Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you know that films based on comic books have been extremely popular in the last decade. Raking in millions at the box office alone, it seems everyone is willing to part with their money to see the latest action packed, super hero flick. From Batman, Spiderman, and X-Men, to The Rocketeer, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen , and Howard The Duck. Wait, hold the rotary phone…Howard The Duck?!? Yep. Now, the nerdiest among us already knew that. But for those of you who aren’t familiar with the world of comic books, here is a list of 10 films you may not have known were based on comic books and graphic novels. Fellow comic book geeks, feel free to add more in the comments. I know you won’t be able to sleep tonight if you don’t.
10. Howard The Duck
Howard The Duck is a 1986 American sci-fi comedy directed by Willard Huyck and starring Lea Thompson, Tim Robbins, and Jeffery Jones. Based on the Marvel comic by Steve Gerber, the cigar smoking, anthropomorphic duck, is accidentally brought to Earth through a laser beam in an experiment being performed by a Cleveland physicist Dr. Walter Jenning, and his assistant Phil Blumburtt. Howard ends up in Cleveland, where he rescues singer Beverly Switzer from a group of thugs. Beverly and Phil are friends, and when the government is told about Howard, she helps Phil and Dr. Jenning hide Howard from the authorities until they can get him back home — but then an evil being arrives through the laser beam and takes possession of Dr. Jenning’s body, putting Howard, Beverly, and Phil in a fight for their lives.
9. American Splendor
American Splendor is a biographical dark comedy based on the late comic book writer Harvey Pekar (Paul Giamatti). Pekar writes his comics about the sad monotony of everyday life as a file clerk at a veteran’s hospital in Cleavland OH. Filmmakers Robert Pulcini and Sheri Springer Berman employ a combination of live-action film, video, and animation, including narration and commentary from the real-life Harvey Pekar. The screenplay was based on Pekar’s comic book series American Splendor, which he has been writing since 1976 for Dark Horse Comics.
8. Ghost World
Starring Thora Burch and Scarlett Johansen, Ghost World is based on the same named graphic novel by Daniel Clowes. Director Terry Zwigoff teamed with Clowes to adapt the novel into a screenplay. The realism of Ghost World lies in its true to life characterization and its authentic ear for teenage girl dialogue. Which is impressive seeing as both Clowes and Zwigoff are both middle aged men. The plot differs greatly from book to screen, but such is the case in all cinema based on books, but the film masterfully captures the edgy feel of the novel and has a more constructed and fluid plot line that is better suited for the screen, yet wont disappoint fans of the original book.
7. Weird Science
The John Huges flick Weird Science is based in the loosest sense on a very old comic. Issue #5 featured a story entitled Made Of The Future which inspired the basic premise of two nerds (Anthony Michael Hall and Ilian Mitchell-Smith) trying to create the perfect woman (Kelly LeBrock). From there he created a quintessential, iconic 80’s teen flick replete with sexism, gratuitous nudity, archetypal nerds and bullies, and technology that has no business even existing in the first place. Oh, and Robert Downy Jr. making one of his first appearances in mainstream film. Definitely not Huges best film, though a very vocal fan-base will say otherwise.
6. Tank Girl
Ok. I’m going to try really hard not to ramble about this one because I love Tank Girl (luh-uh-uh-uh-OVE). Set in the year 2033, Tank Girl the movie, directed by Rachel Talalay, stars Lori Petty as the tank riding anti-heroine who goes toe to toe with a mega corporation that controls what is left of the post apocalyptic worlds water supply, with the help of her tank and a band of kangaroo/human hybrids. Complete with one of the best soundtracks that will take any Gen X-er down memory lane, and a wardrobe that makes my inner punk rock teenager salivate, Tank Girl is the kinda chick we all secretly wanted to be friends with. Or sleep with. Or both. The film captures the brash, punk rock, whimsy that the British comic created by Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin is known for, but only skims the surface of Rebecca’s (AKA Tank Girl) true grit and lovable deviance. If you love the movie, read the comics.
Ahhh… pretty, pretty, pretty Barbarella. A classic Starring Jane Fonda as the title character, the film is based on Jean-Claud Forests’s Barbarella comics. Barbarella is a psychedelic, sci-fi fantasy about a voluptuous outer space agent traveling to another galaxy in a spaceship with an interior covered in orange shag carpet from top to bottom, in search of a missing inventor, Durand Durand. Durand Durand has a positronic ray, could signal the end of humanity. But more importantly, in my mind anyway, he also possesses a weird organ/sex machine called The Excessive Machine that he uses to torture Barbarella with. Of course, the machine melts down because she’s able to stand hi levels of intense pleasure… because… She’s Barbarella, and sexually a bad ass. The movie has achieved cult status due to it’s outrageous camp and sexual under (or over?) tones and is definitively worth watching. 100 points to the person who can name the popular 80’s band who got their name from the film!
4. V for Vendetta
V for Vendetta is a graphic novel written by Alan Moor and published by Vertigo, V For Vendetta is an account of a near-future United Kingdom imagined from the 1980s to the late 1990s. The story depicts the United Kingdom in the 1990s preceded by a nuclear warin the 1980s, which has left much of the world completely destroyed. A fascist regime called Norsfire has exterminated its opponents in concentration camps and now rules the country . V, an anarchist revolutionary donning a Guy Fawkes mask begins an elaborately violent, and intentionally theatrical campaign to murder his former captors, bring down the government, and convince the people to rule themselves.
3. Mystery Men
Mystery Men, loosely based on the comic The Flaming Carrot by Bob Burden, is about a rag tag, misfit clan of would-be superhero’s in Champion City. The nefarious super villan Casanova Frankenstein, has been released from his asylum prison as a publicity stunt to rekindle the dwindling fame of Captain Amazing. The plan backfires when Captain Amazing is killed while The Mystery Men try to rescue him after being captured by Frankenstein. The woes of the city are now thrust upon the shoulders of the inept, superhero wanna-bes and hilarity ensues. The Flaming Carrot is equally ridiculous. His mask has a continually burning flame at the top and a secret compartment containing a nuclear powered pogo stick (the mask and the pogo stick were invented by Dr. Heller of the Mystery Men) Flaming Carrot also wears a utility belt filled with Silly putty, rubber bands, playing cards, sneezing powder, and other seemingly useless items that become lethal weapons in his hands. Dr. Heller upgraded Flaming Carrot’s equipment after bringing him back from the clinically dead. Flaming Carrot is able to go into a self-induced state of “Zen Stupidity” in order to face danger and evil.
2. The Crow
The Crow comic book series was created by James O’Barr as a means of dealing with the death of his girlfriend at the hands of a drunk driver. It was later published by Caliber Comics in 1989 thus becoming a huge underground success. The Crow was then adapted to the well known film, three film sequels, a television series and numerous books and comic books have also been subsequently produced. The story is a dark and gut wrenching love story about a man named Erick Draven who was savagely murdered, along with his fiancé. As he lay dying, he witnessed his fiancé being brutally raped and killed. A year later, he is risen from the dead by a crow who he becomes telepathically linked to, and exacts his revenge. Starring Brandon Lee (who met his own demise in this film due to an accident involving a gun malfunction on the set), the film is dark, gritty, and made all us goth kids swoon back in the day.
1. From Hell
From Hell , staring Johnny Depp, is based on a graphic novel by Alan Moor (V For Vendetta) was originally published in serial form from 1989 to 1996 and collected in 1999, speculating upon the identity and motives of Jack The Ripper. The title is taken from the first words of the a letter which some authorities believe was an authentic message sent from the infamous killer in 1888. The collected edition is 572 pages long and could probably cause a concussion if you threw it at someone. The story focuses on Frederik Abberline (played by Depp in the film) who is investigating the Ripper murders. He’s a brilliant yet troubled man whose investigative work is often aided by his psychic visions. The film and the book differed in a myriad of ways, Abberline in the movie version is in actuality an amalgam of three different people from book…a policeman, a psychic, and a crazed opium addict. Then add the fact that in the book the psychic admits that his is a fake, and in the movie, however, Depp’s psychic visions are supposed to be real and brought on by the excessive amounts of opium he is constantly smoking in seedy Chinatown dens, yet with all of this being suspiciously tolerated by his bosses at Scotland Yard. It essentially turns the film version of From Hell into a discombobulated disaster that can’t decide if it’s a fact-based account, a horror movie with supernatural elements, or the Hollywood version of a historical thriller. Nonetheless, if you are a Depp fan and are prone to wardrobe induced eye-gasms, you will enjoy the film, but seriously, check out the graphic novel as it is much more interesting and in-depth.
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