For a good few years, the landscape of cinema has been dominated by hugely successful comic franchises (looking at you Marvel). As much as I love the MCU, the Dark Knight trilogy, and a fair few others, it’s refreshing to look into some films that avoid presenting the archetypal comic book film.
As such, I’ve compiled a list of what I’m calling unconventional comic book films, as they generally don’t follow the tropes we’ve come to associated this sorts of films with. Let’s begin!
American Splendor (2003)
American Splendor is a biographical dramedy featuring Paul Giamatti in the lead role as Harvey Pekar. The film follows the life of Pekar, who wrote the autobiographical comic book series of the same name from 1976 to 2008. American Splendor is a refreshing step away from other comic series, as it’s settings and scenarios are very much based in everyday life (e.g. Pekar’s experience a file clerk.
Timecop follows Max Walker (Jean-Claude Van Damme) a police officer turned federal agent who fights time travel related crime. The film is based on a three-part anthology comic published by Dark Horse Comics released between August to October 1992. Timecop is quite a unique example of the comic-to-film adaptation process as the film was released just two years later.
Men in Black (1997)
Men in Black is most known as a hugely successful American sci-fi film starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, but not everybody is familiar with The Men in Black comic book series. The six issue series was written by Lowell Cunningham and illustrated by Sandy Carruthers. The Men in Black was originally published by Aircel Comics who were bought by Malibu Comics, who were subsequently bought by Marvel Comics.
Oldboy is a South Korean neo-noir action thriller that follows the character of Shinichi Gotō as he embarks on an adventure to find who had him wrongly incarcerated for ten years. The film is based on a manga series of the same name, written by Garon Tsuchiya and illustrated by Nobuaki Minegishi. The comics were serialised in Weekly Manga Action, a Japanese manga magazine, between 1996 and 1998. The comic series was adapted again more recently by Spike Lee in Oldboy (2013) starring Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Olsen and Samuel L. Jackson. This version, however, is not a comic book movie because it is a remake of the 2003 film rather than an adaptation.
30 Days of Night (2007)
30 Days of Night is an American horror film directed by David Slade and comic book movie legend Sam Raimi. It was based on the comic book miniseries, also titled 30 Days of Night, which was written by Steve Niles and illustrated by Ben Templesmith in 2002. The series is set in the northern most borough of Alaska. Being so northernly, the sun does not rise for thirty days during the winter season. As such, vampires are not hindered by sunlight and so can kill and feed the townspeople at will. Interestingly, the story started out as a rejected film pitch, but found success as a comic. The film would later then be picked up by Sam Raimi and go onto be a box office hit.
Wanted is an action thriller staring James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman, and Angelina Jolie. The film was based on a comic book miniseries of the same name, written by Mark Millar and illustrated by J. G. Jones between 2003 and 2004. The comics follow a supervillain assassin – pretty standard for a comic book series. However, the film’s producers wanted to move away from comic book mythology and instead emphasise the darker, grittier elements of the comics. Since Wanted, Millar went on to be known for Civil War, Kick-Ass, Kingsman and Ultimate X-Men.
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