Comics and Comic Books


Artists like Miyazaki highlight the considerable overlap that exists between the realms of cinema and comics. A number of cartoonists have moved from the production of comic books to the creation of films in various capacities. As early as 1911, for example, Winsor McCay (1871–1934), creator of the comic strip Little Nemo in Slumberland , was experimenting with animation in films like Little Nemo and then Gertie the Dinosaur (1914). Other artists have taken on specialized roles in film production. One obvious example of overlap is the area of storyboarding, a specialization pursued by comic book artists like Paul Chadwick and Howard Chaykin at various points in their careers. A large number of cartoonists and comic book writers have written screenplays, including Jules Feiffer and Frank Miller (b. 1957). Cartoonists have also become film directors, though less frequently. The celebrated Yugoslavian cartoonist Enki Bilal (b. 1951), for example, wrote and directed three feature films: Bunker Palace Hôtel (1989), Tykho Moon (1996), and Immortel (ad vitam) (2004), based on his comics La Foire aux Immortels ( The Carnival of Immortals ) and La Femme Piège ( The Woman Trap ). Similarly, Sylvain Chomet (b. 1963) moved from comics to directing animated films, including the Academy Award ® –nominated short La Vieille Dame et les Pigeons ( The Old Lady and the Pigeons , 1998) and Les Triplettes de Belleville ( The Triplets of Belleville , 2003).

While it is less common for filmmakers to move from film to comics, it is not unheard of. Significantly, Kevin Smith (b. 1970) used his fame as an independent filmmaker to establish a side career as the writer of the superhero comic book series Daredevil and The Green Arrow , and Joss Whedon (b. 1964) created his own comic book, Fray , based on his Buffy the Vampire Slayer film and television series. Perhaps the best-known filmmaker to work in comics was Federico Fellini (1920–1993), who authored two graphic novels with the artist Milo Manara (b. 1945): Viaggio a Tulum (1989) and Il Viaggio di G. Mastorna (1992).

The extent of the exchange between film and comics suggests the shared ancestry of the two media and the elements that bind them as visual narrative forms. While film has greatly outpaced comics in terms of developing material for audiences beyond children, recent comics-to-film adaptations, particularly in the superhero genre, indicate that much of the appeal for filmmakers in comics is precisely this affiliation with children's culture. At the same time, it is clear that the stage is only now set technologically for a vast explosion of films based on comic books. Advances in computer-generated animation and special effects since the mid-1990s have allowed filmmakers to capture the sense of the fantastic that is a hallmark of many successful comic book series. New developments such as the digital backlot promise to push this ability even further. Interestingly, two of the first four films created entirely on digital backlots were based on comic books and directed by the creators of those comics: Immortel (ad vitam) and Sin City (2005), which was directed by Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez (b. 1968) and based on Miller's comic book series by the same name. As film technology changes, the distinctions between comics and film will continue to decrease.

SEE ALSO Adaptation ; Animation ; Cartoons ; Children's Films

Daniels, Les. Comix: A History of Comic Books in America . New York: Outerbridge and Dienstfrey, 1971.

Fell, John L. Film and the Narrative Tradition . Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986.

Gravett, Paul. Manga: Sixty Years of Japanese Comics . London: Collins Design, 2004.

Jones, Gerard. Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book . New York: Basic Books, 2004.

Sabin, Roger. Adult Comics: An Introduction . London/New York: Routledge, 1993.

Bart Beaty

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