Posted by:
Byron Brewer

Op-Ed: What the D'ast? Comic Books To Film


600 Comics to film, film to comics. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Or do they?

Are comic book adaptations by movie companies (many of whom now own the comic book publisher) better or worse than in past years? A look at X-Men: First Class and Iron Man would scream the former, while any number of Hulks and Green Lantern may make for a powerful argument in the opposite direction.

Unlike many columns, this is one that does not argue (much). Instead, consider it a Fantastic Four of columns: What the D’ast? will explore, and leave the arguing to you on the Cosmic Book News forums, OK?

Saturday movie serials aimed at kids began almost as soon as superheroes became popular on the printed page, starting with Adventures of Captain Marvel (the SHAZAM! variety, 1941) and followed by Batman (1943), The Phantom (1943), Captain America (1944) and of course Superman (1948).

Turmoil in the comics industry itself brought an end to the superhero serials, with certain exceptions (episodes of the TV series Adventures of Superman starring George Reeves compiled for theatrical release; and 1966’s campy Batman, also a film extension of a TV series – Batman, starring Adam West). Another superhero film released around this time was Mario Bava’s Danger: Diabolik (1968) based on the Italian super-villain Diabolik.

Other films based on super characters were in a more comedic vein: the French political satire Mr. Freedom (1969) and the American “B” movies Rat Pfink a Boo Boo (1966) and The Wild World of Batwoman (1966).

It seems that after the late 1970s success of Star Wars, moviegoers’ imaginations were again aimed at the fantastic – and how! The first major feature film of this kind was Richard Donner’s Superman (1978). Marrying producer Ilya Salkind’s willingness to finance a significant budget and Donner's desire to create suspended disbelief (“You will believe a man can fly!”) with composer John Williams’ daunting score and Christopher Reeve's genuine performance, the movie became an inspiration for a later generation of superhero films.


Superman inspired many sequels, some brilliant and some down right embarrassing (think Richard Pryor). Batman (1989), directed by Tim Burton, was another box office buster that spawned sequels both satisfying and horrific. Burton took the insanity of the Bruce Wayne origin and flipped it on its side with a moody, streetwise character about as far from Adam West’s Batman as Christopher Reeve’s Superman was from George Reeves’. The film stars Michael Keaton as the Dark Knight as well as a very successful Jack Nicholson as a deliciously mad Joker.

And today? Well, today there seem as many superhero movies in the coming months as there do comic book titles on the stands! Let’s see, we have the planned May release of The Avengers, there is the Amazing Spider-Man, The Dark Knight Rises and Man of Steel, and a film about Venom is reportedly in development, as well as Fantasic Four. Other rumored releases include Justice League, a long-awaited Doctor Strange film and -- er uh, Ant-Man?

And, as seen on the CBN Home Page every day, more and more and more!

Did Thor, Iron Man, Hulk and Cap: TFA tickle your fancy so much you will attend a theatre showing of The Avengers? Have you burned out on Supes and Bats or will you see the sequels/reboots/whatever-they-have in production now? And are they better than their predecessors as successful interpretations of the comics we enjoy now-slash-grew up with?

You decide. With your wallet.

Next: Film to comic books!