This summer we are going to get another shot at Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four. Next year we are going to be treated to another Batman film and possibly another go-round in Sin City. The only question is how these new films will rank among the Top 10 Best Comic Adaptations of All-Time:
10. “Tales from the Crypt” (series, 1989-1996)
While this is not a film adaptation, it is significant for its fine treatment of the classic EC horror comics. While the Crypt Keeper was updated quite a bit from the comics, with the Old Witch and the Vault Keeper buried forever, the seminal HBO series actually managed to present fair and popular adaptations of the original stories. Keeping in mind this premiered in the wake of 1989’s “Batman,” it’s a marvel this was possible without squeezing Prince into the soundtrack to appeal in vain to the masses.
9. “American Splendor” (2003)
Before Paul Giamatti was completely overexposed as the go-to actor for pathetic losers, he starred in this gem of a film. “American Splendor” captured the despair and loneliness of Harvey Pekar, making it the only non-fiction comic-book adaptation of note. With guest appearances from Pekar (playing himself on archived Letterman footage) and James Urbaniak as underground comic artist Robert Crumb, “American Splendor” was a unique and entertaining film.
8. “The Crow” (1994)
While Joel Schumacher was preparing to butcher the Batman franchise in the cinemas, Alex Proyas was making the penultimate goth-hero. Brandon Lee lost his life on the film, but he left a great legacy, which was never topped by the sequels.
7. “A History of Violence” (2005)
It’s not always remembered as a comic book adaptation, but rather as a great film on its own. David Cronenberg directed award-worthy performances from Viggo Mortensen, Ed Harris and Maria Bello. It made me want to get my wife an old cheerleading outfit, get the kids out of the house and wax the stairs.
6. “X-Men” series (2000, 2003, 2006)
While many think that the Spider-Man series was the first to get it right, it was actually 2000’s “X-Men” that set the bar. Using the innovations in digital effects, the mutants were brought to life in a way no one had ever seen. The first two films solidified Bryan Singer as Hollywood’s comic book golden boy… at least until he gave us the mediocre “Superman Returns.”
5. “300” (2007)
Building on the success of “Sin City,” Zach Snyder’s adaptation of Frank Miller’s historically-inspired graphic novel proved again to Hollywood that frame-for-frame adaptations actually are a good thing. Highly stylized with eye-popping visual effects, “300” was a great action film that inspired the audience. And by portraying the Persians as vicious, inhuman monsters, it didn’t bow to the oppression of political correctness. Who cares that it was banned in Iran? What film isn’t?
4. “Mystery Men” (1999)
While its’ not a traditional superhero story, “Mystery Men” was a hilarious spoof on the entire genre. Surprisingly, in the middle of being a spoof, it also managed to be a fun story of third-tier heroes. The cast of comedians, including Ben Stiller and Janeane Garofalo, made it funny. Serious actors like Geoffrey Rush made it hilarious.
3. “Batman Begins” (2005)
After the “Batman” series’ descent into insanity with Joel Schumacher at the helm, “Memento” director Christopher Nolan revived the franchise with the best Batman adaptation yet. Christian Bale knocked it out of the park as Bruce Wayne, and the supporting cast of Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman made the cast shine (even with the counter-productive performance of Katie Holmes). This was the first DC adaptation since Marvel stormed the cinemas in the early 2000s, giving us hope for more Warner Bros. characters coming to life.
2. “Spider-Man” series (2002, 2004 and 2007)
By the time “Spider-Man” came out in 2002, the special effects had caught up to the vision of the comics. Instead of putting a director’s arrogant spin on an existing character, Sam Raimi worked to make an exciting movie that followed the source material as closely as it could. And when he changed anything, like making Spidey’s web fluid part of his mutation, it was actually for the better.
1. “Sin City” (2005)
Robert Rodriguez defied logic and the DGA to prove to the world that comic books can be adapted faithfully to film. Using Frank Miller’s graphic novels as storyboards for the film, Rodriguez made the market-standard for comic-book adaptations. “Sin City” is still one of the most unique, stylized and brilliant films of the decade.
“Fantastic Four” (2005), Not well loved by critics, and the character of Doctor Doom was changed considerably, but you can’t deny that Jessica Alba was super-hot as the Invisible Woman.
Stick around because later in the week I will give you the “Ten Worst Comic Adaptations of All-Time.”