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The Great Debate: Comic Book to film Adaptations – By Chris Salce

After hearing DC’s mind blowing announcement of a Batman/Superman movie at this year’s SDCC, it got me thinking about how so many comic book “fans” feel that Nolan’s Dark Knight series & Snyder’s Man of Steel movies did not stay true to the comics.

While Snyder made clear that they weren’t doing an adaptation of Frank Miller’s infamous 1986 “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns”, Snyder said the famous passage from Dark Knight Returns (read from Man of Steel actor Harry Lennix) “I want you to remember Clark, in all the years to come, in all your most private moments, I want you to remember my hand at your throat. I want you to remember the one man who beat you”, would let you know somewhat the direction of the movie.

I myself, am a fan of Both Nolan’s Dark Knight series as I am of Snyder’s Man of Steel. Yes, there were some things that bothered me about these movies such as (in my opinion) Bane’s “not so” Bane voice which sounded like a villain from the 60’s Adam West Batman. As if Christian Bale’s horrible deep sounding lisped Batman wasn’t enough. Or the fact that Bane used a mask that made him more tolerable to pain & wasn’t fueled by the venom like he was in the comics or even some of the really cheap death of the Villains such as Two Face & Talia al Ghul. & even in the Man of Steel how snyder decided to not intricate as much yellow as the original Superman suit that we all know. Maybe even how Jonathan Kent’s death was by tornado rather than a heart attack bothered me a bit. I’m sure there’s plenty that i’ve missed. But even with these flaws, it does not take away from these movies being good movies.

I believe that Nolan & Snyder tried to incorporate as much of the basics such as origin, into the films while doing their own take of our beloved heroes while using bits & pieces from the comics. There’s a lot of similarities between the comics & the films. For instance, in Frank Miller’s DKR the the infamous Batmobile was replaced by a tank. Which was also portrayed in Nolan’s version. Not totally similar in stature but a tank nonetheless. Miller decided to make his version of the batmobile completely different from the rest of the batmobiles in the past. Yet, nobody crucified Miller for doing it because it was something new & different. & the plot of Dark Knight Rises of an uprise of the inmates against Gotham City lead by Bane merely replaced the gang known as the Mutants whose leader was a strong Brute in Miller’s version. In both Miller’s & Nolan’s version, Batman faked his death to find a way out of being Batman. Not faked in the exact same way but the idea was still there.
As for Snyder’s Man of Steel, I naturally recalled the plot based off of J. Michael Straczynki’s 2010 Superman: Earth One mixed with Richard Donner’s Superman series. Both in Superman Earth One & Man of Steel, Clark is figuring out where his place on earth is (just as we all are). While trying to figure out where he belongs, alien armies invade Earth looking for the last son of Krypton. The only difference is in Straczynki’s version the alien leader is known as Tyrell, which is looking for Superman so he could kill the last son of Krypton to completely wipeout his planet’s enemy. Tyrell proves to be a physical match for Superman. As to where the alien leader in both Man of Steel & Donner’s Superman is General Zod which is looking for the last son of Krypton because he has the codex which carries the DNA of Kryptonians.

In both Straczynki’s version & Snyder’s version, the Alien armies both use a sort of gravity beam. The Earth One version is used more as a weapon against Superman where as the Man of Steel version was used as a way to expand Earth in order to create a new Krypton.

People complained that the Man of Steel’s Superman was reckless & did not care about the lives of citizens. If you read the comics, there is always some sort of damage to buildings, cars, streets etc. For example, in the Death of Superman. How could there not be any damage after a fight from the strongest man to ever exist on Earth? As for not caring about the citizens, Man of Steel did not show innocent citizens dying other than a pilot exploding into pieces. The audience assumed that there were people in collapsing buildings.

People were also very upset that in the Man of Steel, Superman killed Zod. In the comics Superman’s morals are pretty much not to kill anyone but he has killed Zod & Zod’s followers in an issue where he was summoned to the pocket universe. He has also killed Doomsday in another issue. So as for people being so shocked & upset by the fact that Superman killed someone, is ridiculous. They would not be upset if they read the comics.

So when all is said & done, the comic to film adaptations are just another way of telling a different story each time so “fans” will be excited for something unpredictable & fresh. Just as comic series do when they rewrite history by bringing someone back from the dead or rebooting a series in order to keep the audience entertained. As long as fans keep watching & reading, these directors/story tellers are doing their jobs & leaving us talking & making the great debate.

-Chris Salce