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Films being adapted into comics are nothing new. However, Die Hard:Year One is proof that the net for films to adapt has been cast wider.

Critics have often called out Hollywood for its lack of originality. If you look at a list of the top ten films of the year so far, you will see seven of them were sequels, remakes or adaptations from other media.

Recently, comic books have become a popular source of film ideas. Films such as The Dark Knight and Spider-Man have set box office records and inspired producers to visit their local comic shop for ideas.

But the road between comic books and film is not one way. Comic books have been adapting films for decades, and the tradition continues today.

The relationship between comics and film dates all the way back to the Golden Age. Dell’s Four-Color Comics often adapted films into their series, including Disney classics such as Bambi and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Film adaptation took on a new dynamic in the 70s when Marvel decided to take a chance on a risky, new Sci-Fi flick to be put out by 20th Century Fox. It was so much of a gamble that the studio insisted that two issues be on stands before the film hit theaters in the hopes that it would drum up business.

The film of course was Star Wars, and the studio had nothing to be worried about. The movie was a great success, as was the comic book, which went from a six-issue miniseries to an ongoing which lasted 107 issues.

Star Wars wasn’t the first Marvel film adaptation—the company also did adaptations of 2001:A Space Odyssey and Planet of the Apes—but it showed that the right film adaptation could bring lots of money into the publisher’s coffers and help increase its bottom line.

This is a lesson learned just over a decade later as adaptations of the Aliens and Predator franchise turned Dark Horse Comics from a struggling independent publisher into one of the four biggest comic companies in the world. In an ironic twist, the creative and financial success Dark Horse experienced with its film adaptations led them to pick up the Star Wars license when Marvel let it expire.

For a long time, comic book adaptations have mainly stuck to the world of science fiction, with some forays into movie serial inspired films like the Indiana Jones franchise and superhero themed films such as Meteor Man and Darkman. But, as of late, the focus had broadened quite a bit.

Horror has become popular, as film franchises such as Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Army of Darkness, 28 Days Later and others have made their way into comics. But with the success of these books, publishers are casting their nets a bit farther.

Die Hard’s John McClane is definitely a hero, but a down to earth one. He fights the bad guys with his wits and conventional weaponry, not rayguns or lightsabers. His villains aren’t above killing to get what they want, but they don’t go around loping the heads off of co-ed’s.

But John McClane is entering the world of comics this week as BOOM! Studios bring us Die Hard: Year One. This miniseries is set in the McClane’s days as a patrolman and acts as an origin for the character.

The Die Hard franchise has been built around one man struggling against impossible odds to come out on top. It will be interesting to see if the comic’s creators capture this attribute. Because if this series is a success, it could open up a whole new venue for film adaptation.

Also out this week:

Spider-Man: Clone Saga #1:
You are hard-pressed to find any storyline in comics as reviled as “The Clone Saga.” Funny, because you’d think that longtime fans being told that the last several decades of their favorite title was a lie would go over well.

Marvel, not one to let any old concept—no matter how unpopular—be consigned to the annals of history, is re-examining The Clone Saga in this special miniseries. Supposedly,
Original writers Tom DeFalco and Howard Mackie will be presenting the saga the way they intended it to really turn out back in the 1990s. I really don’t see how that will make any difference. 

Who knows? Maybe today’s audiences will be more responsive to the idea. Of course, there will be a lot of older fans staying as far away from this series as they can. So, having the new readers along might not be enough in this case.

Howard Mackie & Tom DeFalco (W), Todd Nauck (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Six-Issue Miniseries.

High Moon:
There have been a lot of promotions employed in the past to try and sell books, but never quite like the one use in this one.

Blogger Valerie D’Orazio is dating David Gallaher, the writer of the graphic novel, and in a blog post she employed this advertising tactic:

“For every 10 copies of the book "High Moon” that are sold, I am put .o5% closer to getting engaged. When you do the math, when 200,000 copies of "High Moon" are moved within the timeframe of approximately three months, that makes it 58% more likely I will be married, settled-down, and pregnant before the spectre of encroaching infertility casts a shadow on my hopes for the future.”

So, if you want to help bring a child into the world without any of that nasty emotional attachment, all you have to do is buy a copy of this collection. In addition, you’ll get the critically acclaimed first winner of Zuda’s online competition all in one place. It’s cowboys and werewolves, people! What more do you want?

David Gallaher (W), Steve Ellis (A), DC/Zuda Comics, $14.99. Webcomic Collection.

Bomb Queen VI #1:
Obamamania continues and this series is one of the last chances you might get to see something quasi-original with the President’s appearance, because in this series Barack Obama is the enemy of the main character.

In case you didn’t know, Bomb Queen is a villainess who has taken over New Port City and established a dictatorship. Naturally, this would not sit well with the new administration, who wants to shut her down. That, of course, means war.

Not everyone would think of making Obama the antagonist of the piece. So that is unique, at least. It will be interesting to see if this book makes any kind of splash in the National media. Maybe Bomb Queen will turn into someone that the neocons in the US can root for.

Jimmie Robinson(W/A), Image Comics, $3.50. Four-IssueMiniseries.

Punisher Annual #1:
The Punisher is built for conflict with just about all of the Marvel Universe. His quest to eradicate crime—permanently—in the world puts him at odds with the Marvel bad guys and the way he goes about his mission puts him at odds with their heroes.

Many stories have sprung up from this dynamic. The challenge to new writers is to keep these kinds of stories fresh.

Rick Remender and Jason Pearson have found a new spin for this kind of antagonism. A mind-controlled Spider-Man is attacking the Punisher looking for blood. Frank Castle doesn’t want to use lethal force against a hero who is not in control of his actions. But there is no way he could possibly survive unless he does. That there is the conflict.

Rick Remender (W), Jason Pearson (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. Annual.

Sky Pirates of Neo Terra #1:
I’m kind of curious on how this works. Image is the home of creator rights and self-owned properties. This book is a spinoff of a popular Nintendo DS game. So, is this some kind of work-for-hire project at Image? Or did the creators work out a licensing agreement with the gaming company so they could do the adaptation?

Regardless, fans of the game will certainly be happy to see it in comic form. For those of you not in the know, the story involves a young pilot named Billy Boom Boom who fights to save a world where magic and technology meet against the nefarious Pirate King. If that piques your interest, maybe you should check this one out—and start shopping for a DS.

Josh Wagner (W), Camilla D’Errico (A), Image Comics, $3.50. Five-Issue Miniseries.

Astro City: Astra Special #1:
I am a big fan of Astro City. On the surface, it might seem like just Kurt Busiek writing stories with analogs to the most famous Marvel and DC characters. But it is far more than that, as Busiek has created a mythology more real and layered than Marvel or DC could ever dream of.

The big new is that Astro City is going monthly next year. Before that happenes, and to bide time before the next installment of The Dark Age, we get this “special” miniseries. It focuses on Astra, part of Astro City’s Fantastic Four doppelgangers, The First Family. It deal with events surrounding her college graduation, which, being that she is a Furst, is anything but normal.

Kurt Busiek (W), Brent Anderson (A), DC/Wildstorm Comics, $3.99. Two-Issue Miniseries.

Shang-Chi: Master of Kung-Fu:
While Shang-Chi might seem like a character that would typify the 1970s, the decade in which he was created, his roots go back much farther all the way back to 1912.

Marvel acquired the rights to the Sax Rohmer villain, Fu Manchu, who had appeared in magazines and pulp in the early 20th Century. As a way to modernize him, they created a son who would go against his father’s evil way of life.  That son was Shang-Chi.

Don’t be mistaken, if it wasn’t for the Martial Arts trend of the 70s, Shang-Chi wouldn’t be around. And that he was drawn to look like Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan was no coincidence either. But the fact that he is still around today is a good indication of how an interesting character could be created from then-60-year-old stock.

Various (W), Various (A), Marvel Comics, $3.99. One-Shot.

William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer and daughter Vanessa. He also is a comic reviewer for PopMatters, has written for Comic Foundry magazine and is the comic book movie editor for Film Buff Online. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

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  • Bart Croonenborghs

    Bart Croonenborghs Sep 29, 2009 at 3:07am

    Jason Pearson on Spider-Man? Damn, missed that one in the previews ... thx 4 pointing it out.

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