By Cara Murray
Elm Staff Writer
Let’s play a guessing game. Who masquerades as a reporter for the Daily Planet? Who’s the crime-fighting vigilante of Gotham City? Who runs a school for gifted youngsters in New York? I’m betting dollars to donuts that most of you got those questions right (it was Superman, Batman, and Professor X). Many of these comic book superstars are household names thanks, in no small part, to the translation of their stories to the big screen.
For a long time, comic books and graphic novels were seen as the focus of a subculture. Recent years have seen a spike in adaptations. Both DC and Marvel, two major comic publishers, have multiple franchises out including those hosting the characters mentioned above. We can’t seem to go a year without seeing a new brightly colored super-powered sequel or a dark and angst-ridden reboot. I love these movies as much as the next person, but graphic novels aren’t just about the famous names; many fantastic stories have been born again in film.
“From Hell” (2001)
This movie was adapted from a graphic novel of the same name by Alan Moore (of “Watchmen” and “V for Vendetta” fame) and Eddie Campbell. The serial was published from 1989 to 1996 and was centered on the origins of Jack the Ripper. The film follows clairvoyant Inspector Frederick Abberline (Johnny Depp) and lady-of-the-night Mary Kelly (Heather Graham) as they work to uncover the conspiracy hidden behind the murders of prostitutes. The story has it all: blood, dissections, and opium dens, all set in Victorian London.
This series was released in 1998 by Oni Press, written by Greg Rucka, and drawn by Steve Lieber. The comic follows U.S. Marshal Carrie Stetko as she works to solve a series of murders in Antarctica. The 2009 film, starring Kate Beckinsale, runs along the same story. We see Stetko fight both the killer and the elements. Warning, people lose some appendages in this one, but that’s the risk you take running around with in the arctic.
“A History of Violence” (2005)
“A History of Violence,” published in 1997, written by John Wagner and drawn by Vince Locke, shadowed the life of Tom McKenna, an everyman from Michigan, who became a town hero after shooting a pair of would-be robbers. The limelight brings unwanted attention on McKenna and results in a visit from the New York Mafia who claim McKenna isn’t just a business owner. The movie tracks the same story. Tom Stall, the reimagining of McKenna, goes through the same troubles and keeps you guessing what the truth really is. Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello, and Ed Harris star.
“The Crow” (1994)
Nothing screams the ‘80s like an undead vigilante taking revenge for his wife’s murder armed with nothing but sweet face paint and a wicked sense of style. This 1989 comic from James O’Barr is great for adaptation because the protagonist changes from story to story, as all of the undead are given their powers from a supernatural crow. The 1994 movie is full of cheesy one-liners, dopey thugs, and just enough angst. Brandon Lee, Rochelle Davis, and Ernie Hudson star.
“Men in Black” (1997)
Originally published by Aircel Comics in 1990, “The Men in Black,” created by Lowell Cunningham and Sandy Carruthers, chronicled the activities of a government organization seeking to keep alien life forms a secret. Its 1997 film is well-known and though it follows the gist of the comics, there were many changes to the story. Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith star in this humorous adaptation of the darker comic.
Many other adaptations are out there, ranging from the serious, “Road to Perdition” (2002), to the crazy, “The Losers” (2010). The graphic novel covers a wider range of stories than your typical masked and/or caped avengers and crusaders, so go find your perfect adaptation.