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Comics to Film

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Kelly Stinn

on 11 March 2013

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Transcript of Comics to Film

Comics to Film Introduction It is the aim of this presentation to explore the relationship between comics and film. As this topic covers a vast number of complex ideas I have decided narrow the focus to a few key areas. Specifically, this presentation will primarily provide a brief overview of the history of the connection between comics and film, as well as explore the similarities and differences between the mediums. Finally, this presentation will examine the role audiences play in viewing films that have been adapted from comics and graphic novels. The History of Comics and Film With the recent dominance of comic books movies (most notably The Avengers –which became the third highest grossing film of all time) it would seem that adapting comics and graphic novels is the latest trend, however, the relationship between these two mediums actually has a richer history than many people realize. In fact, the relationship dates back to the beginning of the 20th century. For example, in 1906 Edwin S. Porter adapted a live-action version of the comic strip by Winsor McCay, Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend. Shortly thereafter, in 1914, another live-action film was created by Charles H. France. This film was also based on a comic strip and was entitled Buster Brown on the Care and Treatment of Goats. (Gordon, Jancovich, and McAllister vii). The History of Comics and Film Cont'd Not only were films being adapted from comics in the early 20th century, comics were also being inspired by films. For instance, during the silent-film era comic strips were produced based on the most famous movie stars of the time. Some of these stars who were memorialized in comic strip form included Charlie Chaplin, Fatty Arbuckle, Hopalong Cassidy, and Bob Hope (Gordon, Jancovich, and McAllister vii). The History of Comics and Film Cont'd Although the relationship between these two mediums dates back to the early 1900s, it was not until the 1970s that there was a major breakthrough in adapting comic books for the big screen. Namely, it was in 1978 that Superman: The Movie was released. The timing for this film was ideal because it opened on the heels of Star Wars (1977) and audiences were thirsty for “big-budget special-effects-oriented spectaculars.” Additionally, it was at this point in film history when special effects technology made huge strides and made it possible to portray superheroes, like Superman, in a way that was never before thought possible (Booker 1-2). Modern Blockbusters Throughout the 1980s and 1990s there were certainly many comic books which were adapted for film (including Batman, Dick Tracy, The Crow, Tank Girl, Men in Black, and Blade just to name a few), however, it was not until the 2000s that Marvel made a massive impact on the film industry. The first film Marvel released was X-Men and opened the flood gates for other Marvel adaptations such as Spider-man, Hulk, Daredevil, The Punisher, Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Elektra, Captain America, Thor, The Avengers etc. Marvel characters were certainly not the only ones to make it to the big screen. Other films included From Hell, Road to Perdition, Constantine, Hellboy, Batman Begins etc. Frank Miller's Sin City Arguably the most unique works to be adapted to film in recent years are the materials by Frank Miller. In the article, "The 300 Controversy: A Case Study in the Politics of Adaptation" Dan Hassler-Forest writes, “For adaptations of comic books or graphic novels, a large part of the debate is usually, once again, focused on fidelity. But as comic books are made up of both images and words, visual faithfulness is targeted much more specifically” (120). In the case of Frank Miller’s Sin City the film is so faithful to the graphic novel the director, Robert Rodriguez, rejects the term adaptation. That is, Rodriguez states, “the film constitutes a ‘translation’ to another -similar- medium that leaves the original work entirely intact (qtd. in Hassler-Forest 120). In Sin City the director meticulously matches each frame. Frank Miller's 300 The next Frank Miller graphic novel to be adapted for the big screen was 300 and director, Zack Snyder also placed a strong emphasis on remaining faithful to the graphic novel. In fact, this “sustained emphasis on the film’s visual fidelity to the graphic novel successfully defused any negative feedback from the fan community”(Hassler-Forest 120). Like Sin City, nearly every frame of the film 300 matches the panels of the graphic novel. Beyond Blockbusters While comic books films are often linked to big-budget films there are also many alternative comics and graphic novels, which are connected to low-budget and independent films. These types of films “serve as a counterbalance to the blockbuster superhero movie, offering aesthetically sophisticated critical reflections such as issues of youth alienation (Ghost World), violence (A History of Violence), or the nature of representation (American Splendor)” (Gordon, Jancovich, and McAllister xi-xii). Beyond Blockbusters Cont'D Ghost World A History of Violence American Splendor Exploring the Connection between Comic Books and Film Because comic books and film share many similarities in their method of storytelling some would argue that the two share a natural connection. In fact, comic books legend, Will Eisner once stated, “Films were really nothing but frames on celluloid, which is really no different from frames on a piece of paper. Doing The Spirit was no different to making movies” (qtd. in Hughes 1). Exploring the Connection between Comic Books and Film Cont’d On the other hand, there are those who would argue that this view is too simplistic. For instance, in the book, Comics as a Nexus of Cultures the Introduction states:

It is difficult to argue that a film is a kind of novel or painting, but it is tempting for scholars of literature to regard comics as novels with pictures – a trend helped by labeling them as pictures with text, or for film scholars to treat them as frozen film. Comics manifest at the intersection of text, image, and sequence. Because they are a hybrid form, it is deceptively easy to focus on their similarities to other media, and ignore their uniqueness. Yet, while comics are similar to the subject matter of many disciplines, they are also markedly different (Berninger, Ecke, and Haberkorn 1). Audiences Another factor to consider in any adaptation is, of course, the audience. In the case of comic book or graphic novel adaptations the audiences can be quite different. One reason for this is because audiences have often spent a great deal of time with these characters before they ever see a film. Superman is a prime example because the character was created in 1938. As a result, there are many fans who have spent their entire lives with this character thus changing their views and expectations of a film adaptation. Some fans even express fear at their favourite comics and graphic novels being adapted into films. In the article, "When Gen-X Met the X-Men" the authors expand on this idea stating that fans of the comic or graphic novel fear that a “symbolic violence [is] being perpetrated on the beloved story and its characters by a botched, 'Hollywood-ized' translation.” This fear of how the film will turn out is motivated by the comic book fan’s sense of how the film should be before even watching it and this opinion will be based entirely on their individual experience of the original material (Rae & Gray 87). Conclusion In conclusion, while this presentation has merely skimmed the surface of the relationship between comic books and film, hopefully it has provided some points to reflect upon and discuss. This topic is certainly one which is being discussed more than ever before and will continue to evolve over time. Thank you for your attention and please see the discussion board for the questions I have posed on this topic. Works Cited “300 Comparison.” Photograph. www.solaceincinema.com. Web. Retrieved 19 September 2012.

“A History of Violence.” Photograph. www.huffingtonpost.com. Web. Retrieved 19 September 2012.

“American Splendor.” Photograph. wurzeltod.ch/wurzelforum/index. Web. Retrieved 19 September 2012.

Berninger, Mark, and Jochen Ecke and Gideon Haberkorn. "Introduction." Comics as a Nexus of Cultures. Ed. Mark Berninger and Jochen Ecke and Gideon Haberkorn. Jefferson: McMarland &Company, Inc., 2010. 1-4. Print.

Booker, Keith M. May Contain Graphic Material. Westport: Praeger Publishers, 2007. Print.

“Charlie Chaplin’s Comic Capers.” Photograph. home.earthlink.net. Web. Retrieved 19 September 2012.

Hassler-Forest, Dan. "The 300 Controversy: A Case Study in the Politics of Adaptation." The Rise and Reason of Comics and Graphic Literature. Ed. Joyce Goggin and Dan Hassler-Forest. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2010. 119-127. Print.

“Ghost World.” Photograph. www.filmbuff.com. Web. Retrieved 19 September 2012.

Gordon, Ian, and Mark Jancovich and Matthew P. McAllister. "Introduction." Film and Comic Books. Ed. Ian Gordon and Mark Jancovich and Matthew P. McAllister. Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi, 2007. vii - xvii. Print.

Hughes, David. Comic Book Movies. London: Virgin Books, 2003. Print.

Rae, Neil, and Jonathan Gray. "When Gen-X Met the X-Men." Film and Comic Books. Ed. Ian Gordon and Mark Jancovich and Matthew P. McAllister. Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi, 2007. 86-100. Print.

“Sin City Comparison.” Photograph. blog.moviefone.com. Web. Retrieved 19 September 2012.

“Superman: The Movie.” Photograph. josephmallozzi.wordpress.com. Web. Retrieved 19 September 2012.

“Watchmen Smiley Face.” Photograph. beyondthebunker.com. Web. Retrieved 19 September 2012.

“X-Men Logo.” Photograph. www.officialpsds.com. Web. Retrieved 19 September 2012. Exploring the Connection between Comic Books and Film Cont’d Dave Gibbons, who is perhaps best known for helping to create Watchmen, also weighs in on this particular issue in a candid statement in which he says:

A lot of people make this parallel between comics and film, but I think it’s a completely bogus comparison. A comic’s script looks a bit like a film script and comic art looks a bit like storyboards, but there is no sound in a comic book and no movement. Also, with a comic book the reader can backtrack, you can reach page 20 and say ‘Hey, that’s what that was all about in that scene in page 3’ and then nip back and have a look” (qtd. in Hughes 1). Created By: Kelly Stinn
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