From Comics Buyer’s Guide #1679:
“Joey, do you like movies about gladiators?
- Captain Oveur, Airplane! (1980)
This issue’s theme is Green Lantern. Unfortunately, I don’t care
about Green Lantern. Oh, sure, I’ll probably see the movie at some
point. Maybe at the theater, maybe when it comes out on DVD. But
the current 7000+ Green Lanterns and the several dozen flavors they
come in don’t do anything for me. God bless you if you enjoy them.
There’s no law, nor should there be, that says you have to share my
interests and opinions.
I wasn’t always so ambivalent about Green Lantern. Way back in the
1960s, when I discovered the Marvel comic books of Stan Lee, Jack
Kirby, Steve Ditko, and others, Green Lantern was one of the five
DC titles I kept buying regularly. The others, because I know
you’re curious, were: Adventure Comics with the Legion of Super-
Heroes, Challengers of the Unknown, Doom Patrol, and Justice League
of America. But where legendary editor Julius Schwartz made sparse
use of all those other GLs, making their occasional appearances
something special, the current version of the franchise is guided
by the notion that, if one GL is exciting, then seven thousand more
with the same exact power would be even more exciting. I yawn in
Though I’m more interested in actual comic books than comic-book
movies, the latter do hold some fascination and interest for me.
Recently, the website “A Dispensable List of Comic Book Lists”
[scrimbrown.wordpress.com] posted a list of “17 Films and TV Shows
Inspired by Comics and Graphic Novels that Often Get Mistaken by
Non-Comic Fans as Films and TV Shows that Weren’t Inspired by
Comics and Graphic Novels.” On the list:
A History of Violence (2005)
Road to Perdition (2002)
30 Days of Night (2007)
Ghost World (2010)
V for Vendetta (2006)
From Hell (2001)
The Walking Dead (2010)
The Rocketeer (1991)
The Losers (2010)
Bulletproof Monk (2003)
Human Target (1992, 2010)
Looking over the list, I have read the source material for 11 of
the movies and seen nine of them. Seeing a list like this sort of
brings out the “completist” in me. I’ll likely try to read and
watch the ones I haven’t yet read or watched.
A while back, I did spend a weekend with a quintet of comic-book
movies on DVD. First up was Red, loosely based on the Warren
Ellis/Cully Hammer series about “retired, extremely dangerous” CIA
agents. I found it great fun, which was not unexpected for a movie
that starred Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, Morgan Freeman, John
Malkovich, and Helen Mirren, all favorites of mine.
Less enjoyable was The Losers. I’d read the first two issues of
the comic-book series, but didn’t much like them. I thought the
movie was better than the comic book, but couldn’t really rate it
any higher than “barely watch-able.”
Iron Man 2 was an okay sequel to the first film, which, at the
time, I considered one of the best of the comics movies. But, the
sequel failed in two areas. First, none of the characters, save for
Happy Hogan and Agent Coulson, were likeable. Tony Stark was a
jerk, Rhodey was a jerk, Nick Fury was a jerk, the Black Widow was
a jerk, even Pepper was, for all her physical charms, someone I’d
probably avoid at a party.
The other area that disappointed me? Let me put it this way: the
“big bad” in the first Iron Man was basically another Iron Man. In
this second movie, the “big bad” commanded an army of unmanned Iron
Man robots and turned them against Iron Man and “War Machine.” I
don’t like multiple Iron Men anymore than I like multiple Green
Lanterns. Here’s hoping the inevitable Iron Man 3 manages to come
up with a different kind of foe for Stark...and that we don’t see
the “War Machine” armor again.
One more Iron Man 2 note. I was absolutely tickled to see how many
comic-book creators were listed in the end-credits. Besides Stan
Lee, Jack Kirby, Larry Lieber, and Don Heck, who worked on the very
first comic-book appearance of Iron Man, it looked like over a
dozen other creators got a mention. I couldn’t catch all of the
names - something I hope to do on a second viewing - but writer
Robert Bernstein was among them. As “R. Berns,” Bernstein scripted
the Iron Man story that introduced Pepper Potts and Happy Hogan in
Tales of Suspense #45 [September 1963]. A month later, in Tales of
Suspense #46 [October 1963), he scripted the first appearance of
Anton Vanko a.k.a. the Crimson Dynamo.
Up next was Jonah Hex, a film that was pretty much universally
panned. I started making “uh-oh” sounds when I realized the origin
of Hex was being told in drawings and voice over narration. Was it
an artistic decision or a budgetary one?
The plot of Hex was too close for comfort to that of the 1999 Wild
Wild West, a movie not fondly remembered by me. You have your
crazy murderous Confederate general still fighting the Civil War,
planning to destroy the United States with a super-weapon. Points
to Hex for having the less silly weapon.
One thing I did like about Hex was a change from the comics. In the
movie, due to his near-death experience and mystical restoration to
life, Jonah can revive dead people temporarily and learn what they
know about anyone they were involved with in their lives. It was
nicely creepy and effective in moving the film along, a particular
blessing with this film.
The acting in Jonah Hex wasn’t as bad as many critics made it out
to be, but it wasn’t good either. All in all, I would rare the
movie “watch-able.” I liked it better than The Losers.
The final comics movie in my marathon was Solomon Kane, even though
it’s not technically a comics movie. Robert E. Howard created the
character in a prose story that first appeared in the pulp magazine
Weird Tales in 1928. The character and the original pulp stories
have been adapted to comics, sometimes quite well, but Kane himself
isn’t original to the comics.
Solomon Kane was made by Czech, French, and British companies, and
filmed in the Czech Republic. The Kane of this movie, though he
does covert to the Puritan faith after being rescued by a kind and
pious family, isn’t the steadfast warrior of the REH stories. The
movie Kane is not nearly as certain of what God demands of him as
his prose and comics counterparts.
Solomon Kane was released overseas in 2009, no theatrical release
in this country. I think it may be available on DVD, but I can’t
state that for certain. I was sent an “advance” copy of the movie
for my comments.
Though I would have preferred the Solomon Kane of the stories and
comics, I enjoyed this movie almost as much as I enjoyed Iron Man
2 and Red. It has big bloody spectacle, convincing monsters, and
intriguing human characters and conflicts. While I think it would
be underappreciated by American movie theater audiences, I likewise
think that a Blu-Ray/DVD release would be extremely well received
by fans of REH and the comics based on his creations.
I should probably keep better track of comics-related movies than
I do. Fortunately, my friend Bill Thom regularly posts a list of
future film release dates at his “Coming Attractions” website,
which offers the latest news on pulp-related publications, comics,
films, and TV shows at:
It’s thanks to Bill I knew Thor, which I really want to see on the
big screen, is being released on May 6. I might be less interested
in X-Men First Class [June 3] and the afore-mentioned Green Lantern
[June 17], but I’ll likely see those two at my local multi-plex
theater as well.
Almost as high as Thor on my personal interest chart would be The
First Avenger: Captain America [July 22]. But how did Marvel miss
the sure bet of opening this movie on July 4?
Upcoming films I’ll likely watch on DVD include Cowboys & Aliens
[July 29] and Conan [August 19]. I’m on the fence when it comes to
John Carter of Mars [March 9, 2012].
Also being released in 2012, The Avengers [June 8, 2012] is another
gotta-see-it-on-the-big-screen movie for me. Some parts of the
production are being filmed in nearby Cleveland. I tested for the
Stan Lee cameo, but I was told I was too old to be convincing as my
beloved former boss. Damn his unnatural vigor!
Writing about comic-book movies usually leads me to thinking about
comic-book movies, live-action TV shows, and animated series that
haven’t been made yet.
From the pages of various Marvel comic books, “It! The Living
Colossus” would be a natural for the SyFy Channel. My face goes
all goofy-happy when I think of all those great Lee/Kirby monsters
that could be pitted against the Colossus.
My Black Lightning/Jeff Pierce character would translate well to
movies or, my own preference, live-action TV. Over the years, a
number of legitimate producers have expressed interest in this
character, but nothing has ever come of it.
My musings go beyond the characters and title I’ve worked on in the
past. The TV networks clearly want to do super-heroes, but their
recent attempts - Heroes, No Ordinary Family, and The Cape -
haven’t satisfied me. Were I one of those mega-powerful Hollywood
potentates, I would green-light my pal Thom Zahler’s Love and Capes
faster than a speeding bullet.
Love and Capes is definitely about something: the very human, very
real romance between the world’s mightiest super-hero and the
terrific woman he falls in love with. It’s both a sitcom and a
sensational super-hero tale. I’d love to see such a suitable-for-
all-ages program on TV.
Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba’s Daytripper might be a challenge to
translate to the big or even the small screen. That’s because it
packed so much story, so much brilliant story, into its ten issues.
When I think about how amazing this Vertigo series was and when I
think how cool its international settings would look on the screen,
there’s no doubt in my mind that I would happily hand over my hard-
earned cash to see such a movie.
I could see Joe Simon and Jack Kirby’s Stuntman as the basis for a
super-hero comedy/adventure/musical. Consider all the press that
has come with the ill fortunes of the Spider-Man musical that may
or may not ever have an official opening on Broadway. Add some
malice aforethought to those ill fortunes, the comical detecting of
pompous actor Don Daring, and the two-fisted abilities of stuntman
Fred Drake - a ringer for the dim-witted Daring - and you’d have an
exciting and hilarious film.
I’ve often said Mark Crilley’s Akiko, his epic adventure of a pre-
teen girl on the planet Smoo, would be wonderful fun for movie-
goers of all ages. It has so many great characters just waiting to
be come to life in either animated or live-action form. This would
be a movie that could and would bring the action and the funny in
Want to talk another kid-friendly potential blockbuster? Jake
Bell’s The Amazing Adventures of Nate Banks, short novels about a
comics-reading middle-school student who becomes an adviser and a
sidekick to actual super-heroes, are crying out to be introduced to
a larger audience.
Based on the comics of Carl Barks, Disney’s DuckTales toons were
pretty sweet. However, it’s 2011 and time is right for a big-
budget animated thriller starring Uncle Scrooge, Donald Duck, and
the Junior Woodchucks in a story as close to the genius of Barks as
humanly possible. No sugar-coating of characters and their comical
flaws. No softening of villains like the Beagle Boys and Magica De
Spell. The original Barks stories are just as terrific today as
they were when “Uncle Carl” first created them. A new movie could
catch that lightning.
My above suggestions barely scratch the surface of comics that
would make great life-action movies, animated features, or TV shows
We need to see Wendy and Richard Pini’s Elfquest on the big screen.
Joe Simon and Jack Kirby’s Fighting American could be an apt venue
for action-packed political satire. Max Allan Collins and Terry
Beatty’s Ms. Tree would be a fantastic role for a number of modern
actresses. I could do this all day if I wasn’t running out of this
month’s allotted space. But I have.
This is a game any fan can play. I’d love to see what suggestions
you come up with. Until then...
I’ll see you at the movies!
© 2011 Tony Isabella