Yes, these days everyone’s a fan of comic book movies. They all know that superheroes are big bucks. You only have to glance at the (growing) list of films that broke the $1 billion barrier to see that it’s populated by the likes of The Dark Knight and it’s sequel, as well as The Avengers and Iron Man 3. But just because the main characters aren’t wearing yellow spandex doesn’t mean their origins don’t stem from the house that Stan Lee built. Comics are more than just Batman and Superman – see below to see which of your favourite films might have a rather surprising origin…
1. From Hell
Based on Alan Moore’s seminal graphic novel of the same name, From Hell starred Johnny Depp as a police inspector in 1888 London, investigating the infamous Jack the Ripper murders. You may remember this film as being exceptionally average, and you would be correct. Alan Moore, on the other hand, had far harsher things to say about it (as he would with the later, truly awful adaption of his League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, leading to him having his name removed from the “based on” credit from Zack Snyder’s Watchmen adaption – which was surprisingly pretty damn good).
Yes, that’s right. The musical that everyone knows only one word from was actually based on a comic. Or, to be precise, a newspaper comic strip that ran for an astounding 85 years from 1924 until its cancellation in 2010. Little Orphan Annie, to give the original work its full title, inspired a radio show, two film adaptions and a Broadway musical – which was then itself adapted into the film that all of us know and (some of us) love.
3. Ghost World
A fairly niche movie, perhaps, but no less engaging for it. Ghost World tells the story of two young girls, a little on the fringe of normal, but who slowly grow apart as they grow older. Developed into a movie starring Thora Birch and Scarlet Johansson, and written by Daniel Clowes (the author of the graphic novel), it is certainly one of the most highly-reviewed films to be based on a comic. It’s meagre budget (a mere $7 milllion) was just about made back at the box office, however due to an extremely limited release it took a while for this great little film to carve up a nice cult following on DVD. Don’t be one of the many who missed it first time around.
4. A History of Violence
Despite David Cronenberg’s recent comments that comic books are created for adolescents, and that they are both creatively and artistically limited, in 2005 he made this extremely adult film that was – you guessed it – based on a graphic novel of the same name. Telling the story of Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen), a family man and owner of a diner in a small town, his quiet life is interrupted one evening when two men attempt a robbery. Deftly taking them out, he become a local hero – something that draws the attention of mobsters from Philadelphia, convinced that Stall is in fact Joey Cusack, a gangster who ran out years before to escape his violent past. What follows is an interesting is he/isn’t he story, complete with all the violence and sex you would normally associate with a Cronenberg flick. Certainly not one for adolescents then David.
5. Road to Perdition
Famous for being Sam Mendes’ second film, and Paul Newman’s last, Road to Perdition starred Tom Hanks in his infamous “bad guy” role (it really wasn’t that bad). Based on the graphic novel by Max Allan Collins, Hanks plays Michael Sullivan, a mobster during the Great Depression who goes on the run with his young son. Whilst Collins disagreed with some aspects of the film – the profanity and the voice of the narrator, for instance – he was impressed with how Mendes had captured a lot of the spirit of the novel. Interesting to note, the villain of the piece, portrayed chillingly by Jude Law, is not present in the original book, and was created solely for the purpose of the movie.