Comics on Film: Will 'Deadpool' Start an R-rated Renaissance for Comics Movies?

Comics on Film: Will 'Deadpool' Start an R-rated Renaissance for Comics Movies?

Feb 19, 2016

After a fair amount of observers and fans of comics-based movies were expressing either nervousness or outright aversion to the idea of an R-rated Marvel film, we now live in a world that has rewarded Tim Miller's Deadpool for being exactly that. A movie filled to the brim with comic book and creator references, Easter eggs, and its own brand of commentary on the state of the superhero movie, Deadpool has become an unqualified success.

The Proof is in the Numbers
No greater illustration of that fact exists than in looking at the worldwide grosses of every single comics-based film that's been released. As it currently stands -- according to BoxOfficeMojo -- Deadpool has already outgrossed every other R-rated comics-based release, save for one: Zack Snyder's 2007 adaptation of Frank Miller's 300. Still, though, with the momentum that Wade Wilson seems to be building up only one week after the film's wide release, it doesn't take a lot of imagination to see Deadpool overtake 300.
Here at, we've already given you some ideas for comic book movies coming down the pike that may now feel free to be rated R, directly as a result of Deadpool's surprise success. Wolverine 3 looks like the most likely candidate thus far, and there are certainly other characters within the X-Men franchise that could likely qualify for that treatment as well.
James Gunn's Warning
James Gunn - Guardians of the Galaxy
That being the case, it's very difficult not to take James Gunn's industry prediction to heart about what the overly processed system of Hollywood will likely learn from Deadpool's success. As we've gone over previously, and as Gunn points out, the studio system tends to look at the face of a successful movie and simply attempt to make more of that, without actually looking deeper to see what about the specific characters and story resonated most with audiences.
This is what could ultimately make Deadpool's success something of a double-edged sword. While the film proves beyond a doubt that a more adult-oriented superhero character can work in a major motion picture, that new fearlessness on the part of studios that have access to these properties may be overblown. The Deadpool character is a very unique one in the wider pantheon of characters from Marvel and DC, and attempting to make a movie "like Deadpool" with another character may not be as successful as a studio might hope.
An R-rated Renaissance?
Still, the upside of Deadpool's success also lies in the idea that some characters who may not have been viable adaptations last week may now find it easier to get the green light. This is especially true of DC Comics characters like the interplanetary Czarnian bounty hunter Lobo (who may be the most similar to Deadpool in regards to his sense of humor), or perhaps another, harder-edged try with brutal Old West antihero Jonah Hex.
The door can also likely be opened to a new cinematic effort with Image Comics hero Spawn, whose 1997 movie failed to make much of an impression on critics when its initial cut was carved into something appropriate for a PG-13 rating. Deadpool helps to challenge the notion some people may have about comics-based movies being only for one type of audience, and as long as an R-rated film is made with a character whose source material supports such an adaptation, then it may not be a bad idea.
What About Kids?
I know there are a fair amount of people out there who also feel like comics-related media is being "stolen" by adults, and that this alleged theft is some kind of recent phenomenon. That's not really true, though: the last Batman film that you could likely call truly "kid-friendly" was released in theaters fifty years ago, and turning on the TV to find programs like Marvel Super Hero SquadUltimate Spider-ManBatman: The Brave and the Bold, or Teen Titans Go! clearly shows that there's plenty of media available that is oriented specifically for kids.
Beyond passive media, kids all over the world are collecting Marvel-oriented figures for the interactive Disney Infinity, as well as able to play games like Lego Batman and Lego Dimensions with all-ages versions of popular DC characters. The fact that R-rated movies are just starting to be made featuring comic book characters doesn't take away from the fact that both Disney and Warner Bros. know they need to keep making new fans of these characters, and that starts when people are kids.
If there's a bottom line, I think it's this: Deadpool may likely be seen in the future as a disruptive grenade thrown in the middle of the comic book movie genre. Studios may start to see that R-rated films featuring these characters are viable and can be made all over the place, or this might be something that they only decide to do once in a while. Either way, Wade Wilson has likely accomplished his mission of making a splash, and the precedent set by his movie can only make things even more interesting going forward.
Here's just hoping that "interesting" can also stand alongside "good."

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

Categories: Comics, Features, Geek
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