Today celebrates Free Comic Book Day (@FreeComicBook)! On the first Saturday in May, local comic shops usually offer a selection of free comics that give new and existing customers a taste of what each publisher has to offer in the hopes of drawing in new readers. Shops may also run promotions or have special guests — our local shop will have a few comic artists on hand to do free sketches for the kids.
So this got my thinking: What are the best film adaptations of comic book stories? Here are my Top Ten Comic Book Movies:
10. X-Men (2000)
I feel as though the early 2000s X-Men movies were the franchise that jump-started the modern comic book movie era. That being the case — and because I loved X-Men and X2 — the first film deserved a spot on the list for being one of the pioneers that made it so that one day (about 10 years later) it would be okay for someone to be wearing “yellow spandex” and still be taken seriously.
9. V for Vendetta (2005)
While I enjoyed the original Alan Moore & David Lloyd comic, this movie caused me to actually rethink some of the beliefs I had grown up with. Should the government always be trusted to do what’s best for its people? Despite any religious beliefs, should a government regulate sexuality? What happens with the government is dictating the news? Not that I ever would, but the final destruction of Parliament and Big Ben in the movie made me want to go start a revolution somewhere!
8. Iron Man (2008)
Who knew that the current run of the Marvel Cinematic Universe would have started off with the huge success of (frankly) a second-tier character within Iron Man. Though I’m not primarily a “True Believer” Marvel fan, from what I recall, Iron Man was not one of the publishers heavy hitters when it came to selling comics. It’s safe to say that this one surprised a lot of people and has shaped the trajectory of the Iron Man character on and off the screen.
7. The Avengers (2012)
I’ve mentioned before that I’m more of a DC fan than a Marvel one, but until I sat in the theater and watched the first Avengers team movie… I had never had so much FUN in a movie theater! I vividly remember smiling from ear to ear during the length of the movie. Each character was given the opportunity to shine and Marvel showed that all of the world building and character development from the solo movies was paying off.
6. Blade (1998)
I vaguely remembered that Blade was a comic book character when the movie came out in ’98, but for a kid who had always been fascinated by vampire stories and lore, this was the perfect action flick. Wesley Snipes is both a bad mother and shows perfect comedic timing with his little quips and one-liners.
Bonus points for a quote that always makes me laugh: “I’m gonna be a naughty vampire god!”
5. Deadpool (2016)
I’d never read any of the Deadpool comics and probably wouldn’t have cared for the initial incarnation of the character anyway… the reason the Deadpool movie makes the list for me is close to my reason for including The Avengers — I spent this entire movie laughing. Every pop culture reference and allusion to some piece of X-Men or Marvel history sucked me in. If I’m being honest, it probably has more to do with how well Ryan Reynolds pulled off the character than actually liking the character of Deadpool himself.
(And I don’t care for his original creator, Rob Liefeld. I’ve been to several cons where he has been a guest and I’ve found him to be arrogant and rude to fans when I’ve seen him. Maybe I’m catching him on a bad day… or maybe he just has a lot of bad days…)
4. Batman (1989)
This was the first time growing up that I remembered seeing a Batman that wasn’t on the reruns of the campy 1966 series. Don’t get me wrong, I loved that show as a kid and still do… but this was something totally different. This was a Batman grounded in reality. He had gadgets that seemed like they could really exist. He had body armor, which seemed more realistic for a crimefighter than light gray spandex.
I still remember debating other kids at school as to whether or not the Joker was truly dead at the end. At a young age we had apparently already bought into the comic book adage that “no one really ever dies.”
3. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Everyone talks about the soundtrack for these Guardians movies like it’s one of the actors in the movie — and I don’t think that’s wrong. James Gunn has built his movie around the soundtrack and has given us a team of heroes (?) that engage in planet-hopping adventures and still have a sense of humor. An homage to Star Wars? Indiana Jones? A bit of both?
2. Superman II (1983)
As much as I love Superman: The Movie, Superman II will also hold a special place for me. I recall watching this movie regularly with my Dad, who would also quote the movie pretty often. There was always a lot of “Wrong again, Zod!” or “Kneel before Zod!” going on in our house growing up. The cast is outstanding — Gene Hackman, Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Terrence Stamp — and this film has some of the most memorable scenes from a movie I grew up watching: Clark’s revenge at the diner at the end of the movie, the battle in Metropolis, and the double-cross at the Fortress of Solitude.
“General… Would you care to step outside?”
1. The Rocketeer (1991)
I saw the movie long before realizing it had begun its life as a comic homage to the Commander Cody movies of the 1950s. Not only is this a remarkably faithful adaptation from the page to the screen, but it has a solid cast with Billy Campbell, Jennifer Connelly, Alan Arkin, and Timothy Dalton. (It also doesn’t hurt that I probably had a little bit of a crush on Jennifer Connelly after seeing this movie… and can you blame me?) James Horner’s score is triumphant. It has the look and feel of an Indiana Jones story if you just swap archaeology for aviation. One of my favorite movies ever and certainly my favorite comic book adaptation.
(I’m also in the process of trying to put together a Rocketeer costume for C2E2 next year… I’ll keep you posted!)