Film and Comic Books

Film and Comic Books

IAN GORDON
MARK JANCOVICH
MATTHEW P. MCALLISTER
Timothy P. Barnard
Michael Cohen
Rayna Denison
Martin Flanagan
Sophie Geoffroy-Menoux
Mel Gibson
Kerry Gough
Jonathan Gray
Craig Hight
Derek Johnson
Pascal Lefèvre
Paul M. Malone
Neil Rae
Aldo J. Regalado
Jan van der Putten
David Wilt
Copyright Date: 2007
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2tvg67
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    Film and Comic Books
    Book Description:

    In Film and Comic Books contributors analyze the problems of adapting one medium to another; the translation of comics aesthetics into film; audience expectations, reception, and reaction to comic book-based films; and the adaptation of films into comics.

    A wide range of comic/film adaptations are explored, including superheroes (Spider-Man), comic strips (Dick Tracy), realist and autobiographical comics (American Splendor, Ghost World), and photo-montage comics (Mexico's El Santo).

    Essayists discuss films beginning with the 1978 Superman. That success led filmmakers to adapt a multitude of comic books for the screen including Marvel's Uncanny X-Men, the Amazing Spider-Man, Blade, and the Incredible Hulk as well as alternative graphic novels such as From Hell, V for Vendetta, and Road to Perdition.

    Essayists also discuss recent works from Mexico, France, Germany, and Malaysia.

    Essays from Timothy P. Barnard, Michael Cohen, Rayna Denison, Martin Flanagan, Sophie Geoffroy-Menoux, Mel Gibson, Kerry Gough, Jonathan Gray, Craig Hight, Derek Johnson, Pascal Lef?vre, Paul M. Malone, Neil Rae, Aldo J. Regalado, Jan van der Putten, and David Wilt

    Ian Gordon is associate professor of history and convenor of American studies at the National University of Singapore. Mark Jancovich is professor of film and television studies at the University of East Anglia. Matthew P. McAllister is associate professor of film, video, and media studies at Pennsylvania State University.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-809-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. vii-xx)
    IAN GORDON, MARK JANCOVICH and MATTHEW P. MCALLISTER

    Films based on comics are not a new or recent phenomenon. The association of film and comics dates back to the early years of both as forms of mass-distributed media. As early as 1906, Edwin S. Porter created a live-action adaptation of Winsor McCay’s comic strip Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend and later McCay himself became a key innovator in film animation. In 1914 Charles H. France directed a short live-action film entitled Buster Brown on the Care and Treatment of Goats based on the comic strip character. Comic book characters such as Superman and Batman appeared in B movies...

  4. INCOMPATIBLE VISUAL ONTOLOGIES? THE PROBLEMATIC ADAPTATION OF DRAWN IMAGES
    (pp. 1-12)
    PASCAL LEFÈVRE

    The prominent French director Alain Resnais (Thomas 247) uttered this quite negative view on filmic adaptations of comics in 1990. Adaptations from comics seldom gain canonical recognition and they rarely figure in lists of best films of all times.² Not only do these adaptations seldom please the critics,³ they seem to have little automatic appeal for comics readers.⁴ Cinema critics and comics fans seem to agree that it is hard to make a good movie of a comic. The movie-going audience is less severe. Moreover, some adaptations from comics were real blockbusters including Richard Donner’s Superman (1978), Tim Burton’s Batman...

  5. DICK TRACY IN PURSUIT OF A COMIC BOOK AESTHETIC
    (pp. 13-36)
    MICHAEL COHEN

    When Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy arrived in 1990, it was the most meticulous effort to capture the aesthetic of a comic in a live-action film, and paved the way for the exploration of the visual correlations lying dormant between cinema and comics. Although there are ontological differences between cinema and comics, and it is not possible for a live-action film to replicate the formal properties of comics, Dick Tracy demonstrates how the cinema can adapt the conventions and characteristics of a comic. Dick Tracy is a fascinating film for boldly tackling the differences between these two media, and in doing...

  6. TRANSLATION CREATIVITY AND ALIEN ECON(C)OMICS FROM HOLLYWOOD BLOCKBUSTER TO DARK HORSE COMIC BOOK
    (pp. 37-63)
    KERRY GOUGH

    Although the relationship between film and the comic book has had a long history (McAllister et. al.; Gordon, Comic Strips 84; Barker; Reitberger and Fuchs; Gifford; Waugh), the intermedia opportunities of comic book properties have been excessively plundered in recent years through the reciprocal relationship between Warner Bros. and DC, and Marvel’s later synergistic relationships with Columbia Pictures and Twentieth Century Fox (Reitberger and Fuchs 156; Perry and Aldridge 242). As such the Hollywood comic book blockbuster movie has become a central and complementary part of both the comic book and the Hollywood film industries, in which the revenue generated...

  7. WILL THE REAL WOLVERINE PLEASE STAND UP? MARVEL’S MUTATION FROM MONTHLIES TO MOVIES
    (pp. 64-85)
    DEREK JOHNSON

    While media conventions of any sort tend to foster crossover interest in genre and media form, the dominance of Hollywood film and television projects at the 2003 San Diego Comic-Con, a convention purportedly designed to promote the comic book form, is still surprising. The San Diego Comic-Con is the most prestigious and important of such annual summits devoted to comic book culture, yet even its official website acknowledges the dearth of content actually devoted to the comic book. To introduce the 2003 event, the site hoped to legitimize the comic convention amid an onslaught of tertiary or otherwise tangential content,...

  8. WHEN GEN-X MET THE X-MEN RETEXTUALIZING COMIC BOOK FILM RECEPTION
    (pp. 86-100)
    NEIL RAE and JONATHAN GRAY

    While comic book adaptations such as Spider-Man and X-Men have grossed up to $820 million, and attracted millions of viewers world-wide, it is unusual for the global sales of the most popular American super-hero comic books to rise above 150,000. At the time of writing, for instance, according to listed trade sales, Superman/Batman #12 was the number one selling comic for September 2004, having sold in 139,516 units to comics retailers (“Comics Economics” 54). If we are to examine adaptations and their audiences, therefore, we must realize that although comic book readers are the most knowledgeable of audiences, they are...

  9. “WHAM! BAM! THE X-MEN ARE HERE” THE BRITISH BROADSHEET PRESS AND THE X-MEN FILMS AND COMIC
    (pp. 101-115)
    MEL GIBSON

    In July and August 2000 the first X-Men film opened in Britain and America to considerable press attention. In analyzing a range of articles on the film, I was struck in particular by the way in which those in the British press, and especially broadsheets¹ such as the Times, Telegraph, Independent, Guardian, and their Sunday equivalents including the Independent on Sunday and the Observer (as well as the electronic versions of these papers) often articulated concerns, indeed, fears, about comics. The writers in the broadsheets often discussed the comics, rather than the film, and in doing so made clear the...

  10. UNBREAKABLE AND THE LIMITS OF TRANSGRESSION
    (pp. 116-136)
    ALDO J. REGALADO

    In the year 2000, filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan followed up his highly acclaimed and commercially successful The Sixth Sense with Unbreakable, a misleadingly marketed film that presented unsuspecting American moviegoers with a story about comic books and superheroes. In this story, the seemingly ordinary and unfulfilled central character (David Dunne, played by Bruce Willis) gradually comes to believe that he is in fact a superhero. His conviction is simultaneously triggered by a horrific train accident and the insistence of another character (Elijah Price, played by Samuel L. Jackson), who, as it turns out, has purposefully arranged the accident—and others...

  11. TEEN TRAJECTORIES IN SPIDER-MAN AND GHOST WORLD
    (pp. 137-159)
    MARTIN FLANAGAN

    The core ideological business of the teen “coming of age” narrative is to present spectators with a fiction that hinges on a promise of transformation, the move from adolescent “abjection” to adult “agency,” as John Stephens puts it (124). Reflecting views that maturity is “first and foremost a social phenomenon and only secondarily a biological one” (Hine 46), genres and subgenres representing or aimed at teen audiences are implicated in this social construction of maturity and the passage into adulthood. Many genres and texts play their part in the process by which young consumers are placed “within a limited range...

  12. IT’S A BIRD! IT’S A PLANE! NO, IT’S DVD! SUPERMAN, SMALLVILLE, AND THE PRODUCTION (OF) MELODRAMA
    (pp. 160-179)
    RAYNA DENISON

    Superman enjoys one of the largest intertextual franchises in the history of popular culture, and is also one of the most insistently multimedia of icons. He is one of the few icons to have appeared in prolonged radio, television, film, and print narratives and has been consistently re-imagined by almost every generation from the 1930s onwards (Banks, Grossman, Alyn). Superman, in those various forms, has also proven a subject matter redolent with meaning and ripe for interpretation. This chapter takes as its focus just some of the constellated intertexts that currently circulate around the Man of Steel and uses them...

  13. AMERICAN SPLENDOR TRANSLATING COMIC AUTOBIOGRAPHY INTO DRAMA-DOCUMENTARY
    (pp. 180-198)
    CRAIG HIGHT

    American Splendor (2003) is a drama-documentary about the life and art of seminal underground comic artist Harvey Pekar, the creator of the long-standing autobiographical comic of the same name. All comic-to-film adaptations have proved challenging, but apart from some notable exceptions such as Ghost World, most have the advantage of characters and scenarios which offer easy translation to mainstream action-adventure cinema increasingly geared toward teenage audiences (fantastic superhero characters, engaged in spectacular action against their enemies). In contrast, American Splendor (the comic) provided some unique challenges for filmmakers Shari Springer Berman and Bob Pulcini. Pekar’s idiosyncratic and innovative comic has...

  14. EL SANTO THE CASE OF A MEXICAN MULTIMEDIA HERO
    (pp. 199-220)
    DAVID WILT

    The relationship between comic strips (and later, comic books) and motion pictures began relatively early in the history of each medium. Cartoonist Winsor McKay created the “Little Nemo in Slumberland” newspaper comic strip in 1905, followed by a 1911 animated version (with J.Stuart Blackton), while Ham Fisher’s “Mutt and Jeff” made their newspaper debut in 1907, and their first animated cartoon in 1913. These are just two examples: numerous Hollywood feature films, serials, and animated shorts of the silent and sound eras were based on comic strips and comic books.

    Less frequent but far from unknown were cases in which...

  15. FROM BLOCKBUSTER TO FLOP? THE APPARENT FAILURE (OR POSSIBLE TRANSCENDENCE) OF RALF KÖNIG’S QUEER COMICS AESTHETIC IN MAYBE . . . MAYBE NOT AND KILLER CONDOM
    (pp. 221-245)
    PAUL M. MALONE

    Ralf König, Germany’s best-known comics artist, has been able to parlay his satirical and often frank tales of the German gay scene into such a degree of mainstream appeal that their adaptation into film became virtually inevitable, though not unproblematic. The first film, Der bewegte Mann (U.S. title: Maybe . . . Maybe Not, 1994), was a huge hit but deeply unsatisfying for König personally, while subsequent film projects, whether disappointing or fulfilling for the artist, have fallen far short of the first film’s commercial and relative critical success. This failure is all the more surprising given König’s own popularity...

  16. OLD MALAY HEROES NEVER DIE THE STORY OF HANG TUAH IN FILMS AND COMICS
    (pp. 246-267)
    JAN VAN DER PUTTEN and TIMOTHY P. BARNARD

    Takkan Melayu hilang di dunia (“Malays will never vanish from this world”) is a phrase that often appears in speeches throughout the Malay Peninsula and Sumatra to indicate the resilience of Malay culture. It is widely believed to have been pronounced by the hero of the Romance of Hang Tuah (Hikayat Hang Tuah)—a classical tale of a fifteenth-century hero who is the epitome of loyalty and service to his sultan, the ruler of the Malay state of Melaka—but it actually cannot be found in any existing form of the text, as one scholar has frankly admitted (Milner, Invention...

  17. ENKI BILAL’S INTERMEDIAL FANTASIES FROM COMIC BOOK NIKOPOL TRILOGY TO FILM IMMORTALS (AD VITAM)
    (pp. 268-284)
    SOPHIE GEOFFROY-MENOUX

    A Franco Yugoslavian artist traumatized by the civil war in Bosnia, Enki Bilal was born in Belgrade in 1951, and immigrated to Paris (France) at the age of ten. His glamorous comic books exude a haunting sense of desperate and tragic love in the midst of political and economic disasters (dictatorship, globalization, eugenics), and ecological cataclysms (climate changes). Urban guerillas in devastated cities reminiscent of the Sarajevo that haunts his childhood memories, and underground movements led by unwilling and all-too-human, often schizoid antiheroes are featured among his idiosyncrasies.

    This chapter offers a semiotic approach to Enki Bilal’s science-fiction film Immortals...

  18. NOTES
    (pp. 285-296)
  19. REFERENCES
    (pp. 297-316)
  20. CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. 317-320)
  21. INDEX
    (pp. 321-328)