Comic book movies have dominated the box office the last several years. Whether it’s a Marvel title like The Avengers or a DC offering like Man of Steel, comic book and superhero movies are big business.
But what you don’t see quite as often are movies that make the jump to comic books, resulting in outright adaptations or further expansions of the stories. Some of these comic adaptations might seem like a surprise, but many seem all-too-perfect for a comic.
Here are twelve movies that went on to spawn comics of their very own.
2001: A Space Odyssey
Possibly the least likely title to be a comic on this list, the classic 2001: A Space Odyssey was first given an comic book adaptation in an oversized one-shot, then followed by a 10-issue miniseries, both written and drawn by comics legend Jack Kirby for Marvel Comics. The initial adaptation followed the story of the movie very closely, only deviating to add some content from Arthur C. Clarke’s book and some captions to help the story fit the comic medium a bit better.
It’s in the monthly miniseries where Kirby really shined, playing with the concept of the original story to start with, depicting various creatures and humans at various points in time encountering monoliths before they or their descendants are turned into New Seeds. Towards the end of the series, Kirby even introduces Mister Machine, later named Machine Man, who is a sentient robot who tries to assimilate into human society. After the 2001 series ended, Machine Man would even go on to be incorporated into the larger Marvel Universe.
28 Days Later
Helping to bridge the gap between 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later, both a 28 Days Later graphic novel and series were produced. Dealing with both characters from the first movie and original characters, the comics helped to explore the origins of the Rage Virus, while also showcasing different survivors at various points during the outbreak in England.
Later issues of the series would help bring the story into the same time frame as 28 Weeks Later, occurring roughly in sync with the ending of that movie as the Rage Virus spreads to mainland Europe from the United Kingdom.
Army of Darkness
Spinning out of the cult classic Army of Darkness, the comics of the same name have been continuing Ash’s adventures for over 20 years. Different stories pit Ash against evil wizards, Deadites, a doppelganger “Evil Ash,” monsters, and much more in different periods of time.
In addition to the adventures that Ash has in his own universe, he’s crossed over with characters from different companies and universes, including Vampirella, Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, Xena, and even Marvel’s Marvel Zombies universe.
Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey
With both an adaptation of Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey and a couple of continuing series that take place after the movies, Bill and Ted are no strangers to comics. Beyond the adaptation of the movie, Bill and Ted have planned a bodacious party and traveled through time to stop Death’s meddling with the time stream in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Comic Book.
Just this year, Bill & Ted’s Most Triumphant Return has the duo fulfilling their destiny as inspiration for intergalactic harmony as they journey to the 27th century to change the attitude of Chuck De Nomolos. The comics keep the same goofiness that the movies had while continuing the excellent adventures of the titular characters.
Created as a response to Sam Raimi not being able to secure rights to The Shadow or Batman, Darkman is often described as a “comic character who didn’t appear in a comic first.” So it only makes sense that Darkman would eventually make his way to comics.
Marvel Comics would publish both the movie adaptation of Darkman and a later miniseries that was a continuation of Darkman’s adventures. Darkman would later crossover with another Raimi creation as he crossed into the world of Army of Darkness and helped Ash defeat an army of Deadites after they invade his world.
Escape From New York
In between escaping New York and escaping Los Angeles, Snake Plissken had a few adventures in comics. Back in 1997, Marvel released a one-shot that saw Snake facing off against the perfect robot bounty hunter, which was followed by CrossGen releasing a miniseries which saw Snake stealing the car John F. Kennedy was assassinated in and delivering it to a buyer, but not without a few betrayals and explosions along the way.
Most recently, Boom! Studios brought Snake to a very militant Florida as he tries to find a (relatively) safe place following the events of Escape from New York. Unfortunately for Snake, in a world where Manhattan is a giant prison, the rest of the United States is just as dangerous and messed up.
Given the success of the movies and the place it holds in many geeks hearts, it only makes sense that various comic companies would try to get in on the Ghostbusters license. Starting back in the 80s, various companies tried, and largely failed, to make good and consistent Ghostbusters comic series, with publisher 88MPH Studios even shuttering in the mid-2000s rather than printing their promised comics.
Since 2008, though, IDW Publishing has held the license and has been publishing comics with the original cast, new characters, and characters from The Real Ghostbusters that both fans and critics have enjoyed. The Ghostbusters have even got in on some crossover action with characters like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, GI Joe, and Transformers.
Everyone’s favorite giant, radioactive lizard Godzilla has been a popular character in Japanese comics since his inception in 1954. It wasn’t until 1976 that he finally appeared in American comics and has bounced around various publishers ever since.
Godzilla comics have done everything from adapt the movies to create new stories set in the world to provide the life story of one of the soldiers tasked with defending Japan from Godzilla. The current IDW Godzilla series, Godzilla in Hell has Godzilla fighting his way through the circles of Hell in ways only he could. There’s a lot more to Godzilla than “giant monster”.
Planet of the Apes
First a novel, then two different series of movies (with a TV series and a failed reboot in between), Planet of the Apes occupies a big place in pop culture for a lot of people. As such, Planet of the Apes comics have been published regularly since the original movies came out. Some were straight adaptations of the original movies, while later comics would expand the lore of the world with original stories about the ape civilizations and human characters.
Most recently, Boom! Studios published tie-in comics for Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, letting comic creators connect the stories of the two movies and help expand the world that was presented in the movies.
Multiple comic companies have used the success of the various RoboCop movies to sell some comics. Comic adaptations of RoboCop, RoboCop 2, and RoboCop 3 would follow as the movies came out, along with an adaptation of Frank Millers “lost script” for RoboCop 3.
With the release of the 2014 remake, Boom! Studios released a series of one-shots that expanded on the world of RoboCop, even introducing a soldier who was subjected to the same technology as Alex Murphy, becoming a “RoboSoldier.” Boom! Studios would go on to publish a twelve-issue series that followed events of the first movie, leading into later stories and opening up the world to readers.
Spinning out of Joss Whedon’s Firefly and Serenity, these comics are published by Dark Horse Comics and help to continue the story of the series and movie. Initially constructed as movie tie-ins to help bridge the gap between Firefly and Serenity, the Serenity comics would go on to be some of Dark Horse’s best-selling comics.
After their initial tie-ins, the Serenity comics would go on to be ways for Whedon and others to expand the Firefly/Serenity universe beyond what was presented in the show and movie, while still having it be in canon. Even though they’ve been met with acclaim, readers who weren’t fans before complain that it can incomprehensible to those without previous knowledge.
Star Wars may well be the Holy Grail of licensed comics. A built-in group of loyal fans the world over, instantly recognizable characters, and great stories to work with. First at Marvel, then at Dark Horse, now at Marvel again, Star Wars comics have changed hands a couple of times, but never stopped being fan favorites.
The current line of comics, brought to Marvel after Disney bought Lucasfilm, has been widely loved by many fans. Marvel has put their top talent to work making books about Darth Vader, Leia, Kanan, and many more, telling original stories, tying into past and future movies, and bridging the gaps between movies. With these comics and The Force Awakens on the horizon, it’s a good time to be a Star Wars fan!
What do you think? Were there any good movie-to-comic adaptations that we missed?