web stats

CSBG Archive

Comic Book Movies Should Be Good: An Amazing List

With the upcoming release of THOR, CAPTAIN AMERICA: FIRST AVENGER, GREEN LANTERN, and a cornucopia of other films hanging in the distance, COMPLEX magazine asked your humble narrator to compile the top 50 greatest comic-book-to-film adaptations.

And so I did. That’s the entire anecdote. Here’s the link. I think it’s a pretty solid list, possibly more for the omissions than anything else. I could be wrong… I admit this.

Discuss!

32 Comments

What’s with the obsession with sex? I’m no prude, and I can appreciate sexiness, but it seems like half of the items on the list mention sex, women, nudity, and so on.

First, a few quibbles: Popeye should be much higher on the list, and The Rocketeer should at least be in the top half of the list. Batman (1989) deserves to be much, much, much lower. Maybe not even on the list. Even as a kid, I disliked that movie.

Not a bad list, overall though. I hadn’t heard of that Captain Marvel serial. Looks pretty good. Thanks for including Danger Diabolik, an underrated gem of the age of the Eurospy.

The only problem with the list is number 1. No way it beats any of the other movies in the top 10. Big shocker.

I think most of those movies are awful, to be honest. They may or may not be the best 50. I think the problem is 50 is too large a number for such a list. I have a hard time coming up with 10 really good movies based on comic books.

I have to agree, didn’t like a lot of those movies. It was an admirable effort, but I think it doesn’t ultimately work, despite some admirable effort by Alex. I think it’s due to what Basque says, that 50 comics is a little to ambitious a goal.

Lists like this are always difficult for me. Movies tend to either work, or nor not. I can’t say that SPIDER-MAN 2 ranks higher or lower than SCOTT PILGRIM. Both movies just worked for me. Plus, anything that places ANNIE in the Top 10 is either highly personal or little over-thought.

However, it is comprehensive enough to provide a nice starting point for a conversation.

I will go to my grave arguing that SUPERMAN RETURNS is grossly under-rated and its exclusion from a list that found a place for Dolph Lundgren’s career crippling turn as The Punisher is a nice case in point. Conversely, DICK TRACY has somehow become over-rated. I tend to like both Warren Beatty and comic-based movies, but I found it plotless and borderline unwatchable.

Any list where TDK>BB has no merit. And I will be completely surprised, like Iron Man being any good surprised, if any of this year’s crop is any good.

Leaving aside the fact that the top 25 are stacked with manga adaptations that are a little too nichey for me, and I honestly believe that American Splendour, Ghost World and Batman Returns should have been in the top 20, my biggest complaint is that Popeye is at the bottom of the list while Annie is at #10.

Seriously? Popeye turned out to be the more influential film– no one blinks at a gazillion dollar budget creating a totally expressionistic world in a Batman or a Dick Tracy or a Watchmen, but Robert Altman did it first. Plus, the film is a gorgeous and surprisingly faithful adaptation of the Segar comic strip. Annie, on the other hand has precious little of the comic and is adapting a broadway musical in the first place.

300’s more homoerotic than Top Gun? Well, maybe. Incredible Hulk better than Ang Lee Hulk? Nah.

Good to see World of Awesome being updated again.

Batman (1989) deserves to be much, much, much lower. Maybe not even on the list. Even as a kid, I disliked that movie.

We would not have been friends as children.

“Seriously? Popeye turned out to be the more influential film– no one blinks at a gazillion dollar budget creating a totally expressionistic world in a Batman or a Dick Tracy or a Watchmen, but Robert Altman did it first. Plus, the film is a gorgeous and surprisingly faithful adaptation of the Segar comic strip. Annie, on the other hand has precious little of the comic and is adapting a broadway musical in the first place.”

Having watched both recently, I have to say that the rankings on those came down more to quality of movie tha. Faithfulness of adaptation. POPEYE has a lot going for it, including everything you mention, but it also has some serious pacing and tone wackiness. ANNIE, on the other hand, is a pretty terrific movie on it’s own. I feel like it captured the “spirit” of the Gray strips, if not the details.

In othvwords, POPEYE was good at bringing the Segar strips to life, while ANNIE was simply good, in general. If that makes sense.

“300?s more homoerotic than Top Gun? Well, maybe. Incredible Hulk better than Ang Lee Hulk? Nah.”

The Incredible Hulk fares better on repeat viewings, I’ve found.

“Good to see World of Awesome being updated again.”

Hey, thanks Bill!

A couple of quibbles (as there always are):

If you’re going to open it to Anime, then you have to open it to standard animation. There are at least two animated films that could be here (Mask of the Phantasm and Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker) and probably others.

In what universe is either Punisher flick on a top 50 list and Watchmen isn’t (seriously, two of the three Punishers)? Even if you hate the re-done ending, the rest of it is as close to a near perfect translation of the comic as possible. I understand maybe leaving some borderline flicks out, like the Ang Lee Hulk, Daredevil, or Ghostrider, or liking Blade II over Blade I (though I go the opposite way), but I think this is pretty glaring.

A good attempt, and I understand not making everything the standard stuff that’s been out to US audiences, but it fell a little short for me.

This seems written by a teenager without a computer with internet access to watch porn. Sorry, but really, I couldn`t stop imagining the whole piece with Comic Book Guy’s voice. And I`m tired of that cliche too.

And by the way: “I imagine that’s what it’s like when you’re fucking Madonna; you walk around and your ego is so ‘roid raged that everyone but you looks deformed.” Yes, because being one of the most respected actors in the industry, working for people like Elia Kazan, directing, writing and starring one of the most respected epics in Hollywood history, still Madonna is what gives your ego a bump…

I don’t envy that task. There are probably 15 – 20 good comic book adaptations, certainly not 50. So it’s easy to forgive the inclusion of some blatantly crap movies, the barrel scraping must have been painful. Mostly good stuff from MiB upwards (aside from Annie and Tim Burton’s Batman).

I applaud you for using the platform to pimp Scott Pilgrim. +200 Internets.

Lot of movies there I haven’t seen. Which is good, as it gives me a list to work with on the day I finally relent and join Netflix.

American Splendor is not on your Top 10 but Annie is? You’re high.

I agree, American Splendor needs to be much higher. I love Scott Pilgrim, but as number one is a bit much.

I cannot even begin to understand the logic of the ranking in this list – not to mention (again) Watchmen not being there. It’s not there, right? Did I miss it?

It’s like someone threw darts at a board full of comic book movie names…Iron Man, Annie, Scott P? I cannot explain their rankings without resorting to pure luck of the dart toss…

Usually these types of lists leave me going ‘no, maybe, yes, aha, of course’. This one was just a total WTF?

Watchmen’s absence may have to do with it not being a very good movie.

Having watched both recently, I have to say that the rankings on those came down more to quality of movie tha. Faithfulness of adaptation. POPEYE has a lot going for it, including everything you mention, but it also has some serious pacing and tone wackiness. ANNIE, on the other hand, is a pretty terrific movie on it’s own. I feel like it captured the “spirit” of the Gray strips, if not the details.

Okay, regardless of quality issues, I do have to take issue with the idea of Annie capturing the spirit of the Gray strips. I mean, Harold Gray is the guy who was so conservative he killed off the Daddy Warbucks character to protest the presidency of FDR and his left-wing policies, and then brought him back to life to dance a jig in celebration of FDR’s real life death.

The movie had a flattering portrayal of FDR as an ally of Daddy Warbucks. Gray would have rolled over in his grave.

Silly.

Whatever problems hardcore fans may have with the WATCHMEN movie, it’s certainly not worse than both PUNISHER movies, for instance. I understand that, to some fans, it would be like making THE BIBLE – THE MOVIE, and they’d be unhappy no matter what.

I also find it extremely strange that V for VENDETTA is ranked comparatively high, when it took far more annoying liberties with the original material than WATCHMEN.

Strange.

And I agree that Tim Burton’s movies should be far lower, I am not even sure that I’d have included them at all.

And I agree that Tim Burton’s movies should be far lower, I am not even sure that I’d have included them at all.

I’m the opposite. I think Tim Burton’s Batman opened the door for high-quality big screen superhero adaptations that took the source material seriously without losing the sense of fun and whimsy. We owe it an immeasurable debt, as it paved the way for many other celebrated superhero movies. It belongs in the top 10 for sure. The Nolan Batman films though, those I’d move way, way WAAAAAAY down the list.

Posted my full response on my blog at: http://www.bencohenink.com/2011/01/top-50-comic-book-movies.html?zx=88b79b06c4042c39

Top 10 are:
1) Ghost World (2001)…Are there any other with an Oscar nomination on this list for scripting?…just for starts.
2) Iron Man (2008)
3) Batman Begins (2005)
Batman (1989)
The Dark Knight (2008)
4) American Splendor (2003)
5) Spider-Man 2 (2004)
6) V for Vendetta (2006)
7) X2 (2003)
8) Hellboy (2004)

The movie had a flattering portrayal of FDR as an ally of Daddy Warbucks. Gray would have rolled over in his grave

I can’t believe I’m defending Annie, but in the film it’sclear that Warbucks is only going to the White House purely to enlist him to help find Annie’s parents. He has nothing good to say about FDR and indeed has to get forced into singing “Tomorrow” with FDR.

Whatever problems hardcore fans may have with the WATCHMEN movie, it’s certainly not worse than both PUNISHER movies, for instance.

Except it is.

@ Graeme Burk:

I cannot believe that you remember ANNIE. It made literally no impression on me at all.

@ T.:

I do not understand the backlash against the Burton films. It is not as though you can only like one version of Batman. Burton put an extremely strong visual imprint on the character that shows up everywhere. No one even questions it anymore. It is just part of what Batman is.

While I like the Nolan films a lot, but even his more realistic take owes a lot to Burton’s design sense.

Thanks, Graeme. Finney’s Warbucks is pretty darn close to the comics version; maybe a bit grouchier. But it’s Albert Finney! Good casting goes a long way….

Bill- Thank you. You are correct.

Akaky Akakievich Bashmachkin

January 26, 2011 at 8:56 am

It’s a very good list. Although, I would have certainly removed a few choices and added Lee’s “Hulk” and Oshii’s “Ghost in the Shell”.

I can’t believe I’m defending Annie, but in the film it’sclear that Warbucks is only going to the White House purely to enlist him to help find Annie’s parents. He has nothing good to say about FDR and indeed has to get forced into singing “Tomorrow” with FDR.

Yes, but even that much of a positive portrayal of FDR would have been too much for Gray. I’m not using that to say that makes Annie a good or bad film, just that I don’t think it qualifies for fully capturing the spirit of Gray. Even portraying a begrudging alliance with FDR would have been too much for Gray based on what I read of the man.

I do not understand the backlash against the Burton films. It is not as though you can only like one version of Batman. Burton put an extremely strong visual imprint on the character that shows up everywhere. No one even questions it anymore. It is just part of what Batman is.

While I like the Nolan films a lot, but even his more realistic take owes a lot to Burton’s design sense.

Not only that, but the Timm and Dini Batverse, which everyone still loves and praises, owes so much to the Tim Burton version. So how people can still claim to love that series yet somehow hate Burton’s Batman is beyond me. He also designed the best Gotham City, with that art deco styling that was both simultaneously retro and futuristic. That also was major in the tone of the animated series.

Many elements of the movie were appropriated by the comics and future adaptations. Before Burton, Batman was always shown throwing grappling hooks and Batarangs by hand. After Burton, the grappling gun is now the norm, and it’s much cooler.

Nolan’s Batman, however, I have yet to see it create lasting changes in the comics at all. Only Azzarello’s Joker one-shot tried to use some of its influence, nothing else.

@ T.:

You could go on and on. The whole “Batman as a ladies man” thing started in the first Burton film. No superhero had fewer romantic (or shorter) plots prior to ’89. I mean, Silver St. Cloud was in maybe a dozen issues, Catwoman and/or Talia al Ghul turned every couple years for a single appearance and that was it . The Timm-Dini show took its cue from the Vicki Vale plot and ran wild with it.

Burton’s Batman totally transformed that aspect of the character.

Terrible list…the order is all wrong and the number 1 pick is so way off base.

Sorry, but this is an epic fail.

Leave a Comment

 

Categories

Review Copies

Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.

Browse the Archives