From Top to Bottom: Comic Movie Adaptations

by Matt

Welcome to the 4th edition of the weekly "From Top to Bottom" column! Every week I will look at something within the comics industry and give you my opinion on what I think is the best and what I think ranks amongst the bottom-feeders.

Last week I took a look at the Top and Bottom of Comic Crossovers. Instead of looking at crossovers that I wanted to see (like I said I would last week) in celebration of the new Indiana Jones movie coming out this week, I will be taking a look at the top and bottom of comic book movie adaptations.

There have been a few adaptations that are worth owning, most others are are sub par at best and others seem to have been so rushed that you can tell that they are only attempting to cash in on the movie's popularity. The biggest problem that movie adaptations are usually one-shots or short mini-series and that means there is little room to go through an entire movie and something is missing. So why should you buy an adaptation you ask? Well, in my case there are a couple of reasons. The biggest is if I am either a huge fan of the movie or a huge fan of the creators involved. Some adaptations are pulled from the original script so they may contain scenes that are not in the movie. A good example of that would be the adaptations of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Alien and the Empire Strikes Back. We'll see a few of those on this list. And now, on to the Top 3!

This is the adaptation of the first Spider-Man movie. It made the list because I thought it was a decent adaptation of the movie, they really put as much as they could in this and it didn't feel like I missed anything. But the biggest reason I picked this up is certainly because of the creators, Stan Lee and Alan Davis. If you don't know it now, you certainly will learn that Alan Davis is my all-time favorite creator. His art was well worth the pickup. This adaptation felt like the movie.

2)Bram Stoker's Dracula
Not only is it one of my favorite movies, but it was drawn by one of my favorite artists. This 4-issue Topps mini-series adapted Francis Ford Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula by Roy Thomas and with art by Mike Mignola. This is a very faithful adaptation of the movie, Mignola's art was definitely well suited for this book, he captured the same creepiness 'feel' that the movie had.

1)Army of Darkness
Again it is one of my favorite movies along with one of my favorite painters in John Bolton. Based on the actual screenplay by Ivan and Sam Raimi, this follows the original script for Army of Darkness. It includes scenes that were not in theatrical release and includes the apocalyptic ending and not the S-Mart ending. Bolton easily handles the dark, spooky art while staying incredibly true to the characters appearance in the movie. The books follow the script closely and includes most everything that is in the movie, in fact you get a little bit more.

Now some adaptations are just not as good as they could be. Here are my Bottom 3 choices for comic book movie adaptations.
3)Aliens: Newt's Tale
This technically is not an official movie adaptation of the movie Aliens but it is close enough. The series does have some bright spots (which is why it is #3 and not #1), the brightness being we got to see what James Cameron really wanted to include in the theatrical release of Aliens. At the time this 2-issue series came out, we didn't have a Director's Cut of the movie, this was the closest we had. So it was cool to see how the Aliens invaded the community on Acheron and gave a good back story of the young survivor Newt. While the series did start out good, it got progressively got worse. The art suffered (the Aliens didn't look scary) and the last half of the series succumbed to what usually makes adaptations terrible. They crammed as much as they could into it and even changed the story slightly just to accommodate the lack of space.

2)Predator 2
Now this is about the comic book movie adaptation and not the movie itself! (I am looking in your direction Jon) This adaptation suffered from all the usual problems comic book movie adaptations have. The art was too cartoonish, it was not dark and campy like the movie. The writing missed on some of the better lines in the movie and it just couldn't capture the B-movie feel that the movie had. And again, Dark Horse couldn't fit everything the movie had in the two meager issues they put out. Reading this adaptation pales in comparison to the movie.

1)Return of the Jedi
I was sooo excited when the first issue came out! I had just seen the movie and couldn't wait to read the comic. And this looked like it was phoned in through a rusty old telegraph. The art was scribbling at best, the coloring was completely off, the characters barely looked like they should, it was cluttered and rushed. Marvel had 4 issues to adapt the movie, it still seemed really rushed. The major space fight between the Rebellion and the Empire in space got two panels! Out of all the Star Wars adaptations, this one was the worst.


Dan said...

I never understood why Return of the Jedi was a stand-alone mini-series and not part of the regular Marvel series like A New Hope and Empire.

That said, I LOVED the adaptation as a kid. It allowed me to relive the movie whenever I wanted. I cut out the character pin-ups in the back of the issues and had them all over my school binders and room.

The General said...

Yeah, I'm with Dan. I really liked the Return of the Jedi mini-series when I was little. I remembe rhaving it in oversized format before th emovie even came out, and it allowed me to paw through the pages, and imagine what I was going to get to see in the theater.

Also, it's not an adaptation but I thought I'd mentioned that I really liked the second Aliens mini-series Dark Horse did. The events follow a grown up Newt and Hicks as the battle against a general who is trying to train the Aliens to be his soldiers. It came out after the second Aliens, and is still better than any of the movies that came after it.

Brandon said...

I also loved the Return of the Jedi mini when it first came out. I bought a set for $1 at HeroCon a few years ago and was surprised that I still liked it. It wasn't perfect, but it was a solid read. I believe DH did a comic adaptation too, and I seem to remember liking it as well. I'll have to dig out my Star Wars boxes to check.

Dan said...

I think the Dark Horse issues were just touched up reprints of the Marvel editions. They did two prestige format issues for each movie.

Matt said...

You guys are all WRONG! :) Now the Empire Strikes Back adaptation wasn't too bad.

The General said...

Y'know, maybe I am thinking of the Empire Strikes Back adaptation. I haven't looked at either in years. But, I now remember my dad reading it, and having that be house I found out about Luke and Leia.

Who knows. My brain = swiss cheese.

The General said...


Yup. Swiss cheese.

Sean said...

I always liked the Archie Goodwin/Walt Simonson Alien adaptation best.

Brandon said...

I also put an order in for the nifty Indy Omnibus for Dark Horse. I look forward to reading those tales (some for the first time) because of the movie.