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Comic book film adaptations are international
by Denise DuVernay

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Because of work and home matters, Du has allowed her S.O. Joe, to guest write another column. Please make him feel at home.

August unofficially marks the end of the summer blockbuster movie season. Sure, you've still got high-profile comedies like TROPICAL THUNDER and PINEAPPLE EXPRESS to cleanse the palette, but the banquet of big-budget spectacle is done for the year. That makes now a nice time for reflection.
So what did we learn from the 2008 summer movie season? My takeaway: Get used to movies based on graphic novels. A lot of them.

With four comic book movies making the season's box office top 10 – THE DARK KNIGHT (1), IRON MAN (2), THE INCREDIBLE HULK (9) and WANTED (10) -- the movie industry has gone from being recreational users of the superhero genre and graphic novel-based material to full-out junkies. Studios and producers have found their new crack, and their lips are so tight around that pipe you'd think they were soldered on. Just check out the array of upcoming films based on comics.

Granted, this probably isn't news to any of you, the pop culturatti. You can't swing a dead radioactive spider without hitting some article about all the cool comic book movies coming out. But this is a DVD column, and you should be reading about movies you can watch NOW!

Honestly, though, do you really need to know that you can find SPIDER-MAN on DVD? Nope. Instead, I'm showcasing a few lesser-known films based on graphic novels or comic books or sequential storytelling or whatever the trendy term is now. And on top of that, all these movies are based on works from outside the United States.



Based on: "Lone Wolf & Cub," a 1970s manga series by Kazuo Koike and the artist Goseki Kojima.
What it's about: In feudal Japan, a shogun fears his executioner, Ogami Itto, has become too powerful and has Itto's family killed. Only the executioner's 3-year-old son survives. Father and son seek vengeance and become the assassins-for-hire known as Lone Wolf and Cub.
Did you know? This is the film Uma Thurman's Bride watches with her daughter toward the end of KILL BILL: VOL. 2.
Better than the comic? This film is the equal to its manga roots. Both are visceral and dynamic in presenting this violent tale. The action sequences are exquisite, including a sword duel in a field that's gruesomely faithful to the source material.
Also check out The series has four sequels, with SHOGUN ASSASSIN 5 being released last month.

Based on: Stories from the French comic anthology magazine "Metal Hurlant," which also had an American edition.
What it's about Like the anthology, it's a series of animated sci-fi and fantasy stories helmed by different directors and in different styles. The most famous segment, "Den," is an adaptation Richard Corben's "Neverwhere" stories, with voice work by John Candy and the best reason for finding clothes in a strange fantasy land: "There was no way I was gonna walk around this place with my dork hanging out!"
Did you know? The soundtrack, which wasn't released on CD until 1995 for legal reasons, features songs by Journey, Sammy Hagar, Stevie Knicks, Black Sabbath and Blue Oyster Cult.
Better than the comic? Nope. Which is a bit unfair because how can you hope to capture the beautiful artwork of

geniuses like Berni Wrightson and Moebius?
Also check out: FRITZ THE CAT, Ralph Bakshi's animated take on R. Crumb's character. For something more true to life, try Marjane Satrapi's PERSEPOLIS, based on her graphic novel memoir of the same name.

AKIRA (1988)
Based on: The manga series of the same name by Katsuhiro Otomo.
What it's about: It's 2019, World War III ended 30 years ago, and Neo-Tokyo is filled with teenage motorcycle gangs, shady government officials and freaky mutants with psychic powers. All of it rendered in an electric, fluid animation. What's not to like?
Did you know? Leonardo DiCaprio is producing two live-action films, the first scheduled to be released next year, that will adapt the manga but place it in Manhattan.
Better than the comic? The manga series is a epic, sweeping story that stretches over more than 2,000 pages. The film, which was also directed by Otomo, helped usher in cyberpunk with its futuristic look.
Also check out: Otomo's GHOST IN THE SHELL, also adapted from his original manga.

FROM HELL (2001)
Based on: The graphic novel by British creators Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell
What it's about: An opium-addicted, clairvoyant police inspector (Johnny Depp) hunts for Jack the Ripper and falls in love with one of his eventual victims (Heather Graham).
Did you know? Moore, who also wrote the soon-to-be-adapted "Watchmen," has sworn off any involvement with the Hollywood versions of his work since legal troubles over the adaptation of his THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMAN (2003). He receives no credit for any movies based on his comics, and his portion of royalties and option money is given to the

work's artist.
Better than the comic? Not by a long shot. Moore's FROM HELL is a multi-layered examination of Victorian culture seen through the brutal killings of Jack the Ripper, minus the psychic cop and prostitute love affair. The film version tries too hard to be an edgy whodunit with a 19thcentury backdrop.
Also check out: V FOR VENDETTA, which is a slightly better attempt at adapting Moore's work but still flags. And believe it or not, CONSTANTINE is a fairly entertaining film based on a street-smart London mage created by Moore for DC Comics' "Swamp Thing" series.

OLDBOY (2003)
Based on: The manga series by Nobuaki Minegishi and Garon Tsuchiya
What it's about: A businessman, father and husband is imprisoned in a warehouse for 15 years with no idea why. After he's released, of course, he's going to seek revenge. Wouldn't you?
Did you know? Celebs love this film. Samuel L. Jackson has cited it as one of his favorite films, and Quentin Tarantino tried to convince Cannes jurors to give it the Palm d'Or in 2004 over FAHRENHEIT 9/11.
Better than the comic? Yup. This intense Korean thriller plays better as a film than an extended series; especially when it comes to the cringe-worthy twist.
Also check out: David Cronenberg's adaptation of THE HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, with a wonderful performance by Viggo Mortensen.

Here are a few DVDs hitting shelves in the coming weeks.

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Semi-wholesome Midwestern girl and certified Geek Magnet offers her suggestions - often new, sometimes classic - for DVDs that are definitely queue-worthy.

Other Columns
Other columns by Denise DuVernay:

Goodbye, Du

Du Chats Movies With Comics Author Lonnie Millsap

Du Reviews ALPOCALYPSE by "Weird Al" Yankovic

Another Piece Praising BRIDESMAIDS

Friendship Films and DVD Picks for May 17

All Columns

Denise DuVernay
9 out of 10 librarians think Denise is a hoot. The 10th one couldn't corroborate because she was dead.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Denise DuVernay by clicking here.

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