It would be foolhardy to deny the impact that comic books and graphic novels have had on pop culture and the cinematic landscape over the last decade. Where once, great superhero movies were just the dreams of nerds and geeks everywhere, now we are in a comic book renaissance of sorts. From t-shirts to movies and TV to video games, comic books are just more on fire and culturally relevant than they have ever been. Anyone doubting the true power of this movement, understand, Ant-Man is in coming out in theaters very soon.
Ant-Man. Process that for a second.
But there is an unspoken reality that most non-comic fans don’t realize about movies. For every mainstream comic book movie that comes out, there is one that gets released that no one even knows came from a comic book. For every Avengers and Batman sized movie, there is usually a smaller movie that came before that mined its material from a lesser known comic book. They also show you just how versatile storytelling in that medium can be.
People used to hear “comic book movies” and rolled their eyes. But slowly, those eye rolls are becoming a thing of the past as these adaptations just keep getting better and better. From stories about a dystopian future aboard an icy train to a tale about a father who falls in the worst kind of love, the following are ten perfect examples of movies a majority of people did not know were based on comic books.
10. The Mask
Once you watch this Jim Carrey movie, you’ll realize it probably IS based off a comic book. The Mask movie and The Mask comic book were two VERY different things. The Mask movie utilized the mask itself to help make Jim Carey overact even more than usual.
The Mask in the book turns people into murdering sociopaths. No, seriously, there is a point in the original book when the mask kills a whole boat-load of policemen. The Mask was not PG-13 fair in the comics. But once Hollywood and Carey got their hands on it, they transformed it entirely.
The reason this places so low on the list is because it is a movie essentially no one saw. Featuring Kate Beckinsale, it is a book that was known for its amazing use of white and negative space as actual art. They pulled this off by making the story about trying to solve murders in Antarctica during a blizzard. Hence all the white.
What the creators of the film didn’t understand was, while white on an art panel really works, having most of your movie covered with snowfall does not an interesting movie make. The story was there, but visually, something was lost between the two mediums. What worked really well on paper did not work nearly as well on film.
Still, it was adapted from comics and no one knows, so it has its place here.
8. 30 Days of Night
30 Days of Night was a gruesome vampire flick that came and went pretty quickly in favor of the “sparkly teen” vampire trend that was just taking off. Shame, too, because 30 Days was a decent adaptation of a stellar comic book. Taking place in one Alaskan town that has been plunged into darkness for a month, some local vampires who are dying out figure they can feed on the town during this time, and begin to feast on the locals, one by one.
It is a really spectacular concept, and it worked well enough on film. It’s real setback was the fact that no one saw it, and even those who did had no idea the concept had been mined from comics.
Snowpiercer was one of the most under-appreciated movies of the last few years. A brilliant and dark take of a dystopian future set aboard a train where people are delegated by social class, it was a smart and violent ride worth taking by all.
But for most who took the time to take the ride, they had no idea Snowpiercer was based off a cult European comic book. So while everyone calls Chris Evan‘s Marvel movies his premier comic books movies, some comic fans may argue that this film is the superior adaptation.
6. From Hell
Many people barely recall this 2001 film starring Johnny Depp as a man closing in on the identity of Jack the Ripper. The film was made by the Hughes Brothers, but was actually adapted from a massive graphic novel by the brilliant Alan Moore. Much like all of Moore’s work, this was the start of his hatred for Hollywood, as he felt his work was often stolen and ruined in the process.
While this might not be as high profile as his other controversial adaptations (League of Extraordinary Gentleman, Watchmen), it still shocks many to find this tale was actually taken from comics.
The comic book was about ten thousand times more graphic than the film. Honestly, there are pages and pages just focusing on the dissection of humans. Crazy stuff. These are clearly NOT the same comic books your parents grew up with.
5. Road To Perdition
Road to Perdition is an absolutely stunning film about a man who is a gangster, yet lives a normal family life pretending to be something far more official. Keep in mind, this man is played by Tom Hanks. His son sneaks into his car to follow him to work one night and witnesses something he shouldn’t have. This then forces the mob boss to make it his purpose to take out the man and his child.
The movie is features a dark, noir-style story that grabs you and pulls you in from the first frame. The cinematography of this movie is achingly beautiful, and the story hits you right in the gut, which is what made it even more shocking for people to find out it was based on a book by DC Comics.
4) Kingsman: The Secret Service
Learn the name now: Mark Millar.
From Kick-Ass to Kingsmen, in the next 20 years you should expect to see all this dude’s comic book writing turned into movies. Why? Because that is his goal when he writes. He basically makes his comic books the story boards for his future films. When he made Wanted, he even based character designs around the actors he wanted in the future movie (Eminem? Really?).
Kingsmen is a great and recent example of tons of people going to see a film they had NO IDEA was based on a comic. A fun albeit way over-the-top film, do not be surprised if this becomes the 007 of the new age – which is just what Millar wanted.
3. Big Hero 6
Disney’s recent Big Hero 6 was a break away for the team. Lately, Disney had been focusing on musical movies starring princesses again, so to see they were releasing a superhero movie was a pleasant surprise for many.
This visually striking film about a team of smart miscreants who go on to form a group of superheroes had so much charm, many mistook it for a Disney original. Nope. Big Hero 6 is actually a pretty awesome Marvel comic that, while being different from the movie, is close enough that both retain the original’s charm. What has many excited is that the Big Hero 6 comic has a lot of lore to pull from. This has lead many to believe that this might be an ongoing series of animated films for the studio.
What many consider to be the penultimate in South Korean ‘revenge’ cinema, Oldboy is a cinematic journey many take and never forget about for the rest of their lives. It relates the story of a man who wakes up one day in a hotel room, where he is told nothing about why he is there and is forced to stay there, alone, for 15 years. At the 15 year mark, he is let loose with a name of suspects who may have caused it. Thus begins a film that could best be described as harrowing and exhausting.
Even though this film is beloved and has an American remake, so many people STILL don’t know that it is based off a manga of the same name. Though the book and movies have some key differences, it is still startling for many to find out a movie this intense was based on a comic book. That just shows you how much people underestimate the power of storytelling in comics, something films are only now helping to change.
1. Men in Black
With some of these movies, it is clear to see while watching them they had to be inspired by some sort of comic. Men in Black is one of those movies, because it clearly has an artistic and creative aesthetic to it.
The idea screams comic book – men nabbed off the street and made into a sort of FBI for aliens – but very few people who saw this movie knew it was based off an extremely popular comic (in cult circles, anyway). This one gets some points for not detracting too much from the charm of the original books.