Superheroes have been making the jump from comic books to the big screen for over eighty years now, with costumed crimefighters truly coming to dominate the box office over the past decade. Despite the continued success of superhero films, hardcore fans can nevertheless be notoriously unforgiving when filmmakers alter the source material as part of the adaptation process.
That said, sometimes these changes turn out to be quite popular with fans… or at the least don’t prove to be contentious enough for them to bother complaining! We’ve rounded up some of our favorite comic book movie changes both large and small that the collective fandom seems to have zero issues with.
When Thor debuted in 1962’s Journey into Mystery #83, the God of Thunder had a secret identity: Doctor Donald Blake. Not only was Blake a mortal man, but he also was mildly disabled, requiring a cane to walk. Thor’s moments spent as a disabled human were intended to teach him humility.
However, when the Odinson arrived in theatres in Kenneth Branagh’s Thor, he did so without ever assuming a proper civilian alter-ego (although he does briefly sport a nametag and ID with Blake’s name on it). Fans didn’t seem to mind this change—after all, eliminating Blake streamlined Thor’s origin story!
In the comics, Bruce Wayne learned from experts in every crimefighting-related discipline imaginable, but one teacher he never sought out was villain Ra’s al Ghul. This concept wasn’t introduced until 2005’s Batman Begins, which saw Bruce complete the bulk of his training with al Ghul and his League of Shadows.
Honestly, this change makes a lot of sense, which is probably why fans seldom grumble about it. Not only does it efficiently explain how Bruce acquired the skills needed to become Batman, but it also establishes his complex relationship with Ra’s and their opposing views on how to battle injustice.
Edwin Jarvis has faithfully served as Tony Stark’s butler for decades, so it wasn’t a surprise when Paul Bettany was cast to play him in 2008's Iron Man. What was a surprise was that the Jarvis in Jon Favreau’s film turned out to be J.A.R.V.I.S.—a highly advanced AI program!
Fortunately, Marvel Comics devotees didn’t baulk at such a drastic change. Not only is Tony’s digital manservant capable of performing the same duties as his human equivalent, but a flesh-and-blood version of the character (the inspiration for the AI) subsequently appeared in the Agent Carter TV series, leaving everyone happy.
Gotham City is hands down the worst (fictional) city in America—but as depicted in Tim Burton’s first Batman outing, it’s also the ugliest, too! That’s because Burton and production designer Anton Furst intentionally mashed together conflicting architectural styles to create a miserable urban landscape, underscoring Gotham’s unpleasant nature.
This novel aesthetic spin on the Dark Knight’s hometown paid off: Batman was a box office smash, and Furst won an Oscar for his work. What’s more, fan response was so positive, DC Comics published a storyline devised solely to explain why the pen-and-ink Gotham skyline now resembled its cinematic counterpart.
In both comic book miniseries Infinity Gauntlet and the Marvel Cinematic Universe blockbuster Avengers: Infinity War, Thanos wipes out half of all life throughout existence. However, while the outcome is the same across both media, what differs is his reason for doing so.
In the movie, the Mad Titan acts out of the misguided belief that he can balance the cosmos, while in the comics, he’s trying to woo the personification of death itself! But since the MCU isn’t quite at the stage where it can introduce an out-there character like Mistress Death, everybody seemed happy to roll with this one.
The idea that X-Men founder Charles Xavier and perennial Brotherhood of Evil Mutants member Mystique were once quasi-siblings doesn’t just clash with comic book canon. It also doesn’t really jibe with the—admittedly broken—continuity of the X-Men film franchise, either.
So how come fans weren’t up in arms when the hitherto unacknowledged Xavier/Mystique connection was revealed in X-Men: First Class? Well, for starters, this allowed director Matthew Vaughn and his team to properly flesh out Mystique as a three-dimensional character, and what’s more, it provided actors Jennifer Lawrence and James McAvoy great material to sink their teeth into.
Like many Marvel superheroes, Captain America hails from New York City—specifically, from Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Or at least, that’s where he’s from in the comics, as in Captain America: The First Avenger, he gives his address as being in Brooklyn!
On the one hand, it’s a shame that Cap’s Lower East Side roots were changed, considering that they provided a link between him and his co-creator, Jack Kirby. On the other hand, shifting the Sentinel of Liberty’s upbringing to Brooklyn doesn’t affect his humble origins—which explains why almost no one has complained about this revision.
One of the downsides of being a comic book reader is that your familiarity with the source material means you’re rarely surprised during big screen adaptations. That said, occasionally filmmakers mix things up a bit and catch long-time readers off guard—like with the reveal of Mr. Blue’s identity in The Incredible Hulk.
See, in the comics, the Mr. Blue pseudonym was adopted by Bruce Banner’s wife, Betty Ross, to funnel information to her husband. However, in the film, Mr. Blue is an alias used by future villain Samuel Sterns, a novel unexpected twist for comics fans.
For the first 40 years following Superman’s debut, his Kryptonian parents took a backseat to his adopted human folks. Indeed, it was made abundantly clear that it was Jonathan and Martha Kent—and not Jor-El and Lara—who raised the Man of Steel.
That all changed with the release of Superman: The Movie in 1978, which introduced the concept that Jor-El—in the form of a sophisticated AI program—mentored the young Superman, too. Thanks to the gravitas Marlon Brando brought to the role, this change resonated, and Jor-El has featured more prominently in subsequent retellings of Superman’s formative years.
When Ultron was announced as the villain in the second Avengers flick, it became immediately clear that this cybernetic baddie’s backstory wasn’t going to be translated directly from the comics. After all, Ultron was built by the original Ant-Man, Hank Pym—a character yet to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe at that point.
So, it hardly came as a shock when Tony Stark, with assistance from Bruce Banner, assumed Pym’s role in Age of Ultron. It wasn’t a controversial amendment, either, since this modification preserved Ultron’s connection to the Avengers, as well as his unwavering hatred for his maker.