Comics: From the pages to the big screen

Abhijeet Kini
Saturday, 4 May 2019

And over the last one decade and half, comics have found their way to come alive on the big screens, adding millions of new fans to their existing fan base. 

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when someone says ‘comics’? The panels? The dialogue bubbles, maybe? Or the colourful characters that have shaped our imagination (as well as aspiration) for decades? Comics are a beautiful combination of all these and more. They have been around for a long time and have become an integral part of what’s come to be known as Pop culture. And over the last one decade and half, comics have found their way to come alive on the big screens, adding millions of new fans to their existing fan base. 

Since we are on this topic, hope you had a chance to witness Marvel’s magnum opus Avengers Endgame! 

Avengers Endgame is a movie that has defined the cinematic-comic-based movie arc. It is a culmination of a decade’s work, and spanning over 20 movies. This expanse of work and detailing was found in comics, in print earlier. Now, we see that level of storytelling in multiplexes. For those who still haven’t seen it, don’t worry...there are no spoilers ahead. 

Cinematic movie universes, as they call them, have made sure that comic readers as well as non-readers can enjoy these movies alike. It’s alright if you haven’t read a single one of these comics because the movies literally start from scratch, sometimes even differing from the source material of the comics. It’s an interesting journey for a storytelling medium, which was largely seen as kids’ books, to now having a sturdy following across all age groups. 

Superheroes have existed since the 1930s and 40s in comics. Superman, largely considered the first ever real ‘super’ human, debuted in Action Comics #1 in 1938, and shortly after, following the trend of superpowered humans, a lot of our favourite characters emerged in the ’40s and ’50s. The period of 1940s and ’50s is considered the Golden Age of comics, giving us our classic heroes, set in the World War era, symbolising patriotism (for the US of course) and standing for hope and glory. A basic look at their costumes tells us how and why they were American... they wore the blue, red and white colours. Captain America literally donned the flag! And with a name like that, the readers from the ’40s got their dose of patriotic adrenaline every time they opened the comics. In fact, the heroes were quite often shown to be punching the heck out of Hitler and his allies in comics back then. 

This was followed by the ’60s (very late ’50s, actually) and ’70s, which is known as the Silver Age of comics. This was a time when comic book writers and artists decided to add some ‘fun’ elements to the stories, sometimes dumbing down the characters, all in the name of making comics children-friendly. This was due to the fact that post Second World War and prevailing social trends, comics saw a decline compared to the past. So, creators wanted to infuse a new sense of fun into it. This phase also saw the introduction of science and science fiction, giving characters scientific kinds of backstories, especially with chemical-related lab accidents, etc. This also gave us the hilarious Batman TV series of the ’60s. 

The Bronze age followed the silver, and this pushed comics into the realm of reality. There were deaths in comics, crime and drugs were featured in stories, in order to mirror reality to a certain extent. Here on, the comics got more and more dark. And now, we’re in the Modern Age of comics, the darkest age of comic stories. And this is where the comics studios started turning their attention to the cinematic medium. 

In an effort to change the caricatures of live-action heroes from the ’60s and ’70s, the ’80s gave us Superman and Batman movies, which presented the superheroes as respectable symbols. They weren’t the goofs that we saw in the earlier representations. The ’90s and 2000s were all about refining the art of cinematic storytelling using superheroes. 

Finally the last decade has given us some of the best comic-based movies of all times. Iron Man (2008) kick-started what would be the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Man of Steel (2013) initiated the DC Extended Universe, now also known as Worlds of DC. We are right now in the best phase as comic fans. Not only are we getting top quality stories and art in the comics, but also top notch movies thanks to the movie universes.

Our superheroes have indeed come a long way. 

(The writer is a comic creator, illustrator and animator)

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