These days it seems like comic book inspired projects are everywhere we look. Comic book characters have moved beyond the printed page and into our television sets, video game consoles and local movie theatres at an unprecedented rate.
Even those who have never picked up a comic book are finding it difficult to escape the media marketing blitz of billboards, commercials and various products promoting an endless stream of comic book based movies, television shows and video games, but how do fans of the comic books, on which these projects are based, feel about this increase in visibility and media attention that has been focused on their beloved characters?
Comic book fans are a diverse group of people and the comic book industry covers a wide range of genres. Superheroes, horror, fantasy, comedy, Sci-Fi and even manga are just a few of the types of comics that are produced today. Because of this diversity, it’s no wonder that Hollywood is mining all the fresh ideas it can from comic books to propel an industry that is currently dominated by remakes and sequels.
It would seem logical that most fans would be overjoyed to see characters that they follow and love given mass exposure in other media, but the response to this by the fans appears to be as varied as the comic book industry itself. While any new project is bound to receive both cheers and jeers, comic book fans often seem to respond the most passionately about the movies, television shows and other projects based on the comic books with which they are familiar and love. However, there seems to be one constant that most fans agree on when it comes to comic book based movies and other projects.
Adherence to the source materiel seems to be key for most fans. It appears that a majority of fans are happiest with comic book based movies and television programs when they follow one simple rule: change little to none of the world and characters on which the story is based. Those projects that have enjoyed the most success have been those that followed this rule and aside from minor updates and costume tweaks, have stayed as true to the source material as possible.
Marvel’s X-Men is a prime example of a comic book property that has had tremendous success on both the big and small screen. The animated series of the 90’s drew heavily from the most popular storylines found in the various X-Men comics and presented each character as they appeared in the comic books at the time. Additionally, the subsequent trilogy of films didn’t stray far from the inner workings of the characters and universe that had already been laid down in the pages of the X-Men comics. Changes were made in order to update and give believability to a live action project, but the core of who the characters were and the universe in which they lived was familiar to fans of the comics. This formula was also wildly successful with Christopher Nolan’s reboot of the Batman movie franchise which was obviously inspired by Frank Millar’s graphic novels Batman: Year One and The Dark Knight Returns.
Other comic book film projects that have strayed from the source material on which they are based have not seen the same level of success. Catwoman bombed at the box office and was universally panned by fans and critics alike. Fans cited disappointment in the film having little resemblance to the character found in the pages of various DC Comics and some even felt that the choice to reinvent the story and world of Catwoman was disrespectful to her comic book origins.
Comic book based movies and other projects often face the dual problem of appeasing long time fans while attracting new viewers. Often, changes must be made to the source materiel in order to make an effective translation from comic book to live action film. However, it would seem that maintaining true to the essence of the character’s comic book roots is key to success. After all, some of these characters have been in continues print for more than 70 years and have several generations of loyal fans. Those who wish to create future projects based on comic book characters would be wise to take note of the old adage, “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.”