For decades, movies have been adapting comic books to the big screen, bringing iconic heroes like Superman, Batman and the X-Men to life. Usually, it’s the movies that are trying to make changes to fit the original story, but sometimes it’s the other way around.
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Since 1999’s “Blade,” Marvel has been keenly aware of how the movies bring more exposure to its books. They expect fans to go flooding to the bookstores after seeing the movies, and don’t want fans to be disappointed that the comics don’t meet their expectations. That’s why they’ve made changes to characters to match the movie versions, sometimes in the personalities or the appearance, other times to the powers. CBR reviews 15 of the biggest changes Marvel has made to its comic characters.
In 1999, director Bryan Singer changed comic book movie adaptations forever with “X-Men.” The movie took a more grounded approach to the iconic team of superheroes, setting it in the “not-so-distant future” and getting rid of the colorful costumes that the X-Men had worn for decades. Instead, they all wore black leather costumes like “The Matrix.” The movie also showed Xavier’s institute as a school with actual classes instead of just a headquarters. The movie was a smash hit and paved the way for other superhero movies which got rid of the Spandex.
In 2001, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely began writing “New X-Men” starting in #114. In his original pitch document, Morrison’s stated goal was to make the comic X-Men fit the movie versions. That included getting rid of their usual costumes and having all the X-Men wear black outfits with only yellow accents. Wolverine stopped wearing his mask and tended more towards leather jackets and open shirts. The X-Men compound also became an actual school with dozens of students instead of just a training center like the comics had always portrayed.
Writer Marv Wolfman and penciller Gene Colan first introduced Blade in “The Tomb of Dracula” #10 in 1973 as a black vampire hunter. In his original appearances, he was born from a woman who was killed by a vampire during childbirth, passing on long life and an immunity to vampire bites. His skill at killing vampires with silver knives got him his nickname, “Blade.” Other than his vampire-killing skills, Blade was just a regular human.
In 1998, the relatively obscure character got his own movie starring Wesley Snipes with some pretty big changes. In the movie, Blade is part-vampire with superhuman speed, strength and agility along with immunity to silver, garlic and sunlight. In order to match the movie version, Blade got an upgrade in the comics. In 1998’s “Marvel Team-Up” #7 (written by Marv Wolfman and penciled by Thomas Derenick), Blade was bitten by the biotech vampire Morbius and developed the same enhanced powers.
Anyone who watched the “Iron Man” movie trilogy would think that Whiplash is one of the superhero’s greatest enemies, and he is in the comics…sort of. In the comics, there have been a few versions of Whiplash since he first appeared in 1968’s “Tales of Suspense” #97 (Stan Lee, Gene Colan) where he was Mark Scarlotti, an assassin with a metal whip. He later changed his name to Blacklash, and a mutant named Leann Foreman became the second Whiplash.
In 2010’s “Iron Man 2,” Whiplash was completely different from all of them, now a Russian engineer named Ivan Vanko with a suit of plasma-charged whips. Vanko actually combined the Whiplash concept with another Iron Man villain, a Russian armored enemy named the Crimson Dynamo. The same year, Marvel released “Iron Man vs. Whiplash” (Marc Guggenheim, Philipe Briones, Marko Djurdjevic) where a Russian scientist named Anton Vanko built a suit of energy whips as the new Whiplash. The circle was now complete.
The sharpshooter Bullseye made his debut in 1976’s “Daredevil” #131 (Marv Wolfman, John Romita, Sr.) as a ruthless assassin who became an enemy of Daredevil. He’s known for his incredible skill and marksmanship, able to kill people with conventional weapons like guns and throwing knives, but also ordinary objects like playing cards and pencils. His costume had a distinctive “target” symbol on the mask. That’s the comic version, but the movie version was very different.
In 2003’s “Daredevil,” Bullseye was played by Colin Farrell, who had the skill at throwing and marksmanship, but didn’t wear the usual Spandex costume. Instead of the mask, the movie Bullseye had a target symbol branded on his forehead. In 2010’s “Punisher MAX” #6 (Jason Aaron and Steve Dillon), a different version of Bullseye was hired by the Kingpin to kill the Punisher. The comic version of Bullseye caught up with the movie, avoiding a costume and having a bullseye tattooed on his forehead.
11. THE CHITAURI
First appearing in “The Ultimates” #8, created by Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch, the Chitauri were a race of lizard-like shapeshifters who tried to conquer Earth by manipulating the world, especially in World War II. They were never really seen, preferring to take on the shape and memories of humans they ate, working with evil like the Nazis, and trying to crush free will throughout the universe. If that description is surprising, that’s probably because you saw the Chitauri in 2012’s “Avengers,” where they were very different.
The Chitauri in “Avengers” only borrowed the name from the comic book version, appearing as generic mute alien warriors with bio-mechanical technology. The comics did try to adapt the Chitauri to the movie version in 2013’s “Nova” #4 by Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness. The new mainstream Chitauri were pretty much the “Avengers” version; monstrous aliens who never shapeshifted and flew around on hovercraft.
Next, we’ll move on to another Avengers character, Hawkeye, who was created by writer Stan Lee and artist Don Heck as a villain in 1964’s “Tales of Suspense” #57. Hawkeye proved popular enough that he became one of the Avengers in “Avengers” #16 in 1965 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Hawkeye’s iconic costume was a purple suit that formed an “H” on the front, and a mask that had winged headpieces like Wolverine.
The costume had been around for decades, but the “Avengers” movie decided to get rid of it, dressing him in military gear with no mask. It looks pretty good and realistic, making the old Hawkeye costume look kind of silly compared to it. That’s probably why Hawkeye’s costume changed in Matt Fraction and David Aja’s “Hawkeye” in 2012, where he wore a simple outfit without the mask. It made Hawkeye much more relatable and down to Earth in keeping with the rest of the series.
“Guardians of the Galaxy” was never one of Marvel’s flagship titles, so it surprised everyone when Marvel announced they would be adapted into a movie, and it surprised everyone even more when the 2014 movie became a hit. No character was more popular (well, except for baby Groot) than Peter Quill, who called himself Star-Lord, but he was a very different take in the movie than the comics.
First appearing in “Marvel Preview” #4 in 1976 by Steve Gan and Steve Englehart, the Star-Lord of the comics was an introverted jerk who became a stern intergalactic police officer. It wasn’t until the 2008 series that Star-Lord became a member and leader of the Guardians of the Galaxy. In the movie, Star-Lord was more like a wisecracking Indiana Jones with a long coat and a helmet that materialized on his head. After the success of the movie, Star-Lord got his own series in 2016 where he wore a brown coat and his iconic helmet, just like the movie.
Electro is one of Spider-Man’s oldest and most dangerous enemies with another look that’s pretty much stayed consistent throughout his career. First appearing in 1964’s “The Amazing Spider-Man” #9 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, Electro is a villain with electrical powers and a green bodysuit with lightning bolts coming out of his mask. In 2014, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” introduced Electro on the big screen, played by Jamie Foxx. The movie version ditched the green Spandex for a new look where Electro’s skin was blue with lightning bolts running through it.
Marvel was way ahead of the game as usual, introduced a new “Amazing Spider-Man” series that same year with a new look for Electro. 2014’s “The Amazing Spider-Man” #1 by Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos showed Electro breaking out of prison, no longer wearing the lightning mask but with lightning scars on his face and turning blue as he powered up. Shocking.
7. NICK FURY
Nick Fury was created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee in “Nick Fury and His Howling Commandos” #1 in 1963. Originally the leader of an Army unit, Fury later went on to become a spy in charge of the secret agency S.H.I.E.L.D. until the Ultimate universe introduced a radical new version.
In 2001’s “Ultimate Marvel Team-Up” #5 (Brian Michael Bendis, Mike Allred), Nick Fury became an African-American man who was modeled on Samuel L. Jackson, who in turn later played Fury in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Marvel apparently worried casual fans wouldn’t recognize the white cigar-chomping Fury of the comics. In 2012’s “Battle Scars” #1 (Matt Fraction, Chris Yost, Scot Eaton, Cullen Bunn, Paul Neary), an African-American soldier named Marcus Johnson discovered he was Nick Fury’s son. Johnson also discovered his real name was Nicholas Fury, Jr. After getting his eye cut out and joining S.H.I.E.L.D., he replaced Nick Fury Sr. and dropped the Jr. A complicated solution to a simple problem.
6. IRON MAN
1963’s “Tales of Suspense” #39 (Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Don Heck, Jack Kirby) introduced Iron Man, also known as the billionaire genius Tony Stark. As a war profiteer who used his engineering skills to make a metal suit of armor to fight evil, Stark was always known as a confident but troubled soul. He had a problem with alcohol and his artificial heart made him a sympathetic and well-liked character. He wasn’t exactly a mortician, but he wasn’t a stand-up comedian, either.
In 2008, Robert Downey Jr. made his debut as “Iron Man” and upended Tony Stark forever. His portrayal of Stark was as an arrogant and wisecracking billionaire more interested in babes and booze than fighting crime. Suddenly, the Tony Stark of the comics seemed ridiculously stern and serious. That may be why the comics had Stark cracking wise with the best of them. Or maybe having a hit movie can put a smile on anyone’s face.
Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, “The X-Men” #4 in 1964 introduced Mortimer Toynbee, better known by his codename Toad. Toad was a hunchbacked mutant with the ability to leap really high, which somehow made him one of the elite members of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. He was a persistent enemy of the X-Men, but more for his role as Magneto’s sidekick than his powers. When 1999’s “X-Men” hit theaters, Ray Park played Toad with a whole new skill set.
The cinematic version of Toad had leaping powers, but also had wall-crawling, a super-long prehensile tongue and could spit a quick-hardening mucus. That made Marvel decide to upgrade Toad in the comics in 2001’s “X-Men Forever.” In the miniseries, Fabian Nicieza and Kevin Maguire presented a time travel story where Toad was hurt and given a medical treatment that got rid of his hunchback and also gave him the long tongue of the movies. Gross but cool.
4. PEPPER POTTS
First appearing in “Tales of Suspense” #45 by Stan Lee and Don Heck in 1963, Virginia “Pepper” Potts was Tony Stark’s loyal secretary and personal assistant. Her main role in the comics was to be hopelessly in love with Stark, but she evolved to become as smart and savvy at business as her boss. She left Stark Industries to marry Happy Hogan, and in 2007 even joined a California super-team called the Order. She left her secretarial work far behind.
Enter the movie “Iron Man,” where Potts was back to being Stark’s assistant. Once again, Marvel decided this couldn’t stand, so in 2008, Pepper Potts decided to put her independence behind her and went back to work for Stark as his assistant again. However, she did get something out of it: being caught in a blast that forced her to wear an electromagnet in her chest, which also powered her new armor as the superhero Rescue. That kind of makes up for the demotion.
3. SCARLET WITCH AND QUICKSILVER
We’ll take on both these characters as one entry, because they’ve always been a team and their fates are tied together. Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver first appeared as a brother and sister team in 1964’s “X-Men” #4 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. The two mutants went on to rebel against Magneto and join the Avengers, and that’s where things got complicated.
Since the two characters are related to both the X-Men and the Avengers, the movie rights for Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver were split between the two franchises. Fox (the studio that owns the rights to “X-Men”) agreed to allow the duo to appear in the “Avengers” movie franchise, provided there be no mention of them being mutants. In 2015’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” the two are experiments created by Hydra scientists. Since Marvel owns the movie rights and comics, this was a simple fix. In 2015’s “Uncanny Avengers” #4 (Rick Remender, Gerry Duggan, Daniel Acuña), Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch discovered they were experiments by the High Evolutionary, so they weren’t mutants after all. In other words, Marvel said, “Take that, Fox.”
She first appeared as a villain for “Ms. Marvel” #16 in 1978, a mutant who could change shape to match anyone she wanted. As a persistent enemy of the X-Men in the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, she’s been one of their most dangerous foes, so it wasn’t a surprise when she showed up in the first “X-Men” movie. What was a surprise was how she was completely naked, except for some strategically placed scales. The change was explained by director Bryan Singer as a connection to her chameleon-like powers, and also allowing her to change her clothes along with her skin. Having the role played by a curvy supermodel probably helped in that decision.
In “X-Men Forever,” Toad’s transformation was connected to Mystique’s as well. When the ship tried to heal him after a terrible injury, the process was interrupted and Mystique used her body to reconnect it. The surge of energy caused her to change and grow scales like the movie version. The change didn’t last long, but they tried.
Since the first appearance of Spider-Man in 1962’s “Amazing Fantasy” #15 (Stan Lee, Steve Ditko), he’s had his web-shooters. The bracelets he wore around his wrists were kept packed with a special solution that he used to spray thin streams into spider webbing. Some people have asked, though, how did a high school kid like Parker come up with the web-shooters? Why didn’t he shoot webbing on his own like a spider?
That may be why, in the first “Spider-Man” movie, Peter Parker didn’t create mechanical web shooters. He instead had organic spinnerets that let him shoot webbing out of his wrists. The organic webbing moved to the comics in 2005, where Spider-Man went through a story arc known as “The Other.” After being “killed” and reborn from a cocoon, he gained new powers including organic web shooters, but he lost access to most of those powers and went back to his mechanical web shooters again. Even the movie Spider-Man has gone back to mechanical webbing, so everything’s back to normal.
Do you think the comics should change to fit the movies? Or should the movies be trying to get closer to the comics? Let us know in the comments!