"5 Things That Fans Think Are True, But Are Not" (Part 4 of 5) Author: Chris Clow
July 13, 2013
PART 4: "Changes to the source material are a slap in the face and these changes are made intentionally just to f** with fans."
Comics fans are a tricky bunch of people. On the one hand, it’s an extraordinary community that people should be extremely proud to be a part of. It’s highly inclusive, it can create and define friendships around shared interests, and there’s an inherent idealism in people that tend to believe in the power of people to change their world for the better. On the other hand, they can be an extremely, almost unnaturally exacting group who are so concerned with aesthetic design of source material over practical and real world interests that any time a translation is made from comics to screen, it can be harshly criticized for the most trivial reasons.
As an enormous comic book fan myself, with relatively extensive knowledge of continuity, character design differences across eras, and appreciation for the creators that innovated and advanced the stories featuring my favorite characters in fiction, I’ve never really had any significant reservations about changes made to comics-based works unless they depart so much that the original work becomes unrecognizable (one of my criticisms of BATMAN RETURNS, for instance, is that it’s far more of a Tim Burton-created caricature of longstanding characters rather than an alternate representation of them).
For fans, though, that seem to take personal offense to story or design alterations made in comics-inspired works, those fans may want to take a step back, breathe deeply, and really examine why those changes are made in the first place.
I think it’s pretty safe to say that “The Dark Knight Trilogy” managed to hold pretty broad appeal between both the general movie-going public and people who read new adventures of Batman in comic shops every month. The creative team of those three films in particular managed to find a great balance between what we know from the comics, and the way a story featuring characters like these may look in the real world. From an aesthetic perspective, practically all of the translated characters maintained a degree of design influence from the comics that made them, while not identical, very recognizable to people who had been introduced to Batman or The Joker (“The Joker is PERMAWHITE dammit!” – Remember that nonsense?) elsewhere.
Was this done as an intentional slight to hardcore, longtime comics fans? Absolutely not, and it’s outright ludicrous to suggest such a thing. If anything, it was done to blur the line as far as is plausible so that maybe the Gotham City you escape to in the pages of BATMAN or DETECTIVE COMICS may resemble the actual world you inhabit just a little bit more. Right after seeing BATMAN BEGINS, I remember walking around the streets of Seattle. When I went downtown, I stopped in my tracks for a second because it struck me how…Gotham-like it was.
The op-ed continues after the jump!
It was a surreal moment for me, because growing up and becoming accustomed to the highly stylized versions of Gotham in the Burton/Schumacher Batman films as well as BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES, BATMAN BEGINS had presented a Gotham that looked like a place I could actually travel to. The changes made from that perspective alone into a visual language that represented the world I live in made me appreciate those changes, not lambast them.
The same can be said of story changes. In MAN OF STEEL, for instance, the changes made to the visual and storytelling language permit us to see how the world might react to the emerging presence of an alien being, much less one as powerful as Superman. When they’re done well, those kinds of changes can enrich the watching experience immensely, especially if you were ever a kid running around the playground wishing that you could actually walk around Gotham or Metropolis.
Now, I’m not saying that all changes are going to be great in every situation, far from it. As fans, we should be pragmatic and understand exactly when something doesn’t feel right. When those changes are made with care, though, and when they occur to make a story feel organic or resemble our world to a greater degree, then what harm is there in it? The vast majority of comic book fans appreciate when these kinds of positive changes occur in comics-related media, either on TV or on film. That extremely loud minority, though, can tend to drown out more reasonable voices.
Let them. The majority doesn’t always need to be screaming at the top of their lungs like the other types of fans in that minority do, and in the end, it’s beneficial for a number of reasons: You likely won’t get an ulcer, you’ll be able to examine things from a more informed perspective, and you can actually enjoy things instead of constantly hating them.
Not every little deviation from the source material is going to be good, but they’re definitely not all going to be bad either. When you allow yourself to take a more balanced perspective, and really examine the creative and aesthetic merits of those changes (and the reasoning behind them), chances are you’ll find much more value in what shape the stories take that feature your favorite characters. Taking personal offense, feeling like those changes are made for any other reason than a fluid transition to film, is far more of a reflection on the priorities of that person than on a movie or TV show itself.
Basically, it’s better for your health to enjoy more things than you hate. - Chris Clow
Longtime Batman/DCU fan and BOF contributor Chris Clow is a geek.
He is a comic book expert and retailer, and freelance contributor to GeekNation.com, The Huffington Post, Movies.com and ModernMythMedia.com.
Check out his blog@ChrisClow.