EditorialTop List

Introduction

It seems these days, comic book movies are dominating at the box office. The Avengers, Batman, Wonder Woman, all of these heroes conjure up images of super powers and larger than life antagonists bent on world domination. That being said, some of the greatest stories of our time started off as comics and you would never guess it. If traditional comic books are focused on being light hearted and family friendly, graphic novels have gotten their fame for being dark and more adult oriented. While comics focus on the extraordinary, graphic novels tend to focus on the gritty nature of the real world. Without further ado, here is a listing of some of the most popular adaptations.

V for Vendetta

Graphic Novel 1988-1989 (10 issues, written by Alan Moore and  illustrated by David Lloyd)
Film 2005 (Directed by The Wachowski Brothers)

Set in an alternate version of the not too distant future, a police state United Kingdom is one of the last bastions as the rest of the planet has been decimated by plague, famine, and nuclear war. The masked protagonist, who goes by the name of V, takes on a protégée ( Evey Hammond) and aims to instill a revolution in the harsh society stifled of art, music, and freedom of speech.

300

Graphic Novel 1998 (5 issues, written and illustrated by Frank Miller and colored by Lynn Varley)
Film 2006 (Directed by Zack Snyder)

A fictionalized retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae, 300 is the story of a battalion of 300 Spartan warriors, men known for their prowess in battle, against the invading Persian army numbering more than 300,000 and their “God King” Xerxies. The Spartans leader, King Leonidas, goes against the wishes of the fates and aims to prove the even a God can bleed.

Snowpiercer (Le Transperceneige)

Graphic Novel 1982 (Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette)
Film 2013 (Directed by Bong Joon-ho)

When attempts to fix global climate plunge the world into a new ice age, humanities final hope is a 1,001 car super train known as Snowpiercer. Though the movie and the comic differ on the storyline, the overall message is the same. The closer you get to the front of the train, the higher ranking you are, the people in the caboose are the lowest of the low. When things seem their bleakest, you need to keep moving forward and fight your way to the front.

A History of Violence

Graphic Novel 1997 (Written by John Wagner and illustrated by Vince Locke)
Film 2005 (Directed by David Cronenberg)

In a small town, a man thwarts a crime in a diner and becomes a local hero. Despite all of his efforts to get the community to settle down the story gets the national media attention and soon after his sordid past with the mafia comes back to haunt him.

Road to Perdition

Graphic Novel 1998 (Written by Max Allan Collins and illustrated by Richard Piers Rayner
Film 2002 (Directed by Sam Mendes)

Based on two comics by Max Allan Collins (which themselves are based on a 1970 manga series “Lone Wolf and Cub”, an ‘unabashed homage’ according to Collins), the plot takes place in 1931, during the Great Depression, following a mob enforcer and his son as they seek vengeance against a mobster who murdered the rest of their family.

Oldboy

Manga 1996-1998 (8 volumes, written by Garon Tsuchiya and illustrated by Nobuaki Minegishi)
Film(s) 2003, 2013 (03 directed by Park Chan-wook, 13 directed by Spike Lee)

After more than a decade of being locked up in isolation for unknown reasons, a man is suddenly and unexplainably freed. Armed with only the knowledge of the food he was forced to eat every day (and soon after a hammer) our hero hunts down his captor and a reason why.

Blue is the Warmest Color (Le bleu est une couleur chaude)

Graphic Novel 2010 (Julie Maroh)
Film 2013 (Directed by Abdellatif Kechiche)

In this French coming of age story, Adèle’s life is forever changed when she meets Emma, a girl with blue hair. Over the course of the story, Adèle learns of life, love, loss and ultimately knowing oneself.

Sin City

Graphic Novel 1991-2000 (Written and illustrated by Frank Miller)
Film 2005 (Directed by Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez, and Quentin Tarantino)

Probably the most obvious of our list. In this gritty neo-noir series, we visit life, death, love, vengeance, and redemption. The film and its 2014 follow up, do a fantastic job of capturing the feel of the source material. Sin City based on the first, third, and fourth books in Miller’s original comic series and follows the perspective of different characters on their own personal, interweaving fates over the course of the film.

The Crow

Graphic Novel 1989 (45+ volumes, created by James O’Barr)
Film 1994 (Directed by Alex Proyas)

Originally written as a way to deal with the death of the creator’s girlfriend, the story is of Eric Draven, a rock star who is killed in a random act of violence. He miraculously comes back from the grave, carefully and meaningfully exacting vengeance on his murderers. The film is rife with controversy, as the actor playing Draven (Branden Lee) was accidentally killed on the set during filming by a defective blank, only eight days before the film would have completed production.

2 Guns

Graphic Novel 2007 (created by Steven Grant and Mateus Santolouco)
Film 2013 (Directed by Baltasar Kormákur)

Two government officials from different agencies are forced to work together to bring down a common enemy. The movie is a bit more colorful with the language and liberal with the bullets than its drawn counterpart but still reaches the same result that the enemy of my enemy is my friend and you always fight for the person fighting beside you.

In Closing

This is just a few of the fantastic stories that have made the jump from print to film over the past few decades. Hopefully, you were surprised to find the origins of some of Hollywood hits were more artful than meet the eye. Which are your favorites? Did we miss something that you feel belongs on our list? Leave your comments below, thank you for reading, and as one of the protagonists in our films says “Knowledge, like air, is vital to life. Like air, no one should be denied it.”