It seems that almost every time a new comic book-related media piece (such as a graphic novel, film or television series) is announced, there is some sort of backlash from comic book fans, particularly if the new media article in question concerns a very popular character.
Every single backlash seems to follow a similar pattern: A film studio or publishing house announces that they are going to create a new comic book film or graphic novel, fans rejoice. The film studio or publishing house then announces a few plans that they have in store for the new piece that may see an aspect of the long-loved comic book character in question change, fans then take to the internet to rage about the change before even watching or reading the new piece.
There are countless examples of this happening throughout the past few years, including the decision to change Thor’s gender for a limited series run (which actually landed up selling better than its very well-written predecessor), the decision to make Captain America black, the stylistic choices for the Joker in #SuicideSquad and the decision to make Johnny Storm and Sue Storm adoptive siblings of different races in the 2015 #FantasticFour film.
Now, the reason most often put forward for these complaints is that these changes or adaptations don’t really follow the source material. This is an argument that I have always had a major problem with, particularly due to the fact that I don’t really think it is possible for writers/creators of graphic novels or comic book films to do this for a number of reasons.
Comic Book Characters Have Fluid Identities That Need To Change With The Times
There isn’t really any other literary medium quite like the comic book medium. Once created, it is quite possible for stories involving comic book characters to go on for decades, even after the original creator’s death – something that is not really seen with other literary forms.
For example, Bob Kane and Bill Finger created #Batman in 1939, meaning that the character is over 77 years old. Kane and Finger, however, did not write every single story that Batman was ever involved in. A large number of different writers have written Batman comics for DC over the past 77 years, each adding their own spin on the character.
One only has to read a single Batman comic from each decade to see that the character has changed significantly since he was first created in 1939, as this was required in order for the character to remain relevant within society.
While there are particular, fundamentals aspects of the character that always stays the same (such as Bruce Wayne’s parents dying after a show or Peter Parker causing Uncle Ben’s death), there are many fluid aspects of the character that can and will change as different writers have a crack at the character.
Continuing with the Batman example, some writers have made Batman appear to be more of an all-knowing Sherlock Holmes-type figure who has his wits about him, whereas other writers have focused on making Batman appear to be a somewhat of a "tragic" hero in that he is this psychologically broken individual that roams the streets fighting criminals because he is unable to face the events in his past.
If a new Batman film is released, who is to say which comic book interpretation of the character is the correct source material? If the character is consistently changing with each writer, would it not also be fair to interpret the movie as a new separate take on the character?
Unless something is drastically wrong with the movie, in which a totally new character masquerades under an old, beloved character’s name — no one should make the argument about sticking to source material.
Comic Book Media Have A Target Market Of Anyone And Everyone
Over the past few years, comic book media has become an increasingly accepted element of popular culture. This has largely been due to the advent of the #Marvel Cinematic Universe (#MCU) and later the #DC Extended Universe (#DCEU), which brought the genre to mainstream audiences.
While the debate as to whether the comic book film genre is becoming overexposed or overused is for another article, there is no denying that there is a lot of content in the genre being churned out by film and television studios each year. This year alone saw the release of Deadpool, Batman V Superman, Captain America: Civil War, Suicide Squad and Doctor Strange in cinemas and the release of Jessica Jones and Luke Cage on television.
No longer is comic book media a treat for the stereotypical Big Bang Theory-esque geek, but it has become an element of popular culture that people of all demographical backgrounds have begun to enjoy.
It is due to this very reason that changes with regards to race or gender has taken place in new comic book media as Marvel, DC and other comic book publishing giants attempt to capitalize on the current popularity of their product and reach the largest audience that they can.
Some have made the argument of "Why just not make new character?," but at the end of the day it is important to understand that most newly developed characters will never ever reach the popularity that Batman, the X-Men or Spider-Man enjoy, so sometimes change needs to be made there. It may also provide the change that is required for the character to remain relevant in society.
Before one actually decries any of these cosmetic changes, they should read the graphic novel or watch the film to determine whether it is actually a complaint worth raising. It seems so often that most people complain and decide that they will hate something before something is even released, thus not even giving it a chance.
Once again, it is important to remember that things need to change in order to remain relevant. If writers don’t try new things with comic book characters, they will soon fall out of favor with the general public, hastening their extinction.
The Book Is Always Better Than The Film
There seems to be a special bit of hate that comic book fans send to directors and writers of comic book films and television series with regards to character and story changes. When it comes to films and television series, it is important to remember that the general rule is that the book will always be better than the film.
If you first encountered the characters in the book, you’ll always measure the adaptation to what you have already experienced. This is not only true for comic book films, but rather for every single film that has ever been adapted from a novel.
I read A Song of Ice and Fire (#GameOfThrones) and the #HarryPotter series before watching the television series and films and quite simply, the adaptations did not live up to original version. This, however, does not mean that the adaptations were bad. (I think that both the Game of Thrones television series and Harry Potter film series do a very good job of bringing some fantastical worlds to life.)
Then, it is important to understand that books (even comic books due to the number of years most serials have been running) include a ridiculous amount of extra detail that would not be possible to include on screen. When you read a novel or comic book, you often have access to extra information, perhaps further interaction with other characters or thoughts that a film does not have the ability to provide.
Films are often a highlight reel of the best moments in a book or comic book series, often only adding a few new moments here and there. The reason for this is that films don’t have the time to go into as much detail as a book or else every single film would be longer than seven hours. So, it is somewhat natural to expect a dumbed down version of the story.
Some story components or character aspects that may work well in a book, may not particularly translate as well on screen. Film or television audience may have a lower suspense of disbelief than book readers or a particular story component may be too hard to explain properly on screen. Changes sometimes need to be made if the film is going to be successful.
It Is Not Always About The Fanboys And Fangirls
You know what you get when you decide to focus on only what the fanboys and fangirls want? Something that will most likely fail to meet expectations, as was the case with #Warcraft earlier this year.
Although highly-anticipated, the Warcraft film did not perform as well as studios would have liked it to. One of the main complaints of the film (other than the weak plot line) was that it paid too much fan service to the fans of the original video game series, thus alienating newcomers to the series.
While it is important for those adapting works to another form to pay tribute to the fans of the original content, it is also important for these fans to realize that an adaptation that is accessible to the general public needs to be created.
This sometimes means forgoing a narrative that is particularly in-depth with regards to the lore of the story that it was adapted from. Remember, as previously stated, sometimes it isn’t possible to adapt everything from the original.
Although I don’t think that adaptations of anything will ever truly be able to truly stick to source material, I know that complaints about films, television series and graphic novels will never stop, regardless of the genre.
It is with this that I say rather than complaining on the Internet about some changes in a film or novel adaptation of a work before it even comes out, read or watch the work first. At least then complaints will be able to be substantiated properly, rather than with this feeble excuse of the work not sticking to source material.
The next movie in the pipeline that seems to deviate from the comics? Logan:
Has a change in an adaptation of a comic book or novel character ever angered you? If so, why? Please share in the comments down below.