How to Make a Comic Book Movie – Part 3

For the last couple of weeks, I have been exploring some general rules that, for the most part, comic book movies follow – especially superhero movies. In part 1, there was a focus on the origin story, which seems to be a constantly recurring element of superhero movies. In part 2, there was more of a focus on the sequels and franchise that comic movies tend to always have in mind. Here are my six general rules:

  1. Start at the Beginning – they always seem to go back to an origin story, and when they don’t (Superman Returns), it doesn’t always go very well.
  2. Pick a good Origin Story – while origin stories are a huge percentage of comics movies, they’re a much smaller subset of the comics themselves. However, they’re often told a few times in different ways – picking a good one is key!
  3. Pick a Writer and Stick With Them – a lot of people have had their hand at writing about these characters, with DC and Marvel spanning back decades. You can’t adapt all of it in a handful of movies – so generally, they pick one writer and go with their interpretation and storylines.
  4. Aim for Sequels (or a Franchise) – comic movies are like potato chips – hard to have just one. For studios, this makes sense – you make these movies to make a lot of them, and thus a lot of money. For fans, this makes sense – there are so many stories to be told, you can just keep going!
  5. Pick Multiple Villains – it rarely fails: if it’s not an origin story, then you’re probably going to see several named villains, often a distraction or a red herring in the bunch.
  6. Be Willing to Make Changes – sometimes good, sometimes bad, but changes are inevitable with these adaptations. Especially, the longer the series, the more that choices have to be made to keep with movie continuity, rather than comics continuity.
One of the 25 covers from Empire 25 for X-Men: Days of Future Past! I used this on http://comparativegeeks.wordpress.com/2014/05/19/the-hype-machine-x-men-days-of-future-past/

One of the 25 covers from Empire 25 for X-Men: Days of Future Past! I used this on http://comparativegeeks.wordpress.com/2014/05/19/the-hype-machine-x-men-days-of-future-past/

You don’t necessarily see all of these rules in one movie – can’t, really, as some deal with the very fact that there’s more than one! However, the more you can look at, the more apparent these rules become. Not convinced? Then allow me to explore a case study: the X-Men franchise. Now at 7 movies spanning decades of history, this series has more movies slated and even more in the talks: titles like DeadpoolGambitX-Force, and the sequel X-Men: Apocalypse.

While a rule like “aim for a franchise” might seem obvious here, are the rest? How do they hold up? Read on, and then let me know what you think in the comments below!

The Proof is in the Pudding: The X-Men

But wait, you say, the first X-Men didn’t include an origin story of the X-Men. It wasn’t necessarily based on a specific comic, although maybe the aesthetic of Ultimate X-Men at least is a part… except that comic came after the movie!

However, in large part, these comics all owe a lot to the work of Chris Claremont, and his run of X-Men comics in the 80’s. Because these comics first gave us Kitty Pryde, whose origin story has become a staple of the X-Men.

Cover from Uncanny X-Men #139… 2 issues before Days of Future Past. I used this on http://comparativegeeks.wordpress.com/2014/06/06/kitty-pryde-in-x-men-days-of-future-past/

Cover from Uncanny X-Men #139… 2 issues before Days of Future Past.
I used this on http://comparativegeeks.wordpress.com/2014/06/06/kitty-pryde-in-x-men-days-of-future-past/

No, really. They just used this design on a comic released last week: http://marvel.com/comics/issue/48535/all-new_x-men_2012_32

It’s hard to introduce a new character in comics, it is. And to get new fans buying in, to give them their own life. It happened with Kitty Pryde. She joins the team, and then almost immediately after, we are shown a dystopian future: with Kitty Pryde still alive. She’s powerful and skilled enough to survive the genocide of the mutants. Then she comes back in time and saves them. It’s just a little two-comic story called Days of Future Past.

However, this idea – of introducing the young, female mutant to the team, to introduce the character, to bring in a new audience, to re-introduce the X-Men and do a mini-origin story – they’ve done it a number of times, in different media.

Remember the 90’s X-Men animated series? That opened with Jubilee, the new young female mutant, introduced to the X-Men and who they are and what they do. They fight the Sentinels, deal with the mutant rights issue, and you spawn a TV show. Or there’s the amazing video game, X-Men Legends. This game opens with the new mutant Magma, a young girl who is recruited to the X-Men, trains, and joins the team. She’s who you play in-between missions, back at the X-Mansion.

So then, there’s the first X-Men movie. There’s our young Rogue, origin-story in tow, joining the X-Men, getting caught up in the rights issue, coming under Wolverine’s wing. Oh, because that seems to generally be part of it too: they end up as Wolverine’s sidekick. In all of these cases. Continue reading

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