A few Problems with Comic Book Adaptations

There are many comic book adaptations these days; films, TV, Games, Books – even other comics.

As a comic fan the plethora of adaptations is, on the whole, a good thing. I know not everyone will agree with that statement, some readers won’t agree with the ‘Problems’ that I am going to discuss. Some readers might have different concerns, feel free to let me know in the comments below.

Not understanding (or disregarding) the source material

One of the biggest issues going and for this I give you Judge Dredd (1995) starring Sylvester Stallone. It is also guilty of a few other misdemeanors.

Stallone does good action movies if you don’t care too much about plot. Demolition Man is a great example, plot light but really fun – I really like that film. Judge Dredd doesn’t give a very good depiction of Dredd himself, his personality was close… but just not close enough. Dredd (2012) was much closer, I’m not even referring to the ‘helmet issue’ yet, though that’s an important aspect.

Take the Judges on the Council of Five. They use a mix of names of Chief Judges from the comic, Judges that were never on the Council of Five together, that’s a minor issue after all fans like name checks. The big issue is making Judge Griffin a villain, that’s one of the heroes of the city, someone who stood up to Judge Cal. That’s pretty bad.

Also very bad… Dredd knows he is a clone in the comic. He knows Rico is his clone and changing that for the film was a major case of disregard being shown to the source material. It simply wasn’t needed for the plot.

Throwing Everything at the Wall

Sure, through enough and some will stick. A lot is going to miss and most of it will stink.

Again this is a biggie, fans want to see their favourite hero/villain/vehicle/location so sometimes a creator will pander to this. In the first episode of Gotham there was Selina Kyle (Catwoman) Oswald Cobblepot (The Penguin, Edward Nigma (The Riddler) as well as the gang bosses Carmine Falcone and Sal Maroni. In the Gotham City PD there is a similar glut of characters. Granted the series also has original characters such as Fish Mooney.

Now so far Gotham seems to be doing OK with the balance – I really quite like what they are doing with Selina for example, but they are running the risk of too much too soon.

A comic that is guilty of this is the ongoing IDW Judge Dredd title. In a recent storyline they threw Judge Cal plotting to take over the city into the mix with Judge Death and the Dark Judges. Plus the rather questionable addition of a multitude of new Dark Judges that simply were quite questionable at best (that bit fits the previous category too).

Of course Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D. received criticism for not putting enough known villains in the first series. Look how they pulled off that great tie-in to The Winter Soldier though… these two facts are undoubtedly linked.

Not Delivering What is Expected

This is something that the first three X-Men films did. They offered so much, there were plenty of name checks with the students at Xavier’s School for the Gifted. Yet they kept falling just that little bit too short.

Yes in many ways this one contradicts the previous issue and it can be a problem in several ways. It can also be a good thing.

Take Dredd (2012) for example. No Angel Gang, no Judge Cal, no Dark Judges, none of the big names. Though there were name checks for Owen Krysler (The Judge Child) and Chopper. The uniform wasn’t what was expected, or the city, or the vehicles.

For me those things were secondary because the character of Dredd was so well done. The feel of the film was so well done (you can read more of why I think this was a good adaptation elsewhere). However in many ways this will have added to the bad Box Office takings. Other people clearly wanted those things.


It is a tough thing to strike a good balance. In many cases they’ll fall foul of some of the things I have mentioned. However all in all, as I said at the start of this article, mostly the increase in exposure is a good thing.

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