Comics and movies have always been two sides of the same coin. Early animated films often looked just like the comics and cartoons that they were based on.
Superman and Batman proved that comic superheroes could succeed on the big screen, and in more recent years, comic book characters from the X-Men to Spider-Man have exploded on the silver screen. (Sadly, this has also resulted in a number of terrible movies, ranging from Daredevil to the Fantastic Four, but such is the price of glory.)
Still, it isn’t just characters that have made the jump from comic books to the big screen, or even the medium screen. Many comic book writers have ended up working on TV and movies, and some TV producers have decided to try their hand at comics. This should come as no surprise, since both are visual mediums that often rely on lavish colorful special effects and explosions, and also where a good story can really help.
Joss “the Boss” Whedon may be the most obvious example of someone who has gone from TV success to comics. His TV series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” ran for seven seasons, and even though the first season was so bad as to be almost unwatchable, the other seasons were sufficiently entertaining to make Mr. Whedon very popular.
After the seventh season ended on TV, Joss wrote “Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight”, a comic book series that continues where the show left off. Whedon also created “Serenity: Those Left Behind”, a comic series based on his popular TV series “Firefly”. Lest you think Whedon only writes comics about his own characters, he also worked on a few issues of the X-Men.
Jeph Loeb, one of the writers for “Lost”, also used his success in film to transition into comics. He began his film career by co-writing “Teen Wolf” in 1985, and later worked on the sequel with Tim Kring. In 1991, Loeb was working on a feature script for a movie about famed comic book superhero The Flash.
Unfortunately, the deal fell through, but Loeb was no flash in the pan (sorry). He ended up writing a comic book for DC Comics instead, in what was to be the beginning of a long career in the comic industry. Loeb worked on numerous issues of comics ranging from Captain America to Superman, although he is perhaps most well-known for his work on the Batman franchise.
Given his roots in film, it should be no surprise that his Batman comics ended up serving as a template for the “Batman Begins” movie. But Loeb ended up jumping back from comics to TV, teaming up with his former Teen Wolf co-writer Tim Kring to create the popular TV show “Heroes”. Thankfully, the superpowers they used were things like invisibility and flying, rather than being a horny teenage werewolf.
J. Michael Straczynski, better known as JMS, was another creator who jumped back and forth between TV and comics. He began working on cartoons, like many comic artists, since older cartoons were essentially just animated comics. JMS was a staff writer for “He-Man” and “She-Ra”, two over-muscled children’s cartoons from the 1980s. Yes, those cartoons actually had writers, in spite of what it may have seemed like.
In 1987 JMS began working on some comic books like “Teen Titans”, but kept working on various other television shows including a number of science fiction vehicles. In the next few years, he would also work on various sci-fi comics ranging from the Twilight Zone to Star Trek.
As a big sci-fi fan, JMS wondered why there were no sci-fi TV shows with the same epic scale of the biggest sci-fi novels, like Asimov’s “Foundation” series. Eventually JMS got his chance and created “Babylon 5″, which aired successfully on TV for many years. At the same time, he also produced a Babylon 5 comic and eventual mini-series.
While he later wrote a script for a Silver Surfer movie, JMS returned heavily to comics after the Babylon 5 TV series ended, signing an exclusive contract with Marvel and writing for “The Amazing Spider-Man” for many years, as well as the Fantastic Four. After Babylon 5 and Fantastic Four, he began work on a comic called “The Twelve”. So if you’re looking for someone to write comics, JMS has your number.
Most of these comics-writers and TV/movie-writers tend to exist only behind the scenes. But perhaps the most famous face in the production of comics is cult classic film director Kevin Smith. Smith is best known for being the creator of “Clerks”, a movie about convenience store clerks, where he plays a short and fat non-talkative character named Silent Bob. (In real life, Kevin Smith is very talkative and tremendously entertaining…albeit still short and fat.)
Smith went on to make a number of other movies — such as “Clerks II”, “Chasing Amy”, “Dogma”, “Mallrats”, and “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back” — all of which had appearances by his character Silent Bob.
Smith always seemed to be mixing film and comics, from having Stan Lee cameo in his films, to having Jay and Silent Bob talk about their favorite comic “Bluntman and Chronic”. Film soon translated into reality with Smith creating his own “Bluntman and Chronic” story in comic form.
After converting Clerks into comics as well, Smith began writing for some more established franchises, working on Daredevil for Marvel Comics and Green Arrow for DC Comics. Rumor has it that he is already working on a new original comic book/sci-fi movie, although he also has three or four other movie projects planned, because he’s big enough to do so.
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