What makes a comic book movie a comic book movie? Does anything with a protagonist who wears spandex and a cape count? Does there always have to be a super villain? A catchy nickname? A quirky sidekick? Not really. Technically AMERICAN SPLENDOR is a comic book movie, GHOST WORLD, WHITEOUT, THE LOSERS, SNOWPIERCER, RED, 30 DAYS OF NIGHT, and 300, too, despite none of these films having any superheroes in flashy costumes (though to be fair there are hella capes in 300).
That’s because the primary and prerequisite qualification for all comic book movies is, they have to be based on comic books. That is, they have to be based on a story that was first told through a series of graphic panels, pre-frames, as it were, that do more than just establish the project’s aesthetic and tone, they create the world from which the story is born.
By that description then, at least as argued by the latest video from Mr. Nerdista, George Miller’s MAD MAX: FURY ROAD could be considered a comic book movie, albeit an unconventional one, as before a word of dialogue was ever written, Miller and storyboard artists spent two years plotting the narrative visually over a collection of 3,500 frames. That is not your typical storyboarding experience. First off, storyboarding is done before shooting, not before writing, it’s a way of bringing the script to a visual realm from where it can be practically realized. Storyboarding before writing isn’t just putting the cart before the horse, it’s expecting the cart to then pull the horse of its own power. Secondly, 3,500 panels? That’s way above average. Then lastly there’s Miller’s adherence to these panels. Often times storyboarding is a suggestion – aside from highly-choreographed scenes, car chases, fights, shootouts and whatnot – they’re basic shot descriptions that serve as a starting point once the cameras actually start rolling. But Miller’s storyboards were recreated onscreen pretty much as is, hinting that the real work was done in pre-production, and the shoot itself was just a(n extremely rigorous by all accounts) matter of bringing the panels to life.
For the proof, the how’s and why’s, check out the video. It’s an esoteric argument to be sure, but there’s a soundness to its logic that bears consideration, especially in an era where the distinctions between types of storytelling media are starting to blur and in some places dissolve.