Top 5 Films You (Probably) Never Knew Were Based On Comics

Comic book movies aren’t always capes, neon and Spandex (or should that be moody lighting and leather these days?). Below, I’ve listed 5 popular films that you may be surprised to hear are actually based on comics…ok, 3 of them (if you know your stuff) won’t be a surprise but the last two? I didn’t find out until years later that they started in the funny pages…so, in no particular order of preference…

2Guns Join

2Guns. Originally published in 2007 on a 5 issue run, written by Steven Grant, BOOM! Studios’ 2Guns is the most recent film on the list. It tells the story of “friends” and undercover agents Robert Trench (Denzel Washington) and Michael Stigman (Mark Wahlberg) as they attempt to salvage what’s left of their lives and careers after a failed attempt to infiltrate a drug cartel and subsequent betrayal. 2Guns is fairly by-the-numbers plot wise and in terms of direction – yet it’s great fun and a very good movie. Relying on the unlikely chemistry between, and individual charisma of its two leads to drive the film, you find yourself being drawn in by them – they’re clearly enjoying themselves and you can’t help but find yourself smiling too. Bill Paxton as Earl is another stand-out, both in terms of performance and character – someone else clearly having a great time on the set. Highly recommended, pulpy late night viewing.

BOOM! and Grant have recently announced a sequel – 3Guns – is to be published shortly. Let’s hope it’s good enough to make it to the big screen, too.

AHOV Join

A History Of Violence. My favourite film on the list by some way. Directed by David Cronenberg and starring Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello & Ed Harris, 2005’s film was based on the 1997 graphic novel of the same name, written by John Wagner (better known as the creator of Judge Dredd). It’s a rare instance of the movie surpassing the source material. Mortensen’s deli-owner Tom Stall hides a past that is revealed after he kills two men trying to rob his shop. The extraordinary Ed Harris plays mobster Carl Fogerty, who pursues Stall believing him to be Joey Cusack, whom he had dealings with in the mob in Philly. The heart of the movie (and why, in my opinion it’s better than the GN) is Tom’s wife Edie (Maria Bello) and son Jack (Ashton Holmes). It’s their struggles in the film to assimilate the Joey who was with the Tom that is that separates the story between the two media – in Wagner’s story Edie and Jack are both supportive of Tom through thick and thin. As you’d probably expect from Cronenberg, the film looks stunning. Harris and William Hurt (as Joey’s brother Richie) steal the show, giving real menace (Harris) and pathos (Hurt) to their respective roles. A truly great film, with an even better point: every act of violence against another has a consequence.

WAnted Join

Wanted. Possibly the film that most of you will be familiar with, though I’m not sure how many of you will know of the Mark Millar / J.G. Jones 2003 comic series that it was based on. Published by Top Cow, it’s the reverse of AHOV – the comic blows the (very decent) film away. Able to rely more on the flexibility and diversity of theme available in comics, Millar explores a world where the super-villains won. The book has been referred to as doing for the bad guys what Watchmen did for the heroes in the ’80s by The Times. Now that’s how you compliment a comic. The film is only loosely based on the comic and is still worth a watch. Instead of villains, we’re faced with a secret society of assassins, helmed by Sloan, played by the ever-awesome Morgan Freeman. Ably headlined by James McAvoy and Angelina Jolie, it’s Timur Bekmambetov’s direction that truly makes the film worth watching. Hyper-stylised and filled to the brim with high-energy action scenes, Wanted is a little bit bananas, but it’s definitely the good kind of crazy…

Timecop Join

Timecop. Now we’re cooking with gas…TIMECOP! Everybody’s second favourite time travel tale was based on a Mark Verheiden tale in Dark Horse Comics. Who knew, right?! I’m sure I don’t have to remind anyone, but Timecop is the seminal 1994 sci-fi action vehicle for Jean-Claude van Damme, here starring in his most famous role of “guy who knows martial arts and can kick ARSE”. Directed by Peter Hyams (the brilliant Capricorn One) and co-starring the late, great Ron Silver as Aaron McComb (love it…hair on my comb…always thought they should have shaved Ron’s head for the role, or just cast someone bald…), the ne’er-do-well of the piece. Ending in an unforgettable death scene (TWO Ron Silvers!), you should be vaguely embarrassed if you haven’t caught it.

Embarrassed, yes, but if you haven’t seen number 5 on the list you should be flat-out ASHAMED of yourself…

Weird Science Join

Weird Science. Based on Al Feldstein’s fifth issue of EC Comics Weird Science, titled “Made Of The Future”, let’s face it…this film transcends its comic book origins, mainly down to the unforgettable Oingo Boingo theme tune and ridiculous premise. Written and directed by the inimitable John Hughes, and starring an A-list ensemble cast of ’80s talent (Anthony Michael Hall, the other guy who played his friend, Kelly LeBrock and, again, a scene thieving Bill Paxton), Weird Science is required viewing for any boy between the age of eleven and…well…eleventy. Do I need to remind you of the plot that centres on two teenagers playing at creating the perfect woman…when a lightning bolt hits the house and….SHE’S ALIVE!…? No? Didn’t think so. Still great fun nearly 30 years down the line, while the Memotech MTX512 may have aged badly, the concept hasn’t and neither has the film.

Marvel-style No-Prizes to any and all who admit to putting a bra on their head as a teenager. Possibly a better prize for anyone who admits to doing it as an adult outside of a fancy dress costume. Which is a great idea…dibs on bra on the head from Weird Science as my next fancy dress costume…

Hon. mentions: Oblivion (ok…a bit cheeky as it’s unpublished but…whatever…), Road To Perdition, 30 Days Of Night, Cowboys & Aliens (a bit more obvious), Bulletproof Monk, RED, The Mask, Stardust, Ghost World, Tales From The Crypt, Men In Black, Mystery Men (only ‘cos no one remembers it at all, let alone as a comic book adaptation) and From Hell (I liked it, gruddammit).

Advertisements

Leaving Megalopolis vol. 1

Kickstarter can seem a desolate place for comic fans. Littered with the anthology dreams of the web-published, it’s rare to come across anything more exciting than a big name trying to drum up support for a niche project that’s clearly already been in the out tray of every comic book publisher. Looking for quality there really is like trying to find a diamond in a tin mine.

Then you find one – or in my case, have one brought to your attention by Twitter. Being a fan of Gail Simone’s work on Deadpool and Agent X, I’d followed her across for Birds of Prey and Secret Six, in a rare excursion to DC. Secret Six was a fantastic series, her words being paired with the artwork of Jim Calafiore, and it was a damn shame when it was cancelled after only 36 issues. It was Gail’s Twitter feed that put Leaving Megalopolis on my radar and the book became my first foray into comic book crowdfunding. I backed the alternate cover shipping of the book at $50, and added a signed plate (why wouldn’t you?!). I wasn’t the only one. Originally targeting just $34,000, Gail & Jim smashed past in short order, eventually ending up with over 4,000 backers pledging a grand total of $117,660. Stretch goals equalled backer bonuses – they were able to fill out the creative team with the colours of Jason Wright and the letters of Dave Sharpe, both of whom worked on Secret Six. Additional pages and a back-up story were added. Higher quality paper. When Gail & Jim said “bonus”, they meant it and delivered.

What of the product itself. The creative team took their time, often in the face of much wailing and gnashing of teeth of those with less patience than yours truly. I’ve always been of the mindset that creatives should take their time and get it right rather than rushing something half-arsed to market. Leaving Megalopolis delivers totally.

The creators: Gail Simone & Jim Calafiore

The creators: Gail Simone & Jim Calafiore

Plot. Main Story: Megalopolis…an idyll. The “world’s safest city”. Of course, that was before our story begins. The heroes responsible for this urban paradise have mysteriously lost their minds, turning into super-powered homicidal maniacs and trapping the citizens on their island, toying with them sadistically. We follow a The Walking Dead style group of survivors, led by Officer Mina Rios, as they attempt to escape, only to face caped danger at every point of the compass. Back-up Story: A struggling survivor stumbles upon the headquarters of a hero, occupied now only by his non-super powered sidekick…until someone comes home. A fantastic exploration of what it means to be a hero in very short order.

Regular cover: the survivors may be in trouble...

Regular cover: the survivors may be in trouble…

Words/story. Gail Simone is always going to deliver, especially when given the freedom to express herself in a setting and with characters all of her own. A simple, wordless opening effectively establishes both the fall of paradise and the impossibility of the situation facing normal human beings in Megalopolis. Filling out her characters and plot through very effective use of flashbacks, it’s a pleasure to see Simone explore mature themes freely, themes that are normally reduced to innuendo or off-panel action in most Big Two comics. For me, in this current environment of treating readers like morons and over-writing everything as to not confuse, it’s Simone’s economy that really lifts the work into the top drawer – trusting the reader to fill in the necessary gaps in the not-unreasonable expectation that if they can read, they may just be able to do so. Pace-wise, too, she doesn’t force things, allowing the tension to ebb and flow – it’s here that the flashbacks could have been obstructive, but it never feels so, as they add to our understanding of the motivations and circumstances that brought them all to this point. A real highlight – and this is proof of the benefits of overfunding – is the back-up story. Short, sweet, sweary as all hell, Jim Calafiore has delivered a magnificent nugget showing us why it doesn’t take super powers to be a super hero.

Art. Both main and back-up story are pencilled / inked by Jim Calafiore and coloured by Jason Wright. Jim’s work is definitely my kind of comic art. Harking back to the early ’90s with splash pages and heavy inks, Jim’s attention to detail delivers an apocalyptic vision of a metropolis that has been devastated by heroes gone bad. His character work is where he stands out, marrying well-trodden cape archetypes (the mouthy speedster, the boy sidekick, the keen-eyed archer, the hyper-moral boy scout, etc) with a (and this where he could get offended should he ever read this) Liefeld-esque originality, though, it must be noted, with a far better ability around feet and panel construction than Rob has ever mustered (I’m one of his few remaining fans, by the by)! Wright’s colouring is effective too, adding a vitality that contrasts nicely with Calafiore’s deep inkwork. An especially nice touch is his work in removing and isolating the flashback from the core of the story through colour – a key reason that they’re non-intrusive to the flow of the story.

Overlord, LMs God-amongst-men, before and after designs

Overlord, LMs God-amongst-men, before and after designs

I only have one complaint…I wasn’t aware this would be vol.1. and coming to the end felt painful. On the plus side, that’s a massive compliment to how lost I was in the story – and, of course, I hopefully get to back or buy volumes 2, 3, 4…and on…should Leaving Megalopolis prove successful when it launches in the retail market.

This was my first experience in backing a comic book via Kickstarter…and it won’t be my last. If they’re all of the same quality as this I’ll be a very lucky man indeed.

They'll be back...and so will I...

They’ll be back…and so will I…

An aside…I had a slight problem with delivery, my fault entirely, and had to deal with Jim personally to get it sorted. He was very helpful and got the book back to me in double-quick time. Cheers, Jim!