Top 10 Movies You Didn’t Know Were Comic Books First

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While a lot of you have heard about Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Spiderman, Captain America, and Wolverine, they are but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to adaptable characters.  There is a vast and deep chasm of other licensed characters that are ready for movie adaptation right now.  Some of these other franchises have been adapted to the big screen, with mixed success.

10.  The Crow

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A movie now known for the accidental death of Brandon Lee, The Crow made over 50 million dollars back in 1994.  The movie is about revenge: Eric Draven and his wife were murdered, and he is resurrected by the titular Crow with enough power to get revenge on the people that killed them.

Ironically enough, the comic book itself was also spawned from tragedy.  James O’ Barr wrote the comic book series in 1989 as a way to cope with his then-girlfriend’s death at the hands of a drunk driver.  The comic book is a lot more depressing than the movie, with the comic book Draven spending his down time between murders wallowing in self-pity.

During the following 10 years, there were several attempts to bring back the Crow, with the longest running series spanning 10-issues by Image Comics in the late 90s.  In 2011, James O’Barr released a collector’s edition of the original series with new material written for it.

9. Road To Perdition

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2002’s Road to Perdition is a good movie and marks one of the few times that Tom Hanks tried the action hero role.  Hanks plays Michael O’ Sullivan, an enforcer for a Chicago gang.  After Michael’s oldest son witnessed something he was not supposed to, the gang tried to kill Sullivan’s family, accidentally leaving Sullivan and the older kid alive.  The movie was a huge success, doubling its money worldwide.

Max Allen Collins wrote the graphic novel in 1998 as a loose adaptation of Lone Wolf and Cub, a long running manga series. Collins also included some real life gangsters from prohibition-era Chicago.  The movie follows the comic book with a few differences.  The most notable difference is the inclusion of MacGuire in the movie.  He is a hitman who uses photojournalism as his cover.  He takes photographs of his crime scenes.  The comic book mostly had nameless thugs going after Sullivan and his boy.

Thanks to the success of the movie, the graphic novel spawned two sequel series, On the Road to Perdition, which is a companion piece to the original one, and Return to Perdition, which continues the story with Michael’s grandson.

8. Wanted

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Wanted is a 2008 film about a group of assassins who base their killings on divine providence.  They analyze a giant a tapestry and it tells them who to kill.  Wesley Gibson discovers that he is destined to be a part of that world because he has some superhuman abilities.  After some brutal and intense training, he is inducted into this world of assassins and goes on to kill for them.

The 2004 six-issue series, however, is nothing like the movie it was based on.  The comic book William Gibson has a chip on his shoulder because life did not exactly go his way.  While at a local coffee shop one day, a woman casually guns down everyone inside before having a chat with Gibson.  He discovers that he is the son of a supervillain called The Killer and, when given a chance to join his father’s world, he jumps at the opportunity.  There has not been another series using these characters, as Millar avoids coming back to his creations unless he really likes the world he created.

7.  Mystery Men

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This 1998 flop is more well-known than the comic book series that spawned it.  It stars William H. Macy, Ben Stiller, and Hank Azaria as three also-ran superheroes who have to save their city from the evil Casanova Frankenstein.

The comic books series that Mystery Men came from is one of the oldest independent comic books series, going all the way back to 1979.  Having nothing to do with the movie that spawned it, Flaming Carrot Comics is known for being a surrealist take of the superhero genre.  The star of the comic book became what he is when he read 3000 comic books in one night to win a bet and it unhinged his mind.

Over the last 15 years, collections of the Flaming Carrot Comics have been collected and sold through Image Comics.  Bob Burden still maintains the rights to his creation and has published with a lot of companies.  His last comic book appearance was in 2008 and he has not appeared in a comic book since.

6. Tank Girl

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Tank Girl is a 1995 movie that is known for being offensive to a lot of viewers.  It is set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland where water is the most precious commodity and the W&P corporation controls most of it.  Tank Girl and her band of rebels are outlaws because they own a well inside their house.

Before the movie, Tank Girl was a regular feature in Deadline, a British underground magazine.  Nothing like the movie it spawned, Tank Girl is known more a scathing take on British pop culture and politics at the time.  Until very recently, the creators of Tank Girl have not really done a lot with her.  Their Hollywood treatment left a lingering bad taste in their mouth and they wanted as much distance from her as possible.  After 2008, she has been in continuous publication, with a new series released every few months.

5.  Men In Black

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In 1998, the Men In Black movie helped cement Will Smith’s place in the A-list.  It is a light-hearted action/comedy about two protectors of the Earth trying to protect it and all of its resident aliens from all sorts of intergalactic threats.

In 1990, the now-defunct Malibu Comics published Men In Black as something of an intergalactic and inter-dimensional ICE.  There were two 6-issue series made with the MiB.  There was also a one-shot special that Marvel made soon after purchasing the rights to the characters.  Apart from the movies and a cartoon, there really has not been a lot done with the characters since 1997.

4.  The Surrogates

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The Surrogates was released in 2009 and it starred Bruce Willis as an FBI agent  trying to find out who killed Dr. Canker, the man that created the Surrogate technology.  After coming close to finding out who the killer was, Bruce is forced out of his robotic doppelganger and he is forced to continue the investigation as a flesh-and-blood person.

In 2005, IDW published The Surrogates as a 6-issue comic book series to mixed reviews and moderate success.  The movie is a mostly faithful adaptation of the source material, with a few logical changes that work better for a big screen format.  The movie also had a more positive ending than the comic book.  After the initial series, a 6-issue prequel series was made around the time the movie was released.

3.  The Mask

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An early starring role for Jim Carrey and Cameron Diaz, this 1994 movie was also known for early CGI effects and a light-hearted, kid-friendly tone.  Carrey plays Stanley Ipkiss, a down-on-his-luck bank teller that finds the Mask, which allows his inner id uncontrolled access to the real world. Of the three movies that Jim Carrey made that year, this was the most successful and the most critically acclaimed.

The comic book is known for being nothing like the movie; it kills off its main characters and is extremely ultra violent.  The Mask did not scare off people with comedic asides.  No, it downright murders anyone that gets in its way.  Over the course of 5 series, The Mask had only 16 total issues.

2.  Monkey Bone

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Monkey Bone is a 2001 movie starring Brendon Frasier as Stu Miley, a comic book artist who is on the verge of making a successful media blitz when he falls into a coma.  He wakes up in Dark Town where he runs into Monkeybone, his own personal id.

The comic book that Monkey Bone spawned from is called Dark Town, written by Kaja Blackley, an independent comic book writer.  Released in 1995, the main character suffers a similar fate that Stu Miley suffered.  Jacques De Bergerac falls into a coma and wakes up inside Dark Town, where Death tells him that he’s only got 12 hours to live.  Death tells him where to go so he can get back to his body, and the series just ends right there.  It did not have a second issue.

1.  30 Days of Night

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30 Days of Night is an 2007 horror movie that is a cross between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dawn Of The Dead.  In that universe, vampires found out that the town of Barrow, Alaska gives them an ideal scenario: 30 days where they do not have to hide their themselves from sunlight and can feed without inhibitions.

The 3-issue comic book series this movie was based on was released in 2004 by IDW.  The movie follows the comic book exactly.  The reason for this is because the comic book started life as a failed movie pitch.  The comic book also spawned a dozen or so spin-off series that fleshed out this unique universe.  In total, there has been 30 issues that has some affiliation to the 30 Days of Night franchise.

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Written By Joe Furguson


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20 Comments

  1. I really wonder why Tank Girl is included. I always thougt of it as “that strange and somehow crappy movie made from a comic I never read”.

  2. That’s an interesting list thank you, there are a few comics i didn’t know about.
    I think Wanted is one of the worst examples of comic-book adaptation gone wrong, there’s such a gap between the comic and the movie….. Well maybe it’s not that bad, League of extraordinary gentlemen is much, much worse 🙂

      • Well if you’re gonna talk about films that are supposed to be not known as comics, then that’s a fairly notable one, not a lot of Oscar winning thrillers started life as comics. Compared to say Tank Girl & The Mask, whose comic origins are not far fetched in the slightest, a film such as History of Violence whose origin is largely unknown, is a notable loss on a list such as this. That’s my opinion, I am allowed on of them right?

        • Agreed, that is a very surprising movie to be sourced from a comic. I didn’t know it until after I saw the movie. And not only are you allowed your opinion, we value them her too.

        • @bMurfy, You are correct sir. I’ve been reading comic since I was 5 (almost 27 years now) and the only thing on this list that surprised me was the origin of the Mystery Men, although I knew it was a comic book first. The only reason I knew History of violence was a comic book was from one line in an interview rather than the comic itself.

    • Eli, you are most likely a comic book nerd, but then so am I. I also knew all these movies were comic books first, but the idea of the list is to expose the non-comic-loving public to the influence that comics have on movies today, thus potentially creating more comic book nerds so that our numbers may grow.

  3. Zack Mandell on

    Both “Tank Girl” and “The Crow” were films I saw specifically because I was a fan of the comic series, although I do wonder if I would have actually liked either film if I hadn’t been familiar with the storylines before watching them. Actually “The Crow” I would’ve…

  4. Waterworld is suppose to be based on a comic, I think it was called “Agua Blue”. Does “From Hell” count?

    • other than the main Predator marking the human female that helped him, what else from the comic was in the movie? The setting? no, the comic takes place on another planet. The time? no the comic is in the future. the characters? no, they were colonists/ranchers.

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