Little by little over the years, movie-goers have been learning what comic book fans have known for decades now: you can tell whatever story you want to tell in a comic book. Besides the superheroes that we’ve all known about and loved for years like Spider-Man, Superman, Batman, and Wolverine; there have been other heroes birthed out of the comic books. Movies and television shows like The Mask, Tank Girl, and The Walking Dead are all derived from comic books and graphic novels.
The comic book business has always been a place where authors can explore any and all themes, with any set of characters their imaginations could dream up. It's why pulp comics, horror comics, and sci-fi comic books were around until the dawn of the superhero. It’s that very same imagination of authors that keeps all sub-genres of comic books going. Sometimes the story gets adapted into a film, and while it doesn’t seem like it came from a comic book, it did. Here are five examples, along with some graphic novels that haven't been adapted (but totally deserve to be).
10 Adaptation: The Road To Perdition
Tom Hanks says “no more mister nice guy” and becomes a hitman for the mob in 2002’s Road To Perdition. The film adapted from the 1998 Paradox Press series is taken very seriously as a film. Especially when you consider the cast and the story of the movie.
Hanks plays mob enforcer Michael O’Sullivan. His boy, Michael Jr., witnesses a murder, and they take off to protect Michael Jr. while dear old dad does some dirty work to keep him safe.
9 Needs To Be Made: Maus
For many reasons, Art Spiegelman’s Maus is not only the most important comic on this list, it’s one of the most important comic books of all time. A Survivor’s Tale is all about Spiegelman’s relationship with his father, Vladek, a Holocaust survivor telling his tale of the horror of living in the camps.
Spiegelman used various animals like mice (Maus) and cats to depict the various peoples involved. Spiegelman has actually rejected all kinds of offers over the years to adapt the seminal piece, which means it will be a long time before Maus becomes a movie, if it ever does.
8 Adaptation: A History Of Violence
There is a section of comic book fans who bemoan the Hollywood elite for not recognizing films like Avengers: Endgame come awards season. Hopefully that will change this year, but comic book movies actually have been getting plenty of love from the academy for a long time. Paradox Press’ A History Of Violence is a pretty decent example of that love.
A couple of thugs try to rob a diner that Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) owns. They find out pretty quickly that they came to the wrong diner. Stall becomes a local celebrity from the ordeal and the mob come looking for him, believing he’s Joey Cusack, who's been in the run from the Irish mob. William Hurt was nominated for Best Supporting Actor and the film for Best Adapted Screenplay.
7 Needs To Be Made: Batman: The Long Halloween
While Batman has been adapted numerous times, no live action Bat-story has tried to be a frightful adaptation of one story. The Long Halloween is one of best examples of why we all love the Caped Crusader.
Set following the events of Year One, the Batman is still building his alliance with Gordon and forging a new one with Harvey Dent. There’s supervillains galore and a mob war being ignited thanks to the Holiday Killer, who comes after at least one person once a month to celebrate a holiday.
6 Adaptation: Ghost World
Not only has Scarlet Johansson starred in a comic book movie before, she’s even been on screen with "Thor" before! Thora Birch and the future Black Widow costar in the adaptation of Terry Zwigoff’s Ghost World. Enid (Birch) and Rebecca (Johansson) are two teenage outcasts who are ripping on pop culture and whatever they feel the need to do.
It’s reminiscent of plenty of teen angst films of the late nineties. As the girls grow a little older, they start to drift apart due to the the perils of growing up and the choices that they make.
5 Needs To Be Made: My Favorite Thing Is Monsters
Emil Ferris’ debut graphic novel My Favorite Thing Is Monsters is an epic tome at over 700 pages. She takes a slew of inspiration from growing up in Chicago and loving horror to tell the story of Karen Reyes, a young girl investigating her neighbor’s death in the sixties.
Between the trope of growing up in the turbulent sixties and the horror elements, Monsters could be a new Stranger Things for the baby boomer generation.
4 Adaptation: The Crow
James O’Barr was inspired by the real-life death of his girlfriend when he created The Crow in 1989. The success of the story led to the 1994 film. In a time when comic book movies weren’t coming out weekly, this one was --and still is-- held in high regard.
It became a movie for grunge-loving outcasts and mainstream movie goers alike. Sadly, there hasn’t been a better Crow movie since this one and it forever remains a sign of what would’ve become of the film’s star, Brandon Lee.
3 Needs To Be Made: Saga
When Star Wars came out in theaters, it was so genre-defining that seemingly all of Hollywood got together and commissioned a slew of science fiction and space opera movies to try and find the next big sci-fi craze.
With the serial trilogy winding down, should Hollywood want to do that again, they might want to take a look at Brian K. Vaughn’s Saga. Critics and fans have likened to story to Romeo & Juliet, Star Wars, Game Of Thrones, Lord Of The Rings, or any combination of those staples.
2 Adaptation: Red
What do life-long spies and spooks do when they’re getting a little long in the tooth? They actually just keep on fighting. Based on Warren Ellis’ mini-series, Red tells the story of Frank, a retired CIA agent who is so lonely that he tried to find reasons to chat with Sarah, who works in administration.
His past comes back to haunt him, and when he fears that they’ve bugged his phone, he takes Sarah (initially against her will), since the assassination squad would have bugged her phone too. The Golden-Globe-nominated comedy stars Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Morgan Freeman, and Mary Louise Parker all parodying their usual typecast roles.
1 Needs To Be Made: Black Hole
It’s the seventies and free love is all abound in Seattle. But when the free lovin’ turns into a disease causing black holes and boils, it might be time to stop getting it on.
That’s the premise of Black Hole by Charles Burns. The story is rife for genre loving directors like Wes Anderson, Kevin Smith, or even David Fincher, who was attached to try and bring this to the screen at one point.