Six Comic Book Movies You Didn’t Know were Comics

barbarella comic book movie

With comic book movies as the industry’s latest goldmine, it’s a marvelous time to be a fan. There are superhero flicks lined up the wazoo, with massive anticipation for upcoming blockbusters like Avengers: Age of Ultron and 2015’s Superman vs. Batman movie. Thanks to the growing demand for movies based on comics, lesser-known books like RIPD and Guardians of the Galaxy are getting their turns in theaters, too.

The thing is, comics have been a rich source of movie material for decades now, so much so that some people might not even know that their favorite films began as words and drawings on paper. Here are a few movies that were based on comics that you might not know existed:

1. Barbarella

barbarella comic book movie

The 1968 sci-fi cult classic known best for giving the world a glimpse of Jane Fonda’s assets was originally a comic strip published in the French V-Magazine. Jean-Claude Forest created the wacky erotic romp in 1962, with heavy speculation that the lead character’s design was based on starlet Brigitte Bardot. Funnily enough, the ’68 film adaptation was directed by Bardot’s ex-husband Roger Vadim, who was currently married to Fonda at the time.

2. A History of Violence

a history of violence comic book movie

This Viggo Mortensen starrer was based on the 1997 graphic novel by John Wagner and Vince Locke. While the film can go toe-to-toe with some of the more gruesome scenes in the comic, the reveal of the main character’s secret past is a lot more effective in comic form. This in large part to the character’s original design: a slightly overweight middle-aged man, as compared to Mortensen’s decidedly hunkier look.

3. The Addams Family


The Addams Family has been so ingrained in our memories as several movies and television shows that it’s easy to forget that the Spooky Six and their supporting cast first appeared as a single-panel comic strip in 1938. Many of the classic strips appeared in The New Yorker, where creator Charles Addams began his career in 1932. The original characters didn’t even have names until Addams was asked to formally name them for the 1964 TV adaptation.

4. Road to Perdition


Directed by Sam Mendes and starring Tom Hanks, this 2002 thriller adapted the first part of a series of stories by Max Allan Collins. Beginning in 1998, Collins would actually continue the story up until the lead character’s grandson returns to his grandfather’s hometown. The comic itself took inspiration from the 1970 Japanese manga Lone Wolf and Cub by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima.

5. Oldboy


Speaking of taking inspiration from Japan, the landmark 2003 Korean revenge movie by Park Chan-wook was based on the manga Old Boy by Garon Tsuchiya and Nobuaki Minegeshi. The series first appeared in Weekly Manga Action in 1996. Spike Lee later adapted the Korean film in 2013. For those keeping track, that’s an American movie based on a 10-year old Korean film based on a 27-year old Japanese comic. Entertainment!

6. Ghost World


Starring a young duo in Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson alongside the always-excellent Steve Buscemi, 2001’s Ghost World was one of those understated films whose cult fandom and fantastic critical reception weren’t reflected in its box-office earnings. It’s fitting for a film written by and based on independent comic creator Daniel Clowes’ 1993 story from Eightball. Another of Clowes’ Eightball stories, Art School Confidential, was adapted onto the silver screen in 2006.

These are just a handful of the movies based on lesser-known comics out there. If you’ve got a favorite comic book movie that wasn’t mentioned, feel free to give it a shout-out in the comments! Is the small screen more your thing? You’ll definitely want to check out our piece on the history of superheroes on TV.

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  1. Jean says

    People keep thinking the Smurfs movies are based on cartoons…that’s not the case, they’re very famous Belgian comic books.

    • Marco Sumayao says

      So true! It’s probably because the cartoons have been around since the 80s, plus I’m not sure if the comics made their way to North American readers earlier than that. I personally haven’t read a Smurfs comic yet.

      • Jean says

        You should try to find some, they’re much better than the films (or the cartoon for that matter). These days the comics are mostly one page gags, but if you go to the earlier days there’s some good stuff there. Particularly their first story…Indeed the Smurfs are a spin-off of the Johan & Peewitt books, and are first seen in that series’ superb “The Smurfs and the Magic Flute” in 1958. It’s one of the only Johan & Peewitt books to be translated in English so I’d highly recommend you try and track it down. Actually you might be able to check out the 1976 animated film, which was the highest-grossing non Disney animated film in the US until 1985.


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