10 on the 10th: Top 10 Comic Book Films
Welcome to the 10 on the 10th! This month we’re taking a look at my Top 10 Comic Book Films of All Time
, a topic inspired by the release of Superman Returns
earlier this summer. For comic book fans this is a great time to be alive. Every major comic character from the big boys like Batman
to the bottom feeders like Iron Fist
have been optioned by Hollywood for the big budget, big screen treatment.
But it’s not all caper and cowls in the comic book world. You’d be surprised to find that there are a lot of movies like Road to Perdition, A History of Violence, even Men In Black (A place-holder on my top 10 sci-fi films of all time) were all based on comics and graphic novels. It just goes to show how much influence this medium can really have.
My list however is mostly capes and cowls, because those are my favorites. In looking at all the movies based on comics, the superhero ones were the ones that jumped out to me as the most exciting or the most memorable. I guess I’ll always be a superhero dork.
This lists takes a look at my very favorites in the genre, but remember for every Batman Begins there is a Batman and Robin. For every Spiderman there’s a Catwoman and for every Blade there’s an Elektra. But beggars can’t be choosers. It’s still an exciting moment in movie history for a kid that grew up on the funny books.
So let’s get to it. My top ten list of the greatest comic films of all time.
10. V for Vendetta: (Warner Brothers/DC 2005) V for Vendetta squeezes onto the list not because of its badass action (which was beautiful but too sparse) but more for it’s ability to stay true to the spirit of the source material. Liberties are taken to modernize the story and make it work on screen, but the heart and message of a vigilante’s quest to open the eyes of a controlled public is beautiful and just. Go here for the full review of V featuring the comic that unleashed fan favorite George on the JLCM universe. 8 out of 10
9. Superman: The Movie (Warner Brothers 1978) As the biggest Superhero ever, Superman deserved to be the character to usher in Superheroes on the big screen. It would take another 20 years for Hollywood to get the bug, and another 5 after that for Superman to “Return”, but it was worth the wait. We’re smack dab in the middle of the superhero era, and we have a movie like Superman: The Movie to look back and say, “Damn, that’s still better than most of the slop being cranked out.”
Superman may very well be the best example of an origin story in superhero cinema taking great lengths to establish a character that most people already knew anyway. It’s part of the reason I hate to see the Superman origin redone in film. It’s already perfect. Move along. 8.5 out of 10
8. The Crow (Miramax Films 1994) In the voting there was a tie between The Crow and Sin City. As much as I love Sin City (number 2 down there) I really wanted to give a new movie the spot light. After all Sin City was the very first movie I reviewed through Joe loves Crappy Movies. That DVD is jam-packed and deserves a proper review, but when else am I going to get a chance to review The Crow. That’s what the 10 on the 10th is all about! So this round goes to The Crow. Scroll on down for a full review.
7. X2: X-men United (20th Century Fox/Marvel 2003) This movie wins all kinds of points for it’s opening scene in which Alan Cummings as the blue devil Nightcrawler teleports his way through an army of white house guards to get to the president. It’s either the coolest assault by a single super powered beast or the most feeble attempt at white house defense since someone shot a bazooka at a chandelier in Superman 2. Either way, the scene totally sets the mood for a fast paced well thought out story of deceit based on the idea that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. 9 out of 10
6. Blade (New Line/Marvel 1998) I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Blade when it came out in 1998. I was barely familiar with the D list Marvel vampire hunter who I’d only read when he had a guest appearance in Spiderman or Ghost Rider comics. I liked Wesley Snipes who destroyed all in Demolition Man (How much do you weigh?). But I’m not a techno fan and vampires have been done to death.
Imagine my surprise when the movie was actually good. I’d even call it great. I fell in love with the secret world of vampire cults slowly infiltrating every aspect of our existence, and Blade, a one-man army of vampire power and bobby trapped swords, is the perfect anti-hero for the Goth set.
Blade was followed up by the flashier step in the right direction Blade 2 and the disastrously underdeveloped Blade Trinity, which not only killed the franchise but seemingly Snipes’ career as well. He’s totally direct to video now. The character lives on in Spike TV’s Blade: The Series but I haven’t given it enough of a chance to recommend it. I love the character but I can only put up with so many commercials for UFC. I’m holding out for the DVD’s. 9 out of 10
5. Superman 2 (Warner Brothers 1980)
Superman 2 is a natural companion to its predecessor. Superman: The Movie and Superman 2 were always designed to be one film until conflicts with the studio resulted in director Richard Donner being fired and the film being reedited. Of course this all happened when I was 2 years old and had I known about the deception and behind-the-scenes conflict I might have had a different opinion about the film, but I’ve grown up with it as is, and it’s just too cool. I love it all! The true threat in Zod and his Kryptonian crew, Lois finally figuring out the secret, Superman’s ultimate choice, them throwing a bus at Superman! That’s insane!
The super kiss that erases Lois’ memory is a little weird and I think everyone was a little shocked when Supes throws that giant S net at the big guy, but it’s all in good fun.
It also gives us Christopher Reeves’ best performance as the man of steel. He was amazing in the role, aptly bouncing between the confidence and power of Superman and the bumbling foolery of Clark Kent. Reeves was born for that part. 9 out of 10
4. Spiderman 2 (Sony/Marvel/Columbia 2004) Like Superman 2, Spiderman’s sequel is a perfect example of how to take what was done in the first movie and expand with a vengeance. They waste no time with familiarities, they jump right into the action and every aspect of the movie is amped up. Bigger adventure, bigger effects, and a love story that walks the tightrope between painful realism and cheesy “Hollywood” like only someone with enhanced spider agility can. 9 out of 10
3. Darkman (Universal Pictures 1990) Darkman is the second movie on the list to come from Sam Raimi who obviously had a lot of fun with Darkman but had the budget and content to really make something special with the Spiderman films. So why does Darkman beat out the Spider-films on my top 10 list? Because his face melts!
Admittedly, the Spiderman franchise is more accessible, more polished, and technically better in almost everyway, but there’s something special about Liam Neeson’s portrayal of a defaced man out for revenge. It’s weird as hell but so so so much fun.
There had been some debate over whether or not Darkman qualified as a comic book movie. Was the movie based on the comics or were the comics based on the movie. I looked all over to try and figure it out and in the end decided that I really liked the movie so it’s going on the list. Yeah. That’s how I roll. 10 out of 10
2. Sin City (Dimension/Troublemaker 2005) Sin City put a good fight in its attempt to win the readers vote, but I had to give it to The Crow. Still, trip-directors Rodriguez, Tarantino, and Miller (whose Dark Hoarse comic inspired the masterpiece) have nothing to be upset about. It hit the number 2 spot on my list not because I’m a fan of mood lighting but because it’s a near flawless example of modern action with enough originality in style and cool to make it the kind of movie that will be ripped off for generations.
Check out my detailed review from when the movie originally came out. 10 out of 10
1. Batman Begins (Warner Brothers 2005) At a July 4th picnic my cousin comes up to me and asks me about Superman Returns. I sort of shrugged and fidgeted trying to explain that it’s technically a good movie but that there’s little reason to freak out about it, which prompts him say, “The real question is ‘Is it better than Batman Begins?’”.
I instantly right myself and say, “Well come on, that’s not even fair. Batman Begins is perfect.” Cue devilish smile.
DirectorChris Nolan, who redefined noir and successfully broke every storytelling standard with Memento, managed to make the best superhero movie ever. From the script, to the choice not to use more popular Bat-villains, to the cast that was top notch for any movie let alone one about a guy in a costume, everything was working towards grounding the movie as a great story. Batman Begins isn’t just a good representation of comic adaptation; it’s good representation of film period. Action enthusiasts take note. The future is dressed like a bat.
Check out my full review of Batman Begins from last summer. 10 out of 10
On The Fence: There are always films that almost make the list but get bumped for one reason or another. I give you… the runners up.
Superman Returns - I’m glad Superman is back, really I am, and the movie visually is absolutely stunning. I just wish Superman had more to do. For my deepest thoughts check out my review from June. 8 out of 10
Josie and the Pussycats - I catch so much guff for liking this movie but I don’t care. Hot girls, subliminal messages, government conspiracies and watered down pop. What else do you need? Du Jour means love. 7 out of 10
Now to the full review of the readers choice: The Crow Just as a warning – the DVD reviews will contain spoilers.
Starring: Brandon Lee, Rochelle Davis, Ernie Hudson, Michael Wincott, Bai Ling, David Patrick Kelly
Directed by: Alex Proyas
1994 Universal Pictures
In 1989 Tim Burton’s comic book epic Batman was taking the theaters by storm introducing a new generation to a darker more menacing big screen comic book character. At the same time in Detroit James O’Barr was starting to get buzz on his newly finished and highly personal graphic novel The Crow. 5 years later O’Barr’s gloomy vision of a man so focused on avenging lost love that he returns form the dead himself, would show Burton, Batman, and stunned audiences everywhere how dark a comic book movie could really get.
Before you knew it capes were replaced with black leather trench coats, masks were replaced with face paint. Well not really. The face paint was always a little weird. I never understood the sad clown angle but somehow it always worked. There are a million things that are not conventionally cool that somehow still translate well in the comic and on screen. I never thought Brandon Lee painted stark white with a jet black grin and leather pants would, or could, look cool, but damned if a 16 year old Joe wasn’t browsing the men’s make-up counter at Hot Topic that very weekend. Ok, I wasn’t but that would have been funny as hell.
And the make-up really did look great. Certainly more believable then a couple of the Batman masks. And I think it’s because Lee, director Alex Proyas and the entire crew really committed to the dark subject matter, embracing the characters and environment, in every aspect, for exactly what they are. For everything that they were in the original graphic novel. And I think the original themes of love and revenge shine brightly in The Crow’s muted lights and washed out colors, because of that commitment.
I’d forgotten actually how strong The Crow is as a revenge story. There are a lot of good movies about one man wrecking crews fighting back against the army that wronged them. In the world of comic book movies The Crow is practically the Citizen Kane of revenge. It makes the Punisher look like… I don’t know… one of those direct to video animated Barbie movies.
Part of the reason the revenge aspect works so well is timing, where the larger part of The Crow takes place over a short period of time. A set period evokes a certain urgency that a dead man skulking the streets of the big bad city needs.
One year after being murdered on Devil’s Night, Eric Draven returns from the dead lost and confused. A crow leads him to his old apartment where he confronts first hand clues that help him remember what happen the year before. As he touches certain objects like a ring, a mask, even a cat, he is given flashbacks to his past where he learns his gruesome fate.
Over the next two days he sets out to destroy the four men responsible for the rape and murder of fiancé’ and for his own murder. It’s sort of a barbaric response answering violence with violence, but confront any man truly in love with that situation and you’d more than likely get a similar reaction. Love deserves certain comeback.
With this two-day time limit set the hunt is on and Eric, one by one, takes out his killers. This is the best part of the film watching him put the pieces together and gather clues to lead him from one killer to the next. Credit to the villains who each take on unique personas that lend to these scenes being so memorable. One of the best ensemble group of badies assembled with possibly the worst names imaginable. Skank, Tin Tin, Funboy? The Crow wasn’t out for revenge, he was just putting them out of their misery.
Eric toys with them and freaks them out before destroying them in different bloody spectaculars. I felt like these were the best moments of character where we really get to see him at his worst. A little blinding rage will really show you what someone is capable of.
That rage is eventually balanced out with confusion and vulnerability, brought up when Eric confronts an old friend, Sarah (Rochelle Davis), and the veteran cop who worked his case the year before (played by the Ghostbuster himself - Ernie Hudson). They allow us to see the softer side of the Crow. It brings a certain air of innocents and purity to his quest. These are both complicated characters because it’s as if their lives had been put on pause since the murders. It’s with Eric’s return that Sarah can get closure with the deaths of her friends, as well as reconcile with her own family, and that Hudson’s cop can finally let the case go. They offer him hope and he offers them peace. It was a nice balance of fury and tranquility. And Lee does a great job on both ends never going too extreme. Not bad considering the make-up and all.
Most people familiar with the film are aware of the horrible on-set accident that claimed Lee’s life shortly before the films completion. The film was finished with a dimly lit stand-in and even a couple of shots where Lee’s face was digitally placed onto the stand-in’s body. Pretty sophisticated for 1994.
It’s sad because – Lee was good in the Crow. Really good. In watching all the behind the scenes footage on the DVD you can tell he had a lot of passion for the project. That shows on screen and I think the fans really tapped into that positive energy. Could he have parlayed The Crow into a big film career? Probably, but it’s hard to say. His only other previous work was a film called Rapid Fire which is a part that he got, I’m assuming, because Van Damme was busy that day. Rapid Fire is generic action fluff, which is why The Crow was such an interesting follow up. It could have worked for him. It’s a real tragedy.
I’m sure he would have gotten work but sadly I can’t imagine that the Crow did a lot to pad his action reel. There’s plenty of good stuff but there’s a large climactic gun battle at Top Dollar’s headquarters that is sloppy and poorly staged. As Lee offers up little step kick I shrugged my shoulders and said, “He’s Bruce Lee’s kid? I can do that.” That scene overall is disappointing for what it should be and what it never is. They make up for it with a nice battle in the church where flare guns are fired and gargoyles spew blood, but that scene should have kicked our asses ten times over. It falls way short.
Ultimately it’s dismissible because the journey to get there is such a fun ride. As silly as it may seem on paper it’s very easy to get wrapped up in the drama of it all. It’s easy to forget that this is a walking corpse out for blood. You feel for him, and with its unpredictable angels and muted tones, the movies atmosphere puts you right there with him. It’s a very easy thing to fall for The Crow, even if he is a freak zombie mime.
Movie: 8.5 out of 10
This movie holds up really well 12 years after it’s release. The message is untainted and true to the spirit of the source. Fans of the comic will not be disappointed, and anyone that loves a good Goth bloodbath will be equally pleased.
It’s not a bad two-disk set with tons of storyboards and production stills that are perfect padding for a comic book/action film like this. A little insight like that goes a long way. There’s also a solid commentary where producer Jeff Most and screenwriter John Shirley discuss things like the adaptation from comic to film, The Crow as a combination of Dracula and the Frankenstein monster, and the casting of this very eclectic bunch. I was most interested in what was said about the adaptation. It’s fascinating to see what changes were necessary to make the story work cinematically. As they pointed each out it made a lot of sense. More importantly, each point added to the story without taking away any of what’s important. The message is intact. Adding a real estate scam and supernatural tactile visions to a simple love story may seem excessive, but it really ties everything together!
They do an in depth interview with creator James O’Barr where he gives insight into his upbringing, his hard core worth ethic, and the tragic death of his own fiancé, which inspired him to do the series originally. This feature runs a little long but it was really cool to hear about his inspiration and background. Plus they show clips from the book and over the years you just forget how good The Crow really is. The guy is not messing around. Some of those illustrations are almost vulgarly awesome.
It’s a nice set, I can’t say there’s much more I’d want to see. Maybe a nice featurette focusing on the character’s changes over the years. It’s been a dozen years, there have been a few crap sequels and a bunch of comics. Seems like there’s at least an hours worth of documentary there. But that’s nit picking, it’s a complete DVD. DVD: 7 out of 10
Possibly. I can’t imagine I would watch it often but it’s a really strong film and sadly its nasty sequels are more likely to be on TV before this one. Did anyone see the one where Edward Furlong is the Crow? What kind of casting is that? I like Furlong and all, but he seems as good a fit for the part as Louie Anderson.
So there’s my top ten list of the best comic book films. For fun here’s a look at my notes in trying to figure out the best of the best. As always I encourage readers to speak up and show me their lists. Head on over to this thread and speak up. It’s also a good introduction to how the voting process works and how the readers help decide what movie gets reviewed. Which brings us to…
Next months top ten list. In honor of the new release Snakes on a Plane I’ve decided to have a little fun with the list and do my top 10 favorite movie snakes (worms or generally creepy crawly things) of all time. Here they are:
10. The sand worms in Beetljuice
9. The Basilisk in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
8. The garbage snake in Episode IV: A New Hope
7. Tia Carrer’s video accessory in Wayne’s World
6. The alien body snatchers in Slither
5. Cobra Commander in G.I. Joe: The Movie
4. The Ear Worm in Wrath of Khan
3. Snake Plissken in Escape from New York
2. The Leech on Wil Wheaton’s balls in Stand By Me
1. The Cobra in Raiders of the Lost Arc
I realize this top ten list is a little unorthodox but when you’ve got snakes running around on planes it calls for a little creativity. But I won’t lie to you – the list was difficult to put together. Leeches aren’t snakes. I kept thinking that there was something obvious I was missing. That there was the king cobra of snake references that was floating over my head. And don’t tell me it’s Anaconda
. That’s not on the list because I haven’t seen it, though I hear its follow up Anacondas
is actually pretty good.
If you have any recommendations then let me hear them (board members and guests can post freely in this thread on the Digital Pimp boards). Even if it’s a minor appearance, if it’s a good one, I might adjust the list.
I hope you enjoyed this months 10 on the 10th. They’re intense, I know, but a lot of fun to do. I really enjoy analyzing and dissecting the DVD’s. At the convention this past weekend the thing I heard the most other then “congratulations on the wedding” was “I love the top 10 lists”. It was great to get some first hand feedback. It’s the sort of thing that keeps me motivated.
That’s it for now but tomorrow you might finally get my thoughts on Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. I’ve been sitting on that monster for too long. And here’s another one of those Jam comics that Tom, Gordon, Zach, Mitch , Kevin, Phil, Irv and I worked on at Wizard World. If you missed yesterdays you can check it out here. Enjoy.
Live Journal/Myspace/Rotten Tomatoes/Buzz Comix/Top Web Comics/Comics on the Ipod/The Webcomics List/Online Comics/Wikipedia/Comixpedia/JLCM Map!
Joe – The creator of the strip who has embraced giving crappy movies the chance they deserve. Like the majority of the cast he’s obsessed with boobs.
First Appearance - The Introduction
Yeo – Yeo is Joe’s wife and often the voice of reason in the strip. Having her act rational allows the rest of the cast to embrace being in a comic strip which primarily involves randomly punching people, interacting with fictional characters and talking about boobs. Yeo is smart, beautiful and way too good for Joe. Don’t tip her off.
First Appearance - Fever Pitch
Irv – Joe’s movie-going sidekick who’s always down for watching Jason Statham crescent moon kick some thug through a plate glass window and getting some drinks before after and during a Vin Diesel movie. Like the majority of the cast he’s obsessed with boobs.
First Appearance - Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior
Agent 337 George Jones – A government Agent that took over for Joe after he was bad-mouthing President Bush in the V for Vendetta strip. George ran the show for over a month bring a much needed sense of patriotism and justice to both the strips and reviews. He eventually got too attached to his work, empathizing with Joe’s plight to give crappy movies a fair shake. In a way he came to love crappy movies as well and was pushed out of the position. He spiraled out of control and ended up in prison. His adventures will be told in the limited series JLCM Presents: 337 Locked Up which is set to début Christmas of 09.
First Appearance - V for Vendetta
Other Notable Appearances: Stay Alive, Ice age 2, Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector, Slither, Here Comes Guest week, Let’s Go To Prison
Leonidas – The former king of Sparta who has traveled into the future and is having trouble coping with the modern times. Yelling loudly and kicking people into giant holes doesn’t really work the same way it did in the olden days. As time as gone by he’s adjusted but it’s a safe bet that he’s always one bad message away from throwing a spear through someone.
First Appearance - 300
Other Notable Appearances: Four Brothers, Strip# 300, The Golden Compass, Rambo, Untraceable, The Ladies of Max Paybe
Palpatine – Former Senator, Emperor of the Galactic Empire, Sith Lord... He shows up in the Joe Loves Crappy movies galaxy on occasion to let people know that they’re being stupid. No one’s really sure how he shows up in this universe but chances are it breaks all kinds of copywrite laws.
First Appearance - Episode III: The Dark Side
Other Notable Appearances: Four Brothers, Night Watch, Saw 3, Are We Done Yet
Slow Billy – Billy is a sweet kid but he’s not the sharpest tool in the shed. If you’re watching him for the day be prepared to explain to him the plot of the movie or how popcorn works or, not so much where babies come from, but what babies are. He’s a complete moron.
First Appearance - Four Brothers
Other Notable Appearances: The Chronicles of Narnia, The Da Vinci Code, Vantage Point, Journey to the Center of the Earth
Kyle the Movie Snob – Be careful what fun facts about movies you tell your friends at a friendly gathering or in line for the latest blockbuster, because if you’re even slightly wrong, Kyle will be more than happy to let you know. He usually gets what’s coming to him though. Poor guy has cracked three ribs since joining the JLCM cast.
First Appearance - Ultraviolet
Other Notable Appearances: 16 Blocks, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Transformers, Journey to the Center of the Earth
Jean-Luc Picard – Another lawsuit waiting to happen is Jean Luc Picard who, towards the end of the strip’s first year, became the go-to background character. If there was ever a seat to fill or a random person to place wandering around in the background, nine times out of ten it was Picard. While Picard has crossed paths with Irv he and Joe have never met. Perhaps they will some day but for now just can an eye on the background.
First Appearance - The Producers
Other Notable Appearances: I’m not telling you, that’s no fun. It’ like Where’s Waldo – go find him!
Ice Cream Sandwich – Delicious and… deadly? Usually when you see someone eating an Ice Cream sandwich, someone else is experiencing a substantial amount of pain. Still, how nice is an ice cream sandwich on a hot summer day?
First Appearance - Saw IV
Other Notable Appearances: Bee Movie, Run Fatboy Run, Saw V