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    Default Analysis of Graphic Novel to film Adaptations.

    What attitudes and trends are there in regards to film adaptations of graphic novels?
    What are your thoughts about the culture of comic book adaptations to film?

    And what about the most well received films like Spiderman, Ironman, Batman and Superman? Are these positive stereotypes?
    Why are films with male leads more successful? Why aren't films with female leads more successful? Like Aeon Flux and Catwoman, where is Spiderwoman, Superwoman and Batgirl?
    Are films like X-Men and Kick Ass helping?

    And thoughts about upcoming films like Green Lantern, Captain America, Thor, The Avengers and Cowboys & Aliens?

  2. #2
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    I don't feel like answering all the questions. I'll just answer a few.

    I consider the most successful comic book / GN -> movie adaptations to be stuff like:
    - Batman (the last two movies; and maybe the very first, Burton's)
    - Spiderman 1,2,3
    - Sin City
    - Iron Man 1 (IM 2 was okay, but not nearly as magical as 1)
    - Superman 1,2 .... about on the same level as Batman 1.

    X-Men are okay but mostly forgettable.... which, compared to the source material, is unforgiveable.
    Hellboy was okay.
    V for Vendetta, the parts that actually were torn straight from the book (namely, the Valerie sceen and Eve's torture/emancipation), were excellent; the rest was more of a hodgepodge martial-arts typical dreary American-rebellion-against-facism action play we've seen over and over again.

    Some real dogs:
    - Fantastic Four
    - Daredevil
    - Elektra
    - Watchmen
    - League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

    People might disagree on these assessments, so I'll just focus on translations between media.

    You're moving from a purely visual media (on paper) to a multimedia presentation.
    Book pacing is different from movie pacing.
    The panels shapes and sizes, in good stories, are used to accentuate story and create drama.
    There are types of dialogue that also work on the printed page, to encapsulate drama (since you get very little space to verbalize your story due to the need to not obscure the art), and so lines that sound great in a comic book come off as pithy in a multimedia story.

    Frank Miller's Sin City was shot panel by panel for the movie, the visual images copies immaculately. Why did it work? Because Sin City was always a purely visual graphic novel. The story happened not in the dialogue but IN the visuals. The movie understood that. But this process did not work for a movie like Watchmen, where a lot of the actual content actually happened in the dialogue and was highlighted and made to reverberate by the visuals and the panel positioning/pacing. The movie tried to simply capture visuals right out of the visuals in the book and lost the drama; it felt like a puked-up half-digested mess with no life of its own.

    Examine the Matrix trilogy as another example, which was envisioned first as a comic book series. The fact the story was written directly for screen did help (rather than being in print media first), but especially in the third movie, you could see how the story was sort of hammered out in comic book form -- each scene was like 2+ pages of comic book layout, and each scene wrapped up with some sort of pithy, dramatized line that might have worked on the page but sounded bad falling on the ears. (There's another rule embodied in there: "Lines that read well don't always sound good when spoken.")

    Another issue is length, if you are dealing with graphic novels. Watchmen just couldn't realistically be condensed into a movie without losing a lot of its richness. The same way with attempts to translate Sandman to the screen; it's a 75-issue series. How on earth can you make a 2 hour movie out of that? The best you can do is grab an arc and try to handle that particular story (and so you are making a predefined series of movies out of the material), but the whole process is again fraught with danger -- how do you move an evocative vibe from media print to media on screen?

    I generally see a straight translation from book to movie to typically end in failure. The ones I think have had the most success have been where the director gets the feel of the characters and the tone of the book, then tries to recreate that same feel and tone in the movie. It's a more intuitive, than literal, process. Sin City, as I said, was one of the few exceptions because the look and feel of the book was actually embodied in the visuals and not the words.

    As far as the male/female thing: We'd have to explore audience demographics more. I think far more men than women obsess about the "superhero" thing -- this is why we get the legends of the "gamer girl" or the girl that hangs out in the comic shop, it's not nearly as common as guys being into it. I remember the old Wonder Woman show back in the 70's that was popular -- but was it women who watched it to see a strong woman figure... or was it predominately men ogling Lynda Carter? Do the women that other women see as strong run around in tights, or are they acting in strong ways within their interpersonal relationships? Lots of questions like that need to be explored. But I'm going to guess that the superhero movie is predominately driven by guys, so it has to appeal to their desires and interests.

    Kick*Ass? I don't know if that had an effect either way on the superhero industry, it seems to be far more self-contained -- it's a spoof of the superhero industry, rather than a serious superhero movie. (How else could a ten-year-old girl with an amusing pottymouth be a machine of death that mows down the city crime boss and his thugs?) it was all built of denying expectations. The guy with no powers still goes out there to fight crime and succeeds not because he's good but just because he has a bigger gun and is willing to take a lot of lumps; the cute little girl is an earlier incarnation of Beatrix Kiddo; the Batman guy doesn't survive the movie. It's a parody... and, while intereresting in its action, is more about fun and poking fun.
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  3. #3
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    Thanks for sharing your views.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jennifer View Post
    As far as the male/female thing: We'd have to explore audience demographics more. I think far more men than women obsess about the "superhero" thing -- this is why we get the legends of the "gamer girl" or the girl that hangs out in the comic shop, it's not nearly as common as guys being into it. I remember the old Wonder Woman show back in the 70's that was popular -- but was it women who watched it to see a strong woman figure... or was it predominately men ogling Lynda Carter? Do the women that other women see as strong run around in tights, or are they acting in strong ways within their interpersonal relationships? Lots of questions like that need to be explored. But I'm going to guess that the superhero movie is predominately driven by guys, so it has to appeal to their desires and interests.
    Yeah I know but I find this strangely unsatisfying. While the demographic is male, instead of giving rise to male fantasies in the role of female power more often like Wonder Woman. The female archetype tends to play a minor role to the male archetype and the balance is missing. Stereotypes fly thick and heavy and then where is the self esteem, respect and equality. There isn't much, even in the current litany of graphic novels, I find disparaging at best. I wish there were more intelligent interpretations of archetypes in these conversions because the symbolism sucks.

    For instance I thought just when Hulk had potential with Eric Bana and Jennifer Connolly was miles, miles better than the version with Edward Norton and Liv Tyler. What a crock of bs, at least the 2003 version seemed more intelligently done and the 2008 version was ridiculous. In that respect the stereotypes Liv portrayed was a damsel in distress and the 2003 version with Jennifer had more substance. Its just wrong. there was nothing incredible about the 2008 version.

    I found this analysis interesting.

    According to Trina Robbins, a female comic book artist, “Women just don’t go into comic-book stores… A woman gets as far as the door, and after the cardboard life-size cut-out of a babe with giant breasts in a little thong bikini and spike-heel boots, the next thing that hits her is the smell. It smells like unwashed teenage boys, and it has this real porn-store atmosphere.” Just by looking at the covers of comic books like Wonder Woman or Catwoman today, it seems like the artists and writers are more concerned with how the characters are depicted than with storyline.
    I'm disappointed that graphic novel adaptations are seen through and created from male perspectives. When was the last time a female director had full reign over a graphic novel adaptation let alone developed a story that would have something more than what is currently out there. I mean even with films like Elektra or Aeon Flux the directing is male. I suppose the outcome then is to be self sabotaging. Its almost like there is deferential treatment, where potentially great films were missable because the directors bias was placed in to create the even more stereotypes. Yes Graphic Novels are superheros fantasies but its just wrong when good films that could be good are less than more.

    The same with writing graphic novels, seems the issue starts there of course. Like Y-The Last Man. So there is going to be a film of this too and there may be strong female archetypes except the series written by a man is about the last man fantasy. Hahha

    Hahah then we have Tomb Raider. A computer game adaptation to film but what did that say, cleavage is good. Perhaps Sin City is great because there was good character development at least. Even so Frank Miller appears to have a sexist undertone.

    Dunno what I'm trying to say really.

    Anyway I love Spawn and Ghost World.

  4. #4
    Senior Member KDude's Avatar
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    For the most part, I love them. I was more of a comic reader when I was a kid (late 80's or so), but longed for what we have now. Back then, movie options weren't all that great.

    When was the last time a female director had full reign over a graphic novel adaptation
    A female director made the last Punisher film (War Zone.. not the Thomas Jane one). It's crazy violent too... like one of the most gruesome films I've seen (not an exaggeration). Ironically, it would seem like a sociopathic teenage male had made it... but nope! It was a girl.

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    Funny -- the comments about the two Hulk moves, I had totally the opposite response. I didn't like what I saw of the Eric Bana version; I thought the Ed Norton "Hulk" was maybe a B-. Which is disappointing because I really love Jennifer Connelly as an actress, even when she does secondary roles like in Dark City.

    I think what saves Miller from being considered "sexist" is that he empowers his women characters far more than his men characters, honestly. For some reason, despite the high degree of sexualization in Sin City (as an example), I get a completely different feel for those heroines vs "bad girls" in the mainstream comics who basically are just doing cheesecake shots and centerfold poses. Instead of being exploited or operating primarily through their sexuality, I feel like Miller's women are tough, powerful women who just happen to also be sexual and can use that to their advantage... but even if that was taken away from them, they'd be terrifyingly powerful just in their presence. (He's always done this too... whether he was dealing with Karen Page and Elektra out of Daredevil or Casey from Ronin or his Sin City posse or Carrie Kelly from TDNR. They were tough, yes; but they still read as "women" rather than "sex object," and they had real needs and wants, desires for connection or aching over its absence.)

    I did see Ghost World and liked that... and I thought Tank Girl was pleasantly quirky although not ultimately resonant with me.

    Typical "female" comics are far more apt to look like Terry Moore's "Strangers in Paradise" -- something where the interpersonal relationships dominate. (Terry writes like a girl. Sorry, Terry, but you do... and you're awesome! Sweet guy too, just sweet. He published a letter from me once in his Letters pages, woo hoo (!), because I appreciated the non-cookie-cutter approach to Christianity he invested in the character of David in that series.)

    But I've sort of been out of the industry for a few years at least now, so I can't claim to really have a handle on women in comics at the moment. I'm not even sure what is popular in general right now.

    I never saw Spawn. But I remember reading the comics when they first came out -- Spawn and Savage Dragon. SD was fun because Larson spun all the conventions on their head and made fun of them. I still laugh when remembering the full page splash of God talking smack (with pretty heavy four-letter vocab) at Satan and then telling him where to go.

    Tomb Raider is an interesting topic because it started as a game, rather than a comic OR a movie, but eventually translated into both. Aside from the matter of Lara's bosom, there was something magical when that first Tomb Raider came out, especially with the evocative musical theme; here was a powerful, beautiful, but no-nonsense woman who could do whatever she set her mind to, and her gender didn't seem to matter. (ISTP type, likely.) A few of the games in the franchinse suffered, and the boob jokes continued to abound, but overall the games were the best expression of Lara; the movies were watered down and sensationalistic, even if Angelina was well-cast; and I didn't read the comic.

    I don't want to say that women aren't into directing comic book adaptations, but frankly I think women overall get bored with the conventional spandex-suited action plot. There has to be something else going on, among or inside the characters... which I think would make their inclusion in the writing and directing process even more crucial if one is to avoid the typical comic-book eye candy that is watched once (if that) and then never comes off the shelf again.


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  6. #6
    Glowy Goopy Goodness The_Liquid_Laser's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jennifer View Post
    I consider the most successful comic book / GN -> movie adaptations to be stuff like:
    - Batman (the last two movies; and maybe the very first, Burton's)
    - Spiderman 1,2,3
    - Sin City
    - Iron Man 1 (IM 2 was okay, but not nearly as magical as 1)
    - Superman 1,2 .... about on the same level as Batman 1.

    X-Men are okay but mostly forgettable.... which, compared to the source material, is unforgiveable.
    Hellboy was okay.
    V for Vendetta, the parts that actually were torn straight from the book (namely, the Valerie sceen and Eve's torture/emancipation), were excellent; the rest was more of a hodgepodge martial-arts typical dreary American-rebellion-against-facism action play we've seen over and over again.
    I mostly agree except I think Sin City kinda sucked, while V for Vendatta was the PWN. Seriously V for Vendetta is my favorite movie based on a comic book/graphic novel.

    Also I think Spiderman 1 deserves a category of its own. (See below.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Synapse View Post
    Why are films with male leads more successful? Why aren't films with female leads more successful? Like Aeon Flux and Catwoman, where is Spiderwoman, Superwoman and Batgirl?
    This has to do with genre. Action movies in general are more appealing to males, so that is why they have male leads. By the same token romantic comedies tend to have female leads. I'd say it's a lost cause to try to make action movies with female leads, but there is one exception. So far Angelina Jolie is the only female who can really pull off female lead in an action flick. She has just the right combo of strong and sexy that makes it work. On the other hand it's a lot easier to make action work with a male lead, so I think that is what you're going to see overall.

    What attitudes and trends are there in regards to film adaptations of graphic novels?
    Jennifer has already hit the main points, but I'd like to add that Spiderman 1 has kind of transcended the comic book adaptation genre. Because it came out just a few months after 9/11 and they edited it with 9/11 in mind before it came out, I think of it more as a cultural icon for that time period.

    There are great scenes like Spiderman fighting the Green Goblin, a terrorist, on the George Washington bridge. You have New Yorkers throwing stuff at him and saying, "If you mess with one of us, you mess with all of us." I don't think this movie would have had the same impact if it had come out at any other time. Also if you consider that it is essentially a coming of age story for a boy in late high school to early college years, then you realize it probably served as an inadvertent recruiting tool for the US military.
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    Quote Originally Posted by KDude View Post
    A female director made the last Punisher film (War Zone.. not the Thomas Jane one). It's crazy violent too... like one of the most gruesome films I've seen (not an exaggeration). Ironically, it would seem like a sociopathic teenage male had made it... but nope! It was a girl.
    I have to see the film now out of curiosity.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jennifer View Post
    Funny -- the comments about the two Hulk moves, I had totally the opposite response. I didn't like what I saw of the Eric Bana version; I thought the Ed Norton "Hulk" was maybe a B-. Which is disappointing because I really love Jennifer Connelly as an actress, even when she does secondary roles like in Dark City.

    I did see Ghost World and liked that... and I thought Tank Girl was pleasantly quirky although not ultimately resonant with me.

    I never saw Spawn. But I remember reading the comics when they first came out -- Spawn and Savage Dragon. SD was fun because Larson spun all the conventions on their head and made fun of them. I still laugh when remembering the full page splash of God talking smack (with pretty heavy four-letter vocab) at Satan and then telling him where to go.
    Aww really Incredible Hulk was so lame, 2 dinosaurs fighting like lego action sets. Yes I refer to the hulks as dinsours and the prissiness of Liv, that rankled me like I was going to cough up cat hair. At least with Eric Bana version had a more scientific feel to it, less Americanized, sorry for the pun. I know considering Hulk is from America, but still Ed Nortan didn't seem vulnerable to me, felt like a groomed traditional movie.

    Ghost World was brilliant though.
    Spawn was awesome, okay though it wasn't female lead per say I just strangely liked it.

    Oh and yeah I get where your coming from with Millers approach then what are your thoughts on 300?

    I was going all over and yeah Tomb Raider is more computer game to film that is another aspect to talk about, computer games to films.
    I loved Serenity, Joss Whedon is great. Dunno if that was a comic but it should be mentioned just because Firefly was awesome and Serenity too.

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    Quote Originally Posted by The_Liquid_Laser View Post
    I mostly agree except I think Sin City kinda sucked, while V for Vendatta was the PWN. Seriously V for Vendetta is my favorite movie based on a comic book/graphic novel.

    Jennifer has already hit the main points, but I'd like to add that Spiderman 1 has kind of transcended the comic book adaptation genre. Because it came out just a few months after 9/11 and they edited it with 9/11 in mind before it came out, I think of it more as a cultural icon for that time period.

    There are great scenes like Spiderman fighting the Green Goblin, a terrorist, on the George Washington bridge. You have New Yorkers throwing stuff at him and saying, "If you mess with one of us, you mess with all of us." I don't think this movie would have had the same impact if it had come out at any other time. Also if you consider that it is essentially a coming of age story for a boy in late high school to early college years, then you realize it probably served as an inadvertent recruiting tool for the US military.
    Yeah true, I heard about that, that they had to reedit because of the sensitivity.

    Oh yeah there is V for Vendetta, yeah that was pretty cool.
    Sin City was rather good I thought.

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    There are great scenes like Spiderman fighting the Green Goblin, a terrorist, on the George Washington bridge. You have New Yorkers throwing stuff at him and saying, "If you mess with one of us, you mess with all of us." I don't think this movie would have had the same impact if it had come out at any other time.
    Good point.

    A similar incident in Spidey II, when he stops the metro train from crashing, and all the passengers lift him tenderly back to safety and marvel that he's just an average looking kid, and then stand up in a unified front against Doc Oc while Spidey's unconscious.

    It was pretty touching.

    Quote Originally Posted by synapse
    Aww really Incredible Hulk was so lame, 2 dinosaurs fighting like lego action sets.
    I might be an intellectual who wants depth in her movies... but I've always appreciated a decently choreographed smack-fest.

    (I even enjoyed "GI Joe" on that level.)

    So I've been into movies from Kill Bill and Iron Man to Hero and House of Seven Daggers and Jacie Chan martial art flicks as well.

    Oh and yeah I get where your coming from with Millers approach then what are your thoughts on 300?
    Miller in general, I do like his stuff (especially the further back we go); but after awhile it can start to look and sound alike. The highlight for me of his works consisted of Daredevil (with the Elektra arc), TDNR, and Ronin... and then the Sin City arc, where he really just went off and did his own thing at the time and succeeded wildly.

    I found the book "300" less than interesting if not awful, and so I never bothered to watch the movie. A friend who watched it said the same thing, though -- she was really bored by it.

    Regurgitating/Replicating the entire visual layout of a graphic novel is not creative transfer from page to screen, IMO. It just shows you can transcribe. Movies are about something more.
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