EDITORIAL: Does Source Material Matter In CBM’S As Much As We Think?

While discussing CBM’s, the number one thing brought up is source material. While it does matter, does it matter as much as we think? In the third of the series, BatmanHeisenberg looks at this complex issue. Hit the jump for more!

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By BatManHeisenberg - 3/3/2014
Oh boy, I am going to get castrated for this. So, just be aware, in the comments, to be respectful and mindful, but yes, definitely debate. Also, read the article before commenting. Last article people were saying things that I clarified in the article. So..

Depending on who you ask, people will want Comic Book Movies to follow comics as gospel all the way to minimal or no care for source material. This site, I have noticed has a lot more of the former. Just last year, huge debates were taken over the Mandarin twist in Iron Man 3. While I was one to dislike it, it wasn't for it’s journey away from the source material, rather, I felt I liked the new interpretation Ben was giving, and didn't really like Killian.

But enough about that. The point is, both side’s main ammo was source material. The same is with Superman killing Zod in Man of Steel. Again, both sides used source material as the main argument for their arguments. And as you go back in time, you see a pattern. Fans clamor over what is and isn’t faithful, and get into very heated debates, but now, to get to the main point of this article...


In my opinion, while it does matter to an extent, it isn’t really as important as we make it. First and foremost, what is true source material? While there is usually the main continuity, characters are retconned, rebooted, altered and so on and so forth. Take Batman for example, he is someone who has been changed a thousand times in the comics, and while some elements remain intact, there is no DEFINITIVE VERSION.

So even if a film doesn’t follow what you consider to be source material, does that mean a film doesn’t follow another? Filmmakers look to Elseworld’s stories and older continuity where characters were VERY different a lot of the time.

So, with that in mind, there is, with very big popular characters, there isn’t much of a definitive version. Characters change, and while some or a lot of elements remain the same is really dependant on the character in question. But even if a character is pretty new, and is pretty definitive, does the filmmaker have to follow the source material as gospel?

A lot of people who fan-cast like to cast actor’s to be completely comic accurate as in they are typecast and look EXACTLY like their comic-book counterpart. As our their stories, often times direct adaptations of comic series or graphic novels. But I view this as not thinking outside the box.

For example, The Dark Knight Trilogy took several liberties from the source material, and stayed the same in many ways. One liberty it took was the one where Bruce’s parents died. While it WAS practically completely comic accurate, it took one, and crucial change. Bruce asked to leave before hand, afraid of the bats in the play. That simple, small change, I felt, added a LOT more depth to Bruce’s character, feeling sorrow AND guilt instead of just sorrow.

And many more liberties have been taken in the Dark Knight trilogy and CBM’s in general, both big and small, which, often, can add a lot more depth to a character(s) in question, but make the mythology much more real-world and logical, and can also make changes to the comics for the better.

Another example of this is in the acclaimed TV series, Batman: The Animated Series. If some fan made it completely comic accurate, we wouldn’t have Harley Quinn, a fan favorite. She was introduced in the series, and became an icon, and eventually got launched in the regular continuity itself.

As you can see, straying from the comic’s can be good. A thing I have noticed is if we had films following the comic’s exactly, which is tying a rope around a film-maker’s throat, not giving them freedom, how is it any fun? We aren’t doing anything new, just the same thing we have seen before. Instead of adding to the character and his/her mythos, possibly even making them better, we just do the same thing as in the comics, what is exciting about it? We read it before, why do we need to again, but with audio and special effects?

What I have always felt about comic book movies pertaining to source material is that the core of the character is the most important. No matter of gender switching, race changing or whatever to get more demographics will change my opinion as long as they respect the true character, strip away all the history, all the retcon’s and reboots and so forth, we have the core of the character.

By core of the character, I mean their intentions, reactions, opinions so on and so forth. As long as a CBM gets that down and done, I will ride along and watch it. And even the core is something not pinpointed as being definitive, as I said earlier. It can also be changed, not just the outside details.

So hopefully I persuaded one or two people, I enjoyed writing this piece, and really take in what I said, don’t be rude in the comments. Thanks for reading!
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PsychoManiacJacky - 3/3/2014, 10:52 PM
Well it's time to get this party started! Also, SECOND!

feedonatreefrog - 3/3/2014, 10:57 PM
It 'matters' differently to every person.

Some people are attached to different aspects of the source material.
MrSotoMan - 3/3/2014, 11:12 PM
As long as it serves the plot and character in natural progression, I could care less. Some just don't do it where the natural progression is changed just for the sake of change somehow.

IM3 flubbed up on that, IMHO.

Amazing Spider-Man 2 though, WON'T.
DEVLIN712 - 3/4/2014, 12:08 AM
Great article. Zod is another Harley Quinn type example, Superman II essentially rewrote the character. They kept the general status and phantom zone origin, but made him a completely new character. And most people see this version as the definitive Zod
DEVLIN712 - 3/4/2014, 12:09 AM
What was ASM2 like?
Alphadog - 3/4/2014, 12:12 AM
Introducing Harley didn't make it not faithful to the source material. The character didn't interfere with anything. And the Dark Knight Trilogy was most certanly not faithful to who Batman is almost every incarnation. Acording to the trilogy Bruce would not only not be enough dedicated to become one of the greatest fighter in the world but he would also not be smart enough to spend a fraction of his fortune on gadgets that he can wear constantly. Seriously, why did he wear so few gadgets in a fight? There are other things but those are the onlyones that are mostly constant throughout the different versions.
feedonatreefrog - 3/4/2014, 12:12 AM
Exactly. Bring on Idris Elba for Superman!
giannis - 3/4/2014, 2:10 AM
The movies, which are based on comic books I see them as another parallel universe where some things are exactly like the comics, while some other are not.
breakUbatman - 3/4/2014, 2:13 AM
Source Material does matter though in different circumstances.

I also view these movies as Elseworld tales but there is the way in which the source informs the adaptation. For example Batman Begins draws from the source in a different manner than the Phase One movies for instance. Same goes for X-Men.

More important though is the faithfulness to the adaptation and rules set up in that world. X-Men changes don't bother me, its been 14 years and the way Fox deals with that franchise is obviously not source accurate.

TDK doesn't bother me because Batman stays in keeping with the spirit of the themes and ideals set up through out the series.

Iron Man was great because while Tony is more Ultimate the movie itself has a 616 vibe. Most of the MCU has a more 616 vibe overall and is pretty much in keeping with the source. It is this closeness to the source that makes a change like Killian very jarring.

For me an actual coherent narrative and well executed film is far above more important than what happened in the books. The reasons for things in the books may not translate well in film.

Superman killing may not sit pretty with some but I liked the neck twist situation (execution was poor though). Superman does the right thing, in that situation what was right? Adaptations allow us to not just see heroes brought to life but to see them in a new light.
Doopie - 3/4/2014, 2:26 AM
you're biggest point - that there is no definitive version - is one I definitely agree with. The character's histories, origins, powers and relationships have changed so many times in so many different interpretations that it's hard to pin down one 'Batman' for instance. But if you gave fans 10 words to describe the character, they'd probably all come up with near enough the same answer.
Like you I have no problem with changes being made to the source as long as the essentials are done right, otherwise you're dealing with a different character.
Adaptation is a tricky thing to do right but I think in some ways new insights and interpretations of our favourite characters is essential to keep them going
minusman - 3/4/2014, 4:17 AM
I think most of us fanboys want to see the characters we all know and love brought to the big screen as they are in the comics without straying too far from the source material.
As well, I have to disagree with you that there is no definitive version of each character. Every character has certain traits and histories within the main canon of their existence that shouldnt be strayed from- at least not yet.
Superman being from Krypton, fighting for truth and justice, being the Big Blue Boy Scout; Batman's parents being shot, his detective skills and all around bad-assery; Peter Parkers love of being Spiderman and the fun he has doing it; The list goes on and on. These traits define the character and I see no point in straying from them just because we can now bring these characters to life on screen in a realistic and believable way.

While we do have comic stories such as Elseworlds, and we love them, we also understand that they are not canon. We also have to look at how they are still a comic book medium- something that has been around for quite a long time. Those type of stories keep things fresh for us- something that isnt yet needed in this still fairly "new" and ever growing popular medium of CBM films.

So I say yes, lets, for now, stay with source material and the defining material of each character.

minusman - 3/4/2014, 4:49 AM
@Sid- Good points. While I love the Elseworld tales, I for one, am not quite ready to see them onscreen. Of course, I should also clarify that I really only care about source material for my few favorite characters. Take IM3 for instance- I didnt mind the Mandarin twist, as I was never that big of an Iron Man fan, nor did I mind that MCD portrayed Kingpin-
Pasto - 3/4/2014, 5:18 AM
*Pushes Josh out of the way* I think BH has earned the title of 'Fire Guy'. Sorry Josh.
Greengo - 3/4/2014, 5:22 AM
So in many ways Man off Steel is just like Noah.
Greengo - 3/4/2014, 5:22 AM
johnblake - 3/4/2014, 5:39 AM
Awesome article. I totally agree. Who wants to see a panel by panel adaption anyway. The point of a live action universe is to make a new inverse. U want it to feel the same with new features. If anybody disagrees the the 1960s batman is the most accurate cbm because it is exactly the silver age comics
johnblake - 3/4/2014, 5:41 AM
And I really wish people stop complaining about supes killing zod before we get a superman returns
MrSotoMan - 3/4/2014, 5:56 AM
@BatmanHeisenberg- No doubt, unexpected.
Pasto - 3/4/2014, 6:00 AM
ELgUaSoN is on his way, I can just feel it.
NoAssemblyReqd - 3/4/2014, 6:09 AM
I loved SUPERMAN:THE MOVIE as a kid, and only found out 20 years after the fact that a good number of Supes fans *hated* Hackman's wig-wearing real estate genius version of Lex Luthor, and Margot Kidder's take on Lois Lane.

I'm sure that for others my age, that movie became the definitive version of the characters and the mythos.

I've learned to go into CBMs expecting that, for better or for worse, they cater to the uninitiated first, and the fans second. In that way I basically put myself into the shoes of a kid learning about a character for the very first time.
Vegeta - 3/4/2014, 6:18 AM
There is no definitive version of Batman. Sure, they all share definitive traits, but there is no definitive version of the character. Adam West's parents died just like Frank Miller's and Nolan's Batman, but they're all different versions of the character.

If I was making a comic book movie, I'd take what I want from the comics and make whatever ever changes works for my vision. The fact of the matter is, you can't please everyone, so it's better to create a version of the character you want to, because no matter what, you're always going to get people that dislike it.

'Sticking to the source' is a term that's used so loosely by comic book fans. You know, what is the source? The comics? Which one? Which version of the character? And from there on, it starts becoming a personal preference. The comics themselves didn't stick to the source, and of they did, Batman would still be using guns. So, my point is, no, I don't think you have to stick to the source when making a comic book movie. However, I can't promise I'll like the changes made to the character, because I might not.
Vegeta - 3/4/2014, 6:22 AM
By the way, nice article BatmanHeisenberg.
ekrolo2 - 3/4/2014, 6:31 AM

Keep it up with those Wolf of Wall Street gifs man, I love em :)
ekrolo2 - 3/4/2014, 6:32 AM

Most logical comment I've seen on the issue thus far.
MrSotoMan - 3/4/2014, 6:34 AM
@DEVLIN712- Sorry about that.

montyburns - 3/4/2014, 6:34 AM
Obviously, opinions are like a**holes, everybody's got one, especially for CBM's. I try to view these movies like I would if Matt Wagner writes Grendel, then somebody else takes over. Same character, different voice. That's pretty much what these boil down to, somebody else writing an existing character. The characters looks are largely irrelevant, with the exception being Superman since his costume is his actual clothing. Would we really want to see Bats in blue and grey spandex? Either way, interesting perspective on the article and the comments are funny as hell.
DrunkenNukem - 3/4/2014, 6:37 AM
"What I have always felt about comic book movies pertaining to source material is that the core of the character is the most important. No matter of gender switching, race changing or whatever to get more demographics will change my opinion as long as they respect the true character"

"So I am a DC fan over Marvel, SO,"
MrSotoMan - 3/4/2014, 6:39 AM
[frick]ING BENNY-HANNA!!?!?
MrSotoMan - 3/4/2014, 6:40 AM
Man as much as I wanted Leo to win that Oscar, I understand completely why he didn't win.
MrSotoMan - 3/4/2014, 6:41 AM
Going to Play & Trade today, something tells me I'll be seeing something first than you guys.

DrunkenNukem - 3/4/2014, 6:44 AM
Batman Arkham Hush lol
MrSotoMan - 3/4/2014, 6:45 AM
Be back in 30, STICK OF TRUTH NEEDS MY 60!
McGee - 3/4/2014, 6:54 AM
I wouldn't have mind Iron Man 3 and their Mandy if we saw some major boobage. Fire proof bra? GET DA F*CK OUTTA HEEEERE!!!!

SuperSpiderMan5778 - 3/4/2014, 6:56 AM
why is this even a question....ummmm YES!!!
ThePowerCosmic - 3/4/2014, 6:56 AM
I think a good balance of source material and a great story is ultimately the best.

Great article!
AlphaDean - 3/4/2014, 7:02 AM
Allow me to chime in on this topic. Source Material matters in the respect of keeping integrity of characters. When I watch a film and they characters and the story seem to veer to far from its origins I lose desire or affection for it. The X-Men franchise is a prime example of that. I dislike those movies and the franchise as whole. Nothing against most the actors, I feel they do an awesome job with what they are given. Yet as a fan I feel robbed and overlooked because they X-Men franchise over all is boring, drab, and completely convoluted. The characters in this franchise are mere spectres of their glorious comic counter parts. I’m sorry but I also don’t like the fact that the entire series (with the exception of 1st Class) are all Wolverine centric. There is more to the X-Men than Wolverine, prof. X and Magneto. After 7 movies we should have seen something else.
No matter what anyone says about Marvel Studios. Their films capture the essence of the comics and I find myself lost in the nostalgia of my childhood. I go to see these movies to escape into a realm I’ve spent many years in. When I can go to the movies and experience my childhood fantasy with my children it’s really cool and fun. I don’t feel the same way with most of the other comic book movie fair out there. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about creative license and things that promote a better story. For example the Blade series of films (Minus Blade Trinity & Tv Sereis), they made significant changes from the source material, but it enhanced the movie experience and did not detract from the core of the character.
So source material is important, but the integrity of the character is far more important. So if you are gonna make changes to the source Material, then don’t change the character so much that its no longer what we want to see. Epic Failures have been the X-men franchise, Green Lantern, Cat woman, Jonah Hex, and the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen to name a few.
KrazyForKomix - 3/4/2014, 7:05 AM
Minusman had a lot of good points. At the risk of putting words in his mouth, I'd agree with his unspoken point that no one (read that "no reasonable person") wants a frame by frame regurgitation of some comic book (Watchman is an argument unto itself).
But there ARE specific, definitive aspects to a comic book character that should be included when the leap to movies is being made. To quote, "These traits define the character and I see no point in straying from them JUST BECAUSE we can now bring these characters to life on screen in a realistic and believable way."
I don't mind "thinking outside the box" as BombAsBenAffleck suggested we should with regards to casting. If a director wants to play with gender and race (and age for that matter), then have at it. IF IT MAKES SENSE. I don't want to see a white Black Panther. Does anyone want to see a male Black Canary? And no, before you scream at me, no one is suggesting that that would happen. But I also don't understand why you'd want to have one of the Storm siblings white and the other black. Yes, OF COURSE, it might make perfect sense in the context of of the movie, but now you're spending time justifying this needless choice; exposition on a silly and needless What If . . ? moment.
Don't change what doesn't need to be changed. I'm not trying to put shackles on a director and tell him he can't add his creativity to the mix. Be he did sign on to the project, and with that SHOULD come an attempt to bring the comic character to life as written (not word for word) in the comics. The fact that there are variations down through the ages; the fact that there have been rebootings and new writer/artist teams, does not mean that the writer or director is being handed a blank page. 90% off that "blank" page is actually already filled up with character traits, powers, costumes, and environments.
Don't change it – if it doesn't NEED to be changed for your movie story. And by that I DO NOT mean that a director/writer should put these characters in situations where the only solution is to act OUT OF CHARACTER and then we're expected to realize, "Well, yeah . . . that makes sense. I would have done the same thing."
Which brings me to my last point.
While I would love more accurate representations of the characters I grew up with to make it to the big screen, I ULTIMATELY (now) agree with BombAsBenAffleck.
Souse material does not matter at all when it comes to making a good movie. If you want to have Superman kill people (Zod and the hundreds of building dwelling people) then go right ahead. It's their right to do it. It's their right to "think out side the box," because the comics are too restrictive. Fine. As has been stated, I look at it (now I do anyway) as a fun adventure of some Elseworlds superhero.

But PLEASE stop back washing into the comics. With some notable and EXTREMELY RARE exceptions, nothing good has come from it.

KIDDSOUL - 3/4/2014, 7:05 AM
"No matter of gender switching, race changing or whatever to get more demographics will change my opinion as long as they respect the true character, strip away all the history, all the retcon’s and reboots and so forth, we have the core of the character."

I might think differently to the above statement. For example, comics and any medium that is meant for entertainment is pure fantasy. The very reason when someone like a filmmaker partakes in too much of a re- vision to the origins simply for pleasing demographics or to pander to a certain audience while disregarding the fans that know the source it is a big risk. Sometimes it might be a hit or miss depending on the filmmaker or studio. The recent Human torch or entire F4 casting is a great example of pandering to a younger audience. It might work because Trank might give us a quality film but this cast does not look like the enduring continuity of what I or anyone else seen over the years. Even the ultimate Fantastic Four comics is still very young compared to the definitive classic line-up. I feel like you are throwing around the word DEFINITIVE VERSION just a little lightly when surrounding filmmaking and then you miss to compare it to what the original creators tried to convey within the reasoning of why they were made that way within the comics. Lets say the creators of Harry Potter or Katniss Everdeen are long gone decades from now and someone wanted to gender bend or race change one of those characters. You could imagine the outcry if the fans ever visited that alternate future. And yes comics tend to stretch further in imagination and different versions than a graphic novel ever would. But the definitive version of comics would be the more well received and noticeable version regardless of other "what-if" or "elseworlds" stories. Even though all this medium is fantasy if their are fans that want the best continuity it does not necessarily mean they want to follow the source material as gospel. I like to look at it as a fan being objective and maybe a little subjective about what source would truly be the best to convey on film. And that fan would also be scrutinized because they are looked down upon and misinterpreted as a racist,ageist or sexist because they simply wanted to keep the characters the way they were originally intended to be? That's very unfair to those percentage of fans.
MercwithMouth - 3/4/2014, 7:09 AM
Great article BH. I agree 100%

Once you get away from treating source as a bible, you can see the creativity of writers and directors. I want new stories, new ideas, new iterations of characters. Keep the essence of the characters, and it's all good.
MrSotoMan - 3/4/2014, 7:12 AM
Everybody turn to you're news section...NOW!
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