A while back I think mentioned I was helping program a two-month long season of movies at the BFI Southbank in London but wasn't able to spill any more info. Well, now I can. Graphic Images: Comic Book Movies takes place during July and August and will run at the BFI Southbank and BFI Imax. Here's my intro from the BFI catalogue:
In an era of declining star appeal and uncertainty at the box office, the comic-book movie is one of the few sure bets left for anxious studio executives eager to greenlight the next summer blockbuster or potential movie franchise. It's easy to see why. And not just because these movies don't require huge (ie expensive) stars in order to sell. Batman, Superman and Spider-Man, to take three of the biggest and most popular comic-book characters of all time, are more than that. They're cultural icons, modern myths, recognisable around the world by people who have never, ever picked up a comic book.
For film-makers, too, comic books represent a fertile, near never-ending font of ideas and situations, with years of storylines to plunder and often emotionally complex characters to adapt. Comics, too, work visually as snapshots of movement, telling a story one frame at a time.
As a genre, the comic-book movie, or, more specifically, the superhero movie has benefited most from the advancement in special effects technology over the last fifteen years, the CGI revolution allowing Superman to zoom around the earth in a way that wasn't possible when Christopher Reeve took to the skies in 1978's Superman the Movie. Nowadays, comic-book movies are bound not by any earthly constraint, but solely by the limit of their makers' imagination. What could once only be achieved in panels, can now be exactly reproduced onscreen.
But comic-book movie doesn't always have to mean superheroes and spandex, mutants and mass destruction; it doesn't even have to mean dumb. While superhero books from the two biggest publishers, DC and Marvel, account for the highest-profile comic-book movies released today, smaller, more independent-minded writers and artists have also found their work adapted for the big screen. Ghost World, American Splendor, Road To Perdition, Sin City, A History of Violence and the Oscar-nominated Persepolis all began life as hand-drawn comics published outside the mainstream.
This two-month season will endeavour to show the breadth and depth of the genre, from psychedelic adaptations of European comic strips to the latest Batman, and to Superman whose 70th anniversary we're celebrating.