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The Comic Book Film Adaptation

The Comic Book Film Adaptation: Exploring Modern Hollywood’s Leading Genre

Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    The Comic Book Film Adaptation
    Book Description:

    In the summer of 2000X-Mensurpassed all box office expectations and ushered in an era of unprecedented production of comic book film adaptations. This trend, now in its second decade, has blossomed into Hollywood's leading genre. From superheroes to Spartan warriors,The Comic Book Film Adaptationoffers the first dedicated study to examine how comic books moved from the fringes of popular culture to the center of mainstream film production.

    Through in-depth analysis, industry interviews, and audience research, this book charts the cause-and-effect of this influential trend. It considers the cultural traumas, business demands, and digital possibilities that Hollywood faced at the dawn of the twenty-first century. The industry managed to meet these challenges by exploiting comics and their existing audiences. However, studios were caught off-guard when these comic book fans, empowered by digital media, began to influence the success of these adaptations. Nonetheless, filmmakers soon developed strategies to take advantage of this intense fanbase, while codifying the trend into a more lucrative genre, the comic book movie, which appealed to an even wider audience. Central to this vibrant trend is a comic aesthetic in which filmmakers utilize digital filmmaking technologies to engage with the language and conventions of comics like never before.

    The Comic Book Film Adaptationexplores this unique moment in which cinema is stimulated, challenged, and enriched by the once-dismissed medium of comics.

    eISBN: 978-1-62674-519-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Sociology, Film Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-2)
    (pp. 3-22)

    A gardener is innocently watering flowers when a mischievous young boy steps on the hose. When the man inspects the nozzle, the boy releases the flow, soaking him. Not to be outdone, the gardener catches the boy, and, after ensuring they are both in frame, reprimands him with a few vigorous slaps across the backside. This is the basic, but effective, setup of Louis Lumière’sL’Arroseur Arrosé(1895). The staged comedy, a novelty in an era of slice-of-lifeactualités, is often celebrated as the first narrative film. However, what is often overlooked is thatL’Arroseur Arroséis also cinema’s first...

  5. CHAPTER ONE The Golden Age of Comic Book Filmmaking
    (pp. 23-83)

    Adaptation studies scholars have long been sensitive to the manner in which the “choices of the mode of adaptation and of prototypes suggest a great deal about the cinema’s sense of its role and aspirations from decade to decade” (AndrewFilm Theory104). This sociological approach has proven productive as it allows one to move past the research quagmires identified in the Introduction, and interrogate the filmmaking or cultural environment that nurtured the development of a particular type of adaptation. It also allows one to consider the conditions that might have emerged when an adaptation proved popular or influential.


  6. CHAPTER TWO The Comic Book Movie Genre
    (pp. 84-128)

    From social anxieties to the novelty of digital effects, Chapter One considered a number of reasons why comic book adaptations have achieved unprecedented popularity among modern filmgoers. It also described how studios recognized and began to capitalize on a wide and enthusiastic audience for comic book adaptations following early successes such asBlade(Norrington 1998),X-Men(Singer 2000), andSpider-Man(Raimi 2002). Perpetuating the trend, filmmakers targeted this largely non-reader audience by trading on and emulating previously popular adaptations. Today, the comic book film adaptation has developed into a full-fledged genre: the comic book movie. By drawing on industrial discourses...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Fans, Fidelity, and the Grammar of Value
    (pp. 129-168)

    In a brief moment of levity before the third-act fisticuffs ofX-Men(Singer 2000), new teammate Wolverine, sitting uncomfortably in a leather uniform, asks, “You actually go outside in these things?” Team leader Cyclops curtly responds, “Well, what would you prefer, yellow spandex?” Fellow X-Man Jean Grey conceals a smile; a self-satisfied smirk shared by the knowing members of the audience. This brief reference to the brightly colored costumes of the comics serves as both a concession and a reminder to fans, “Yes, X-Men was a comic first, but remember, this is amovie.”X-Menwas released during the nascent...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR A Comic Aesthetic
    (pp. 169-227)

    Perhaps it is the search for fidelity described in the previous chapter, or a desire to fulfill the genre conventions outlined in Chapter Two, but many modern comic book adaptations, and related films, strive to achieve a comic aesthetic. A number of commentators have identified this trend (Ndalianis “Why Comic Studies?”; Corrigan “Adaptations, Obstructions, and Refractions”), with Michael Cohen suggesting thatDick Tracy(Beatty 1990) was the initiator. Cohen describes the 1990 comic strip adaptation as “the most meticulous effort to capture the aesthetic of a comic in a live-action film, and [it] paved the way for the exploration of...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE How to Adapt Comics the Marvel Way
    (pp. 228-262)

    Elijah, the unlikely antagonist of comic book movieUnbreakable, is first introduced at his art gallery showing a piece of original comic art—“a classic depiction of good versus evil”—to a prospective buyer. In his pitch, rich with subtext, Elijah articulates how mainstream comics subscribe to an approach in which no framing device is too heightened, no composition too dynamic, and no character too extreme, or as Elijah would later put it, “jazzed up, made titillating.” As in Chapter Four, this final chapter will consider how the twin imperatives of fidelity and comic book movie convention, along with the...

  10. CONCLUSION The Future of the Comic Book Movie
    (pp. 263-268)

    Salvador Dali believed that “comics will be the culture of the year 3794” (GravettGraphic Novels2), while former Spider-Man editor Danny Fingeroth describes them as “the pastime of a rarefied audience” (170) whose steadily declining sales will soon see them absent from our shelves. Whatever the outcome—forgotten art form or all conquering culture of the next millennium—today comics are inextricably linked to another medium: cinema. Since the success ofX-Men(Singer) in 2000, comic books have moved from the fringes of pop culture to inspire Hollywood’s leading genre, the comic book movie. With release dates planned years...

  11. APPENDIX North American Box-Office Totals for Comic Book Film Adaptations
    (pp. 269-272)
  12. NOTES
    (pp. 273-300)
    (pp. 301-344)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 345-372)