7 Movies You May Not Know Are Based On Comics
I’ve been slacking off on my random lists and odd-ball features, but I’m here to fix that! For the better part of the last 15 or so years, Hollywood has been looking to the world of comics and graphic novels for inspiration and it’s not unusual to see multiple comic book movies hit theaters each year. With Marvel having no fewer than three films per year, and now Warner Brothers looking to get more involved, that trend doesn’t look to be fading away any time soon. But, there are movies that are releasing each year that some folks didn’t know were based on comic books. Sure, there are comics that are based on movies that hit stands after they prove to be successful, or some that tie into films and serve as prequels, as in the case of Pacific Rim. But the films listed below had comics or graphic novels in book stores and comic shops long before Hollywood ever got their mits on them. But these books are a bit more obscure than your Iron Man, Batman and Hulk. It certainly doesn’t make them any less awesome and in some cases are considered among the best comic book adaptations to hit the big screen to date. These aren’t in any particular order, so don’t stress out if your favorite isn’t at the top. Or bottom. Whatever.
Road to Perdition
Comic written by Max Allan Collins, Art by Richard Piers Rayner, Published by Paradox Press/DC Comics
Film directed by Sam Mendes, Starring Tom Hanks, Jude Law, Paul Newman & Tyler Hoechlin
Before Sam Mendes blew our minds with Skyfall, he was winning accolades for his adaptation of the little know comic series Road to Perdition. The film, which stars Tom Hanks and Paul Newman, was not a massive financial success, but it still an incredible movie that is full of emotion and heart break. Newman earned himself an Oscar nomination for his part in the film, with Tyler Hoechlin, who is now starring in MTV’s hit series Teen Wolf, also earning himself a few award nominations. James Bond himself, Daniel Craig, also has a great role in the film. The story is rather dark, but quite moving in seeing what a father will do to protect his son. After a young boy (Hoechlin) sees his father (Hanks) kill a man, performing his duty as a hitman, the father must do all he can to keep his son alive and make any sacrifice necessary to do that. If you haven’t seen this film, it is worth a watch, comic fan or not. There was talk of two more films in the series, but little movement has taken place on the second two films, so I’m not holding my breath.
Comic written by Alan Moore, Art by Eddie Campbell, Published by Top Shelf Productions
Film directed by Albert & Allen Hughes, Starring Johnny Depp, Heather Graham, Ian Holm, Robbie Coltrane & Jason Flemyng
Johnny Depp has done some rather dark and brooding films in his career, and From Hell certainly ranks at the top of that list. In this film, Depp plays Inspector Frederick Abberline, who is assigned the daunting task of tracking down a killer who is praying on the ladies of the night. The murders are gruesome and violent, but extremely precise. This killer has a nickname that is now infamous: Jack the Ripper. Abberline must use his skills and drug-induced clarvoyancy to track the killer down and bring him to justice. You can certainly see Alan Moore’s unique style and darkness coming through in the film, which is dark and down-right frightening at times. The cast is superb, with some very familiar faces showing up. This film certainly isn’t for everyone, but it is definitley a trip.
A History of Violence
Comic written by John Wagner, Art by Vince Locke, Published by Paradox Press/Vertigo
Film directed by David Cronenberg, Starring Viggo Mortenson, Maria Bello, Ed Harris & William Hurt
You had me at Cronenberg. The horror and sci-fi legend takes on a bit more of a dramatic project with A History of Violence, but his unique touch on the film helps take this one up a notch or two. Mortinson, who was just coming off the hugely successful Lord of the Rings trilogy, gives a commanding performance as Tom Stall, a man who is working in a small town cafe. When a stranger stops in, his whole life is flipped upside down and, and as the film’s title suggests, a history of violence is revealed. And yes, the film is quite violent, but it doesn’t detract from the power of the film. This story just goes to show what a man will do to keep his family safe.
30 Days of Night
Comic written by Steve Niles, Art by Ben Templesmith, Published by IDW Publishing
Film directed by David Slade, Starring Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Danny Huston, Ben Foster & Manu Bennett
Remember a time when you could say the word “vampire” and images of blood and horror crept into your mind? Sadly, those days are long gone, thanks to the ever increasing genre of young adult novels. But, one of the last true vampire films to scare the crap out of movie goers was David Slade’s adaptation of 30 Days of Night. This films depicts vampires for what they are: blood thirsty killers. Every so often, a small Alaskan town is plunged into darkness for 30 days, which isn’t unusual for locales close to the north pole. Unfortunately, a group of vampires has learned this little bit of trivia and when the town goes dark, they strike, killing everything that moves. It’s up to Eban Oleson (Harnett) and his wife (George) and small group to keep as many of the residents alive as possible These are not your sparkling, teenage heart throb vampires. These are some of the best and creepiest vampires to ever grace the silver screen, hearkening back to the classic horror film Nosforatu. Everything about them is scary. The film is not Slade’s best, but he delves into the horror genre whole-heartedly . The film is bloody and violent, with a touch of camp, but it’s a ton of fun.
V for Vendetta
Comic written by Alan Moore, Art by David Lloyd, Published by Vertigo/DC Comics
Film directed by James McTeigue, Starring Hugo Weaving, Natalie Portman, John Hurt, Stephen Rea & Stephen Frye
Alan Moore is back once again, and in the vein of Watchmen, V for Vendetta is quite government centric, with many poitical statements showing through. Normally, I don’t go for films like this, but the visuals in this film are stunning. McTeigue, who really needs to get his hands on another comic book film, takes the story, which is already powerful, and adds some increidble imagery that only adds to the awesomeness. Hugo Weaving voices a masked terrorist who is hell-bent on bringing down the totalitarian government that is in power using guerilla tactics to do so. When he rescues a young woman from a group of enforcers, V discovers an unlikely ally. As can be expected with this group of actors, it’s a stunning film to watch unfold. Even though we never see his face, Weaving gives one of his better performances, as does Portman as she transitions from a damsel in distress to a powerful ally. The film is filled with subtle nuances and messages and certainly requires multiple viewings to capture it all. This is easily among the top comic book movies ever made.
Comics created by Bob Burden, Published by Aardvark-Vanaheim (1984–1985), Renegade Press (1985–1987), Dark Horse Comics (1988–2002), Image Comics (2004–2006)
Film directed by Kinka Usher, Starring Ben Stiller, William H. Macy, Hank Azaria, Paul Reubens & Janeane Garofalo
Let’s take things to a little bit of a happier place for a minute, with the comdey Mystery Men, which takes a hodge-pdge group of heroes and slaps them onto a team. Of course, hilarity ensues. When a supervillain threatens the city and a major super hero, the Mystery Men must step in to save the day. This is quite possibly one of the more underrated comedies to released in the last while. The cast, consisting of some of the best comics of the day, is fantastic and make the most of their oddball characters and their delivery of the even more eccentric script is impeccable, with some fantastic one-liners. It’s a comedy film that is unexpected and looking at the premise of the film, that’s understandable. If you’re looking for a great, funny film to watch, this is the one.
Comics written by Warren Ellis, Art by Cully Hamner, Published by Homage Comics/Wildstorm
Film directed by Robert Schwentke, Starring Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, Bryan Cox, Mary Louise Parker, Richard Dreyfuss & Karl Urban
When this film released 3 years ago, no one expected it to be as big a hit as it turned out to be. But, with an all-star cast of this caliber and a well-drafted script, this one proved to be a winner. The gang got back together for a sequel that released earlier this summer, which added more great actors and proved to be just as fun. In the film, the main character is renamed to Frank, rather than Paul, but the premise stayed somewhat the same. Frank Moses is a retired black-ops agent whose monthly highlight is talking to a social security representitive, Sarah, whom he lies to about receiving his monthly check just so he can talk to her. When assassins arrive at Frank’s house to kill him, he must defend himself and go on the run, kidnapping Sarah and gathering his former associates along the way. The film is both funny and intense and offers up some fantastic action sequences, along with great dialogue between the cast. Certainly an enjoyable film for many types of movie-goers.
There are several other films that I don’t have listed here that are also based on comis books, and worth a watch, such as Wanted, starring Angelina Jolie and James McAvoy, and 300, starring Gerard Butler and Michael Fassbender. But this group listed above are all fantastic films and you don’t need to be a comic book fan to enjoy them and appreciate them for what they are. For those of you who haven’t had the opportunity to view these, I’d suggest you do so! Be sure to stop back in here to tell us what you think. What are some of your favorite lesser-known comic book based films? Sound off below!