on comic books and graphic novels. Of course, mega-famous comic books are one thing. Movies featuring iconic heroes like the old Superman and Batman and shows like Superfriends have been ingraining the big Marvel and DC Comics characters into our brains for decades. But there’s a new fad in the comic-to-movie market. More and more we are seeing films based on graphic novels and “less-known” comic books.

The idea itself isn’t new, but the prevalence of it is. Back in the day, the production of an obscure comic book into a film was very rare. And for legitimate reasons at the time. Let’s be honest: The Mask and Blade were both risky moves on the studio’s behalf. In fact, Blade really started the whole trend I’m writing about now. These movies do deserve a thanks for paving the way.

But even today making such a movie poses a big risk to the studio. Without a hero as well-known as Spider-Man or Wolverine, how are you going to gain enough public interest in an obscure comic book to make the project worth it. One of the ways the industry seems to get around this problem is simply by not marketing it as a comic book adaption. For instance, how many of you knew Men in Black is based on a comic book? Or A History of Violence? Or V For Vendetta? etc… The reason 300 did so well in theaters isn’t because of it’s fan-following as a graphic novel, but rather because Warner Bros. marketed it as a violent, bloody, action film (which it also was).

Of course, such a tactic is almost impossible when the comic is about a super hero. Hence one of the many reasons movies like Elektra and Daredevil failed. But… that’s mainly because they’re terrible movies. However, Zack Snyder‘s next film after 300, Watchmen, was marketed as it was, a movie adaption of a graphic novel about super heroes. Warner was able to get around this “rule” thanks to the fact Snyder’s 300 had done so well, and also the fact that Watchmen had already gained respect by placing on Time Magazine’s Top 100 Novels of All Time.

There seems to be a sort of shift in the mentality of the studios. Nowadays the fact that a film is based on a comic almost earns the film a certain aura of importance, or at least an expectation of quality, so to speak. (There are always exceptions, however. And yes, I am purposefully avoiding the terribleness that was Jonah Hex and it’s well-deserved failure in theaters). And the studios are catching on. Though it started slowly, it seems studios are beginning to produce more and more movie adaptions. This has opened the door for visionary directors like Zack Snyder and Matthew Vaughn to put their own spin on the lush source material.

Although I called this shift in market simply a “fad” at the beginning of this post, I hope it isn’t. I would love to keep seeing movies based on lesser-known comics. Gimme more Kick-Ass and Scott Pilgrim (which, I must point out, were BOTH great movies, and both of which everyone should see).

Don’t worry, my rant about this subject isn’t over yet… No you must endure many more pages of my fingers typing.

Happy Trails and Namaste,