This month, Comic Book Villains, Artists and Models, Nightbreed and The Rocketeer make the list of our favorite comic book–related movies.
Comic Book Villains
One of my favorite comic book–related genre movies is a dark comedy called Comic Book Villains. The film is about competing comic book store owners who discover an unknown comic book collection consisting of mint Golden Age books. One owner just wants the fame of being the one to bring the books to market. The other (a married couple) just see dollar signs. They all try to charm the old lady whose deceased son owned the books, but she does not want to sell. A series of events, fed by greed and huge egos, unfold over the course of the film, ultimately leading to multiple crimes and murders. It is a fascinating character study with a lot of comic book references and, at the same time, a dark comedy that is very funny.
Josh Hanin, CGC Grader
Artists and Models
Artists and Models (1955) is a favorite comic-influenced film of mine. The movie is not about a specific comic book or actual comic character. Set in the 1950s, all of the major players are in the comic book industry, which makes this comedy film interesting as well as funny. It stars Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis (as well as Shirley MacLaine in her second film appearance). It has a lot of features typical of a Martin and Lewis movie. There is zany slapstick comedy, romance and about a half-dozen tunes crooned by Dino.
The movie was released just a year after Dr. Fredric Wertham’s 1954 book, Seduction of the Innocent instigated the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency hearings (also 1954). The film’s plot revolves around two artist pals who are trying to make a buck. Eugene (Jerry Lewis’ character) is a comic book fanatic. While his favorite character is a relatively tame Bat Lady, he has recurring nightmares about the other blood-and-guts comic stories he reads. As horror is the latest money-making fad in the comic industry, Rick (Dean Martin’s character) thinks he can cash in on his partner’s wild imagination.
The two characters meet up with the attractive female creator of Bat Lady and her lovely assistant. Through this connection, Rick gets his foot in the door with the comic publisher who is increasingly pushing for more horror stories. EC Comics is clearly in the minds of the movie’s writers. Eugene’s nightmares turn into comic book profits.
The guys make it big, lose the girls, get caught up with foreign spies, save the day, get the girls back, sing some tunes, etc.
The flavor of 1950s social and pop culture, besides just comics, is evident and satirized throughout the film.
Vince Oliva, CGC Grader
One of my favorite comic-related movies is Nightbreed. Part of the draw is the protagonist's transformation. A hero's journey that eventually delivers him purpose and place, with a host of characters integral to his individuation process. But, most compelling is the portrayal of his antagonist, psychotherapist Dr. Phillip K. Decker, who "doctors" Boone with LSD disguised as lithium and convinces him he is guilty of the serial murders the doctor himself committed.
Decker's mechanizations eventually show him to be the opposite his position professes. Throughout the movie, the authorities are depicted in a similar light. An iron heel to any outcast who seeks refuge. Merchants of death behind masks of virtue.
Of course, there is much more to the picture than this. Epic Comics released a maxi series to tie in with the film, exploring the aftermath of its events. And now there is talk of a cable television adaptation — "The Tribes of the Moon."
A brief list of some of the comic creators involved includes Alan Grant, Colleen Doran, Jim Baikie, John Wagner, Max Douglas, James Moore, D.G. Chichester, Bret Blevins and Ricardo Villagran. Wiki them!
John Savage, CGC Grader
There are so many great comic book movies to choose from, but my top choice would be The Rocketeer. Directed by Joe Johnston (who also directed Captain America), this movie is one of the finest examples of a comic book adaptation done right. Cliff Secord, a 1930s stunt pilot who stumbles on a prototype jetpack, is thrust into a world of mobsters, espionage, FBI agents and Nazi operatives when he uses the pack to take flight, becoming a hero in the process. The Rocketeer accomplishes the stereotypical "hero saves the day and gets the girl" story, without ever being corny. And the action sequences and special effects are so well done that it's frighteningly realistic. Disney bought the movie rights from Dave Stevens, the creator, writer and artist on The Rocketeer comic, and they did an amazing job at adapting the world that Stevens had created on paper and putting it onto film. The characters that Stevens created were done justice, from the heroism of Cliff "the everyman" to Jenny's stunning beauty to the intimidating henchman, Lothar. I know the tagline of "You'll believe a man can fly" was associated with another comic property, but The Rocketeer is where it truly belongs.
Shawn Caffrey, CGC Finalizer, Copper and Modern Age Specialist
Come back next month for the third installment of this series!
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