Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Discuss: Comic Adaptations of Television and Film

Doug: Two weeks ago, Martinex1 asked us about comics created using licensed properties. We're going to trim that down just a bit today, and ask you to recollect on those comics (of various sizes) that adapted specific films or television shows -- in some cases from specific episodes. Whether the comic went on to publish original material is not really on the table today -- we want pans and praises of the four-color versions of the live material.


Anonymous said...
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Edo Bosnar said...

Haven't read many of adaptations, to be honest. I'm really curious about the Wizard of Oz one, because the art is by John Buscema.

The problem with most of these is that they almost always come up short in expectations: for any kid who was spell-bound by, say, Star Wars in the movie theaters, the comic will just be a pale substitute. Even if the Star Wars adaptation was pretty solid, and was interesting because it included some of the scenes cut from the movie, like Luke's meetings with his childhood buddy Biggs, and - perhaps most famously - Han's little tiff with Jabba (who looked nothing like the later version).
That said, I recall really like the Empire Strikes Back adaptation, and the art by Williamson and Garzon, was much nicer and more consistent.

Of the others with which I'm familiar, the adaptation of the Battlestar Galactica pilot movie was just serviceable, while - as noted in my BSG post - the adaptation of the second two-part episode was much better (with really nice art by Simonson and Jansen).
And speaking of Simonson, I think by far the best of the comic adaptations of a movie or TV show I've ever seen is Alien: The Illustrated Story, which was originally published by Heavy Metal Magazine. The art is fantastic, and Archie Goodwin did a good job of adapting the story. That's one that can be enjoyed on its own as a stand-alone graphic novel.

Humanbelly said...

Hey, where's Logan's Run-??
(Ha! I know, I know-- flat-out impossible to include everything. In fact, kudos for using a wide variety of publishers in your examples, there. . . ).

But really, my sentimental favorite is Dell's OUTER LIMITS #1 (1964), which I just looked up the details of. Probably one of the very first comic books I ever owned, it came into my possession as confiscated contraband that my Dad (principal & teacher in our little school system) took off of one of his students. The cover is really an outstanding painting by Vic Prezio- I've seen it on a couple of LCS walls, in fact (don't know if you have a way of adding it onto your post, Doug?) The interior art is by an industry stalwart named Jack Sparling, and his stylized approach to this story (which I loved as a little kid, then was ambivalent about as a later zuvembie) may have been somewhat ahead of its time. W/out having the book in front of me (it's in, like, longbox #27 or something), my mind's eye remembers it as an engaging amalgam of Walt Simonson and Joe Staton-- with a touch of Joe Kubert influence in the longer shots. What's also neat is that one of the main characters is CLEARLY "cast" as nebbish-y character-actor Arnold Stang.
The book's strength, though, is that it's very, very true to the tone, spirit, and themes of the OUTER LIMITS series-- where love/justice/good usually holds sway by the end. Or at least noble self-sacrifice can stave off the worst of outcomes. And of course, don't judge a book by it's cover (man, that could have been the series' sub-title). BUT-- it's not constrained by television budget, obviously, so we get to SEE the giant alien monsters battling through the streets of the city, and we're not put off by O.L.'s notoriously low-end monster and make-up effects.
No writing credit that I can see. The plot itself is convoluted and meandering-- again, like so many of the TV episodes, as they tried to fill an hour time-slot with a half-hour's worth of story idea. There are famous missing persons, a good alien race (those big bugs on the cover), a bad alien race, energy rays, the army (of course), and a fast wrap-up that may have been up against a deadline for Mr Sparling.

More often than not, the Dell/Gold Key adaptations of TV shows left me going "enh"-- as they either changed entire characters around, or just didn't capture the spirit of their source material very well. But this one nailed it.

Oooh-- and Dell's THE MONKEES title. . . that one gets four stars as well-! I still pull my one issue out for a chuckle now and then. But surely I've gone on long enough. . .


Edo Bosnar said...

Good call on Logan's Run, HB. I'm feeling quite sheepish now for not remembering that one, since I have it and think it's quite good. In fact, it's my second favorite, after the Alien adaptation I mentioned above.

JJ said...

I didn't seek out many adaptations when I was at my comic buying peak but I did pick up one (in two parts) that really blew my socks off: Blade Runner. Adapted by Archie Goodwin and the incomparable Al Williamson (with Carlos Garzon on inks), it really makes a handsome companion to the movie. These are two comics from my original horde I dearly wish I still had. Fond memories now. -JJ

Humanbelly said...

My one knock on the Logan's Run series, edo, is that for some reason the art (Perez inked by Janson, IIRC?) somehow looked terribly muddy, even though you could see that it was good. It was like the printing process at the time simply wasn't up to what was being attempted by the artists.


Anonymous said...

I was disappointed by Bladerunner; Al Williamson's work looked great of course, but it felt a bit like an assembly of stills. As a reading experience it didn't quite work for me.
The Marvel adaptations of the 70s seemed truer to the comic creators styles - they really were adaptations.(Maybe because video wasn't around then...?)
Logans Run was great - George Perez' artwork is usually a bit to clean for my taste, so Klaus Janson's inks were just the ticket.
And I loved Jack Kirby's 2001. A pity Marvel didn't also get the rights so Jack could do Clockwork Orange too - that would have been something to see!
Beneath the Planet of the Apes had some great Alfredo Alcala artwork, but otherwise Marvel were better at their own new POTA stuff than the films.
And Jaws 2? Well... Gene Colan and Tom Palmer are always worth a look!

Archie Goodwin and Walt Simonson did a distinctive version of Alien in Heavy Metal. And HM ran Steranko's Outland too, which may well be the best attempt to adapt a film to the printed page (if it had been a better film to start with, more people might have noticed!)

As for tv in comics - I'd rave about Frank Bellamy's Thunderbirds and anything by John M. Burns from Look-In, but not sure how much that will mean to others here....


Anonymous said...

Sorry Edo - hadn't noticed you'd already mentioned Alien. Probably because of the Star Wars stuff beforehand, which tends to lose my interest (I don't mean your specific comments; anything to do with Star Wars stops me paying attention. Even the usually awesome Howard Chaykin can't get me interested)


Doug said...

HB -

Cover requested has been added to the post's main page.

You're welcome!


Humanbelly said...

Ah, yer a pal, Doug. Much obliged!


Garett said...

I wasn't excited about the Indiana Jones adaptation by John Buscema and Klaus Janson. It was just ok, didn't thrill like the movie.

MAD magazine probably had my favorite adaptations-- even when I didn't know the movies, the art by Mort Drucker was fantastic and the humour was there. Drucker actually drew better than many regular comic artists, in that he could catch a superb likeness of an actor, and keep the art lively-- not looking like a straight copy from a photo.

Martinex1 said...

I hear great things about Logan’s Run but have only read part of it. In fact I saw the movie for the first time over the past couple years. I know, I know….

I only bought two movie adaptations off of the rack, “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “James Bond; For Your Eyes Only”. The Raiders three issue adaptation by Walt Simonson and John Buscema was pretty solid and very faithful to the movie. I think it is just hard to capture the pacing and wittiness of the film in comic form. I remember buying the first issue the same week as I saw the movie for the first time, and the excitement and suspense was not the same (perhaps because I knew the story and perhaps that the movie had a momentum that could not be bottled). The Bond two issue book by Larry Hama and Howard Chaykin was not good. Maybe it was because that Bond movie was weak. But I thought despite a good creative team, the art and pacing was off.

Also, I read the Tim Burton “Batman” DC adaptation before the movie came out, and that kind of ruined that movie experience. Should not have done that.

The Groovy Agent said...

No one's talking about Marvel's Xanadu adaptation? ;)


The Wizard of Oz adaptation is magnificent, right down to the "almost" black-and-white beginning and ending. That one's definitely my favorite, followed by Logan's Run. Oh, and Goodwin/Simonson/Janson did a bang-up job on Close Encounters of the Third Kind!

J.A. Morris said...

I didn't buy many adaptations beyond the Star Wars trilogy. The Treasury-sized adaptation of the first movie is still a prized possession. Other than those, I remember getting the Marvel Super Special adaptations of Raiders, Conan (the first movie) and Octopussy. For those who didn't pick up that Bond adaptation, here it is:

Anonymous said...

I liked the first six Star Wars comics (which adapted the movie), but soon lost interest when they started bringing in green rabbit bounty hunters and such.

Nowadays, the hot item seems to be "continuations" of popular franchises (X Files, Big Trouble in Little China, etc.); I've been meaning to check out Buffy Season 8 (and Seasons 9 and 10), but haven't gotten around to it yet.

Mike Wilson

Anonymous said...

Prompted by the Groovy Agent, a quick bit of googling turned up the complete Xanadu adaptation at
What the....!?! Olivia Newton John on rollerskates drawn by Rich Buckler, Mike Nasser, Bill Sienkiewicz et al? Fantastic! Who knew?
Well, the Groovy Agent obviously - thanks for making me smile, Mr Agent.

Also, seeing as I mentioned it earlier, theres some nice work from Frank Bellamy's Thunderbirds at
Well worth a look if you want to be nice to your eyes.


pfgavigan said...


Hey Humanbelly, good call on the Logun's Run printing issues. If I recall correctly the printing presses located in, I believe, Sparta IL, had switched from metal to plastic plates and there was a noticeable decline in quality. If I remember things correctly, Marvel's Beatles Book, also with Perez and Janson artwork, had similar issues.

Does anybody have any idea where comics are printed nowadays? I remember that Shooter wanted to get away from Sparta because of quality and priority issues!

Maybe Karen might know more about this, but I recall Roy Thomas writing an article dealing with his experiences with the representatives of Lucas Films, who were about as pleasant as those who he dealt with regarding the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate.

I was an acquaintance of the inker John Nyberg, known primarily for his work on Nexus. He inked Mike Mignola's adaptation of the Coppola Dracula film. I thought this was one of the more successful adaptations of a film primarily because Mignola decided to render it as if it was an original production for a comic and not slavishly reproduce every aspect of the film. He even redesigned elements of the film, such as Dracula's castle, to be more visually effective. In fact, Coppola was so impressed when he saw the initial pages he brought Mignola onto the film as a designer. John also told me about his interactions with the representatives of Arnold Schwarzeneger who were so particular in how their client was portrayed in the adaptation of 'The Last Action Hero' that they slowed down the production of the book so much that the movie came out first, bombed, and the comic was canceled.

Fortunately he got paid for everything.



Edo Bosnar said...

Sean, thanks for that link; I knew there was a comic adaptation of Xanadu, but I'd never seen it before. That site also reminded of all of the hype surrounding that movie - and then it pretty much flopped (although the soundtrack did well, I think). I see it also starred Michael Beck - what a step down from The Warriors...

Anonymous said...

I don't know about that Edo - Xanadu had an ELO soundtrack, a sure sign of quality:).
The comic is a real time capsule, isn't it? I wondered if thats where Marvel got the idea for Dazzler....


Edo Bosnar said...

As for the printing quality in the Logan's Run adaptation, I have to say, I don't think it's any different from the appearance of any other comics coming out at the time (which, granted, may not be saying much). Like I said, I have the original issues, and while it would certainly be nice if it were on higher quality paper with better reproduction values, etc., it doesn't look that bad.
Those who don't believe me can check out all 5 issues at the Joe Bloke's BIFF! blog:
here's the first issue - just click the "Logan's Run" label at the bottom to find the rest, and other Logan-related stuff.

Humanbelly said...

@ edo: Ha! Those sideburns! I think maybe the wrong guy's goin' by the name o' Logan, bub!

Holy cats, thank you, PFG-- I was hoping I hadn't lost my marbles! Edo's linked issue is definitely cleaner than the ones available at the time in Cassopolis, MI (just 'round the bottom of Lake Michigan from Illinois, mind you), and YESYESYES Marvel's Beatles special was, if anything, worse! I was the biggest anachronistic teenage Beatlemaniac on earth at that point, and it was so hard to love that special when it clearly SHOULD have looked good, but truly DIDN'T. That was a very high-profile project during a massive resurgence in the Beatles' popularity-- man, if I were Jim Shooter I probably would have taken my imposing 6'-7" frame right to Sparta and had a pointed heart-to-heart with that flippin' printer.

(I. . . may still be carrying around a bit of rancor from that particular episode. . . )

Mort Drucker is a great sidebar for this topic--- but I think he might merit a thread all his own. Their are a LOT of films that I feel I'm familiar with only because I read his parodies in MAD. Confession: I only saw THE GODFATHER for the first time about two or three years ago--- and yet felt like it was familiar territory because of Drucker's treatment.

And I think I want to toss another appreciation out for Kirby's 2001 adaptation. It was just about the last thing he did for Marvel, wasn't it? And his style had, in a very short time, gone from being beloved to being viewed as creaky and old-fashioned. Heck, I was on that bus myself. But that story worked very well in his hands-- it was a nice fit, and I always thought it may have been underappreciated. I also have the Treasury of it, which is a fine bit o' oversized spectacle.


Russ said...

I agree on 2001 and especially Outland. An adaptation I felt was superior to the film was Bruce Jones and Al Williamson on the Dino De Laurentis Flash Gordon. published in a lovely Euro-style album by Western.

Anonymous said...

I've read very few movie or tv adaptations. The ones that stand out are the Al Williamson Empire Strikes Back- holy Moses, what a gorgeous comic!- and the Alex Toth Zorro comics. I bought the trade Image put out over a decade ago, and the art is excellent. It's a pity Toth was stuck adapting Disney TV strips. Imagine a full-on Alex Toth Zorro comic!

- Mike Loughlin

Bflek said...

Another good one, tho largely forgotten was The Creepshow adaptation which I think was drawn by Bernie Wrightson. Out of my price range as a kid, I browsed it as much as I could at the magazine rack of the local drugstore.

Rip Jagger said...

Charlton did some of these pretty well (see the Six Million Dollar Man cover above for instance). Probably the strongest was their adaptations of Space:1999 with art by Joe Staton, John Byrne, and Gray Morrow. One of the rare times when I thought the comics were equal to the material they adapted. Sometimes one is radically better than the other, but in this case both were dang good.

Rip Off

B Smith said...

As fantastic an artist as Frank Bellamy was, I don't know that I'd count his work as qualifying for this category, as he didn't really adapt any specific episode of Thunderbirds; it's a minor point, but relevant, I'd think.

Plenty of great nominations though - can I add the Marvel adaptation of Dune, as rendered by Bill Sienkiewicz? A condensation of a movie that was already a condensation of a book, it could have been a fairly thankless task, but BS, who was on the verge of breaking out into his full-on "Elektra Assassin" style, did it with gusto and verve (so impressive that I can't remember who wrote it).

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