Hey Guys, today Im going to talk about something a little different from games, but it’s still very dear to my heart. I love comic books, and I have since I was a kid. I read pretty straightforward titles, Your X-mens, your Avengers, I love DC Comics, and I think my favorite line ever was Gotham Academy. I don’t tread too deep into Independent waters, (though Hyper RPG is giving me good vibrations about the Valiant Universe). But today we’re going to talk about Comic book movies. I really want to like comic book movies, but some of them are very hit or miss, and it’s not necessarily the movie’s fault.
Comic books in my experience have always been a serialized experience. Like a TV Show, we go to our comic book shops or check our mail box every week/month to see what new adventures or heroes have gotten themselves into. In the pages of a comic book we can see growth, experience the highest of highs, and the lowest of lows. We get to peek in on their lives and stories in a relatively personal manner. If we share our fandom with a friend, we can share our comics and then talk about them.
Movies are a different sort of a medium. We can get together and take in a movie. We see the sights and share the sounds in a communal way. We get together and see one discrete piece of a story that tells us the story of the characters we’re seeing, but it’s much more of a singular snapshot than the serialized story we read in our books. What does that mean though?
Well, the most critical thing to me is that we only have about an hour and a half to two and a half hours to tell a story that wraps up the viewer in the same way the comics did. This means that the people making that movie have to decide on a specific story arc or major event to showcase this character to a potentially new audience.
Some of these characters have been around forever, and i agree that most of the people who’d go see a movie about Superman or Wonder Woman (And Wonder Woman looks like a fantastic film), are already invested in the characters, and they know the origin of the character. Until you remember that in the last 80 or so years, Comic stories have gone through several distinct ages, have had massive storyline resets, and some of the most iconic characters have multiple origin stories with differences that can be as minor as an origin, to the way a character’s powers work.
Movie folks have to make some conscious choices what they are going to show us, and they are ultimately going to decide what they think the best way to experience their version of the story is. They choose which version of the character we see, and some of those choices work better than others. The easiest way to establish this particular iteration of the character is to show us this version of that character’s origin story. This lays out (or should lay out) everything we need to know about a specific super powered character’s background, home, and the people in their lives.
So Origins movies are going to continue to be a thing that we have to deal with, for good or bad. The characters have a timeless charm of their own, or we wouldn’t have Superman stories from before world war II. Keeping these fresh is always the tricky part, and that might be where movie makers stumble. The other kind of movies that are big draws for movie makers are the major events/storylines that cross multiple titles and span a big portion of the comic book universe. These create their own problems though.
The universe changing events that the comic books put out take time to put together and the events radically change the landscape of the comic book setting. Characters come together in dramatically unexpected ways, fights occur, bad guys get beaten/killed/jailed in alternate dimensions. These stories take dozens of issues across multiple character specific titles and a more general “event” release. How are movie makers supposed to distill that story into a 2 hour movie that can both grab the entire audience, and do justice to the story? I honestly don’t know how that works.
I think we may need to potentially cut the movie folks a break, because they’re kind of trying to jam a square peg into an octagonal that’s at a weird angle. It’s just not necessarily built to tell the story in the same way we’ve experienced it before in the comic books we read. We have to adjust our expectations to the new media, and realize that each has its own storytelling style and strengths.
We can still expect Movie makers to take the source material from our favorite comic book heroes and villains and tell amazing stories. I’d kind of like to see what would happen if they did something crazy and invented a new adventure or two for our comic book characters to experience in a visual medium. That would be a very cool, very brave direction to take comic books at the movies.
Again, i’m no expert on Comic books, but i like them, and i like movies. We’re transitioning back to our regularly scheduled games and mischief. Game On, Game Fans, and Comic on, Comic Fans, i guess?