Comic Book Movies: The Good, the Bad, or ... What the Hell Did You Expect?

A column article by: Ace Masters

Comic Book adaptations.

There have been a plethora of them in the last decade-plus. Arguably, the modern age of comic book adaptations began with X-Men in 1999.

Since then comic books ranging from 30 Days of Night to A History of Violence to Batman, From Hell, Green Lantern, Ghost World, Iron Man, Jonah Hex, Road to Perdition, Spider-Man and Superman (again) have been adapted. And that is only a very small sampling of the titles.

Adaptations have covered the gambit of genres, but the most-covered genre of them all has been super-heroes. Naturally. This has served to give comic books a much-needed mainstream entertainment spotlight.

Some of these movie adaptations have been good, some mediocre, some bad, some downright ugly and a handful have been great.

But, if you think this has led to comic books being taken seriously, think again.

If anything, it has led to more scrutiny and the majority of people, including critics, still looking down on our beloved industry.

Case in point: Roger Ebert, a critic who gave rave reviews to Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, Iron Man and Dark Knight had this to say about Jonah Hex: "It's based on some DC Comics characters, which may explain the way the plot jumps around." (Quote taken from the review compilation site Metacritic.)

While Jonah Hex is notorious as a bad movie and comic book adaptation, Ebert’s comment does infer that a reason the plot jumps around (and hence the movie is bad) is that it is based upon "some DC Comics characters."

However, this view is to be expected from critics and perhaps the general movie going, non-comic book reading audience. Sadly, this viewpoint doesn’t end with them.

All this leads me to a far darker viewpoint, one coming from so-called "comic book geeks." A viewpoint that they spout in defense of comic book movies that in reality actually agrees with those who dismiss comic books and their movie adaptations.

I have had people express this viewpoint to me in person and I have read it on many message boards (Amazon reviews and IMDB message boards being the biggest forums). That viewpoint is this "It’s a comic book movie, what did you expect?"

I even had a comic book retailer say this to me when I express my disappointment with the recent Green Lantern movie.

In other words, "It’s a comic book movie, what did you expect?" basically means that since it is based on a comic, one shouldn’t expect a good movie. So, by that token, comics themselves must not be of any quality, right?

This defense is coming from ‘so-called’ comic book fans, only it isn’t that much of a defense. If anything, it is worse than Ebert’s inference. Why? People using "It’s a comic book movie, what did you expect?" in defense of comic book movie are basically dismissing the comic books they are based on.

What is even worse is that “It’s a comic book movie, what did you expect?” isn’t just used in defense of maligned comic book movies. Many times it is also used in defense of critically acclaimed movies that some people still criticize.

I cannot fathom why any fan/reader would take that kind of stance. Do they not realize that in taken that stance they are actually agreeing with critic and others who express a dismissive view toward comic books movies?

I write "so-called" comic book fans because I have no proof that those who claim this defense of comic book movies actually read comics, other than their claim to be readers. But if they are comic book fans, and they hold the belief that "It’s a comic book movie, what did you expect?" please do me and other true comic book fans a favor: Stop reading comics.


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