Comics on Film: From 'Star Wars' to 'Robocop,' 5 Movie-Based Comics You Have to Read

Comics on Film: From 'Star Wars' to 'Robocop,' 5 Movie-Based Comics You Have to Read

Oct 16, 2015

As most comic book fans have known for decades, the tradition of movie-based comics goes back perhaps longer than the opposite alternative, and can in many cases expand and deliver on elements that the movies left hanging, or unsatisfactorily unexplored. Next week, the latest addition of a movie-based comic will hit the stands when IDW Publishing releases Back to the Future #1, in partnership with original trilogy screenwriter Bob Gale, to tell new adventures of the time-traveling duo of Marty McFly and Doctor Emmett Brown.

In honor of that release, we thought it might be fun to go over five instances of movie-based comics that you absolutely have to read if you’re a fan of any of these respective properties. You’ll likely find some value in them because, in every case, the creative teams are major fans of each of these franchises.

 

1) Frank Miller’s RoboCop (2003-2004)

Do you remember the original RoboCop movie from 1987? It was an instant classic and an innovator for one primary reason: it was a smart movie that was pretending really hard to be dumb. Dripping with allegory and social commentary, the original RoboCop film directed by Paul Verhoeven also proved to be a very solid action film, and its success paved the way for two sequels that would be released in 1990 and 1993, respectively.

Unfortunately, both outings were very disappointing, utterly failing to match the charm or wit of the original. Things could’ve been very different, though. The screenwriter on both of those films was Frank Miller, the same man we know today to be responsible for memorable comics works like The Dark Knight ReturnsSin City, and 300. According to Miller, his original screenplays for both films were so unrecognizable by the time they got to the screen that it soured him on the Hollywood experience for years.

When comic book writer William Christensen expressed interest in adapting Miller’s unused screenplay for RoboCop 2 into a comic book series, Miller reacted enthusiastically and oversaw the comic book project from inception to completion. While the end result was undoubtedly a mixed bag for a lot of people, it’s definitely fascinating for franchise fans to get a hint of what both the second and third films could’ve been like had Miller’s creative vision at the scripting stage not been contained in the way that he claimed it was.

 

 

2) Star Wars by Brian Wood and Carlos D’Anda (2013-2014)

Star Wars in comics has a long tradition going back to the time the film first hit theaters in the late 1970s. In all of that time, thousands of different Star Wars comics titles have been produced that have approached the galaxy far, far away from almost every conceivable angle: the distant past before the movies, the recent past before the movies, the time during the movies, in-between them, after them, way after them, in a parallel universe to them, etc. The thing that made this particular Star Wars series so easy to engage with and fun to read, though, was that it only required you having seen one single film in the franchise – the original from 1977 – before diving into it.

Simply titled Star Wars and written by Brian Wood with art by the incomparable Carlos D’Anda, the story took advantage of the turmoil created by the destruction of the Death Star and the uncertain but solid alliances that were forming between the film’s key characters. On top of all of this was Darth Vader, who felt an unusual, inexplicable kinship with the pilot who dealt the massive space station its final blow, and he will use his resources and much of the power at his fingertips to find out exactly why.

This title proved to be one of the final Star Wars series published at Dark Horse comics before the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney made the franchise relocate to its original comic book home, Marvel. It was a hell of a note to go out on, though, and is still very much worth a read (even if its no longer in continuity with the current and upcoming films).

 

 

3) Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash by Jeff Katz, Jason Kuhoric, and Jason Craig

This is one of those instances where the laborious process of the studio system and the major amount of obstacles between pitching and shooting a movie caused a project to be killed, but thankfully the comics medium was there to make sure that the story would be told in at least some form. Originally scheduled to be a follow-up to the successful 2003 slasher crossover Freddy vs. Jason, various legal and financial realities ultimately caused the film not to be made.

The original treatment by New Line executive Jeff Katz was still floating around though, and Katz – who had recently (at the time) collaborated with DC Comics superstar Geoff Johns on a Booster Gold series – decided to take that treatment to potentially be developed into a limited comic book series. The end result is some of the most fun that either Nightmare on Elm StreetFriday the 13th, or Evil Dead fans can have on the four-color comics page.

The series did well enough for the combined efforts of WildStorm and Dynamite Entertainment to enlist Katz for a sequel, and some of the banter between both Ash and Freddy needs to be seen to be believed. While its sad we’ll never see Robert Englund and Bruce Campbell trash talk each other as the finger blades face off against the boomstick, this series is definitely worth a read just to get a hint of what could’ve been, especially since the future for the two slasher bad guys is a little uncertain at the moment. Thankfully, we’ll all get to see Ash again very soon.

 

4) Star Trek Countdown by Mike Johnson and David Messina

Similarly to Star WarsStar Trek also has a very long history in the world of comics going back to the time the original series was still on the air. Comics have been released based on every single Star Trek television series and feature film, and from an equally head-spinning number of perspectives on established continuity as the Star Trek franchise. Even that being the case, though, there’s something very special about Star Trek Countdown, released in 2009 to coincide with the then-impending release of J.J. Abrams’ first Trek feature film.

Back before the movie was released, some die hard Star Trek fans weren’t really sure of what kind of place this new entry would have in the established continuity of the series. Was it going to be a prequel, taking place concurrently with the events of the original series? Was it going to be a clean reboot? Well, why the hell is Leonard Nimoy going to be in it? There were a lot of reasonable questions about where the film would place in the series timeline, but many of those questions would actually be answered if you had read Star Trek Countdown.

Taking place roughly eight years after the events of 2002’s Star Trek Nemesis – which featured the final journey of The Next Generation crew, and was the most “recent” event in the Star Trek timeline – fans were taken on a journey of discovering who Nero was, where he came from and how he related to the timeline Trek fans already knew so well. It also served as a passing-of-the-torch in a lot of ways, since Jean-Luc Picard, Geordi LaForge, and even Data (didn’t he die in Nemesis?) all play a major part in setting up Spock Prime (played in the film by Leonard Nimoy) for the journey that would lead him into an alternate past. Very good reading for Star Trek fans everywhere.

 

5) Aliens vs. Predator by Randy Stradley, Chris Warner, and Phill Norwood

This is one of the strange and few instances where two successful film series converged into a very popular comic book series, which then would go on to spawn a subset film series based on the comics…which were based on movies. Yeah.

In 1991, Dark Horse released the very first Aliens vs. Predator series, and embodied what often makes comics so great as a medium. Why? Because it threw together two cinematic titans that fans the world over wanted to see throw down in some way, shape, or form. In the first series, a recently colonized planet is, unbeknownst to its new inhabitants, a regular hunting ground for the Predators. The Predators themselves actually have a Xenomorph queen, and have her begin hatching eggs for the express purpose of the hunt.

It quickly spins out of control and becomes a fight for survival, as the colonists have to contend with the two most unstoppable killing machines in the universe. While the two films that would spin out of this concept borrowed absolutely nothing from the original or follow-up comic book series, Aliens vs. Predator stands as a solid representation of both of these franchises, and is infinitely better than the films that would ultimately be released starting in 2004. Pick them up and go see what they’re about.

 

So, those are just five examples of movie-based comics. What are some of your favorites? Sound off in the comments below, and we’ll see you next week with a new edition of Comics on Film!


Chris Clow is a geek. He is a gamer, a comic book expert and former retailer, as well as a freelance contributor to GeekNation.com, The Huffington Post, and Batman-On-Film.com, as well as host of the Comics on Consoles podcast. You can find his weekly piece Comics on Film right here at Movies.com. Check out his blog, and follow along on Twitter @ChrisClow.

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