Since “The Adventures of Captain Marvel” premiered in serial format in 1941, comic books have had a long running relationship with the movies.
From characters as high profile as Spider Man and Superman, to third-tier characters such as Howard the Duck and The Rocketeer, Hollywood has had a longtime relationship with the comic book industry.
However, the blend between Hollywood and the comics industry is not always a good one, and has had its share of potholes in the road to get comic book properties to both the big and small screen.
During the initial beginning of the comic book/movie marriages, there was not always the best continuity between the two. For example in the 1944 “Captain America” serial , his secret identity is District Attorney Grant Gardner rather than U.S. Army Private Steve Rogers, and he carries a gun instead of his famous shield.
This was due to the fact the original script was written for an entirely different character than Captain America, but they kept the plot the same anyway for budget and time constraints.
The heroes in these series fought spies, saboteurs and other enemy combatants, due to the presence of World War 2. They occasionally drifted into sci-fi territory but soon faded away.
Superman was the star of 17, animated shorts distributed by Paramount, (they were Academy Award nominated for Best Animated Short Subject in 1942) and produced by both the Fleischer Brothers and then Famous Studios in the 1940’s. He moved onto the small screen series The Adventures of Superman, which debuted as a syndicated series in California in September 19, 1952.
In a case of the tail wagging the dog, so far as comic book continuity goes, the Superman radio series introduced and the TV series expanded on kryptonite, and Lois Lanes, infatuation with Superman. The TV series, however, was able to introduce a large audience to the character and his supporting cast.
Although this was a well done production and was a small triumph for a good comic book based show, the worst was yet to come. Attempts to create comedy based series such as Superpup (where an actor would wear a dog mask with a Superman costume) and other bad ideas were developed to create small screen versions of comic book properties. Then in 1966, the Batman TV series debuted on ABC and with it came a camp parody of superheroes that stayed with the character for years. In fact, the 1994 film’ ” Batman & Robin” leaned heavily on this mentality , and is considered by many fans to be the worst Batman movie made. The timing of this movie clashed with Tim Burton’s first darker movie that set up the then current franchise, and fact that Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns series was still fresh in the mind of many Batman fans. This film is also seen as a good example of what happens when Hollywood gets comic book movies wrong.
“I think good superhero movies help and bad superhero movies hurt the comic industry. The X-Men films, the better Batman films, the first two Spiderman films and the two Iron Man films are examples of how the films can help draw in a new audience” said Blane Mather of Houston, TX.
Cringe worthy like “Batman and Robin” or the straight to video 1994 “Captain America” is the dark side to Hollywood getting it wrong. In the comic book movie explosion of the 90’s, Hollywood tried to make profits off of characters from “The Phantom” to “Howard The Duck“. These films were a mixed bag of mediocre to just plain awful, and scared away a lot of companies from making any more comic book based movies, for some time.
Some fans though have a differing view on how Hollywood affects the comic book industry.
“Hollywood is not doing as much damage to the comic industry as the price increases are. When I was a kid, I received $10 a week in allowance. That would by about 15 books, twice a month. New books mind you. Now a ten will get you 3 books, if you are lucky. Back then, we could try out a title. Kids today don’t read comics, if they do…it’s the same stuff, not branching out(” – quote mark, no period or comma here) said Wayne Kelley of Baytown, TX.
Hollywoodand superhero movies were able to branch out, however, by directors from other genres stepping in. With Spiderman directed by Sam Rami (who also directed Evil Dead and Darkman), and X-Men directed by Bryan Singer (Director of Apt Pupil and The Usual Suspects) a new level of high profile players in comic book movies emerged.
But to almost parallel the 90’s movie issues, the industry seems to want produce not so great movies like “Catwoman” with Halle Berry (which really had nothing to do with the comic book) and“Daredevil” ,to show they can still get it wrong.
Other influence that Hollywood can exert on the comic book industry can be seen such as in the ABC series “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman”, when the title characters were married on the show. After the TV marriage, the publishers and editors of DC Comics rushed to have the comic book couple wed, which created havoc and a little confusion that reset a storyline that concerned the trials of the Superman/Lois Lane engagement storyline.
Also, the Comic Con comic book and industry show, which began 40 years ago in San Diego, has been adding many booths and casts from non sci-fi or comic based TV shows.
Shows such as Burn Notice”, “White Collar”, “Psych”, “Glee”, “Sons of Anarchy” and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia which have nothing to do with comics, sci-fi, or animation all had booths at ComicCon, and have created some confusion as to why they are there. And some fans have been amused, annoyed, and sometimes angry with these additions to a comic book fan convention.
Hollywood’s influence is already dominating recent franchises. “Spiderman”, which premiered in 2002, is being set up for a remake. According to some sources the producers believe a darker tone such as in the recent Batman movies, directed by Christopher Nolan, is the way to go, also they will be shot in 3-D to keep up with the current trend of the times.
According to Jason Griffin, who is also of Houston: “I used to think a remake of old shows into movies were great ideas but then I saw “The Brady Bunch” and “Scooby Doo” movies and changed my mind. Sometimes you should leave things alone.”
With the release of “Spiderman 3”, Marvel Comics returned Spiderman to his black costume he wore in the 80’s, and with the release of “Batman Begins”, Batman became a solo act in his books for quite a while, with stories written around both characters to accommodate and backhandedly reflect the films.
With the fan outcry at Hollywood interfering with their favorite books, or price changes on titles, it seems that sometimes the industry can create its own issues, even without the help of Hollywood.