When Marvel Comics published Star Wars #1, back in the 1970s,l it was considered an unusual, even risky, move. It proved to be such a good move, however, that producing a comic book became a regular part of launching a new science fiction property. Still, not all movies or TV shows succeed, and when they fail, they take their comics down with them. The resulting comics become curiosity items, if not necessarily collectibles.
So here’s a sampling of comics that may make you go, “Really? They did a comic about that?” If you have a nominee for this list, please mention it in the Comments section below.
Yes, there actually was a Dune comic , an adaptation of the David Lynch film by Ralph Macchio and Bill Sienkiewicz. The protocol at Marvel in those days—the 1980s—was to publish high-profile movie adaptations as a magazine, then split them into two or three parts and reprint them as a regular sized comic book. The comic actually had one advantage over the movie: it could use footnotes to explain some of the exotic terminology.
On the other hand, Jack Kirby’s adaptation of 2001: A Space Odyssey (on the home page) was first published in the tabloid-sized treasury format. Yes, take a second and let that sink in. Jack Kirby. Adapting “2001.” Tripiness, redefined.
Despite the title, this was a tie-in to a Bob Newhart sitcom from the early 1990s called, reasonably enough, Bob . He played Bob McKay, who created a super-hero called Mad Dog during the Golden Age who was trying to re-introduce the character to a modern audience. The original Mad Dog was supposedly a kid-friendly, totally heroic character—how he got the name Mad Dog was a mystery to me—but McKay’s new publishers wanted to reboot him as a Dark and Gritty vigilante. At least one veteran comic book professional wrote for the show and it had an enthusiastic following in the industry, but it never really took off with the general audience.
Marvel took an unusually ambitious approach for the tie-in, publishing six issues of a flipbook comic where one side featured stories of the original Mad Dog and the other side featured the modern version (That’s why it gets two covers here).
This cover suggests a more-or-less typical issue of Heavy Metal, and a relatively recent one at that (It’s from 2011). This issue, however, contains stories based on War Of the Worlds: Goliath, an animated film that Kevin Eastman, the editor/publisher of HM, executive produced. I don’t think “Goliath” ever had theatrical distribution, but it just arrived on DVD. (FWIW, I liked the movie quite a bit.)
Running a paltry three weeks on ABC in 1987, Once a Hero was the story of Captain Justice and a hard-boiled detective who journeyed from the Land of Fiction to the real world (assuming you can talk about a TV series as the real world.) J.M DeMatteis and Steven Leialoha adapted the pilot episode for Marvel. (This may be nostalgia talking, but I remember the one episode of Once a Hero that I saw as being sweet, funny and altogether too smart for the room). An extra touch in this first issue is an excerpt from a fictional interview with Stan Lee, where Stan talks about Captain Justice and his creator, Abner Bevis. Stan was doing cameos long before the Marvel movies….
This comic is different from the others in the post because there are only six story pages and it never appeared in a comic shop or convenience store. It was given away in theaters, during the first run of The Iron Giant, an early movie by Brad Bird (The Incredibles). The six pages are basically a teaser for the movie (which is worth your time, if you haven’t seen it.)
Despite what it says on the cover, Strange Days was more of a minor motion picture. Written by James Cameron, this 1995 film was about a device that allowed people to experience other people’s pre-recorded emotions and memories. The comic book adaptation was by Dan Chichester and several artists: Mike McKone; Bill Reinhold; Jim Amash; Sam Delarosa; Jim Fern; Mark McKenna; Aaron McClellan; Paul Neary; Jimmy Palmiotti and Jim Sanders III.
Titan A.E. was an animated space adventure that came and went in 2000 without leaving much of an impact. There were some paperbacks, though, and this three-issue limited series from Dark Horse Comics.