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12 Superhero Films That Stuck Closest To The Source Material

Superhero movies are all the rage at the moment with both Marvel and DC competing to be top dog as their respective universes have both hit the big screen in recent years and are fuelling more and more entries into the market with spin-offs, sequels, crossovers, and reboots.

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But they were all spawned from comic book origins, and yet some seem to pay little homage to that, trying to make the character their own, whilst others pay fan service left, right and center. Here we look at those that stuck closest to the source material.


1. Hellboy

A modestly popular Dark Horse comic that was rich in backstory and universe, Guillermo Del Toro was a fan of the comic books themselves and so remained incredibly loyal to it in his film adaptation with much of the meat of his story from the “Seed of Destruction” origin mini-series.

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The film itself didn't take itself too seriously and got the tone just right, spawning a successful sequel that had fans clamoring for it to become a trilogy but it seems like that opportunity is long gone now.

 


2. Watchmen

We jump straight in with a controversial pick as Watchmen caused a split amongst critics for its almost direct take from each panel of the comic book for each shot. The purists out there praised its loyalty to the source material whilst others questioned whether it could have been a little more original in its interpretation.

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Being a direct take from the graphic novel, the story line is fantastic and is almost word for word, that of the book that is considered part of the 'Holy Trinity' of comics. It lacks the political fury of the novel but is one awesome adaptation if you are a fan of it and uses its palette, editing, and the soundtrack to really make the most of its settings.


3. Sin City

Like Watchmen, Sin City tries its best to recreate the comic books as closely as possible, so much so that Director Rober Rodriguez gave Frank Miller, the guy who wrote the graphic novel, a co-directors credit. There are a few obvious differences, notably that Nancy does not go topless like she does in the comic, but these are mostly because of getting the film past censors.

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One of the starkest and excellently recreated images is that of Mickey Rourke’s character, Marv, whose bold and bright white bandages jar in contrast to the grimy surroundings he forever finds himself in and the use of film noir techniques play perfectly into this.

 


4. Iron Man

With story elements taking from the Obadiah Stane storyline (although having to speed it up considerably for the screen), a lot of the character building was spot on with the suit-building background taken from  “Tales of Suspense #39” and much more from  “Iron Man #200”. The look of the suit borrows more from an 'Invincible Iron Man' image, though.

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Where it really succeeded, though, was the masterstroke of casting Robert Downer Jr in the lead role with the look, attitude and personal parallels almost perfect. It seems odd now but the studio didn't initially want him, and director Jon Favreau had to really fight his corner.

 


5. Batman Begins

Although the later two films of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy took massive liberties with the character, his first film was very much rooted in the lore of the comics, and much of the noir crime-fighting style of this trilogy gets inspiration from 1990’s “The Long Halloween.” 

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With the look, feel and story elements taken from "The Man Who Falls" and "Batman: Year One", it is clear Nolan did his homework on the series.


6. Batman: The Movie

Campy and absurdist, this film is far removed from any of the movies of recent years and yet, that is what Batman used to be in both comic book and visual form.

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“Batman and Robin’s Most Fantastic Foes" is a choice of comic book where stylistic decisions were taken from in an era of outright insane fun with the character, and it is weird to think this is the same character that Christopher Nolan dabbled with.


7. Superman

Long before the special effects and green screen treatment that we see in almost every blockbuster nowadays, practical effects and camera trickery were what filmmakers had at their disposal which could pose a problem when shooting superhero movies. Take, for example, the iconic power of Superman which is flight. No self-respecting adaptation of Superman would leave that out but how could you make it work. In the 1940s TV adaptation, the actor would stand with his arm straight up in the air and then flight would be animated in by hand with landings always conveniently behind a rock or something from which actor Kirk Alyn could emerge. 

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For 1978’s Superman film, they changed the game and had Christopher Reeve mimic the flying actions of the comic books. Although the effects now look very dated, at the time they were really something special. It was this that led to the success of the first Superman film. This is just one example of how the look and feel of the comics were adapted and by many, this is considered the most faithful of all adaptations.


8. The Crow

Tragedy is a theme that ran through the creation of both the comic book and the film version of this tale of revenge. The death of both the comic creator's fiance, that inspired its inception, and star of the film Brandon Lee added a dark layer to both and although the film went through many, many rewrites, the creative decisions stayed with the director who wanted the feel of the film to be as close as possible to the comic book.

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There are some slight changes like the physical transformation into a crow rather than just a metaphorical one, but the content and themes remain pretty much intact.

 


9. Deadpool

Although very hard to transfer a direct comic book storyline from Deadpool comics to the screen (mostly because of the fourth wall breaking, self-awareness of the character) the feel is on point with star Ryan Reynolds given free rein over playing the merc with the mouth and many settings and scenes taken directly from the comics including the mercenary bar.

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One such incident that is lifted straight from the comics is the seemingly random pizza delivery scene which comes from Deadpool #10.

 


10. The Wolverine

Hugh Jackman's Wolverine is one of the most beloved X-Men characters, and has become the iconic portrayal of the rough-around-the-edges personality.

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Paying great service to the 1982 “Wolverine” mini-series, it is the closest the X-Men films have got to the comics (which isn't saying a lot), but it is Jackman's interpretation of the character that holds steadfast.

 


11. The Avengers 

There are so many iterations of The Avengers in comic book form that it is hard to say which ones are the true Avengers but the film seems to predominantly take from “The Ultimates” and “The Ultimates 2” with roles and characterization being very precise if origin stories are toyed with here and there.

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Content from a few of the bronze age comics is also sprinkled here and there with a genuine love for geek culture. It also gets bonus points for being the first film in a generation to get the Hulk right.

 


12. Logan

Another Wolverine film, this one lifts the feel of the character almost directly from the pages of the 'Old Man Logan' comic series released in 2012.

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It omits many other references to other heroes (mostly because the film studio didn't have the rights to them) but everything else captures the spirit and feeling of the source material.

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