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Top 10 Comicbook Based Action Films

September 17, 2010

When I was in the fourth grade, a friend of mine brought me for a trip to the Bergen Mall in Paramus NJ to the Collector’s Den, a role-playing/ gaming store. I walked in and saw metal miniatures that you could buy and paint, rule books for the role-playing games, and an entire wall of bins filled with twenty, ten, eight, and fifty sided dice (die?). I said “Wow! What a bunch of dorks.” So, I walked out, and down the hall. All of the little shops in this section of the mall were primarily antiques, collectibles and second-hand type things. Then I saw The Collector’s Comic Shop.  Comic books are much more manly, right? I walked in, took a deep breath and knew I was home.

Over the years since then I’ve switched comic stores only a few times. My allegiance to a store is unbreakable (until it isn’t.) For years I went to The Paperback Exchange in Nanuet NY. The owner was a guy named Jack, and he was a sort of surrogate father to me. If I picked up a comic that had mature themes or four letter invectives he would ask me “Would your mother be alright with that?” and it would evoke real distress for me. Weird, I know. Even better, The Paperback Exchange was right next to a movie theater! This was the perfect strip mall for me. For those in ‘the know’ Walter and Louise Simonson went to the Paperback Exchange for years. I can’t even count how many sketches I got from Walt over the years. Then Jack retired to Florida. The store was not the same. I went off in search of a new store, and to this day have not found the perfect fit.

With this comic book background, you must realize that coming up with a list of favorite comic book films is not an easy task. I stumped myself last night when I tried to name my top five to some friends. I just couldn’t do it. I went home and thought long and hard on it and here is what I came up with.

1. Superman – “You will believe a man can fly” was the tag line for this film when it came out, and it still holds up today. I saw this film as a kid, and it is one of the few films that has stood the test of time for me. Christopher Reeve was the perfect choice for this iconic character. Superman captured the true spirit of the comic even as it influenced every Superman comic that would come after.

2. Spiderman 2 – Japanese-style monster movie reaction shots coupled with a story written by Pulitzer Prize winning author Michael Chabon made for one of the most emotional superhero films I’ve ever seen. The train sequence, right from the moment that a mask-less Peter yells to the people behind him “Tell everyone to hang on!”, always gets to me. It is exactly what a superhero does. He saves the day no matter how much it hurts. The passengers carry his unconscious body and everyone gets a good look at his face. One of the men says “He’s just a kid. About the same age as my son.” And THAT is what Spider-man was supposed to be when Stan Lee created him in the early sixties. He could be YOU. Spider-man was designed to be what every fanboy in creation really wants—- to be a superhero.

3. The Rocketeer – The story of Cliff Secord, his lost-and-found jet-pack and a girl named Jenny. Oh yeah, and Nazis!  The subtle way in which this story suggests an addict-like need for the jet-pack and the adrenaline that comes with it is fantastic. The stylized sets, music, etc. all lend themselves to the feel of watching a 50’s serial adventure film series.

4. The Dark Knight –  Christopher Nolan took  a classic film approach to character development and applied it to a superhero story full of sacrifice. Too often the hero saves the day,  gets the girl and the baddie is carted off to jail.   Not the case here.  Every decision made in this film comes with a price.  In a world of flying men, magic rings and men that can run faster than sound, Batman is just a man.  He’s the pinnacle of what a man can be physically, but still just a man.  Christopher Nolan showed us that Batman is not perfect.

5. The Watchmen – I saw the first twenty minutes of the Watchmen at New York Comic Con in 2009. I made my wife come to the panel so she could see it as well. She got a little weepy during the opening credit sequence. Maybe I did too, but I’ll never admit it. We then got to meet Dave Gibbons, artist of the graphic novel,  one-on-one and he signed a poster for me.  He even drew a bloody comedian button on the poster!   It turned out he had never seen the opening sequence and credits until that day, so Apryl and I were among the first to ever talk to him about it. Wild!

6. Akira – I got a VHS (a what?) copy of this on Christmas day 1990. I watched it that day, and the next, and the next, until the tape was so worn out that the colors were completely screwed up. Thanks for the awesome Christmas gift mom! (I just got it on Blu-ray from my wife for my Birthday this year!)

7. X2 – A favorite of mine because it abandoned ‘origin stories’ and just told a good story. The speed at which Bryan Singer got into the meat of it was perfect. Before you were even comfortable in your seat, masked men were already storming the gates of Professor Charles Xavier’s School For Gifted Youngsters. This was a film that offered a different version of the Jean Grey sacrifice story, and it worked perfectly within the world that they had created. It’s just a shame that they had to go and sour this film so quickly by making the horrendously unwatchable X-Men 3.

8. Hellboy II: The Golden Army – This was plain fun. There is a drunk Karaoke scene that made me laugh obnoxiously loud in the theater, and the phrase “Look, you woke the baby” is forever changed for me. Great characters, good fun story that was self-contained, and amazing direction.

9. Kick-Ass Matthew Vaughn is quickly becoming a favorite director of mine. Layer Cake was a wonderful art house crime drama. Stardust is a film I’ve watched more than ten times since the theater, and now Kick Ass is completely addictive to me. The way that Stan Lee wanted you to wish you were Spider-man and be a superhero, Kick-Ass makes you want to go out and kick someone’s ass— but for the good guys.

10. V for Vendetta – Was so smart and beautifully directed. I think it might have been too smart though. It really doesn’t fit as a superhero film or a straight action film or a political intrigue film or a drama. It was all of those things, which is why I love it, but it might have been too much for the average non Alan Moore fan audience.

11. The Wild Card : FLASH GORDONArgue this with me please.  I’ve argued in favor of this film my whole life.  Flash Gordon is a perfect interpretation of the comic strip.  The comic was as cheesy as the film.  The film was as cheesy as the comic.  Flash Gordon, quarterback for the New york Jets is abducted to the Planet Mongo to defeat the evil Emperor Ming!  I just plain love every Queen scored moment of this film.

LASTLY:

Just to show that I don’t like every movie I see, which I have been accused of, here are my least favorite comic based films. I can’t give reasons. I can only say that I do not like them.

Catwoman

Howard the Duck

The Shadow

Daredevil and Elektra

Batman and Robin

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. FreddyMerc permalink
    September 20, 2010 9:38 am

    good choices. never seen the rockeeteer or Akira and will now. Flash Gordon? I will never put that piece of excrement on a best of list ever. What about spiderman3? Venom kicked ass!

    • September 20, 2010 12:10 pm

      Hi Freddy! I hope you enjoy Akira and the Rocketeer. As I said, I’ll defend Flash Gordon in any way I need to. It is just a great fun film to me. I must have seen it at the perfect point in my life. The stars just sort of aligned so I would love that film. And Spdiderman 3—– sorry dude. I can never sit through that film ever again. Too much going on in it, and there wasn’t enough story. It was what I call a drunk bar room movie. The entire thing from begining to end was like a drunk person that keeps forgetting really important parts of whatever story they’re trying to tell.

      Thanks for reading!

  2. jadesmith09 permalink
    September 20, 2010 10:25 am

    Hey, Rob, glad to see “Hellboy” made it onto the list! I watch the first movie over and over, and all my friends generally say, “Hellboy?” what’s that?? 🙂

    Spider-man is a fave, too.

    What about Daredevil? Did you like that one? I didn’t care for “Electra”, but I still like “the blind lawyer from Hell’s Kitchen.”

    • September 20, 2010 12:23 pm

      Hi Jade!

      Hellboy is a favorite. Del Toro is a fantastic director. Pan’s Labyrinth was an amazing film. I also love the source material.

      Daredevil— love the concept but Ben Affleck ruined it for me. He just isn’t Daredevil to me. I would have rather seen someone a little grungier, like Ed Norton, Cillian Murphy, Chris Pine. Daredevil is supposed to be emotionally unstable and I just didn’t get that from Ben.

    • September 20, 2010 12:42 pm

      Jade! I just noticed you’re my 100th comment! I never notice things like that. So, imagine that this is confetti and balloons falling: ******************************************************
      *********************************************************************************

  3. jadesmith09 permalink
    September 20, 2010 4:11 pm

    Yay! 100th comment–Party!!:)

  4. September 23, 2010 7:56 am

    Lovely list! I am particularly fond of 3, 4, 5 and 9. I used to watch The Rocketeer over and over again when I was younger. I have to agree about the opening credits for Watchmen – Visually it was just brilliant and the soundtrack somehow worked really well.

    I’m keeping an eye out for news on Preacher and Sandman (which I’ve heard is finally being made for TV), but am still deeply in shock about the horror (also literally, re genre!) that was the 30 Days of Night adaptation. I held dear that artwork and to see it interpreted in that way…it just could have been so much better in terms of casting especially.

    • September 23, 2010 11:38 am

      Thanks Roisin. I love to get lost in a good superhero film. The Rocketeer was a lot of fun. I can still watch it over and over. It didn’t over complicate itself like so many post Tim Burton comic based films tend to.

      The Preacher would be amazing! But, I can’t even begin to think about the number of groups that would protest if they stayed close to the written material.

      Gaiman’s Sandman would also be amazing. I’m reading one of his novels right now, “Good Omens,” and it is one of the funniest things I’ve ever read.

      The art of 30 Days was something that was so unique even in the world of comics. No matter what they did with the film, it could never have lived up to what was on that paper.

      Thanks for talking comics with me! It is my other passion after movies.

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