A weekend spent rummaging through the old comic book boxes turned up an old Wizard magazine [1991-2011] and a stroll down films of superheroes past.
Honestly, there's nothing more fun than a cup of coffee on a Saturday morning alone in your basement with box loads of comics surrounding you. Actually, that all sounds like pure geek and it probably is. I was neck deep in The Avengers, Fantastic Four, The Uncanny X-Men, Guardians Of The Galaxy, The Omega Men, West Coast Avengers, The Incredible Hulk, The New Mutants, Justice League Europe, Metal Men, The New Teen Titans, Namor and on and on. I was drowning in classic comic books. It's great to look back at any of these old titles. These titles were one of a kind at one time.
This in turn led me to my local comic shop, which I rarely frequent, because I don't collect any of the new books and simply don't have the time. I spoke with one of the proprietors and he was a terrific fellow geek like myself. I said, "Remember when we used to collect these books, there was only one X-Men title and it was fantastic!" He replied, "Yeah, now they have 50 books. It's crazy. I mean take Deadpool [pointing to the shelf]. There's three titles for a so-so character at best." Clearly it's a money grab out there. Of course things changed many years ago. I remember things beginning to change dramatically in the very early 1990s. As he mentioned, "Today, it's more about the artwork. Story is very secondary. It's hit or miss." I think that's generally true. Our conversation dovetailed into comic books on film and we both winced at how often these films simply "dumb it down" and veer away from the source information discarding the book material that made characters work in the first place. We now have Ultimate storylines. There were very strong opinions shared on the state of the industry, but he was very rational about the topic and quite frankly it was hard to disagree. Green Lantern, Hulk, X-Men - creators have certainly taken their liberties, but sometimes too much so.
Nevertheless, my visit led me to the purchase of The Avengers The Yesterday Quest. It's vintage era John Byrne with an Avengers assembled team I quite enjoyed back in the day. Unfortunately, many of the characters in that story won't be appearing in next summer's film. That film will certainly be more faithful to the original set of Avengers characters.
The fellow to the left played Daredevil in The Trial Of The Incredible Hulk . Can you believe it? Anyway as I dug my way through the books passing X-Factor and Excalibur, I found an old issue of Wizard. It featured the 50 Top Comic Book Movies Of All Time. I thought I'd post them as it might generate some discussion. The article is from August 2003. It's amazing how things have changed in nearly ten years and how many more proper superhero films have been created since. The look of this Top 50 including the Top 10 alone would appear markedly different. I know personally Batman Begins and The Dark Knight would be in my top two spots. Enjoy the list friends.
50. Batman & Robin ./ 49. Steel ./ 48. Red Sonja ./ 47. Virus ./ 46. Fantastic Four ./ 45. Superman IV: The Quest For Peace ./ 44. Conan The Destroyer ./ 43. Captain America ./ 42. Tank Girl ./ 41. Supergirl ./ 40. The Crow 2: City Of Angels ./ 39. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret Of The Ooze ./ 38. The Crow 3: Salvation ./ 37. Superman III ./ 36. Batman Forever ./ 35. Barb Wire ./ 34. Judge Dredd ./ 33. Return Of Swamp Thing ./ 32. Bulletproof Monk ./ 31. Men In Black II ./ 30. Spawn ./ 29. The Punisher ./ 28. Howard The Duck ./ 27. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III ./ 26. Mystery Men ./ 25. Batman Returns ./ 24. Swamp Thing ./ 23. Batman ./ 22. Daredevil ./ 21. Timecop ./ 20. Conan The Barbarian ./ 19. The Mask ./ 18. Blade II ./ 17. From Hell ./ 16. American Splendor ./ 15. The Crow ./ 14. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ./ 13. Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm ./ 12. Men In Black ./ 11. Akira ./ 10. Blade ./ 9. Batman ./ 8. The Rocketeer ./ 7. Ghost World ./ 6. X-Men ./ 5. Road To Perdition ./ 4. Superman ./ 3. Superman II ./ 2. Spider-Man ./ 1. X2: X-Men United .
Pamela Anderson. 'Nuff Said! Whew! That's quite a list and requires a little commentary here. I've seen a good many of these films and some of the selections catch you by surprise here. Keep in mind, this is a comic book list not a superhero list. I have to literally stop myself to separate the two.
If you're going to put anime in the mix you can certainly include Nausicaa Of The Valley Of The Wind. It's seeds were established in a Hayao Miyazaki comic book and would personally notch higher here than Akira for me. Even His And Her Circumstances by Gainax was a splendid animation series based on a manga comic. So including one comic-based anime feels a little random.
We all know the Batman series began with Tim Burton. Today, Burton would be pushed further down the list and wouldn't crack the Top 10. Michael Keaton's Batman was good too, but the Burton Batman came just a little too early in his career. If given the reins today, his Batman would be stronger. Remember Red Sonja? She cracks the Top 50 here. That's crazy! Still, those Conan pictures tend to hold up. Speaking of crazy, there are film here that really fall well off my radar like Steel, Virus, Tank Girl and Barb Wire. How does Barb Wire beat Supergirl? Okay, it is Pamela Anderson, but Helen Slater is nothing to sneeze at. Barb Wire was absolutely panned too. How soon we forget. Conan The Destroyer is easily a better film.
I enjoyed The Crow, but wonder if it isn't quite the superior film I once thought it to be. Shortly thereafter came director Alex Proyas arrived with the superior film Dark City.
Dolph or Thomas Jane? This may be the only list to feature the earliest incarnations of the Fantastic Four and Captain America as well as the first The Punisher starring Dolph Lundgren. I'm not sure any of these films remain on the list, but that first Punisher film was far superior to the third one, Punisher: War Zone, which was atrocious.
I still have yet to see Howard The Duck. We've got the much maligned Howard The Duck and Swamp Thing making the list as well as a Jean-Claude Van Damme picture. I never really think of the goofy Hollywood pictures like The Mask, Mystery Men, Bulletproof Monk or Men In Black, but, again, this is a list for comic book films.
Road To Perdition and American Splendor are just terrific films based on comic book sources. I really have to stop thinking about men in tights [boy, that just doesn't sound good] or capes when it comes to comic books. I'm a victim of my youth and I wouldn't have it any other way. We didn't have a world filled with dark and gritty graphic novels. We had superheroes in tights. Well, that's not entirely true. There were certainly other companies that delivered some terrific science fiction or monster-based stories.
Spawn was a good film with a limited budget, but the Todd McFarlane hero never really spawned a love affair for me. Admittedly, it was a little after my comic hey day.
The always impressive Ron Perlman. The first two Blade films were solid and to be honest the Guillermo Del Toro directed Blade II is the superior film and should probably be in the Top 10 here.
Teenage Mutant NinjaTurtles. Ugh! I could never do it really.
In the top 10, director Joe Johnston of Captain America  acclaim makes the list and deservedly so with The Rocketeer. Ghost World is one of those pictures that simply wouldn't have registered, but again I'm thinking capes and tights.
The X-Men films were solid. Though, to be honest, they move so far away from the source material and continuity that it makes it difficult for me to have deep affection for them or embrace them entirely. They are fine pictures and at least they tell a story with good narrative structures. Along with X-Men and Spider-Man, Daredevil quietly continued a strong wave of superhero films at the turn of the century.
Ultimately, I think the list gets it right on the Top 4 considering the potential selections in 2003.
Additionally, Wizard truly rips some of the made for television heroes. Those titles include: Captain America , Captain America II: Death Too Soon , Dr. Strange , Generation X , a shelved pilot for Justice League , The Incredible Hulk Returns , Trial Of The Incredible Hulk , Death Of The Incredible Hulk , Nick Fury  and Vampirella . Wizard can slight the Bill Bixby-directed Hulk films all they want, but no one can call into question Bixby's passion for the series and commitment to the character that was David Banner on television.
The Wizard list is fair and sticks to its running theme of comic book films circa 2003. Its got me thinking about my own selections. So much has come and gone since the list was published in the now defunct magazine. Batman Begins. The Dark Knight. Watchmen. Elektra. Hellboy. Green Lantern. More X-Men. New Fantastic Four films. Thor. More Punisher films. Hulk films. Where is Dick Tracy on this list? Any others come to mind? What would your Top 20 be?
Next Issue!: The Sci-Fi Fanatic Top 20 Comic Book Films [featuring Capes and Tights].