Comic book movies have been a staple in the film industry for a long while. Capitalizing specifically on the popularity of superhero comic book movies has always seemed to work from a monetary standpoint. In 2008 there was somewhat of a renaissance of Superhero Comic Book films with Iron Man and The Dark Knight. The world was plunged into a world of cinematic universes and comic book adaptations (some good and some bad). This led to some branching out from the tried and true Marvel/DC heroes into some lesser known properties (The Umbrella Academy, Preacher, The Walking Dead, etc), that have proven that comics can indeed be adapted to film even if it’s not Batman or Spider-Man front-running the story.
Superhero comic books are the most common genre in America. Rising to prominence in the 1930s, the superhero genre has never died out completely. No wonder studios are looking to adapt stories from such a rich genre of comics. However, there are many more comics book genres that exist independently, some from bygone eras but others that are being written right under our noses. The superhero comic book movie bubble will burst sooner or later, yet the world has come too far to go back. So I would propose a few genres of comic books that filmmakers and studios should pull from in order to keep things interesting and continue to bring excellently adapted classics to the big screen.
Even when superhero comics were starting to come out, most of the heroes origins were simply tied to World War II. DC had the Blackhawks and the original Flash and Green Lantern enlisted as regular people. Everybody knows the Star-Spangled-Man-With-A-Plan known as Captain America, but Marvel also was running comics called Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos which was regarded as one of the best war comics of the era. But existing independently of the superhero genre and continuity were comics such as G.I. Combat, Commando Comics, and Sgt. Rock. These comics are fairly dated, but even recently there have been some pretty solid war comics to pull from such as Garth Ennis’ Adventure in the Rifle Brigade, which acts as a humorous take on covert squad combat or war stories where Ennis keeps it very serious as he tells the war stories of WWII. Last Day In Vietnam was written and published by comic book legend Will Eisner in 2001 as a slightly autobiographical story, chronicling 6 emotional tales told in a wartime setting all with Eisner’s art. War stories always contain epic moments of bravery, valor, and fellowship, and could be a box office draw considering how other war films seem to do.
Just as old as superhero comics are the amazing tales told through fantasy. They came to prominence during the Golden Age of comics and many of the characters, stories and elements began to fold into superhero comics as they became popular (Wonder Woman and Thor to name a few). In the ’70s we would see Conan the Barbarian comics rise in popularity as well as one of the most popular Fantasy Comics ever: Elfquest. This tale about a society of elves in a fantasy world has garnered a large cult following, and has been trying desperately to see itself in a live action or animated feature for quite some time. Comics like Neil Gaiman’s Sandman are probably the most impactful from the fantasy genre. That’s not to say we haven’t seen some amazing fantasy comics in the more recent years. A lot of Fantasy comics blend a few other genres together, but FABLES is a great example of bringing a wide variety of different fantastical stories that take public domain characters from folklore and put a unique twist on them. It would truly be remarkable to see the genre make a more uniform return in the comic book industry with Tolkien-esque stories that could later be adapted into films along with the throng of other great stories.
Seen perhaps as a little schlocky, the romance comics printed mostly during the 1940s-1970s were typically meant to be read by more mature readers (as in teenagers/adults wanting a little more realism and romance in their comics). Romance comics used to permeate the industry because of it’s unique way to tell a romance centered story. Popular comics from ages past were Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane, Young Romance, and Heart Throbs. Betty and Veronica from Archie Comics has recently made it’s way into live action in the TV show Riverdale along with the other characters in the Archie Universe. Even in the past decade though, there have been some critically acclaimed stories that warrant a good live action interpretation. Blankets by Craig Thompson is an autobiographical coming-of-age tale about Thompson’s upbringing and first love. Fresh Romance comics are one of the few modern comics dedicated solely to the romance novel with a whole spate of varying romance stories throughout comics. There are plenty of compelling rom-com’s and romantic movies nowadays, lets grab a few from the comics to see in live action.
Horror comics have been around for quite some time as well. A lot of horror elements find their way throughout war, fantasy/sci-fi, and superhero comics. Tales From The Crypt and The Vault of Horror were classics during the ’70s and had a lot of bone chilling stories to go around. Within the superhero universes we had horror comics like HellBlazer, about the occult John Constantine. The Walking Dead wouldn’t exist if not for the horror comic genre. A lesser known horror comics that can absolutely be adapted for film are American Vampire, Stephen King and Scott Snyder’s story featuring a vampire living through the past few centuries and how he deals with having a daughter and dodging other vampires concurrently. Nail Biter is an indie comic by Josh Williamson that takes place in the fictional town of Buckaroo, Oregon which has inexplicably been the hometown of 16 deadly serial killers. Law enforcement officers are sent to the city to track down one of the killers and might find out a thing or two about this small town that will leave them scarred. There are many more horror comics to check out and many great stories that would make an extra eerie film.
Slice Of Life Comics
Typically found in a lot more manga than in comics, slice-of-life consists of a story where mundane and day to day events are described and often left pretty open ended. As if we the audience just happened to be dropped into the main characters life and pulled out at some later point. Sometimes there is character development, plot, and growth; sometimes not. Popular slice-of-life comics in the past have been 1991’s Optic Nerve by Adrian Tomine collecting a series of short stories, sometimes autobiographical, that contain a realistic look at a characters experience. Brooklyn Dreams is another critically acclaimed comic. Written by J.M. Dematteis, it is simply about a man reminiscing about his life in Brooklyn. More recently with the rise of Image Comics, there has been the opportunity for some amazing creator owned slice–of-life comics such as Octopus Pie, Emitown, Nothing Lasts Forever, and Where We Live. A lot of these comics give such an authentic feel that becomes super relatable since we’ve all lived life. We know how it goes, but it’s always great to gain a new perspective and film is one of the best places to do that. Some more live action slice-of-life comics would be a welcome addition to the library of comic inspired movies.