The popularity of comic books has increased exponentially over the last 20 years. They are no longer the property of the high school geek or the quiet nerd. A lot of people read them, and a lot of comic books, or rather graphic novels, are solely for adult audiences and deal with issues and themes not usually synonymous with the comic book genre. Graphic novels are no longer just about super heroes, and super heroes are no longer just about saving the day. With that increase in popularity has come a whole lot of movie adaptations of a whole lot of comic books. But like any film adaptation of any literature source, many of these movies have completely butchered their source material, much to the disdain of fans. But, many have created extremely faithful adaptations that provide a wonderful visual accompaniment to many much loved comics and graphic novels. Here, we take a look at some of the most faithful movie adaptations of some truly awesome comic books and graphic novels.
V For Vendetta
V For Vendetta is a graphic novel written by Alan Moore, a powerhouse in the graphic novel arena. The story is set in a dystopian future, and post nuclear war. England is a fascist police state, but there are rebellious factions operating in the city. One such rebel is V, a Guy Fawkes mask wearing anti-hero. The story follows V and his young protégée Evey Hammond as they try to take back power and bring down the government. This is one of the most faithful adaptations of a comic book on our list, with Alan Moore even going so far as to criticise the movie for being too faithful. His reasoning for this? He wrote the novel as a response to post-Thatcher Britain but felt a more modern retelling of his story should reflect the era in which it was being told. Whether you agree with Moore on this point or not, the movie was a huge success and V’s Guy Fawkes mask has become a symbol for a all activists trying to make a change to corrupt systems of power and hierarchy. It is a truly inspiring read, and also a cautionary tale of where power and corruption can lead, and how easy it could be for fascism to truly take hold.
Sin City is a series of graphic novels by Frank Miller, set in the fictional underworld of Basin City. The books are neo-noir crime stories with that typical Miller edge to them. They were adapted for screen in 2005 by Robert Rodriquez who decided to keep the stylised black and white comic book aesthetic, and transitioned it to film. The actors were made to look exactly like their comic book counterparts, with the use of CGI and prosthetics. The whole world is a CGI creation and many scenes are lifted directly from the comic books. Frank Miller was also brought on board as Co-Director, which both enhanced the visual direction the movie took, and also ensured that the source material was fully respected. The movie is an amalgamation of some of the stories from the first few books and despite its overt comic book stylistics, has a gritty realism that allows the movie to stand out from other comic book adaptations.
Ghost World is a collection of comic strips by Dan Clowes that were originally published in issues 11–18 of Clowes’ comic book series, Eightball. The strip centres around Enid and Rebecca, two teenage best friends who go about their daily lives, hanging out, being generally cynical angsty teenagers. It is often times bleak, often times funny, and is a prosaic examination of the fraught passage from teenager to adult. In the move adaptation, Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson are perfectly cast as our two protagonists. The movie completely encapsulates the books themes of alienation and intense teenage friendship, and succinctly portrays the existential crises present in every over-thinking teenagers life. Cowles co-wrote the screenplay with Director Terry Zwigoff. This meant that he had a level of control over the adaptation, and the movie captures the comics visual tone exactly.
Another Frank Miller offering, this adaptation is one of the most faithful to the source material in existence. There are even points throughout the movie that, if you were to pause it, are the exact same, down to the last detail, as the corresponding panel in the graphic novel. It is painstaking in its accuracy. Utilising a similar technique to Sin City , the movie brings to life Millers world exactly. Shot in sepia tones with vivid, high contrast red used to portray blood, the movie is like a literal comic book sprung to life on screen. Both book and film are a retelling of the myth of King Leonidas of Sparta, who, with his force of just 300 men, fought the Persians at Thermopylae in 480 B.C. The movie encapsulates everything that is great about comic books, and by using slow motion camera techniques during intense battle scenes, it gives the viewers time to take in the carnage, in a similar way that reading a graphic novel does.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Captain America is a much loved character in the Marvel universe, both in comics and on screen. Traditionally his stories have been laden with political undertones and meaningful messages. While the movie’s story-line differs slightly from the comic book version, The Winter Soldier manages to perfectly capture the heroism of the Captain America comic books. Thematically, this movie is spot on in its portrayal of the complex relationship between Cap and his former friend and sidekick, Bucky, aka The Winter Soldier. Chris Evans is the perfect choice to play Captain America too, and the movie manages to bring the early comic book ethos of the Captain America comics into a modern setting, while still remaining true to its source material.
Blue Is The Warmest Colour
Blue Is The Warmest Colour is a Julie Maroh’s graphic novel. The movie won the Palme d’Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, and is an extremely faithful adaptation of the original graphic novel. The story centres around two young girls who meet in college and fall in love, and follows their lives together throughout the years. It is a beautiful and touching story, however, there were some concerns about the movie adaptation raised by members of the LGBT+ community. They were worried that male director, Abdellatif Kechiche, would not be able to correctly capture the nuances of lesbian romance, that are so prevalent and important to the overall themes in the graphic novel. It was a concern that was mirrored by Maroh herself, who has said that she felt Kechiche’s male perspective adversely affected this aspect of the movie. Aside from this element, the overall effect of the movie is an almost blow by blow account of the original material.
The most literal translation of source material to screen on this list has to be Marjane Satrapi’s adaptation of her own graphic novel Persepolis. The film is an animation that uses the same simplistic yet effective visual style as the comic. It is a semi-autobiographical tale of the young Satrapi, and her yearning to become a part of the revolution against the Shah of Iran. It serves as a warning also, about how an idealistic uprising, and search for justice and equality, can be taken over by sinister, insidious forces. Due to the fact that the movie is an animation, it is literally the exact same as the comic. It is a beautifully woven story, and is truly an essential reading, and viewing, especially with the state of the world at the moment.
30 Days Of Night
Both the comic book and the movie adaptation of 30 Days Of Night were written and developed by Steve Niles. Set against the backdrop of an Alaskan town during its 30 day polar night, both movie and graphic novel depict a town under siege, by the cold, by the darkness and most worryingly, by vampires. The movie is slightly underrated, and misses some of the marks hit by the high octane intensity that is laced throughout the comics. Despite this, it is an extremely faithful adaptation of the comic books, and makes for a thoroughly entertaining vampire flick, with some interesting tweaks on traditional vampire lore.