12 May 2008

Hollywood and The Comic Book Film Genre

Hollywood’s love affair with super heroes stretches back to the 1970’s. The success of ‘Superman’ in 1978 launched an onslaught spearheaded by studio’s and producers on an art form that had long been regarded as being childish and silly. Comic books are very much an expression of American popular culture and the figure of the super hero like ‘Superman’ and ‘Captain America’, though an ambivalent one, is an ideological expression of American might, superiority and invincibility.

Initially, the interest provoked by comic book’s was met with some scepticism as it had over the years become unfairly associated with the stereotypes of the nerd and geek. The ground breaking work of Frank Miller (Sin City, Batman Year One), Alan Moore (From Hell, V for Vendetta) and Stan Lee (The Hulk, Spiderman) radically revised audience perceptions of the comic book, signalling a Hollywood obsession that would only begin to take shape in the 90s. DC Comics and Marvel continue to be the most popular of the comic book publishers, having been responsible for a slew of contemporary adaptations, the most successful being Batman, Spiderman and X Men.

Hollywood’s dependency on popular cultural art forms like TV shows for creative energy and commercialism has no sign of stopping with 2008 set to provide yet further evidence that the comic book film needs to be taken seriously as a credible and sustainable Hollywood genre. The Hulk, The Watchmen, Hellboy II, The Dark Knight are all scheduled for a 2008 release. The storyboard nature of the comic book medium means that the visual discipline and invention usually required from the production team makes it that much easier and economical when it comes to the marketing phase of the film. The comic book film is regularly reduced to a symbol or logo that represents the iconic status of the super hero. Sin City, The Hulk, Hellboy and Dick Tracy are comic book films directed by unconventional Hollywood filmmakers like Ang Lee and Gullimero Del Toro. They have provided early attempts to challenge the conventions of the genre by smuggling in darker themes and inventive, original visual styles that are indicative of their status as auteurs.

Admittedly, the difficulties posed by adapting novels and comic books are a challenge to script writers and remaining faithful to the original source material has become a virtual battleground and a constant source of disagreement and sorrow. Comic book’s have a world-wide audience of fans and the development of the internet has empowered a generation of comic book fans to use their network of websites to influence the production process of current and forthcoming comic book adaptations. Unlike the horror film and other popular genres, the comic book film is very much in it’s infancy and looks set to become a dominant genre in the future.

1 comment:

  1. Quite good, but some of your facts are wrong. Watchmen for instance has an 09 release.

    Oh and the idea that Superman started the superhero trend is a little much, when disregarding the sequels another superhero film didn't come out until 11 years later, Burton's Batman. Then again disregarding those sequels, it was another 11 years before X-Men, which really started the stupidly large ammount of superhero films.