So I’ve already touched on my thoughts about the golden age of comic book adaptations to the big screen, and why I feel that there is still work to be done for this to be truly accurate despite some very good adaptations appearing over recent years. But we all know that comic books are now gracing the television screens within our homes as much more than before, so is this the true future for adaptations? Well here are my thoughts.
Comic Book adaptations into television series is nothing new as ‘Captain Pugwash’ and ‘Archie’ from the 1950’s and 1960’s respectively show, but over the last 3 years there has been a real surge in the not just the amount of content that is making it onto television but also the quality of the adaptations. No longer are fans having to check out animated series to get there fix of accurate and good comic book based stories, as the live action versions are growing in both frequency and quality- but whats more impressive is that there not only coming from the ‘big two’ companies.
Prior to the early 2000’s many superheroes had only been seen on television in the 60’s and 70’s- such as Batman, Superman, The Amazing Spiderman and the Incredible Hulk. Now while one of these shows is remembered with great fondness, mainly due to the hugely camp nature of the show and the presence of Adam West, the others are really nothing more than throwaway versions of the content and the characters there based upon. DC have had much more success on the small screen with their shows however, as up until the ealry 2000’s theyd managed to get success out of a 4season run for ‘Swamp Thing’ and who would have thought that was likely in any way shape or form. Add to that the success of ‘Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman’ in the mid 1990’s and Dc were doing well with their low-budget comic book adaptations.
However ask any comic book for their favourite television adaptation in the 1980’s-90’s and you almost guarantee that you’ll get an answer that contains the following: X-men, Batman (TAS), Batman Beyond, The Incredible Hulk or Spider-Man all of which were animated shows that aired on a saturday morning and were aimed mainly at children. So why were these shows the real success for adaptations in the 90’s?
The main reason these were the more successful shows is simple- there was nothing else really being produced by any comic book company, other than a single season of ‘Flash’ by DC and a 2season run of ‘Night Man’ (which you can be easily forgiven for never having seen) by all companies. And lets not forget that the majority of the animated shows took actual comic book stories and characters and portrayed them accurately and with the right amount of time to tell the story, if you want a good example of this go and watch the ‘Dark Phoenix saga’ series of episodes from X-Men- there so well done it’s no surprises fans rallied behind these shows.
However in the early 2000’s superhero movies had a modicum of success in the world of movies and companies decided that maybe this could be translated to the small screen. But once again all of the projects missed what made the animated shows successful- the original heart and substance of their comic book counterparts. This doesn’t mean there weren’t successes, as ‘Smallville’ is a hugely popular show and di a good job of making comic book shows into a weekly serial show but fell down immensely when it targeted itself at teens and focused on a younger Clark Kent using his powers without a suit in his home town only. Yes im aware that this did branch out slightly towards the end, and did end with him at least being CGI’d into his suit- but it was too little too late im afraid. Other shows in the early 2000’s that focused on a more teen orientated approach to superheroes included ‘Bird of Prey,’ ‘Mutant X’ and ‘Dan Dare: Pilot of the Future.’ All of these shows couldn’t quite muster the support or the level of production and writing that was taking place for their big screen counter parts such as the ‘Dark Knight Trilogy,’ ‘Iron Man’ or even the ‘Blade’ movie.
However then came the news that Robert Kirkman had agreed to the adaptation of his hit comic book ‘The Walking Dead’ and that it would air in the autumn of 2010, this was great news for comic book fans who loved the series but also worrying news. Many concerns were around how badly the story would be altered or how many characters would be changed and reimagined but more importantly would it be as horrific and harrowing as the comic book is. AMC were fast to announce it would be a very faithful adaptation that would get an ‘R’ rating and be a survival horror tale just like the comic book, and not only that but it as getting a huge budget and keeping Kirkman on board to produce the show. And this is when the landscape changed for comic book to television adaptations.
The show has been nothing short of a huge success both in terms of its ratings and its actual accolades: with it being nominated for many awards, including the Writers Guild of America Award and the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series – Drama. This is in my honest opinion the real reason were seeing a boom in comic books making the small screen, a small independent comic book managed to stay true to its roots and get a television adaptation that has turned it into one of the worlds biggest and best known books with a fan base that is bigger than it could have ever dreamed and all it took was to stay faithful to the original story and keep the man who invented the comic book on board.
This has spawned a host of similar moves, DC have followed suit with ‘Arrow’ and Marvel have got ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D’ off the ground both under the same circumstances of staying true to the characters, building a long running story arc and keeping comic book writers involved while providing a decent enough budget for it too look good and draw in some stars. Add to that the fact that the villains used are being drawn straight from the source material, and it appears a recipe for success has been found in the last 3years. If you don’t believe me lets look at whats due to be released in the coming year:
- Powers- 2014 From the Icon Comics imprint
- Agent Carter- 2015 Connected to the Marvel Cinematic Universe
- Daredevil- 2015 Connected to the Marvel Cinematic Universe; Netflix Series
- AKA Jessica Jones- 2015 Connected to the Marvel Cinematic Universe; Netflix Series
- Luke Cage- 2015 Connected to the Marvel Cinematic Universe; Netflix Series
- Iron Fist- 2015 Connected to the Marvel Cinematic Universe; Netflix Series
- Defenders- 2015 Connected to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, mini-series; Netflix Series
- Gotham- 2014 Fall 2014
- The Flash- 2014 Fall 2014
- Constantine- 2014 Fall 2014
- iZombie- 2014 Fall 2014
- Preacher- 2015 Beginning 2015