On May 3rd 2002, many comic book fans walked out of their local movie theater saying "Finally! They actually got it right this time!" The movie they just saw was Spider-Man, a movie that was based upon a comic book that defied the seemingly impossible. It actually pleased fans of the comic book and became a box office smash at the same time. The movie managed to keep the look and feel of the characters and the environment of the Spider-Man comic books all the while not getting twisted in the Hollywood machine. So, if this one went right, what exactly went wrong with all those other comic book based movies? Why is it so difficult for the Hollywood "suits" to get it right? It seems, for the fans at least, that for every good "Spider-Man-like" film, there are five terrible "Catwoman-like" films waiting in the wings. The problem is that Hollywood sees comic book properties as easy money. Throw a square-jawed actor of the week in a costume and just like that they think that they have a summer blockbuster on their hands. Comic books are not nearly as vapid as Hollywood would like to have you believe. In actuality comic book plots are all about the story, the characters, and the trials and tribulations they face on a daily basis. Many of these comic book based films lack the wit, the genius, or even the coherence that their comic book counterparts possess. To put it mildly, Hollywood simply falls short in recreating the magic that is printed on those pages.
The early history of the comic book
The earliest known comic book is called The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck, was published in Europe in 1837, but it was not until February 17, 1936 with the publication of Lee Falk's The Phantom, that the public was able to lay their eyes on a bona fide costumed hero. Since he was just a normal man and did not have any "real" superpowers, The Phantom could never be classified as being a superhero (Coville). Two years later, Action Comics #1 was published. On its cover, it featured a man in blue and red tights lifting a car over his head. His name was Superman, and he was the very first comic book character to have powers far beyond that of a normal human being. With the first appearance of Superman, the Golden Age of comics began. The Golden Age was a very important time for comics because during that time the general archetype for all superheroes was created.
Early comic book adaptations
A scant five years after his first appearance in Detective Comics #27, Batman was adapted to the silver screen in 1943 in a serial film called The Batman. Starring Lewis Wilson as Batman and Douglas Croft as Robin, the movie was made very cheaply, and because it was made during World War II, it featured a Japanese villain and contained anti-Japanese statements. The film was so successful that it spawned a quasi-sequel six years later called Batman and Robin, which neither Wilson nor Croft reprised their roles for (Wikipedia). Three years later in 1951, Superman made his debut on the small screen on his own show titled The Adventures of Superman starring George Reeves as the man of steel. The show was a smash hit with over a hundred syndicated episodes spanning eight years. Unfortunately, the show is probably best remembered because of George Reeves' untimely suicide and the mystery surrounding it, after his being typecast as Superman in the acting world (SupermanTV).
Comics are not just about men in tights
Comic books are rarely taken as a serious form of media by many people. This may be because of the fact that many books deal solely with superheroes, and are sometimes aimed towards young children. While it is true that a large number of comics books deal with superheroes, many of them do not. Take Charles Burns' award-winning series of comic books called Black Hole for instance. Black Hole tells the story of several youths dealing with their growing fear of...