Comics Creators

Why are comic books so hard to adapt into films? Apart from Marvel and DC ofcourse.


I was just wondering, you see a lot of remakes, reboots, book filmings, manga adaptations (in Japan at least) but comic book adaptions into films or even FAN films is something you see a lot less.

How comes?

Lets take Millar’s work. Okay, we got Wanted, Kickass and The Secret Service. But what about the rest? Is it that hard to produce? Or do the studios do a classic, we buy the rights and keep it in the shelves for the next decade.

It’s just if you compare all the mediums, there is really not a lot of comic book films. You see more fan made manga into film adaptations than comic book ones.

What do you guys think?


As with most stuff it’s all down to money.

In comics, it costs whatever the artist’s page rate is for him to render the visuals for anything anyone can dream up. It doesn’t cost any more for them to draw a hundred superheroes fighting than a picture of a cat playing with wool. It may take a little longer, though that depends on what sort of mech-armour the cat is wearing.

On the other hand, if you want that sort of thing on screen it costs. Alot. The budget dictates alot of what you can actually have in the story and the tale you can tell. Not to mention the fact hundreds of creative people are working on it, not just 1-6 creators, like you would have producing a comic. [Therefore more chance for certain areas to be ‘badly’ or poorly produced.]


It’s also a very slow process sometimes, getting the right people together at the right time. Most of Mark’s books are in some stage of being turned into films.

Comics don’t do badly really for a sometimes pretty niche product and as Parker says the outlay is always big, a film like Kick Ass cost only $28m but that’s one of the few contexts where you’d use ‘only’ with such a huge sum of money. The studios will quickly sign off for a sequel to Kingsman over a new property because they know it has an audience now.


Comics, especially the good ones, use so many different ways to communicate message, story, themes, the gist of whatever, and are sometimes more complex in that respect than any other media, which makes it hard to translate into moving imagery and sound.

Examples: Art, art styles, art styles within art styles, impossible characters, super duper mega effects that are unteanslatable because of the cost of ink vs the cost of weta working their asses off for a yearm, rapid cuts in viewers perspective, coloring, line work, page layout, typography, up to commonly three or four streams of text (dialogue, yellow boxes, thoughts and onomatopoetry (Bam!)), insertion of prose and documentation, characters retelling the entire story to another character, different artists, comics within comics (watchmen and the pirate), multiple main characters (team books), time jumps (and travel), complete disregard of or just lack of necessity to adhere to the aristotelian drama (act 1, 2 and three) and much more.

It’d be lik Walt Disney and David Lynch plus ILM and WEtA directing a half cartoon but nightmarishly surreal underground simulation of a roller coaster in space told backwards with eleven different languages spoken with and without subtitles covering the action…

Does the point come across? Complexity.

Ask Alan Moore.


The average bestselling manga hits way more of the percentage of the population in Japan than the average western comic hits here in the western world, so I don’t know if that comparison works. Books such as 50 Shades of Grey and Gone Girl are fast tracked to the screen because they’ve sold huge amounts, much more than the average comic.

Still in the past few years we’ve gotten a Kingsman movie, two Kick-Ass movies, a Scott Pilgrim movie, a Judge Dredd movie, two Red movies, a Sin City movie, Whiteout, probably more that I’m forgetting. I guess it could be better but it could be worse.

As Gar said, stuff with a built-in audience will get priority over stuff without one, most of the time.

Some of Mark’s stuff that is currently in development will likely not make it to the screen, but it’s sounding like a lot of it will, and this stuff just takes time. Especially if you’re trying to do it right. Kingsman’s success was obviously a huge boost in making the other projects happen.


I think previously it was a lack of technology (and credibility - comics used to be sneered at and still are by some, until people realise they can make money out of them and then their attitude changes).

Now I think the market is saturated with comic book movies, with more and more being scheduled every year.
There’s not a week goes past without an announcement of comic properties being bought up for big & small screen.

Have I mis-read the question?


I don’t think so, I just think we may be looking at it with different slants.

Pedro is thinking Millar has so many good ideas to adapt why haven’t they just made them all. Which in many ways seems a reasonable question.

We’re looking at it that getting any film made is very difficult so the fact that Mark has had 4 films made of his work already is pretty damn impressive. You hear of screenwriters that actually make a living having only sold scripts that have been optioned and never made.

@Bigdaddy may be able to help on the fan films :slightly_smiling:


Fan Films: I don’t think they are hard to adapt, just expensive. As a fan film the Kick-Ass story seems easier to do than most since there are no super powers involved. CGI (though endlessly complained about) isn’t easy or cheap, and it’s darn near required to do anything beyond a “real world” story. The earliest short I made with my daughter was Star Wars based, the FX consisted of pushing buttons on her AT-AT off camera (for sound) and hasbro lightsabers. Even with those limitations most of the fan films I’ve seen on Youtube are based on comic book characters, though pretty much characters that have a film already made so I don’t know if they would be really based on the comic book.
When I script a project I draw an 8 panel per page comic book with speech bubbles and sound FX before I write anything out. So I always feel like I’m adapting a comic book. After we finish I do the reverse, pull screen grabs, add speech and sound FX, then layout a new panel configuration and print a photo version of the comic book.
Last year Amber introduced me to American Vampire, I think it would make a great cable series, and we have talked about doing a fan film series of the 1st book 2017, but it will require a new computer and better software.

Pro films: It seems like a comic book should be fairly easy to adapt from a visual stand point, reading them feels like storyboards to me (I often “hear” a soundtrack while reading). One reason we see more Marvel/DC properties is because they are safe for the investors. I assume that “safety” contributed to the massive changes in Wanted for film adaptation. I saw V for Vendetta, Red, Watchmen, Sin City, Wanted and Kick-Ass before reading any of them. I have to say I enjoyed them all more than any of the recent Marvel or DC films. Budgets are an issue but as @garjones pointed out Kick-Ass was made for 28 million (our film budget is measured in hundreds! :wink: ) and exceeds any of the big budget superhero movies I’ve seen made since Superman as a piece of film making and story telling. Even the deviations from the book made sense for a film adaptation. I was surprised so many people were critical of The Watchmen film, after reading the book I still think it’s in the top 5 comic book films I’ve seen.


Films get made when the stars align, including movie stars.

It’s not just a great idea, or even a great story from that idea, or even a great screenplay from that story, or even a great cast that likes the screenplay and a great director that likes the screenplay and a wealthy studio that likes the screenplay the cast and the director and the budget.

It’s all of it, at the same time, for long enough to make the film.

What often happens is that the get some of the pieces in place, and while they’re trying to get the rest, some of the pieces they have start to drop out, so they have to be replaced, and then some more drop out while that’s happening and so on.

Welcome to development hell.


With all of the above being said, these days your self-published comic with decent fanbase just might have an easier time finding its way to hollywood than an original idea spec screenplay. May not get made, but you might get paid…a little.


Talking about ONE PUNCH MAN on the Anime thread, it’s an interesting case study - similar to THE MARTIAN really - in how convoluted the process can be. From a lowly and quite low quality webcomic that even went on hiatus to a top notch manga and finally a terrific anime series that defied all the rules of the genre, it basically defeated the odds primarily by having an diamond hard kernel of “appeal” that is really hard to define or even understand except after it became a success.

It’s that often undefinable element that can both maintain the dedication of the people making the work and then the success in the response of the audience.