From Panels to the Big Screen: Summer Movies Based On Comics

I don’t know about you, but the last few days we’ve been getting a lot of requests for and questions about Iron Man. Whether they are trying to find out who Tony Stark is, how he can fly or just find some fun stories, I suspect it’s mostly to feed their energy into the US release of Iron Man 2 this weekend. With that in mind, I thought it might be a good idea to give a quick rundown on some of the movies this season based on comic books and the titles they are based on.

Kick-Ass‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘  April 16, 2010

This film received a lot of coverage when it first came out, and not all of it good. The violence—the often bloody violence—involving kids just didn’t sit well with a lot of critics, even when done in the very satirical way of Kick-Ass. But the people who love it—teens included—really love it. Part action story, part satire of the comics industry and fandom, the original comic written by Mark Millar and drawn by John Romita, jr. is filled with more laughs, blood and gore than you can possibly squeeze into a two-hour action flick. A fun romp, but definitely not for the squeemish. A trade collection of the full series is available, as is Kick-Ass: Creating the Comic, Making the Movie—a behind-the-scenes look at how Millar’s fledgling idea turned into one of the big movies of the late spring.

The Losers’ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘  April 23, 2010

Delivered as a straight-up action flick starring Zoe Saldana, the story focuses on a Special Ops team betrayed by its own government handler. Left for dead, the team sets out to take revenge and expose the plot the public. Based on the Vertigo comic of the same title, the film is a fairly faithful adaptation of the early story arcs created by Andy Diggle and Jock. Vertigo published collected trade editions from 2004-2006, and early this year Vertigo republished them in a nice two-volume set. A great read for fans of action and spy stories.

Iron Man 2‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘  May 7, 2010

Easily the biggest comic book movie of the year, Iron Man 2 is also likely to be one of the big movies of the summer. The sequel to the 2008 hit brings Robert Downey, jr. back as Tony Stark just after he made his identity as Iron Man public. Other characters that come up in this film are War Machine (Don Cheadle), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke), who is really an amalgam of two Marvel Comics characters: the Crimson Commando and Blacklash. Classic stories involving all of these characters can be found in the pages of the four volumes of Essential Iron Man. Patrons craving a more modern take would probably like Matt Fraction’s reinterpretation in his multi-volume series Invincible Iron Man, and obsessive readers can satisfy their taste for encylopedic knowledge with Iron Man: The Ultimate Guide to the Armored Superhero, published by DK earlier this year.

Jonah Hex‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘  June 18, 2010

Jonah Hex first appeared in 1972 in a DC Comics title called All-Star Western. From there he moved on to Weird Western Tales and then finally got his own book in 1977. But the 80’s came and things like Star Wars and mutants pushed western stories away. Aside from a few appearances here and there and an odd mini-series by horror author John Lansdale, the character pretty much vanished until 2005 when authors Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti brought him back for a gritty new western put out by DC’s Vertigo line. So who, excatly, is Jonah Hex? He’s the ultimate badboy cowboy with a scarred face and bad attitude who sometimes, despite his better judgement, still manages to do the right thing. Think the nameless wandering cowboy Clint Eastwood portrayed in movies like Fistful of Dollars and you’ll have a pretty good idea who Jonah Hex is. Josh Brolin will be playing Hex in the movie, which also stars Megan Fox, John Malkovitch and Quentin Turnbull. Readers who like the movie will likely enjoy the still ongoing series by Gray and Palmiotti—now up to its seventh volume in collected editions. Others who want the more classic stories will find Showcase Presents: Jonah Hex vol 1 a nice collection of the early stories from the 1970’s. Palmiotti also has some Hex original graphic novels timed to come out alongside the movie.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘  August 13, 2010

Published by Oni Press and written and drawn by Bryan Lee O’Malley, the ongoing Scott Pilgrim series has developed into one of the real darlings of the small press comics world. The main story involves Scott—a twenty something slacker and drummer in a punk band—trying to win the heart of Ramona Flowers. The problem? To fully win her over, Scott has to defeat her seven evil ex-boyfriends in mortal combat. Mixing US comics and Manga styles into one, O’Malley works in a number of fun references to videogames, manga, movies, punk rock other pieces of pop culture teens will love. Directed by Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead), the film version stars Michael Cera (Superbad and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist) and conveniently comes out two weeks after the sixth and final volume of the comic book series, Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour. With a story driven by relationships and humor, it’s hard to go wrong with this series.

What other movies are catching your eye this season that you think teens will like?

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2 Comments

  1. Kick Ass was an awesome film – extremely violent, but in a very fun way. I read the graphic novel and it’s even…worse. But still fun! If anything, it shows that a young girl can really win in a fight.

    I’m really excited about Scott Pilgrim. I read all of the books a while back (and am patiently waiting for the last in the series!); they’re really fun. Pretty clean reading, and VERY attractive to anyone who likes video games – there are numerous references. Great graphic novels for teens.

  2. Hi Lauren,

    Glad you’re excited about Scott Pilgrim, too. I’m a little wary about the live action approach, but I think Edgar Wright is goofy enough to pull it off…

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