“The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder.” – Alfred Hitchcock

The silver screen and the turned page have had a long, if not tumultuous relationship. It is literally impossible for us to walk into a movie theater to see a film based on a book and not scrutinize every which-way if we have read said book. The same goes for if we read the book after we see the movie. These two separate entities simply cannot exist as a stand-alone thing. So, here’s the interesting thing about this same dilemma from the realm of a comic book: the universe in a comic book is already broken up into six million different continuities. For the one Spider-Man that most people know of, there are a hundred “What-If” and alternate reality versions of him: Spider-Man in the year 2099, the year 1602, a zombie Spider-Man, so on and so forth. Even “the book” that everyone holds up to every film doesn’t have a 100% definitive answer to who Spider-Man is or who he will become.

This opens untold numbers of doors for storytelling, film and comic alike.

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Not to mention, you know, untold billions of dollars in profit.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Just like any other group of people, comics definitely have their fanboys who will cry and kick and scream at the first sight of any liberties being taken by a director (fun fact: mary jane is not Peter Parker’s first love.) But some of the most famous takes on our favorite heroes are alternate-reality takes. Frank Millar’s “The Dark Knight Returns” looks at a much grayer Batman who has been retired for years, and then decides to put the cape back on. Robert Kirkman, creator of the comic book / TV show “The Walking Dead” wrote “Marvel Zombies” – a look at what would happen if Earth’s mightiest heroes fell to the dreaded zombie virus. There is no one right way for comic books. That would be no fun at all!

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A lot of the time, directors and producers (if they’re truly comic book fans and not just making the movie for money COUGH COUGH FUCKING DAREDEVIL COUGH COUGH) will find ways to tie in little parts of other continuities to appease fans and give their films a bit more depth. In the upcoming Iron Man 3, War Machine’s armor is red, white, and blue, dubbed “The Iron Patriot” armor. In the comic book, this armor is worn by Norman Osborn.. or the Green Goblin. Cool, no? Here’s another one: the scene from The Dark Knight Rises where the younger cop has no idea what the hell is happening and the older cop tells him he’s “in for a show tonight”, is taken straight out of Millar’s “The Dark Knight Returns”. All these crazy multiverses and alternate realities can be confusing for those not in-the-know, but they also offer substantially more material to work with than just a straight 200 page novel where all the fans will inevitably hate you if you stray from it even a little bit.

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Don’t worry, they will.

In this way, comic books have traditional novels beat. If you get on the Marvel Wiki, the movie universe we all know and love (Joss Whedon’s Avengers) is listed as its own continuity. How about that? The movie versions of all of our favorite heroes are just another in the long line of alternate realities. Pick up the pieces of your brain, I’ll wait ’till you’re done. With Iron Man 3, Man of Steel, and The Wolverine due this summer, we’re going to see if Hollywood can keep people’s love for big-screen heroes alive. And if they flub it up, it doesn’t really matter – someone else can (and will) just give it another go!

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Excelsior!

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Comments
  1. Lacy H says:

    I have learned that I love the books way more than the movies. Don’t get me wrong I love movies and I love to see how they made them compared to the book. But the majority time I will always go with the book! I am not a huge comic book fan though! But I can imagine people feel the same about comic books!

  2. sarkrisd says:

    This is why my husband prefers comics to books. Much more in depth and so many different possibilities! I can see why the fans are so more relaxed about movies made from comics than from books!

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