Comic Books

Top Comic Book Adaptations: No. 35 – Man of Steel

manofsteelRanking things is a fun, imperfect, exercise that forces us to think deeper about what we value and why. Understanding that the ultimate goal here is impossible – you are unlikely to find any two people who will agree 100 percent on a “Top 50” ranking of anything – I will be unveiling some lists over the coming weeks and months here at Pop Culture Spin: My Top 50 stand-up comedians and my Top 35 live-action comic book/graphic novel adaptations.

We will start with two comedians at a time, until we get to the Top Ten, and one comic book or graphic novel adaptation at a time on alternating days.

Both of these ideas arose after happening upon other lists with (more or less) identical parameters that I found lacking. Having extensive but not encyclopedic knowledge of these subjects, I decided to try it myself which lead to some fun conversation on social media. Hopefully, these articles continue to generate conversation – that is the point in all of this.

To participate, tweet to @DrewCreasman, @PopCultureSpin, or @CrossOverBMF and listen to see if we read your tweets on the Cross/Over podcast.

As such, please remember that I am but one incredibly flawed human being and there are bound to be gaps in my knowledge. Let’s keep this fun!

Let’s begin with some caveats for the comic book adaptations list:

  1. Ranking is based on ⅔ my own assessment of quality and ⅓ legacy
  2. I can only judge stuff I’ve seen: Apologies to: Kick Ass, Arrow, and older TV series like Wonder Woman or The Incredible Hulk
  3. Must be live action: Apologies to: The Incredibles, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, the Bruce Timm universe, Anime
  4. Must be adaptations, no original characters: Apologies to: Sky High, Unbreakable, Heroes: Season One, Hancock
  5. Must be adapted from graphic novels or comic books (no novels) Apologies to: Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, etc

So without further ado …

No. 35: Man of Steel

Let’s get the bad stuff out of the way: Man of Steel does a poor job of being faithful to the Superman character. Much like a certain Tim Burton DC film that will be lower on this list than some may expect, Man of Steel might have been a better movie if it had told the story of new characters instead of ones that have been around since the 1940s.

At first, I appreciated the attempt to put a new spin on the narrative and tell a “post 9/11, age-of-paranoia” version of Superman but the filmmakers pushed this agenda to such an extent that they fundamentally changed the character almost beyond recognition. This manifests itself in two main ways in the film: the absurd amount of collateral damage Superman causes without even seeming to notice, and the butchered version of his relationship with his parents.

For all the ink the collateral damage has gotten – and the trailers for Batman vs. Superman appear to be acknowledging this – my biggest problem with the film is having Jonathan Kent die because Clark decides not to save him, rather than the original heart attack story. Superman is supposed to learn at this moment that he can’t save everybody, not that he shouldn’t even try in order to protect himself.

All of that having been said, Man of Steel is an excellent adventure film and the first to truly capture the scope and power not just of Superman but of all the Kryptonians that appear in the flick. Audiences were no longer wowed by “believing a man can fly” or seeing the Man of Tomorrow lift big, heavy things — even if those big, heavy things were islands made of Kryptonite. For the first-time on film, Superman felt truly godlike and that is no small accomplishment.

The casting is fantastic – most especially Henry Cavill, but also Amy Adams (who is always wonderful) and Lawrence Fishburne – and the aesthetic from Zach Snyder provides a perfect blend of fantasy and reality that opens up all kinds of possibilities for future films in this franchise.

Gone are the days of Lois Lane as merely damsel in distress. The script and Adams paint a picture of a capable and savvy investigative journalist with far more important things to contribute beyond falling out of things and being caught.

The story is massively flawed, but as an introduction to this universe and an attempt to finally have the world’s oldest, most renowned superhero join the modern age of comic book adaptations, the movie succeeds in a big way. Far from perfect, the fact that Man of Steel is imminently watchable (as opposed to Superman Returns which was a more faithful adaptation of the character) means now we get Batman vs. Superman, Suicide Squad, and others.

Much like the Tim Burton Batman films, Man of Steel is an imperfect but remarkably important rebirth of an all-time great character. Revitalizing the Superman name alone is enough for it to just barely crack this list.

Complete 35-part list for best comic book adaptations ever!

Part 1 – Daredevil / Part 2 – The Dark Knight / Part 3 – V for Vendetta
Part 4 – The Flash / Part 5 – Sin City / Part 6 – The Crow
Part 7 – Agent Carter / Part 8 – X-Men: Days of Future Past / Part 9 – Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Part 10 – Guardians of the Galaxy / Part 11 – X2: X-Men United / Part 12 – Iron Man
Part 13 – The Avengers / Part 14 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) / Part 15 – Superman (Richard Donner)
Part 16 – Hellboy / Part 17 – The Incredible Hulk / Part 18 – X-Men: First Class
Part 19 – Spider-Man 2 (Sam Raimi) / Part 20 – Thor / Part 21 – Ant-Man
Part 22 – The Dark Knight Rises / Part 23 – Spawn / Part 24 – Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Season Two
Part 25 – Avengers: Age of Ultron / Part 26 – Batman Begins (Christopher Nolan) / Part 27 – Captain America: The First Avengers
Part 28 – Batman (Tim Burton) / Part 29 – X-Men (Bryan Singer) / Part 30 – Spider-Man (Sam Raimi)
Part 31 – Smallville: Season One / Part 32 – Hellboy II: The Golden Army / Part 33 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2, 3
Part 34 – 300 / Part 35 – Man of Steel / Extra Part – Final Thoughts

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