We Like Comics AND Movies

Conditioned by a culture that tells me I shall not judge other people’s behaviors or tastes, I shall draw no conclusions about the current comic book to film explosion. It means nothing. A genuinely sensitive person will recognize immediately that what other people do with their bodies and minds is their personal business.

So, I merely note the fact that Hollywood has begun pumping out pulps at a rate never seen before. From those innocent days of the 70s which gave us the new Superman to the more mature Batman films of the late ’80s to, more recently, Spiderman, Daredevil, Blade, Tomb Raider, X-Men, The Fantastic Four, Iron Fist, and soon The Hulk, Bastard Samura, etc.

Add to that “graphic novels” gone to film like Ghost World and Road to Perdition, and we have an unmistakable trend. But it’s purely a matter of changing tastes and clever Hollywood producers who can smell a new market. Right?

Speaking practically, on the level of pure cinema, one might observe that a comic book is already set up for transference onto film. Hardly the need to storyboard a comic-the work’s virtually done in advance. Plus the comic book plot is paced around the rhythms of “wop,” “thud,” and “argh.” Perfect for the Fast and the Furious attention spans of contemporary audiences – ease of production, high profit margin.

So, let’s just sit back and enjoy this renaissance. After all, we go to films to be entertained. And these films guarantee that.

They offer everything I just enjoyed this past weekend while watching The Matrix Reloaded; namely, lots of choreographed fighting (who needs wrestlemania?), screen-popping special effects, and gorgeous girls in black leather who occasionally take some of it off. Yes, indeed.

Except, I distinctly recollect my mother nagging me to put my Green Lantern down and pick up Huck Finn or, believe it or not, The Hobbit. That was when I was about my son’s age – eleven. I did know a few guys (never girls) who smuggled comics to old St. Edward’s Grade School who were older than eleven, but they tended to fall into two categories budding collectors, guys who later became small business owners or math geniuses, like my older brother; or guys like Billy Fuoco who once had to sell me his road race set after an evening of pitching quarters. Billy owns a cigarette habit and a bad case of psoriasis now, and not too much more.

But there I go, peeing at everyone’s party again, sticking my opinions in when not asked and when I said I wouldn’t, intellectualizing all the fun out of the evening. Comic books are where the money is, and where the people are. They are coming to your Cineplex and into your homes. And why would you want to read Huck Finn or The Hobbit anyhow, as the one is racist and the other, implicitly Christian; and, after all, the movies are better.

Matthew Arnold, the Philistines are in the orchard chopping down the apple trees. Or how did that story go? Isn’t Matthew Arnold the guy who was accused of treason or something like that?

Peter Fraser is Professor of English and Chair of the Dept. of Modem Languages at Wisconsin Lutheran College. He has written two books and numerous articles on Film and Popular Culture. 

Also see Books by Author Peter Fraser.