Comics and Comic Books


While the United States is a global leader in the production of films based on comic strips and books, it is hardly the only player on the field. In Europe, for example, while not as widely respected as cinema, comics are more widely celebrated than they are in America. Despite this fact, fewer comic book series have been adapted to film. In the 1960s, Belgium's most celebrated comic book hero, Tintin, became the star of two live-action films starring Jean-Pierre Talbot (b. 1943) as the intrepid boy reporter. Tintin was later the subject of a series of animated films. Neither series was particularly successful, especially in relation to the overwhelming global popularity of the comic books. Perhaps the most famous comic-book-to-film transformation in Europe is Barbarella (Roger Vadim, 1968), with Jane Fonda (b. 1937) as Jean-Claude Forest's queen of the galaxy, now celebrated as a camp classic. At the turn of the century, the highly popular Astérix comic books by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo were made into three French blockbusters: Astérix et Obélix contre César ( Asterix and Obelix vs. Caesar , 1999), Astérix et Obélix: Mission Cléopâtre ( Asterix and Obelix: Mission Cleopatra , 2002, and Astérix et les Vikings ( Asterix and the Vikings , 2006). Similarly, Jean-Michel Charlier and Jean Giraud's revisionist western comic series, Blueberry , became a big-budget international coproduction starring Vincent Cassel (b. 1966) in 2004.

Another nation whose film culture is inextricably linked to its comics culture is Japan. The relationship between manga (Japanese comic books) and anime (Japanese animation) is very close, with popular comic books regularly transformed into animated series made for film and television, and popular films often re-created as comic book series. Exemplary in this area is the work of Osamu Tezuka, the most celebrated cartoonist in Japan, whose many works to have been adapted to film include Hi No Tori ( The Phoenix , 1978), Shin Tetsuwan Atom ( Astroboy , 1980), and Kimba the White Lion (1966). Among the most popular of Japanese transmedia hits are Akira (1988) and the Crying Freeman , Dragon Ball Z , Maison Ikkoku , and Silent Möbius films of the 1980s and 1990s, among hundreds of other examples. Hayao Miyazaki (b. 1941) is one of the most famous filmmakers whose works, including Kaze no tani no Naushika ( Nausicaä of the Valley of the Winds , 1984), are available as both comics and films. Manga series are also produced as live-action adaptations, though less often. One example is Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima's 9,000 page samurai epic, Kozure Ô kami ( Lone Wolf and Cub ), which was partially adapted as a series of six films between 1972 and 1974.

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