World Cinema: Comic adaptations

With Tintin looking beyond America for a comic book property to bring to the big screen, we've been looking at some other international candidates...

With the recent release of the Tintin trailer and posters, it seems that the hype machine is ramping up for what is arguably Belgium’s most beloved creation, and the combined mega-talents of Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson, Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish should surely, surely, produce something worthy of the great comic strip.

If you live outside the States, chances are that you grew up reading Tintin. I know I did, as my dad owned pretty much every story written by Hergé about the roving reporter/detective and would read them to me and my brothers.

He’s a big deal for many people and a big deal for Belgium, a fact I saw first hand when I visited Brussels earlier this year and visited the Comic Strip Museum, which is not only housed in an incredible Art Nouveau building, but also contains an impressive and informative exhibition dedicated to Tintin and his enduring popularity. (The museum also houses a fantastic collection of original comic strip art, so I recommend going if you’re ever nearby.)

That Tintin is the number one comic strip star from this country is pretty impressive. If fact that it has its own comic strip museum doesn’t give it away, comics are a serious business, and a longstanding artistic tradition not just in Belgium, but also France as well. After all, these two countries also gave us The Smurfs and Asterix.

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With luck, Tintin will prove a success and break down some international barriers for many of these superb books outside the American superhero norm, and not just from continental Europe, but from further afield too. And if that happens, we might just see a few more film adaptations.

I suggest a few below, which might prove worthwhile. I ‘d have also have liked to suggest Adele Blanc-Sec, but it seems Luc Besson has done a pretty good job already!

Lucky Luke

One of the most popular strips is Lucky Luke, another childhood favourite. What is a seeming parody of the Western, is actually a skilful tribute and an engrossing story as well.

Lucky Luke is a lonesome cowboy who tangles with many famous real-life outlaws and figures from history during his adventures. Shooting faster than his own shadow, Luke has unluckily already been made into a couple of films, but none have really done him justice.

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The potential is there for a fun-filled greatest hits of the Wild West, as the potential characters and opponents include Jesse James, Billy the Kid and Calamity Jane. Done right, it could both invigorate and refresh the Western for a whole new audience, as while brilliant films, the increasingly grim realistic Westerns of today somewhat lack the sense of adventure of the old ones.

Gore Verbinksi would be a good choice for this. He did a great job with Rango, proving he not only understands the conventions of the genre, but also knows how to adapt and make them work for a modern audience.

Les Cities obscures

Now this would be awesome to see. Set in a so-called counter-Earth, Cities Of The Fantastic tells the stories of humans living in separate city states, each with their own unique and independent civilisation, where travel is possible between them and our Earth using a series of portals.

With a heavy design ethic and a definite steam-punk influence, this would prove a highly stylish piece, with almost limitless potential for imaginative ideas.

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Although I hate the term, you would need a ‘visionary’ director to do each city-state justice, plot a coherent and gripping story using the existing palette, and who would also get the original source material. For my money, the only geek with the artistic ability to do this is Darren Aronofsky.


A popular Indian comic series, this seeks to refresh Indian myths for the modern age, while also telling a kick-ass story.

Devi is a supernatural warrior created by the gods to stop a renegade of their number, Lord Bala, and who is needed again in the 21st century to stop Bala again.

Against this is the story of the new incarnation of Devi, who doesn’t realise her role, and her involvement in a criminal empire is being investigated by the police.

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Play up the detective/underworld elements and this could be something pretty special, an exploration of an India we don’t normally see, with added stunning fantasy visuals.

Because he owes us another supernatural epic set in the modern world, I nominate Timur Bekmambetov to take the reins.

Ok, so, on the face of it, Dan Dare is an anachronistic mix between Biggles and Buck Rogers, but it does have a lot of its own pedigree.

Already touted as a potential Hollywood film, it can boast the incomparable Arthur C. Clarke as an early science advisor, and was an early adopter of story arcs, with some lasting upwards of a year. Not bad for the supposedly more simplistic 50s comic world.

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Telling the story of Space Fleet’s Dare and his companions battling against the Mekon’s plans for Earth invasion, it was a tech and design fetishist’s dream, with centrefolds of the various craft featured regularly in Eagle.

A modern take would help leave behind some of the British imperialist traits of the original series, while also keeping the strong story and character elements which made it so popular in the first place, in addition to the superb writing.

Just for my sheer love of the man and his talent, I would really enjoy Duncan Jones’ take on this, as I’m sure he would be able to craft something exquisite out of the ingredients.

Those are just a few of my thoughts on the subject. I’m sure there are plenty more potential comic strips to be adapted, or to be left well alone. Just be prepared to see a few more dug up if Tintin succeeds. Although, if it doesn’t, you can always hope for the occasional Luc Besson adaptation of a beloved comic.

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