My original intention for this list was to make a list of 10 DC comics and storylines I felt were better than their adaptations. But as I wrote the article, I realized my points were too extensive for a single list. Thus I ended up splitting it in two. I wrote these lists because I felt that it was important that some people be made aware of where certain stories they might know began. As fans, it is us, whether we know the source material or solely the adaptations, who make or break these franchises. The powers that be at these movie and tv studios should know how some of us feel. And that includes those of us who felt the source material was handled better.
It is important that we as fans think critically and challenge what they sell to us. Unfortunately, a lot of adaptations make changes from the original versions either to shock or outsmart their audience. We know that changes happen, but are those changes actually better? Do they improve the story? For the following storylines, I felt they were not. As always, this is merely my opinion and it is purely subjective.
We know most adaptations can’t outdo comics unconstrained by budgets; the live-action Titans nevertheless pales in comparison. A major issue of an otherwise enjoyable show is the fact that the developers can’t decide what era they’re using. From its inception, they chose to use the animated series roster, with the notable absence of Cyborg. This was after they stated that the series takes inspiration from the iconic Marv Wolfman series. Following the first season, the show added more and more members, overcrowding its cast. In comics there is time to explore loads of characters, it’s much harder to do so in television. Season two short-changes the core four outside of Dick and adds members who wouldn’t join the team until decades later in the comics, such as Superboy and Ravager. Also Hawk and Dove, lord, give them a spin-off or put them on a bus already!
Not to mention the handling of Dick Grayson has been abysmal. Too dark and brooding (he is well-known to be the jovial, personable, showman member of the Bat Family). Horrendous decision-making and leadership skills. Plus the white-savior revamp of the Nightwing identity and origin. No longer is Nightwing a hero from Krypton told to Dick by Clark Kent aka Superman himself (they could have easily cast someone to play Clark, not even having to dress as Superman). Instead, Dick appropriates some tale about an indigenous mythical bird to save/impress the brown prisoners who told him about it. *Deep sigh*
Check out The New Teen Titans by Marv Wolfman starting at volume 1. Trust me, Wolfman and artist extraordinaire George Perez did it much better. It is available in trade paperback, hardcover, omnibus, and other formats.
Superman: The Man of Steel established many aspects of the iconic hero we still know and love today. Following the Crisis on Infinite Earths event, this was a longstanding version of the character that still defines him today. Perhaps the most important thing this comic did, that the Man of Steel film didn’t do was establish the Kent family as possessing small-town values. This would inform the type of person Clark Kent would be, and why he chooses to be Superman. Going for a darker tone, the film gives us Kents who would rather have their son protect his identity and agency above all else, even innocent lives. While this was certainly a fascinating creative choice for some, for others it makes Clark much less personable or heroic. Instead, he has more in common with Batman, who would be shoehorned into the sequel anyway. Speaking of which…
Check out Superman: The Man of Steel by John Byrne starting at volume 1. It is available in trade paperback, hardcover, and other formats.
Frank Miller’s epic storyline shows an older, world-wearier Batman adopting a new protégé, Carrie Kelly, the new Robin. They face off against a group of sadists called the Mutants, and the storyline culminates in an epic fight between Batman and his former friend Superman, under the control of the government. The follow-up to Man of Steel called Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice took a lot of inspiration from this storyline. An older, wearier Batman must face Superman. Unfortunately, the storyline was not used to its fullest potential, instead was partially used along with other storylines such as The Death of Superman and also teasing the Justice League. It had way too much going on and didn’t properly develop Superman, Lois, or any of the characters outside of Batman. For many fans, this was one of the single worst entries of the entire DCEU.
Check out The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller. It is available in trade paperback, hardcover, and other formats.
This comic is one of the very best of Batman’s mythos. Like The Long Halloween before it, it featured many of Batman’s iconic villains as well as a new one (this one being the mysterious Hush), as well as a meaningful romantic relationship between Batman and Catwoman. It also features the Batman Family in all its glory. Most fans acknowledge that the DC animated films tend to succeed whereas more recent films tend to falter. Unfortunately Batman: Hush wasn’t one of them.
Operating in the New 52 mold, it replaced the original Pre-52 roster with New 52 variants. Instead of Tim Drake’s Robin, we got Damian Wayne in a cringe-inducing scene involving the manner of his conception, and also Barbara Gordon’s Batgirl of Burnside instead of Huntress. Worst of all, the adaptation did a twist ending which changed the true identity of Hush, which enraged longtime fans of the original comic.
Please check out Batman: Hush by Jeph Loeb with incredible art by Jim Lee. It is available in trade paperback, hardcover, and other formats.
2017’s Wonder Woman film was a success. Many fans still adore it. However, from a feminist or womanist lens, the film as well as the New 52 storyline from which it was based diminished the feminine empowering moments that are most evident in the Pre-52/Post-Crisis origin for the character. The New 52/film version of Wonder Woman and her power comes from a male, the Olympian king Zeus. George Perez’s run had goddesses of Olympus be responsible for the creation of the Amazons themselves, their island paradise, and of course Princess Diana. Several of the goddesses, and also Hermes, gave her individual powers and attributes. Diana’s creation, while unusual, held emotional weight. She was the reincarnation of the unborn child Hippolyta lost in her original lifetime, molded from clay.
The comic also featured General Philippus, an important and integral Black Amazon and a lover of Hippolyta. The movie didn’t even bother to acknowledge Philippus’ name, let alone her role and importance. It was Philippus, not Antiope like in the film, who trained Diana and taught her how to use her powers. Patty Jenkins decided that Diana’s “immediate family” on the island was more important. I must note, however, that the George Perez run unfortunately removed Nubia as Diana’s twin sister. Instead, she was renamed Nu’Bia and was now an average amazon who guarded “Doom’s Doorway”.
Equally glaring, all the movie did was highlight only one woman, and negated Diana’s friendships, team-ups, and relationships with other women outside of the island. And of the amazons, why didn’t they call each other ‘sister’? They are a sisterhood society. This is important for worldbuilding and tone.
Be sure to check out Wonder Woman by George Perez which began with volume 1. It is available in trade paperback, hardcover, omnibus, and other formats.
We as fans who spend our time, and money, and offer endless hype and often free promotion, deserve the very best. It is understandable that some creators don’t want their audience to know what is going to happen by following the original stories step-by-step. Many of us know changes are inevitable when it comes to adaptations. However, adaptations, especially those meant to improve should do just that, improve. It is also reasonable that adaptations may falter a bit due to the constraint of time, budgets, and special effects that are limitless as art on the page. However, the story and key elements, as well as the spirit of the original, should be recognized, respected, and maintained.
My intention in writing these lists was to make people aware of the original versions they might agree are better. Some people may have no idea that Starfire from The New Teen Titans was actually coded as Black and that the 2003 animated Teen Titans series erased these ethnic features. People who started with that animated series, as even I had (I learned about the comics after already watching the show), may not be aware of that. And while the Wonder Woman film is praised as a feminist project, people may not know it was once even more so beforehand. Adaptations need to be striving forward, becoming more progressive and well-crafted, not less. But this is my opinion, tell me yours. Comment below and let me know your thoughts on these comics and other DC comics not mentioned here or in the first article.