The Five: Best comic book-to-TV adaptations
The worst disappointment, though, is whenever some studio exec decides to "adapt" one of our mylar-enshrined treasures into some big or small screen entertainment. It seems that for every good decision made, there are ten disasters of the "nipples on the bat-suit" variety.
In recent years, movies have faired better than TV when it comes to adaptations, but there are a few gems to be had. The Five best comic book-to TV adaptations after the jump...
Writer's Note: I chose the following using two criteria: 1) how much I enjoyed them growing up and 2) how "comic-booky" they felt. I tried to stay away from only trying to find shows that were perfect beat-for-beat recreations of the book they were adapting. In some instances (#3 springs to mind) the show in question completely ignored just about the entire history of the comic.
#1. The Adventures of Superman - Yes, it spawned ten thousand hacky jokes on A&E's Evening at the Improv ("You ever notice that the bad guys always shoot at Superman and the bullets just bounce of his chest and then when the bad guy runs out of bullets he throws the gun at Superman... and then Superman DUCKS! Wow, who are the geniuses that directed that show! I'll be rolling up the sleeves on my blazer for the rest of the week, try the veal.") Yes, it spawned enough conspiracy theories and curses that Ben Affleck recently played George Reeves in a movie. But it was such goofy fun, you just didn't care. I'm too young to have watched these when they first aired (I, like a lot of you, saw them as reruns while drunk in college), but my father told me that when he was 8, there was no bigger show on TV. And why not? Superman hitting a trampoline to "fly", Reeves finding an excuse at least once per episode to bend the barrel of a gun, and the fact that "young Jimmy Olsen" appeared to be in his mid thirties all added up too good clean 50s fun.
#2. The Flash - Ah, remember the excitement surrounding Burton's first Batman movie? If you were a comic book fan back in the late eighties, it was like Kennedy's Camelot. We were filled with such high expectations about what the future would hold for comics on the big and little screen. Just like those heady 60's idealists, though, we had no way of knowing that it would all end in a flash of Joel Schumaker just a few short years later. However, during that brief time of hope, we were treated to a Burton-esque adaptation of the Flash on CBS for one season. It looks pretty cheesy today, but to my 13 year-old brain, it had everything a cool TV adaptation of a comic should have: a really good costume (another Burton innovation: sculpted muscles instead of flab inside spandex), an awesome theme song/opening sequence, and Mark FRICKIN' Hamil as The Trickster. Geek heaven.
#3. Spiderman and His Amazing Friends - Okay, so a lot of purists are gonna kill me on this one. For whatever reason, in 1981, Marvel decided that the best way to bring Spiderman to television was to team him up with Ice Man and a never-before-seen pyro-chick, Firestar. Why did they decide to do this? My only guess is that it was during Stan Lee's brief experimentation with crystal meth. Despite its oddness, there was still a lot of cool to be had here. Like uh... Ms. Lion, the pigtailed dog. Oh, okay, fine, there wasn't a lot of coolness in the show. With the exception of the boys converting their room into a secret crime lab, the tons of appearances by Marvel favorites, and the hotness of Firestar (hey, I have a thing for red heads), this show was eight pounds of crap in a five pound bag. But it was my first experience with Spiderman and this is my list, so nyah.
#4. Justice League Unlimited - This was everything that Spiderman and His Amazing Friends was not. This was a pitch-perfect adaptation of what it's like to read a comic book. From the over-arching storyline to the continuity to the vast and well-rounded supporting cast to the simple, yet detailed animation, this show was absolute bliss for any hard-core comic fan. The only problem I have with it is that it aired when I was in my late twenties. I could only watch it late at night, after my wife was asleep ("What is this stupid show" she would scream at me while I cried into my collection of Power Pack comics). If this show had been on the air during my mid-teens, my brain might have exploded.
#5. Tales From The Crypt - Not a super-hero comic, but a tonally dead-on recreation of the old E.C. horror books. During the mid-eighties, this show provided me with both my introduction to situational irony and tons of gratuitous boob shots. My all time favorite episode is probably the one where Joe Pantoliano plays a bum who agrees to be in an experiment where a cat-gland is grafted into his brain. When he wakes up from the operation, he's found that he's inherited the "9 Lives" of a cat. So what's his first move with this new-found power? That's right, become a circus freak. Soon, Joe is offering up his own death for money. Death #8 is to be buried alive and after that, Joe's just gonna sick back and relax on all his big-time circus freak money. As he's narrating his story from the coffin he's just been buried in, though, he comes to realize that he forgot something -- the cat who donated his gland had to die! The "9 Lives" gland was already used once when he got it! The episode ends with Joe clawing on the coffin, his final death imminent. I mean, come on, how great is that: you have Joey Pants, a "9 Lives" gland, a doctor doing illegal experimentation on a bum, and a guy getting rich off of being a circus freak! Throw in a fairly cool (for its time) animatronic puppet, and you've got yourself one great show.
Spiderman TV Show (1960s) - Spiderman, Spiderman, Does whatever a spider can.
Anything Paul Dini (1990s) - if you know who Paul Dini is, you understand why he's being mentioned here.
As always, give me your five in the comments!