The best and worst comic book movies outside the Marvel or DC universes
Miramax

The best and worst comic book movies outside the Marvel or DC universes

When you think of movies based on comics, you probably immediately think of Marvel and DC. After all, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has basically changed the film landscape. The DC movies haven’t been as successful, by and large, but they still have Batman and Superman, whom you may have heard of. However, there are many comics (and graphic novels) that exist outside the realm of those two giant companies and that have inspired movies. Some are quite good, others miss the mark a bit, and a few of them you probably didn’t even know were based on comics. Here is a partial list of movies based on comics (and graphic novels) that exist outside the worlds of Marvel and DC.

 
1 of 25

“Men in Black” (1997)

“Men in Black” (1997)
Sony, Columbia

Before Will Smith made it look good, the "Men in Black" were protecting Earth from the scum of the universe in comic book form. The “Men in Black” comics are a bit darker, but the premise was certainly worth turning into a movie. “Men in Black” is a fun sci-fi comedy, and it spawned two sequels and a spinoff.

 
2 of 25

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (1990)

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (1990)
New Line Cinema

There have been so many movies about the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles." The quartet haa even traveled through time. The original comics were certainly more violent than the cartoonish films (and the actually TV cartoon from the ‘90s), but the heroes in a half shell have now been around for generations.

 
3 of 25

“Spawn” (1997)

“Spawn” (1997)
New Line Cinema

No comic screams the ‘90s more than “Spawn.” It was one of the first big comics that many people were aware of outside the Marvel and DC paragon, which led to a movie, though it largely fell flat. It’s been a long time since anybody talked about “Spawn,” which is weird to those who remember how ubiquitous he felt a couple decades ago.

 
4 of 25

“The Crow” (1994)

“The Crow” (1994)
Miramax

OK, maybe “The Crow” is even more of a ‘90s landmark than “Spawn.” However, it’s known much more as a movie than a comic — and one that inspired a lot of dudes to copy the Crow’s goth look. The film has a grim backstory — star Brandon Lee died due to an on-set accident — but “The Crow” remains the favorite of many.

 
5 of 25

“Josie and the Pussycats” (2001)

“Josie and the Pussycats” (2001)
MGM

Archie is too busy being sexy on “Riverdale,” and Sabrina the Teenage Witch has been kept to television, but Josie and the Pussycats got a chance to take the big screen. Then the movie bombed. Which is a shame, because “Josie and the Pussycats” is a ton of fun. It’s a total romp with way more satire than you’d expect from Josie and Co. Rachael Leigh Cook deserves better.

 
6 of 25

“Tank Girl” (1995)

“Tank Girl” (1995)
United Artists

You can’t watch “Tank Girl” without knowing it came from a comic, because there are comic interstitials in the film. Rumor has it that’s because the film was overbudget and running out of time, which meant certain scenes weren’t actually filmed. The post-apocalyptic comedy film doesn’t come together entirely, but it’s a cult classic.

 
7 of 25

“Ghost World” (2001)

“Ghost World” (2001)
United Artists

A lot of comics tell stories that can’t really be told in real life. There are superheroes, aliens, ghosts, zombies, you name it. Despite the name, that’s not what “Ghost World” is. Instead, it’s about very real people living relatively mundane lives. However, Daniel Clowes’ comic has devoted fans, and so does the movie adaptation featuring a young Scarlett Johansson.

 
8 of 25

“Mystery Men” (1999)

“Mystery Men” (1999)
Universal

Superheroes have been around for decades, so naturally there have been plenty of opportunities to lampoon the concept over the years. “Mystery Men” had promise on that front, and quite the cast. However, the Ben Stiller-led vehicle never came together fully, and the story of lesser superheroes (like "The Shoveler" and "The Bowler") was a bit of a flop.

 
9 of 25

“The Mask” (1994)

“The Mask” (1994)
New Line Cinema

The year 1994 was basically when Jim Carrey was turned into a movie star. “The Mask” was a big part of that, turning a real-life cartoon into an actual cartoon. On top of that, “The Mask” also introduced us to another future star in Cameron Diaz. That’s quite the combo for a movie based on a comic few people were aware of.

 
10 of 25

“Sin City” (2005)

“Sin City” (2005)
Miramax

Robert Rodriguez’s movie is designed to look like Frank Miller’s comic. “Sin City” looks more like a comic come to life than any other film. It’s completely bonkers, loaded down with sex and gore, which is basically Miller’s thing. Maybe the content isn’t for you, but “Sin City” is at least a beautiful-looking movie.

 
11 of 25

“Hellboy” (2004)

“Hellboy” (2004)
Sony, Columbia

Being a demon from Hell doesn’t mean you have to be a bad guy. An antihero sure, but you can still do good for the world. “Hellboy” got two movies with Ron Perlman as the titular character, and they were both fairly well received. Then they tried to reboot it with David Harbour and made it R-rated, which is more in line with the comic. That didn’t work as well.

 
12 of 25

“R.I.P.D.” (2013)

“R.I.P.D.” (2013)
Universal

The premise seemed promising: Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds as two dead lawmen who work for the “Rest in Peace Department” to wrangle ghosts who are trying to make a break for it from the afterlife. Unfortunately, the execution was lacking, and “R.I.P.D.” turned out to be a forgettable dud. At least it probably made a lot of people aware of the comic.

 
13 of 25

“Casper” (1995)

“Casper” (1995)
Universal

We go from not-so-friendly ghosts to the friendly ghost on record. “Casper” is a ‘90s family film starring Christina Ricci in the lead human role. Sure, there are always questions about the grimness of the ghost of a young boy, but it’s not like kids ever put two and two together there.

 
14 of 25

“Richie Rich” (1994)

“Richie Rich” (1994)
Warner Bros.

Some people like to joke that Casper is the ghost of Richie Rich. They are both Harvey comics, which may explain why they look fairly similar. However, Casper is a ghost that doesn’t seem to have much money, which Richie Rich is about the wealthiest kid in the world. Even his dog has a dollar sign pattern on his fur! In the film, Macaulay Culkin plays Richie.

 
15 of 25

“Barb Wire” (1996)

“Barb Wire” (1996)
Gramercy

It almost feels like the makers of “Barb Wire” said, “Hey, you know how ‘Tank Girl’ didn’t really work as a movie? Let’s do that.” Also, they decided to cast Pamela Anderson in the lead role during the peak of her stardom thanks to “Baywatch.” Of course, Anderson was not primarily known for her acting chops, which is partially why “Barb Wire” was such a flop.

 
16 of 25

“Bloodshot” (2020)

“Bloodshot” (2020)
Sony, Columbia

“Bloodshot” was one of the first films to be really hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of hitting theaters, the Vin Diesel movie hit VOD instead. Many weren’t aware of the Valiant comic, but Diesel is a big fan and was happy to bring the character to the world of film. Hey, he managed to get Riddick three movies. Don’t count him out.

 
17 of 25

“The Rocketeer” (1991)

“The Rocketeer” (1991)
Disney

“The Rocketeer” is a throwback to old-school serial films, both in the movie itself and in the comic. Howard Hughes is a character in the movie, after all. While it didn’t get a lot of love when it was released, over time the acclaim for “The Rocketeer” has grown. Hey, cribbing from serials worked for George Lucas when he made “Star Wars.”

 
18 of 25

“Dıck Tracy” (1990)

“Dıck Tracy” (1990)
Touchstone

Sure, technically “Dıck Tracy” is based on a comic strip, but that still counts as a comic. Like with “Sin City,” Warren Beatty wanted his film to look like the comic. In this case, though, it means a lot of grotesque-looking villains in heavy makeup. If nothing else, “Dıck Tracy” is certainly a distinct-looking film, and it has quite the cast too.

 
19 of 25

“Kingsman: The Secret Service” (2014)

“Kingsman: The Secret Service” (2014)
20th Century Fox

There are two “Kingsman” movies so far, and they can both get quite vulgar even though they are tamped down from the Mark Millar comics, because you can’t really turn Millar’s revolting worldview into a marketable film. Instead, we get movies that are sort of more violent James Bond films in a way.

 
20 of 25

“30 Days of Night” (2007)

“30 Days of Night” (2007)
Columbia

Vampires can only come out at night, at least in some stories. Other times they just get all shimmery to make Kristen Stewart swoon. So imagine being in a town in the north of Alaska where you get basically, well, 30 straight days of darkness. That would be a bad time to be dealing with vampires. Thus, the intriguing premise of “30 Days of Night”

 
21 of 25

“Tales from the Crypt” (1972)

“Tales from the Crypt” (1972)
Universal

The first “Tales from the Crypt” is not what we think of when it comes to the series. The EC Comics is much more known for campy horror comedy featuring the quipping Cryptkeeper. For a movie along those lines, consider “Demon Knight” or “Bordello of Blood.”

 
22 of 25

“Flash Gordon” (1980)

“Flash Gordon” (1980)
Universal

“Flash Gordon” is a true old-school serial. The character was introduced in 1934 as a comic strip and then featured in serial films in the ‘30s. However, we’re talking about the one from 1980; the one with Queen on the soundtrack. The camp classic. That's the “Flash Gordon” we know.

 
23 of 25

“Cowboys & Aliens” (2011)

“Cowboys & Aliens” (2011)
Dreamworks

The title “Cowboys & Aliens” is simple but intriguing. A Western with an alien invasion? That could be fun. Instead, despite a cast including Harrison Ford among others, “Cowboys & Aliens” is fairly dull. It’s a real shrug of a film for a movie that, again, is about cowboys and aliens.

 
24 of 25

“Oblivion” (2013)

“Oblivion” (2013)
Universal

“Oblivion” has sort of been forgotten in the wake of Tom Cruise’s other dystopian sci-fi film, “Edge of Tomorrow.” It’s just not as distinct or as good. That being said, for a largely forgotten film, “Oblivion” was a financial success. That’s the power of Cruise’s name.

 
25 of 25

“Extraction” (2020)

“Extraction” (2020)
Netflix

We end with another new addition, this time with a Netflix film starring Chris Hemsworth. Don’t expect the fun of Marvel movies though. “Extraction” is a gory action film that will make you forget all about Thor’s wacky antics.

Chris Morgan is a sports and pop culture writer and the author of the books The Comic Galaxy of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and The Ash Heap of History. You can follow him on Twitter @ChrisXMorgan.

More must-reads:

Customize Your Newsletter

+

Get the latest news and rumors, customized to your favorite sports and teams. Emailed daily. Always free!

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.