Comic books that adapt movies are more than not, a disappointing shadow of the original. This is somewhat understandable, as we’re dealing with two completely different mediums (although there are certainly parallels) and deadlines are often extremely tight with the creative team working from an unfinished script or print. Every now and then, however, you’ll find one that works beautifully as a companion piece to the film. Here’s a look at some fun, and possibly great adaptations that are worth checking out.
I no expert on the world of Frank Herbert’s Dune, but David Lynch’s film is certainly a bit of a beautiful disaster. Marvel released it as a 3-issue miniseries, a mass market ‘pocketbook’ as well as in magazine sized format as part of the Marvel Comics Super Special series. Ralph Macchio wrote the script, and it’s not much easier to follow than the film but the real treat here is the artwork by Bill Sienkiewicz. In my humble opinion, this adaptation of Dune is the key point in Sienkiewicz’s evolution from his older style to the full on, more abstract style that we saw from Elektra: Assassin onwards. This is a very interesting piece for the comic book historian.
Yes, this is not a mistake. I do fully intend to say glowing things about Darby O’Gill and the Little People. It’s a rather charming tale of a father trying to fight off old age and remain a hero in his daughter’s eyes. I’m not sure who was behind the script (let’s say Paul S. Newman as an educated guess) but it is very lively and endearing. The #1 reason to pick up this book, however, is that the artwork is 100% Alex Toth. I’ll even go as far as saying that this is Toth at the absolutely top of his game, demonstrating that he draw anything with great style. This was initially published as part of Dell’s Four Color series, but a much easier to find (and more affordable) version is the Gold Key reprint that hit shelves nearly a decade later.
Disney’s The Black Hole was not quite the commercial or critical success that the studio had been hoping for, as it tried to enter a new market with more adult fare. I was probably about 7 years old when it hits theatres, so it worked just fine for me. A more recent discovery has been the Gold Key/Whitman adaptation of the film. The script is very tight, and improves on the movie’s rather slow pacing and the robots aren’t all that annoying once you remove the voices of Roddy McDowall and Slim Pickens. It is beautifully illustrated by Dan Spiegle, who chooses to create his own character designs rather than simply draw the cast. His Dr. Reinhart is far more menacing and Mad Scientesty than Maximillian Schell’s version. It’s available in a tabloid size, but the single issues can be found for next to nothing.
This one can be a bit tough to find, but there are two versions and the second is often more affordable. The Creature From the Black Lagoon is a terrific movie, filled with underwater atmosphere and a real slow burn. That’s not the easiest thing to convey in the comic book format, but it is done very, very well here in The Creature. My hat goes off to the always terrific Bob Jenney, one of the most underappreciated of all Golden and Silver Age comics. The man could draw anything, and his work his is beautiful. Keep an eye out for this one and grab it if you see it, as it doesn’t hit the market every day.
I caught Sharkfighters on TV a few years back. It’s a fun, but often silly movie about testing for shark repellent in World War Two (why didn’t they just call Batman). The adaptation is a vast improvement, mainly because of the nice John Buscema artwork. If you’ve ever seen Buscema’s 50s style, check this one out. I found a beat up copy for a mere $4 and it was a terrific purchase. Who can refuse Victor Mature? I get the felling his character also survived the sinking of the USS Indianapolis. Great fun!
For more comic book tomfoolery, check out my blog Seduction of the Indifferent
Next Week: Another 5 movie adaptations.
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