Whenever a new comic book movie is announced, the first things fans want to know is “will it follow the comics, or are the filmmakers just going to be making a bunch of terrible changes.” While that might seem like an overreaction these days, there was a time when Hollywood didn’t respect comic books. Often, they’d adapt a comic into a movie that barely resembled the source material. Characters like Bullseye appeared on screen in costumes that looked nothing like the comics, while villains like Bane had their origins and characterization changed so that they felt like completely different characters.
Thankfully, movies like Spider-Man (2002) and X-Men (2000) proved that movies could be faithful to the comics and still be successful. Since then, Hollywood has learned to embrace comics. While no movie is a perfect adaptation, many modern comic book movies remain true to the comics, and often draw inspiration directly from the original issues. While this is mostly great, there are some things that just don’t translate to live action at all. Or, there are some moments that could’ve worked, but filmmakers were too concerned about including one moment without properly setting it up, robbing it of its emotional impact.
15. DARK KNIGHT RISES GOES TO NO MAN’S LAND
Part of the appeal of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy is that it’s supposed to represent a somewhat realistic take on Batman. While there were obviously some outlandish elements to the movies, they always felt like they could take place in the real world. That is, until The Dark Knight Rises (2012) decided to base part of its story off of the No Man’s Land crossover from 1999.
In the comics, Gotham experiences a major earthquake, which causes cataclysmic amounts of damage, leading to the government abandoning the city, allowing the criminals to take over. In the film, the earthquake is replaced by bombs, but Gotham still ends up isolated from the rest of the country while the gangs take control of it. Apparently, characters like the Riddler were too outlandish but Bane holding an entire city hostage was believable.
14. HULK DOGS
Ang Lee’s Hulk (2003) had a lot of strange moments, and deviated significantly from the comics. One of the strangest moments was when Betty Ross gets attacked by a pack of gamma-irradiated dogs, which are then fought off by the Hulk. In a movie that supposedly is a serious examination of the character, having the Hulk fight a monster-sized poodle feels a bit out of place.
Well, it turns out that the Hulk dogs appeared in the comics, specifically in Incredible Hulk #14 (2000), by Paul Jenkins and Ron Garney. In that issue, Hulk has to defend himself from a pack of dogs that were fed gamma irradiated meat, which caused them to Hulk out. In the comics, weirder things than Hulk dogs have appeared. In the movie, however, they felt like a weird joke in the middle of an otherwise serious story.
13. CAPTAIN AMERICA’S AVENGERS COSTUME
Taking a super hero’s costume from the page and bringing it to life can often times be problematic. This was especially true for Captain America, which is why the costume design in Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) was so impressive. It took the comic design and updated it into something that looked like a soldier might wear, while still being faithful to the design in the comics.
Then, in Avengers (2012), Steve Rogers woke up in the 21st century and was supplied with a new costume. While it was more comic book accurate, it also just didn’t work as well in live action. The combination of color scheme and the way it framed Chris Evans’ body made Cap look skinny and oddly proportioned. It might’ve been more accurate, but it wasn’t an improvement, which is probably why the design wasn’t used in later movies.
12. DOOMSDAY KILLING SUPERMAN
In Superman #75 (1993) by Dan Jurgens, the monster known as Doomsday did the unthinkable and killed Superman (or knocked him into a Kryptonian coma). Despite Superman ultimately being resurrected, this moment still remains one of the most memorable moments in comic book history, so it makes sense that Warner Brothers would eventually try to adapt it to the big screen, which they did in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016).
Unfortunately, the moment didn’t work as well in the film. Including Doomsday as the film’s villain gave Batman and Superman a threat worth teaming up to fight, but it was just too early on in the franchise to kill off one of the main characters. Instead of feeling like the death of an icon, it just came across like a cliffhanger for the follow up movie, Justice League.
11. THE OA TRAINING SEQUENCE
When Hal Jordan is chosen to join the corps in Green Lantern (2011), his power ring eventually transports him to the planet Oa, home base of the Green Lantern Corps. Here, he meets fellow Green Lanterns Sinestro, Tomar Rey and Kilowog and begins an extended training sequence where he begins to learn how to use his ring and the history and purpose of the Green Lantern Corps.
While this representation of Oa is faithful to the comics, it doesn’t help the movie. In fact, it ends up overcomplicating the plot and making the film feel crowded. While Oa is an important part of Green Lantern lore, it might have made sense to hold off showing it until the sequel, just for the sake of the plot. Green Lanterns immediately get trained in the comics, but in the movies it could’ve waited until the sequel.
10. BULLSEYE KILLS ELEKTRA
One of the most iconic deaths appeared in Daredevil #181 (1982) by Frank Miller when Bullseye killed Elektra. The shot showed Bullseye standing in an almost whimsical pose, looking like he’s smiling, while he lifts Elektra off the ground with a sai stabbed through her chest. Even though Elektra was eventually resurrected, this specific panel will never be forgotten by comic book fans.
In the 2003 Daredevil movie, this scene is recreated, only without the emotional impact. In the film’s story, Matt and Elektra had only recently just met. Sure, they had grown close, but her death just didn’t hit as hard, considering audiences had only just been introduced to her. This was definitely a case where the filmmakers jumped the gun, trying to recreate a classic moment without doing the proper build up.
9. X-MEN FIRST CLASS’ UNIFORMS
Ever since the first X-Men (2000) was announced, fans have been hoping to see comic book accurate costumes. Fans also know that many of the classic designs are too crazy to work in real life, so they’ve settled for black leather. That was just something we all lived with… until X-Men: First Class (2011) came out and delivered costumes that were clearly inspired directly by the comic book designs.
In the film, Beast designs uniforms for the team that look very similar to the uniforms that appeared in the early issues of X-Men. Even though these are some of the simplest designs in the franchise’s history, the yellow and blue full-body suits just didn’t look as good in real life as they do on the page.
8. BATMAN BELIEVES A KILLER
In 1986, Frank Miller and Klaus Janson unleashed The Dark Knight Returns onto comic book fans. It told the story of an older Bruce Wayne, hardened with age, returning to his one man war on crime as Batman. Given his new, harsher outlook on life, this Batman is much more brutal. In one infamous scene, a thug holds a child hostage, and threatens her life, telling Batman to believe him. Batman guns the man down, responding “I believe you.”
While it worked in the context of this comic, it didn’t belong in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016). The scene is recreated during the scene where the caped crusader rescues Martha Kent, who’s been taken hostage by Lex Luthor’s men. In the comics, the scene showed how time had changed Batman, while the movie just made it seem like Batman’s not averse to killing.
7. BUMPO, JOAN AND SPACKER DAVE
While The Punisher (2004) deviated pretty heavily from the comics, one of its biggest issues came straight from the comics. About halfway through the movie, Frank Castle moves into a rundown apartment building, which is also inhabited by three other people: Bumpo, a large, jovial man; Spacker Dave, a guy with multiple piercings; and Joan, a woman with self esteem issues.
These characters came straight from Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s classic 2000 storyline Welcome Back, Frank. The difference was that the comics had a viciously dark sense of humor, while the movie was trying to paint Frank Castle in a more tragic light. The comedic relief that Bumpo and company brought to the comics fit perfectly, but just added several uneven and awkward scenes in the film.
6. IT’S (NOT) CLOBBERIN’ TIME
In the comics, Ben Grimm’s catchphrase is perfect. When he shouts “It’s clobberin’ time!” it’s both exciting and gives a perfect example of the character’s heart and personality. He’s kind of silly and loud, and it also helps set the tone of the Fantastic Four comics. When Fox first brought the franchise to the big screen in 2005, the tone was similar enough to the comics that including the catchphrase made sense.
When the series was rebooted with 2015’s Fantastic Four, however, the tone was changed to something that was more dark and gritty. In this new context, Ben Grimm’s catchphrase just didn’t fit in. If the movie was going to go for this tone, it was worth a shot, but that would mean discarding some of the sillier parts of the comic, including “it’s clobberin’ time.”
5. SUPERMAN’S ACTION COMICS POSE
The cover to Action Comics #1 (1938) by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster is one of the most iconic images in pop culture history, and with good reason. Once again, this is an example of something that wasn’t a bad idea to include in the movies, but was so flawed in the execution that it didn’t work.
There’s a scene in Superman Returns (2006) where Superman catches an out of control car, recreating the iconic cover. The only issue is that it occurs in the middle of the film, after Superman has already made his grand return to the public eye. He’s already returned, so there’s no drama to him appearing. For such an iconic pose, it’s wasted on a fairly mundane scene. Within the context of the film, it’s just an awkwardly posed shot that is confusingly lingered on for a few seconds too long.
4. LOKI’S HELMET
When Marvel introduced Thor into their comic book universe, Jack Kirby lent his brilliant design work to bring the world of Asgard to life. He wanted the Norse gods to look like a combination of ancient mythology combined with modern superhero styles. Loki’s horned helmet is a perfect example, as it’s considered a classic Kirby design.
For Thor (2011), the comic book design was brought to life, surprising fans who assumed it was simply too strange for live action. The design was actually very cool looking, but also incredibly impractical. Tom Hiddleston famously found the helmet very uncomfortable, and as the franchise continued, the helmet has appeared less and less. At this point, Loki just looks like he went through a weird “giant horns” phase that he suddenly grew out of.
3. NOLAN’S BAT SIGNAL
Batman Begins (2005) ends with the recently promoted Lieutenant Gordon making his first official call to Batman by turning on the bat signal for the first time. The classic piece of Batman mythology made its first comic book appearance in Detective Comics #60 (1942) by Jack Schiff and Bob Kane. While it’s worked well in most Batman stories, it caused major issues with the supposedly realistic tone Christopher Nolan’s movies were going for.
One doesn’t have to have a law degree to know that putting a Batman calling card on the top of the police headquarters is a legal nightmare waiting to happen. It basically implies that Batman is an agent of the police, making his vigilante behavior even more problematic. Basically, in Nolan’s world, the Bat Signal is giant “get out of jail free” card to any crook Batman is even suggested of bringing in.
2. OH MY STARS AND GARTERS
After highly popular and successful X2: X-Men United (2006) fans were divided on the quality of its follow up, X-Men: The Last Stand (2009). While several controversial decisions were made, like Cyclops dying off screen or its depiction of the Phoenix, one decision that was almost universally praised was the casting of Kelsey Grammer as the Beast.
The casting was basically perfect, and Grammer’s portrayal of the intellectual mutant really felt like the character jumped right off the pages of the comic book. Unfortunately, there was one moment that was just too literal. In the comics (and usually in the cartoons), Beast is known for saying “oh my stars and garters” when he’s shocked or surprised. He uttered the phrase in the movie, which was nice for the fans, but probably super confusing and kind of cheesy for general audiences.
1. MARVEL’S QUICKSILVER
Both Fox’s X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) and Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) featured the character Quicksilver. The two studios were able to share the character because he plays a prominent role in both franchises. The X-Men movie only included Quicksilver, while “Avengers” introduced both him and his twin sister, the Scarlet Witch.
The Fox version ended up being much more popular than the Disney version, who was killed off in his first appearance. If Disney had only included Scarlet Witch, her story arc could’ve been focused on without people comparing it to the superior character in the X-Men films. Also, his death has been basically forgotten in the Avengers franchise, making it seem like Scarlet Witch barely cares about her deceased brother. Marvel clearly has plans for Wanda, so they should’ve just introduced her and skipped Quicksilver all together.
Will Warner Brothers find the right balance between comic inspiration and movie magic with their next release, Justice League? Find out when it hits theaters on November 17, 2017!