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Five Films You Didn't Know Were Comics

​So you're a fan of both cowboys and aliens, but aren't sure if the flavors will taste well when mixed.
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Luckily, those on the fence about Cowboys & Aliens (opening this Friday), don't have to waste their time and money at the theater to discover its western/sci-fi mashing plot -- they can waste 'em at the comic book store.

Cowboys & Aliens was based on a graphic novel of the same name, created by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg in 2006. Not all that hard to believe, especially when the concept consists of cowboys fighting aliens.

Movies are rarely advertised as adaptations of comic books, and while some can be spotted from a mile away there are a few that you might not guess came from cartoon panels.


Sam Mendes of American Beauty tried his hand at an old school gangster story and succeeded in every aspect. Adapted from a graphic novel by Max Allen Collins and Richard Piers Rayner, the story follows Michael Sullivan, a mobster, and his son as they embark on a bloody quest for revenge against his former boss after his wife and youngest child are murdered.

Set in a rain-soaked Chicago amid the Great Depression, the film employs dark shadows with a murky coloring that's reminiscent of the distinct lines and harsh contrasts of its black-and-white comic counterpart. 

Tom Hanks portrayal as Sullivan is inspiring as a damned father embroiled in a family feud that ends in tragedy.

Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson starred in this 2001 adaptation of the 1997 comic book of the same name, chronicling the awkward journey from teen to adulthood. Created by Daniel Clowes, the comic met immediate praise for its unflinching portrayal of the modern teen, with the characters living in a sprawling suburb littered with corporate storefronts.

In what is widely considered one of the best comic book movie of all time, Birch and Johansson star as Enid and Rebecca, two high school students that spend most of their time pulling of pranks and hating everything. 

They slowly begin to drift apart, and after Enid has an intimate interaction with the much older and creepy Steve Buscemi, the two have to make some tough choices about their futures.

By John Wagner and Vince Locke, Vertigo released this black-and-white, 300 page graphic novel in '97 to critical praise. The pacing of the script is cinematic, and the art employs film-like framing techniques that heighten the drama, to the point where the book seemed destined for film. David Cronenberg directed Viggo Mortensen for the film, released in 2005.

Like Ghost World, A History of Violence makes some significant changes from the source material in its film translation, and the story suffers for it, but in the end it's a satisfying adaptation. 

The premise is the same: a small town family man is brought into the national spotlight after a heroic deed, which brings the past he tried to leave behind back to plague him.

Okay, this should be one of those films that's blatantly derived from comics, but that fact is clouded due to involvement of the mid '90s Hollywood juggernaut that is Jim Carey. The concept was ridiculous enough that it could have been created just for him. However the character is the creation of Mike Richardson, John Arcudi, and Doug Mahnke and starred in a number of series for Dark Horse Comics.

The movie changes many aspects from the original comic book series, including the fate of Carey's Stanley Ipkiss and the Mask being a psychotic serial killer with cartoony powers. After its release, subsequent comic books toned down the violence and made the character's intentions more heroic to align with the film's content.

A box office and critical failure upon its release, Howard the Duck has since become a cult classic for its bad acting and eery special effects. George Lucas brought this Marvel Comics character to the big screen in 1986, and the film almost tops the list when one thinks of "cheesy '80s movies."

This version of Howard shares only name and appearance with his comic book counterpart, who is a cynical asshole. Though they share similar origins, being abducted from their home world, the film version becomes Mrs. McFly's band manager while the other hangs out with Bessie the Hellcow and Doctor Bong in the comics.


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