Movie adaptations are tricky. When adapting stories for film, it’s important to analyze what works well and what doesn’t. And as we’ve seen with recent comic movies, some stories elements just don’t translate as easily or as well to the movies. Sure, some comics can be explored and adapted well, incorporating elements from the actual stories and changing certain details to better fit the movies. Movies like Captain America: Civil War and Thor: Ragnarok are great examples of that, only pulling small elements from the comics that work best with the plots that share their name and mixing them with a mix of other concepts and original ideas. Other comics, even if they have good moments or ideas, can’t be properly adapted without bringing strange ideals, weird events, and stupid character developments to the story. Think of things like Justice League, which incorporates elements from comics like the Death & Rebirth of Superman and New 52 Justice League.
Plot points that wouldn’t work outside of comics (and sometimes barely work in the comics themselves) are incorporated within the major film adaptions of the stories. And that’s how we get stuff like Batman v. Superman: Dawn of the Justice and Justice League pulling Doomsday into a plot that really didn’t need to incorporate him into the movie in any way, shape, or form. It’s the kind of lesson that both Marvel and DC need to consider when looking at other comics to draw inspiration from. Here are seven comics that the companies should adapt into their next movies, and eight that they need to avoid no matter what.
15. Don’t Adapt All Star Batman – The Worst Version Of Batman Ever
There have been a lot of interpretations of Batman over the years. There are some constants to the core of the character across countless approaches, but beyond that, any and all of the details between incarnations of the characters can shift and change. And, here’s the thing. Some of them are WAY different when compared to others, with many being worthy of adaptation and others really not. One of the ones that need to be avoided is All Star Batman & Robin, which tries to make the Batman mythos so dark to the point of no return. This is a version of Batman who straight-up kidnaps the boy who will grow up to be Robin, and forces him to eat rats in the BatCave in order to survive. This is a version of the Joker that happens to be covered in Neo-Nazi tattoos. This is a version of Wonder Woman who seems to hate men and a version of Green Lantern who’s defeated by the power of lemonade. Any incarnation of Batman that comes to screen needs to not pull anything from this version of the character.
14. Do Adapt Wolverine: Enemy Of The State – The Best Possible Action Movie Ever
We’re in a world where even Thor is able to get three movies with his name on them, and that’s great. But we’re close to a world where the X-Men and Fantastic Four could show up too, and that means we could get a Wolverine: Enemy of the State movie. See, this story is about Wolverine being captured and brainwashed by a team-up of HYDRA, the Nazis from Captain America, and the Hand, the zombie ninjas from Daredevil, and use him as a weapon against everyone in the Marvel Universe. It’s amazing, and then somehow topped by Wolverine being freed by it and then proceeding to fight literally thousands of Nazis and zombie ninjas because this is an amazing comic book. We could deal with the ensuing Disney monopoly if it meant Wolverine fighting everyone.
13. Don’t Adapt Underworld Unleashed – But What If Joker Met Satan?
Underworld Unleashed is a strong event from DC Comics, full of interesting character moments and engaging action sequences. And it should never be adapted into a film. The book works thanks to the ridiculous nature of superhero comics, where basically neon 90’s Satan shows up to a number of heroes and villains and offers them an actual deal with the devil. It works really well as a comic limited to an established comic universe, but doesn’t have anywhere near enough actual plot or character to adapt into an actual story. When adapting stories for film, it’s vital to analyze what translates well and what doesn’t. And some characteristics of comics just don’t work in film, like the devil being defined by neon green, Comics are weird, you guys.
12. Do Adapt Superman: American Alien – The Artsy Superman Movie
DC and Warner Bros. have had trouble crafting a Superman movie that audiences actually connected to completely. They’ve run into a lot of problems making the character relatable or fun, and have instead gone for broke and just gone with the version of the character who’s full of Christ-like imagery and themes of power. The easiest way to make Superman relatable is to just make him relatable. A recent comic that did a terrific job of that was Superman: American Alien, probably the best thing Max Landis has done. The comic doesn’t play out like most versions of the Superman story, instead embracing his supporting cast in full and spending more time on the man than anything super. The comic takes place over the course of seven periods in Superman’s life, as he grows from a confused child into a strong man with the power to protect the world. It would be more reflective than almost any superhero movie so far released, and could easily get audiences behind the character.
11. Don’t Adapt Iron Man: Demon In A Bottle – Iron Man Goes Full On Lush
An attempt to bring realism and pathos to a superhero character is always a smart idea, lending real emotion to an otherwise fantastical character. And while there might have been a time to explore Demon in a Bottle, but it isn’t now. The story is actually one of the most famous Iron Man plots, wherein Tony is confronted with the fact that, yeah, he probably drinks too much. The story is an important part of Iron Man’s DNA going forward in the comics, and does feature one of the best comical/terrifying scenes in the character’s history (one day, Iron Man is wasted and decides to go out and be a superhero – it’s the Marvel equivalent of a drunk driver, only he has an Iron Man suit).
But if the movies were going to explore that element of the character, then the time was earlier in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – namely, that time was in Iron Man 2, which alludes to his drunken escapades almost exclusively for laughs during a super powered brawl with the future War Machine. But as the character as grown within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it would feel empty and almost forced to comment on his casual drinking at this point. Demon in a Bottle works because Iron Man is at an all-time low in the comics, whereas most famous man in the world and mentor to a new generation Iron Man would feel like a PSA more than anything.
10. Do Adapt Hawkeye – Hawkeye, Meet Hawkeye
Hawkeye is, well, about Hawkeye. Both of them. See, it centers partly on Clint Barton (the archer Avenger we’ve come to know and tolerate), trying to live a normal life despite his 9-to-5 job being a superhero. It also partly focuses on Hawkeye (a.k.a. Kate Bishop), a confident and cool up and coming hero who also happens to be an amazing archer. The two Hawkeyes have one of the most engaging student/teacher relationships in comics, with Kate having recently grown into one of the premiere heroes at the company. And the story where they have to go fight Russian mobsters just trying to make a move on Hawkeye’s apartment building has more stakes than half the current Marvel films. There is all this AND they have a dog sidekick. Otherwise, it’s perfect.
9. Don’t Adapt Age Of Apocalypse – Mad Max + X-Men
This comic is absolutely incredible, but it can’t be made into a movie. It’s a ridiculous opportunity for creators to throw caution to the wind and create something truly unique, and the story manages to hold together better than it has any right to. But make no mistake: this comic should never see screens. When Xavier’s extremely powerful and extremely insane son goes back in time to kill Magneto to change the past and create a world where his father didn’t have to deal with as much hysteria brought on by his terrorist/ex-friend, Xavier is the one who is killed and it causes a dark future that’s half Mad Max, half Blade Runner, and all ’90s X-Men. It’s a crazy story, and manages to explore a lot of interesting elements (like Colossus having to sacrifice his students to possibly save his sister or Cyclops trying to help operate the Underground Railroad in a post-apocalyptic world). But the problem is that all that interesting stuff happens on the side, while the actual plot would just be confusing and impossible to explain. It’s confusing, muddled, and weird as all hell. It’s the Marvel movie that just can’t happen.
8. Do Adapt Hitman – What It’s Like To Be Just Some Dude In The DC Universe
Seriously, it’s weird that we don’t have a Hitman show right now. In an age where even the Inhumans can get their own series, an Irish orphan raised in Gotham named Tommy Monaghan should already be in his fourth season. An ex-soldier who returned to America to become a gun for hire, Tommy makes ends meet as an assassin with a moral code – only going after the baddies he deems deserving of death. He also has super powers thanks to a crossover (limited telepathy and x-ray vision but they both give him migraines), and regularly runs afoul of people like Batman, Catwoman, and Green Lantern. He’s a regular joe in a world of gods, more interested in impressing a date then saving the world. And it’s refreshing to see a superhero universe from that perspective, especially when he has to sometimes deal with zombies in the Gotham aquarium.
7. Don’t Adapt Green Lantern/Green Arrow – It Gets A Little Awkward For Everyone Involved
Green Arrow and Green Lantern may have grown popular in recent years (thanks to Green Lantern appearing in a movie, while Green Arrow headlines his own television series). But that wasn’t always the case, even among comic nerds. Even for the avid superhero fans, neither character was all that popular. But as comics began to approach heavier topics and incorporate political commentary and ideals into their stories about people in spandex costumes punching other people in spandex costumes, they didn’t always end up being all that thoughtful.
Paired together in an attempt to bolster one another’s sales, the two characters embarked on a famous storyline where they road tripped around America, with Green Lantern Hal Jordan finding out that racism is a thing and Green Arrow finding out he was such a bad mentor that his sidekick was on heroin. Which, yeah, is not great. It’s melodramatic and just painful to revisit now that the comics have learned to embrace darker story telling beats with far more subtlety and nuance.
6. Do Adapt Question – An Existential Superhero
The DC Universe is full of interesting characters, even if some of them don’t ever really appear outside of the occasional cartoon that stars Batman. And one of the most fascinating is the Question, the guy that annoys the rest of the Justice League. He needs to appear in larger scale material, and could offer the kind of tired good vs. evil super heroics a new kind of hero to explore. Vic Sage is a harsh and objective reporter who fights crime at night as the faceless vigilante, the Question.
But after a quick succession of losses, Question tries to reexamine his life and learns from his mistakes and regrets. Along the way, the woman who kicked his butt then saved him preaches Eastern philosophies to him, and these lessons actually take effect. Many of the side characters are actual characters from other parts of the world, in a direct counterpoint to the problematic “white savior” trope. Question actually grows as a person from learning how to question his upbringing and understanding of the world, and move past his mistakes. It’s a thoughtful and philosophical look at the idea of a superhero, and could impress a world growing tired of the basic hero story.
5. Do Adapt Ms. Marvel – The Best Teen Hero In Decades
Teenage superheroes have been the standard for the comic medium ever since Spider-Man became one of the biggest deals ever in comics in the 1960s. And while there have been plenty of teen heroes over the years from all over the world and across lots of different settings, one of the most recent has easily been one of the best. Kamala Khan is a teen girl from a town in Jersey near New York, a first generation Pakistani-American who’s grown up to become a huge superhero fan. When she’s granted size-shifting powers from the Inhuman Terrigan Mists, she decided to become a superhero in her own right. Her stories have managed to give the tried and true feelings of those kind of stories a fresh new spin and voice, all while bringing readers one of the best new Marvel heroes in a while. She’d be a perfect addition to the fourth wave of Marvel films, and the kind of contemporary for Spider-Man that audiences want.
4. Don’t Adapt Dark Reign – The Bad Guys Win But Don’t Do Much
There was a period of time in the 2000s when Marvel and DC were pumping out companywide crossover stories pretty consistently and constantly. And while some have actually already been adapted into films (notably Civil War), some of the ones that followed probably wouldn’t make the translation as well. Dark Reign takes place after a number of villains manage to impress the world and usurp positions of power from the heroes after helping repel an alien invasion. And while the bad guys getting to be the law seems like an inherently interesting story to approach in a superhero universe, this specific story doesn’t really bring anything to an impressive conclusion. None of the “villains winning” moments actually feel real or powerful. The biggest moment is actually Punisher being killed and turned into the monster-hunting FrankenCastle for two months. Beyond that crazy diversion, there’s just not enough there to really make the story feel meaningful in any real way before it’s undone by the next event.
3. Do Adapt Vision – Do Suburban Androids Dream Of Mowing The Lawn?
Vision is not exactly the best character within the Marvel Universe. In the comics themselves, Vision has actually managed to be one of the most boring, predictable members of the Avengers. And given the usual level of boring that the Avengers comics usually end up being, that’s saying something. But the single best Vision comic actually could be really interesting, especially because it actually tries to explore and analyze how a machine trying to be human would react to humanity. The recent Vision series follows Vision as he moves to suburbia alongside a new android family he’s built. While the family itself faces external threats and problems, they also have to contend with the consequences of their emotions and actions, which sometimes have world-affecting events. It’s a subtle, powerful comic about a robot man making his own slice of the American life, and is a perfect example of a low-key Marvel psychological thriller.
2. Don’t Adapt Identity Crisis – The Dumbest Murder Mystery Ever
One of the biggest DC events for five years in both directions, Identity Crisis was famously an attempt to inspect and even darken the classic DC stories of the 1970s. And it does so by bringing s*xual assault to the mask-and-cape stories. When the wife of a former Justice League member is murdered, the heroes of the world go off in search of the culprit. But a select few heroes have a very specific idea of who did it, and their investigations unveils hidden truths that the “heroes” hid from even the rest of the League. And that’s a compelling idea, but when the mystery at the core of it is complete nonsense even for a world with literal magic as an explanation, the story can’t have any real weight. It’s a mystery that’s impossible to understand, even with all the answers. To make matters worse, the few moments that do standout (like Deathstroke fighting the entire Justice League or Batman racing to save the third Robin’s Dad) are strong, they only work thanks to the artwork. It shouldn’t be touched, especially in terms of the story.
1. Don’t Adapt Marcus – The Worst The Avengers Have Ever Been
When Marvel comics managed to reach the 200th issue of their comics, they tried to make a big deal of the event. This gave readers stuff like X-Men #200 (where Magneto goes on trial in front of the UN as part of his redemption to hero and it is amazing) and Fantastic Four #200 (where Mr. Fantastic and Dr. Doom get into a time traveling fistfight and is amazing) that proved to be incredibly strong moments in the franchise. And then we also got Avengers #200, a.k.a. the time Captain Marvel got assaulted by a space god. See, Carol Danvers wakes up one day and finds out she’s pregnant. As the pregnancy accelerates, the Avengers prove to be useless and even insulting, caring more for the potential name of the baby instead of the feelings and thoughts of their friend and teammate. And then she gives birth to what turns out to be the space god who fathered himself, and then he makes Captain Marvel fall in love with him and run away with him. There is no part of that story that Marvel should even get to, even for ideas. Seriously, it is horrible, and we never need to see that.
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