Photo: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
You’ll often hear people say that “the book was better than the film,” but seldom vice versa. Is this simply because those reading instead of watching movies fancy themselves as more intellectual and, hence, always right? Who’s to say? In any case, we figure since comics are essentially picture books it puts them on a similar page (no pun intended) with films. That being the case, we feel there are a number of comic book movies that surpass their source material in quality. Of course, you’ll be the final judge of that in the comments section.
10 Comic Book Movies That Are Better Than The Comics
Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)
The most recent comic-to-film adaptation on our list, this movie is based on Mark Millar’s The Secret Service six-issue limited series. While the broad strokes of both are quite similar, it’s the changes made to the story and tone in the cinematic version that give it the overall edge. Namely, the film does a much better job mixing the action and comedy than the books, which come off a bit uneven in tone. Furthermore, the movie, while still pretty misogynistic at times (the ending comes to mind), at least adds a prominent female character to the mix who was absent from the source material. It also changed one of the lead villains from male to female and gave her a much more interesting set of skills. Long story short, almost all changes made from the comic were for the better.
Not to keep ripping on Mark Millar, but Kick-Ass is another fine example of one of the writer’s books being improved upon exponentially as a movie. Interestingly enough, like Kingsman it was also directed by Matthew Vaughn. But we digress. The main difference between book and film in this case boils down to pathetic characters. In the comics, both Kick-Ass and fellow hero Big Daddy turn out to be pretty pitiful losers when their stories reach their respective conclusions. In the cinematic version, however, Big Daddy is given a much more interesting background than his comic book counterpart and Kick-Ass gets the girl instead of masturbating to her having sex with someone else (that’s seriously what happens in the book). Everything else remains fairly similar, but these tweaks made a heck of a difference in the end.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Here’s where things start to get more difficult. Our first couple of entries were films based on limited series, while Guardians of the Galaxy has had several ongoing books since the early ’90s. That being the case, you’d think if the comics were any good, people would have been excited to see them finally coming to the big screen instead of confused as to who these characters even were. We’re not saying that just because people haven’t heard of something that it’s of poor quality. However, considering that the movie surpassed nearly everyone’s expectations proves their was something much more enticing about it. Plus, since its release, the current run of comics has felt like little more than endless crossovers with other titles as a way to integrate them back into the Marvel system after nearly being forgotten.
It’s no coincidence that the character of Blade wasn’t given his first solo comic series until the same year the movie was released. In many ways, it was a milestone for the adult-oriented comic book film. Prior to this, there had never been an R-rated Marvel superhero flick. The fact that it was successful enough to spawn two sequels says even more about it’s quality. Furthermore, the movies were almost a complete revamp (again, no pun intended) of the comic book character, who had previously not had any superhuman abilities besides immunity to vampire bites. Since the films, Blade has been changed significantly to better match the cinematic version. If that’s not proof the movies are better, then we don’t know what else we can say.
Thor: The Dark World (2013)
The first (and only) sequel you will see on this list, it took a little time for the character and world of Thor to come into its own in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Once it did, though, it far surpassed that of its comic book parallel. Call us crazy, but reading Asgardian dialect is far less interesting than it may seem. Hearing it onscreen, however, isn’t nearly as grueling. Speaking of grueling, the decision on the films’ part to bypass the Donald Blake identity from the comics altogether proved very much beneficial, with a storyline involving an immortal man cast down to Earth and adopting a human alter-ego being a bit too Superman-esque.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)
This one is a bit more circumstantial, so hear us out. The comic book version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, especially when it were first created, was actually very serious in tone (as serious as such a premise could be taken, at least). To counter this and make it marketable to children, a cartoon series was made which was very silly and added elements such as a love of pizza and surfer accents. With this technique ending in a global phenomenon, it would have been counterproductive to backpedal to a strictly solemn tone again for the movie. Combining elements of both was ultimately the best move and helped mold the TMNT into the characters we know today. Therefore, how could we possibly argue the comic book version as superior when the film was literally the best of both worlds?
The Mask (1994)
Depending on how much you love over-the-top killing sprees, you may disagree with us here. The Mask comic book series is some seriously dark stuff. In it, when you put the mask on, it takes control and makes you go crazy and start offing people you don’t like. This is still achieved in wacky fashion like the movie, but wacky violent to say the least. Beyond that, the character of Stanley Ipkiss, played by Jim Carrey in the cinematic version, winds up dead fairly quickly in the books once he takes the mask off and his girlfriend kills him for murdering all those people. In the end, we say a premise such as this is another case of being too goofy not to be kid friendly. Hence, we have to side with the film’s approach. Or maybe Jim Carrey can simply do no wrong (spoiler alert: that’s a lie).
Sin City (2005)
The film version of Sin City is still one of the best translations from page to screen ever pulled off. For a comic book which visually seemed impossible to duplicate in live-action form, it was done so perfectly that you felt like you were reading the books all over again. That said, there was very little deviation between the two in terms of story and for once that’s actually not a bad thing. Who wouldn’t want to see their favorite comic book perfectly converted to a third dimension?
You can’t make a list such as this without stirring the pot, and our decision to throw Watchmen out there will surely be met with mixed response. Without getting into the political climate at the time the book was released (which certainly would have affected those who read it back then much more deeply), let us simply say that for a book that most fans thought could never be translated to the big screen, it was pulled off spectacularly. It streamlined the parts that lagged a bit in the books and turned the action sequences into something much more exciting from a visual standpoint. Of course, the best reason to consider this film better than the comics (if you don’t want to spit on us for even suggesting it) is the performance by Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach. Sometimes, the right actor for a role makes all the difference.
Iron Man (2008)
Sometimes, the right actor for a role makes all the difference. Yeah, we know we are just repeating the last thing we said, but it was meant for emphasis. Regardless of what you thought of Iron Man comics up until the release of this film, you couldn’t possibly argue against Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark. He is the character, and any actor or even writer who takes on the role in the future will surely use his performance as their basis. The man single-handedly got the MCU off on the right foot, and there is no way any Iron Man past or future will top him.