The comic book medium has reached a new pop-culture niche in recent years, and it was bound to happen with the advent of the billion-dollar-grossing comic book film. Comics have never disappeared from pop culture, but every decade or so they seem to fulfill a bit of a different purpose to the people outside of comic book specialty stores.
The 2000s saw the beginning of the era we’re in now. I don’t think its full implications can be completely gleaned just yet, but our era is definitely one where movies and comics, as methods of storytelling, are more intertwined than they ever have been before.
I read my first prequel comic book in 2000, just before the release of the first X-Men movie. I was 12 years old, and picked it up at Toys ‘R’ Us after grabbing movie-based action figures of Cyclops and Wolverine. It was a concept that was totally new to me at the time, and it provided me with an interesting experience when I finally went to see X-Men that July: I had some backstory to prime me for the film.
Nowadays, comic book prequels to movies and even TV shows are commonplace, and come from a lot of different and diverse publishers besides the “big two.” As a result, it might be difficult to navigate which ones are worth reading and which ones aren’t, especially going into a film that you want to have all possible story knowledge of without spoiling the actual film itself.
5) Dredd: Ma Ma
One of the best comic book adaptations in recent memory also managed to get a rather interesting prequel comic, that told us the story of Lena Headey’s character from the 2012 film: the vicious drug lord Ma Ma.
While Ma Ma made for a well-developed adversary for Dredd, there were a few details about her backstory that weren’t exactly touched upon, and it’s in this gray area that the digital prequel comic operates. We get to see her rise to the position of power she has in the film, we get to see the creation of her distinctive facial scar, and we even get exposed to some new truths about the creation of “slo-mo,” the drug that helped catapult her to the top of the world (or, at least Peach Trees).
Dredd: Ma Ma is a great read with fantastic, movie evocative artwork, and if you enjoyed the film then you should definitely set aside a few minutes to explore more of what it’s world has to offer. You can read it online HERE.
4) Iron Man 3/Thor: The Dark World
It pretty much goes without saying that the biggest name in superhero cinema would get some printed prequels to complement your trip to the movie theater, and while some of the prequels released haven’t exactly been must-reads, you may find yourself pleasantly surprised by the efforts surrounding both of this year’s major Marvel Studios films: Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World.
The Iron Man 3 entry helped to answer a lingering question about War Machine. While we did get to see Rhodey dawn the Mk. II armor and become War Machine in Iron Man 2, he was rather conspicuously absent from the events of The Avengers, and the prequel comic does a respectable job in explaining why that is. For the effort revolving around Thor: The Dark World, we get a closer look at exactly what Asgard was up to during the first 20 minutes (give or take) of The Avengers.
You might think that Asgard would attempt to take immediate action, Bifrost or not, when Loki started tearing up the S.H.I.E.L.D. facility looking for the Tesseract. Well, they were reacting, and we get to see some of the chain of events that led to Thor’s arrival in the film.
The graphic novels for the Iron Man 3 Prelude and the Thor: The Dark World Prelude are available now.
3) Dinosaurs vs. Aliens
This is probably the most unique entry on this list, because the released graphic novel is a prequel for a film that hasn’t even been developed yet. It seems to be coming, though, with Barry Sonnenfeld determined to bring it to life. What this graphic novel does so expertly is prove that the concept is far more intricate and well-developed than you think it is.
It’s not hard to imagine most people seeing a title like Dinosaurs vs. Aliens and thinking that it’s attempting to cash in on the Sharknado craze, but these are the people that have either not heard of, or seriously underestimate the writer: Grant Morrison. Known for his innovative, intricate, and sometimes apophenic-looking plots, Morrison gave an epic complexity to the massive conflict, and the fun and inventiveness of what joins the battle between dinosaurs and aliens really needs to be read to be believed.
The graphic novel of Dinosaurs vs. Aliens is available everywhere comics are sold, but be warned: it ends on a cliffhanger.
2) X-Men: The Movie Prequel (Wolverine, Magneto, Rogue)
I might have a little too much of a soft spot for this particular prequel, but it really helped to cover all the bases in order to set the three profiled characters up for the film. Since we only get rare bits and flashes of Logan’s past, the slightly greater exploration of what brought him to that cage in Canada was a great thing to read before walking into the theater. Magneto was also highlighted, with a little bit more of his time in a concentration camp shown, along with his early meet-ups with Charles Xavier (later explored in the First Class film).
Rogue was highlighted last, and while that story tends to be the least interesting, it was still managed to do something kind of unexpected with her. All in all, it’s a solid example of a comic book prequel to a film, and I have to smile at the fact that I picked it up with my X-Men action figures.
I'm sorry to say that it doesn't look like collections of these stories are currently in print, but you can always contact your local comic shop to see if they have the back issues!
1) Star Trek: Countdown
So far, though, the best comic book prequel to a film that I’ve ever read has to be 2009’s Star Trek: Countdown. For established Trek fans, the 2009 film was mysterious. Would it really breathe new life into Trek? Everybody knew that the original series characters would be in the film, so would CBS and Paramount just do away with the previous 40-plus-year continuity?
Countdown was the first indication of what they were doing, since the main characters in the series are those that predominantly appeared in The Next Generation. Reading the Countdown series and watching the 2009 film is a phenomenally complete experience, giving you practically everything you’d have questions about in regards to the transition from TNG to the relaunched universe.
Beyond that, it’s just great, fun comic book storytelling. If you’ve never read Star Trek: Countdown, it’s been the best comic book prequel of the last decade. This graphic novel is available, along with the prequel to the new film by the same creative team!
That does it for this week, but what are your favorite movie prequel comics? Do you like the Transformers series by IDW? Maybe you thought the Green Lantern prequels made the film better? Sound off below, and we’ll see you right back here next week!
Chris Clow is a geek. He is a comic book expert and former retailer, and freelance contributor to GeekNation.com, The Huffington Post, and Batman-On-Film.com. You can find his weekly piece Comics on Film every Wednesday right here at Movies.com. Check out his blog, and follow along on Twitter @ChrisClow.
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