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Comic Book Day: The 5 Best and Worst Adaptations To Comic Books

This summer, more than ever, we’ve seen a deluge of films based on comic books flooding the cinemas. From Kick-Ass 2 to 2 Guns to Iron Man 3 to The Wolverine to Man of Steel to… you get the picture. But what about the other side of the coin? Adaptations of films, television, and video games are widely considered to be the scum of the comic book universe. Here, we sifted through all the garbage to find the most notably horrendous ones, and the diamonds in the rough.

The Best: 

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Comic Book – Evan Dorkin

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Our two favorite grungetastic airheads seamlessly transition from the screen to the comics in this 12 issue series penned and inked by Evan Dorkin. You can practically hear Keanu and Alex’s gnarly voices utter phrases like “Ted! We’re totally gonna die! Hurry! Jeez!” and “We wouldn’t leave dead dudes in your house! We’re your friends! We fully traveled the celestial planes, played truly awesome games of chance for our lives — ” as they travel through space and time with their old pal Death battling various intergalactic baddies and defending the Princess’ honor. This adaptation is most excellent.

28 Days Later – Michael Alan Nelson, Declan Shalvey

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BOOM! Studios put this series out to bridge the gap between 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later and satiate franchise fans’ questions of what became of the initial story’s characters. One of the few comics here that can stand alone as a story without the help of its fan base, the 28 Days Later comic is ripe with frightening tension, great dialogue, and plenty of gore.

True Blood – Alan Ball, David Tischman, Mariah Huehner

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We wanted to hate this comic, we really did. It would be easy to try with the current oversaturation of vampire fandom and the massive fan base HBO’s True Blood currently commands; however, despite our best efforts, this is one of the more superbly written and drawn adaptations out there. The characters are true to the series with the same plot twists, clever dialogue, and steamy scenes that you’d expect from the show. Fans will rejoice, and new Fangbangers will be happily introduced into the world. Bonus: dreamboat actor Michael McMillian, who plays the evil Reverend Steve Newlin, co-wrote the second book!

The New Ghostbusters – Erik Burnham, Dan Schoening

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IDW’s reboot of the comic series based on the cartoon offshoot of The Real Ghostbusters, The New Ghostbusters delivers all the same lighthearted antics and hilarious characters as before, but now with Dan Schoening’s expressive and colorful art to back it up. It’s a fun reinvigoration of the old series that doesn’t lack any of the film’s special brand of comedy or creativity. Plus it doesn’t have the BK Kids Club vibe that Extreme Ghostbusters did, so dyed-in-the-wool film fans won’t have much to complain about.

The Toxic Avenger – Doug Moench, Rodney Ramos

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Kudos to Marvel for picking up Troma’s cult classic and beautifully turning it into an 11 issue series. The story of mega-nerd Melvin Junko’s transformation into the Toxic Avenger is a no-brainer for comics, and Ramos’ display of the hero’s mutant physique and toxic powers is well paired with Moench’s punchy ’90s dialogue. Though it might not be the most highbrow comic on our list, fans of cult, violence, sci-fi, and humor should pick it up and revel in the toxic nostalgia.

The Worst:

Superman and Batman vs. Alien and Predator - Mark Schultz

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If the title didn’t immediately tip you off that this is one giant clusterfrak of a crossover, be warned that the story inside will only bring a dull throbbing pain to your head that will last hours after the disappointment has subsided. How they managed to make the action scenes boring is beyond us, but the ridiculous, tired banter between Batman and Superman (we get it! They’re foils of each other!) is enough to make us want to slap some facehuggers on, lest we ever catch another atrocity like this again.

World of Warcraft – Walter Simonson

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A major issue with basing any kind of spinoff on a role-playing game is that there are no actual characters to build a foundation upon; some might see this as an opportunity to break away from normal conventions of a game and expand into more creative territory. Sadly, the route taken in this uninspired, cliched mess is the opposite; the characters are so flatly stereotypical and the stories are, frankly, shameful, considering Simonson’s repertoire as a writer. Still, the comic features some incredible art, and if you’re a tween fan of the Warcraft universe, you’re probably into it already.

 Resident Evil: Code Veronica – Lee Chung Hing

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A companion series to the games we loved, this storyline expanded on events occurring among the characters we loved in Resident Evil 2, only instead of the typical twisted story lines with interesting characters and gotcha jump-scare moments to keep you on the edge of your seat that we’ve come to love, it featured laughably bad plot lines paired with art that sucked all the nostalgic horror out of the once great video game. If it weren’t so cheesy and sad, it might be useful for our so-bad-it’s-funny pile. Unfortunately, this series messes up characters and story lines that are too close to our hearts to find amusing.

24: One Shot – Renato Guedes

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Though many diehard fans of the show were satisfied simply to have more Jack Bauer content in their hands – as with most comic book runoffs that capitalize on fandom - 24 was just not very good. Lazy storytelling and cringe inducing photo-realistic art make this one adaptation that we can just try to forget happened altogether.

Transformers: Movie Adaptation – Robert Orci, Alex Kurtzman, John Rodgers

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Possibly the most doomed to fail on this list, Transfomers: Movie Adaptation only ran for four miserable issues, during which time it gave a vague attempt to continue the adventures of Even Stevens and the Autobots. Ugh, we get the whole money, profit, Energon-cubes-for-gold thing, but this comic didn’t even stand a chance. Guess what? When you remove the actual breasts and explosions from a movie that people will only see for breasts and explosions, all you have left is a very transparent attempt to squeeze profit out of a franchise.

Did we miss any comic adaptations that were either eye-gougingly bad or shockingly good? Let us know in the comments below!

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23 comments

  • I could name a lot of bad adaptations of many movies ,and yes the Transformers Live Action would be one . But also Marvel did a terrible job back in 1986 with their adaptation of The Transformers : The Movie (Animated ) . But IDW did redeem this with their 2006 20th anniversary version . To try and put a 2hr+ movie into four issues ,is very hard ,especially when the script is not done ,which is the case most of the time .

  • Hold on a second.

    So TrueBlood, which the author of this article states, is very in-line to the TV series and doesn’t really deviate (the TV series, mind you… not the books) praises the adaption for such reasons, but slams WoW for not taking advantage of the universe and introducing new characters?

    I find this laughable, since the HBO TrueBlood series butchers the books, and asks that other established universes do the same thing.

    As it is, the Warcraft comics do introduce ‘new’ characters that have a heavy tie to the lore of the current universe and that help shape some of the main characters and plot points surrounding them.
    Did they choose some of the more interesting story lines within the series to adapt? No, not always.
    It seems to me that the author of this article doesn’t really know much about the Warcraft Universe – I mean really… no actual characters to build a foundation on? Flat out BS – and want to pick on one of the larger adaption candidates. A shallow move.

  • Deadair Dennis I totally agree! My mind is still reeling that it is even possible to make a best TV-to-comic adaptation and NOT include Buffy on that list. My heart broke just a little Nerdists….

  • Granted, comparing a bad movie to a bad adaptation could be neither here nor there, but “Superman IV: The Quest For Peace” was adapted by comic book writers that clearly hadn’t bothered to see the movie first. The printed version of Luthor’s creation of Nuclear Man not only differed completely from the same scene in the movie, it was boring. I might be able to provide more examples, but both experiences were so traumatic, I’ve suppressed my memories of them.

  • In 1990 Malibu Graphics published an adaptation of “Plan 9 from Outer Space”, which was argueably as good as the film. But where is Marvel’s adaptation of “The Empire Strikes Back” by Archie Goodwin and Al Williamson. Or the “Batman” comic by Denny O Neil and Jerry Ordway.Or “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” by Roy Thomas and Mike Mignola. Or “Jurassic Park by Walter Simonson and Gil Kane. Or Archie Goodwin and Walt Simonson’s adaptation of “Alien”. There’s a ton of good adaptations out there, and not terribly difficult to find.

  • I submit that the Serenity/Firefly and Darkwing Duck (BOOM!) series are very good as well.

    Also, congrats to Mr. Burnham (yeah, I know it’s you even though you disguised your name ;) ) for making this list. Well deserved.

  • MOST EXCELLENT! During college, I spent a lot of time on eBay tracking down all 12 issues of the Bill & Ted comic book, and I was totally satisfied with the quality. It is an excellent continuation to an already excellent series.

  • The Marvel adaptation of WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT? was lousy, mainly because one of the charms of the movie was the constant presense of old school toon characters from a number of “universes”/film studios. But Marvel didn’t have the rights to any of them. Marvel should have partnered with the publishers that handled the Disney and Looney Toons licenses.

  • Buffy has been solidly middling between best and worst to me. There are some great moments, reminiscent of the show (the end of Giles’ storyline, Buffy as a roommate), and some terrible ones (Spike captaining a ship full of bug aliens?).

    Based on a games – The Last of Us has been excellent, Akaniero was trite and dull.

  • The Bill and Ted comic looks goofy but then again the film series is goofy. I heard they are making a new movie I’m not sure about how they would talk in the film, it would be weird to see them speaking that 80′s California accent in their 40′s.

    I love The Real Ghostbusters series so if that comic is in the same story line as the series I’m sure that is a fun comic. It seems everything is being adapted into a comic book these days IDW seems to do it best. Toxic Avenger sure does take me back, it’s one of the craziest creations ever, but fun.