Fantastic Four isn’t the only comic book receiving the silver screen treatment this weekend. Diary of a Teenage Girl, starring Kristen Wiig and Alexander Skarsgard, is an adaption of cartoonist Phoebe Gloeckner’s critically acclaimed semi-autobiographical graphic novel. If you’re into autobio comics, Diary of a Teenage Girl is an instant classic, filled with intense personal reflection and brutal honesty about some very adult themes.
Unlike Fantastic Four, Diary of a Teenage Girl is receiving critical acclaim and has already won prestigious film festival awards. To celebrate the one good comic book movie out this week, here’s five other movies you might not know were comic book movies.
Road to Perdition
The Academy Award nominated Road to Perdition was an adaptation of a 1998 DC comic by Max Allan Collins and Richard Rayner. A loose reimagining of the famous Japanese manga Lone Wolf and Cub, Road to Perdition mob enforcer Michael Sullivan, who flees with his son after the rest of his family is killed by his former employers. Director Sam Mendes liked the comic because it strayed from typical gangster clichés and focused on the consequences of violence and the relationship between fathers and son. Mendes recruited an all-star cast of actors led by Tom Hanks to appear in the movie. Dark, grim and filled with lots of water (Sam Mendes used water as a thematic sign of death), Road to Perdition is one of the best and grimmest comic book movies to date, making even serious superhero films like Man of Steel look like a happy walk in the park by comparison.
A History Of Violence
Viggo Mortenson, star of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, considers his best film to date to be A History of Violence, a serious noir film directed by David Cronenberg. Mortensen plays a reformed gangster whose past comes back to haunt him after he kills two robbers in self defense. The movie is based off a 1997 graphic novel by John Wagner and Vince Locke and published by Vertigo Comics. While the comic version of A History of Violence is a pretty straightforward story about a man trying to escape his past, Cronenberg transformed the film into a unique study of the impact that violence has on a person’s family and their character. The comic version of A History of Violence received only mediocre reviews, but critics loved the movie version, which earned several Academy Award nominations.
An unexpected box office hit, 2 Guns starred Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg as two undercover agents who unknowingly steal money from the CIA. 2 Guns started as a Boom! Studios miniseries, written by comics veteran Steven Grant and illustrated by Mateus Santolouco. While the 2 Guns comic was more of a wry play on the heist genre, Universal Pictures transformed the story into a profanity laced action movie with plenty of violence, explosions and profanity go around. Steven Grant wrote a sequel to 2 Guns, titled 3 Guns, and Washington and Wahlberg have both expressed interest in returning for another film.
Cowboys and Aliens
Unlike most of the movies on this list, the creators of Cowboys and Aliens always intended for the story to be made into a film. Platinum Studios, the publisher of the original Men in Black comic books, sold the Cowboy & Aliens concept to Universal using a single page marketing pitch showing a UFO chasing a cowboy. After movie production stalled out, Platinum hired a host of comic creators to write and draw a graphic novel hoping to rekindle interest in the series. Platinum turned Cowboys & Aliens into a top seller by offering the graphic novel at a low price point and offering heavy discounts to retailers. Their gaming of the system worked, and Universal resumed work on the movie franchise later that year.
Of course, the movie version of Cowboys & Aliens was a disaster. Despite having top-tier actors like Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig and hiring Iron Man director Jon Favreau, the movie failed in theatres, barely earning back its massive $160 million dollar budget. It seems moviegoers didn’t want a movie that mixed the sci-fi and western genres in the most boring way possible.
Alan Moore, the writer of famed comics like Watchmen and V for Vendetta, hates when his comics are adapted into movies. That’s due to, in part, the perceived botching of From Hell, a 1990s comic written by Moore and drawn by Eddie Campbell. From Hell, like most of Moore’s work, is a dark story featuring plenty of occult themes and wrapped in heavily researched Victorian English history. After 20th Century Fox made a film adaptation starring Johnny Depp and Heather Graham, Moore denounced the film as a complete bastardization of his work, bemoaning that the movie reduced his nuanced story to a simple “whodunit” and that the main character was changed to an “absinthe-swilling dandy”. Considering that other movie adaptations of Moore’s work, including Watchmen, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Constantine, all received mixed reviews, maybe the creator had a point.