Cult Classics Films from Comics Book Culture

21 Sep

By Guest Author Comic Relief

From the magazine racks of the 1970 and 80’s to the silver screen, feature film cult classics tell us a great deal about the comic book cultural appetites of Hollywood audiences of that era.

It’s only partially true that the recent comic book cinema proliferation in feature films is something new in Hollywood.  Advances in CGI technology have made it easier to create characters for improbable action sequences that were impossible in the past.  Oddly cult classic films seem to support characters that were far less mainstream, (or seem distinctly underground in type).

What is a “less mainstream” or “underground” character?  That is difficult explain yet the audiences that comics used to entertain were somewhat t larger than we see today.  A form of alternative entertainment, comics celebrated conventional tastes and they have also celebrated the far opposite also.

No matter how unique, mainstream comic book characters usually performed within justifiable social norms.  Though these norms naturally change with the times, mainstream characters aren’t likely to transcend social expectations regarding politics, nudity, sexual expression or orientation, species, race, nor national origin.  Underground characters, especially of the sixties and seventies, fully explore all of this territory precisely because they can.  Some aspect of all of these transgressions can be seen in the comic book and magazine derived adventures described in films like “Howard the Duck”, “American Splendor”, “Orgasmo”, and “Heavy Metal.”

HOWARD THE DUCK:

  • This character is the only one whose genesis is a product of the established comic book industry.  Howard the Duck is a Marvel Comics creation who successfully sustained his own comic book for many years.  Though a product of the comic world he was obviously very different than traditional super heroes of that day yet this did not diminish his popularity.

AMERICAN SPLENDOR:

  • A biographical expression of the life of Harvey Pekar, American Spender sought to be an alternative to types of “sell out” stories churned out by the establishment comics companies.  Having more in common with the independent spirit of yesterday’s zine, fan fiction, and other do it yourself media; these stories were quick to embrace everything you might not hear of in your typical Super hero comic.

ORGASMO:

  • Unless you were a teen in the seventies of eighties you might not remember all of the magazines dedicated to teen culture.  Magazines like Cracked, Mad Magazine, and National Lampoon were all dedicated to embracing while laughing at popular culture.  In fact product of South Park’s creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone: Orgazmo sounds like a skit from one of those magazines gone wild.

HEAVY METAL:

  • Billing itself as the “World’s Foremost Adult Illustrated Fantasy Magazine”, the publication Heavy Metal relied on much of the same science fiction audience that supported Star Wars.  Frequently driven by sexually provocative themes present in 1960’s movies like Barbarella, one can tell an older audience was desired. If you’re wondering what the title had to do with the popular music genre.

All of these films exist outside of the narrative film norms most of us are most familiar with or commonly patronize regarding comic books today.   Why do you believe these characters became cult classics then?  Do you think these films or characters will see resurgence tomorrow?

Please join us for a discussion Thursday 7/22/11@7pmE/12UTC

[1] http://www.badmovies.org/movies/howardduck/

[2] http://ifanboy.com/articles/harvey-pekar-where-do-i-start/

[3] http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0124819/

[4] http://www.heavymetal.com/

Advertisements

99 Responses to “Cult Classics Films from Comics Book Culture”

  1. littlebells September 21, 2011 at 1:16 PM #

    CR,

    I have heard of these films, but have never actually seen them. Going to see if I can stream them…

    Thanks for the great info!

    • comic relief September 21, 2011 at 2:36 PM #

      Good luck and and tell me what you think. To me taste-wise some are purely from a different era and some are also from a alternative film appetite altogether.

      Since cult classics can sometimes fail on their first outing, I would be curious to know how you would classify them?

  2. littlebells September 21, 2011 at 7:57 PM #

    I think the only one I will view is “Howard the Duck”. The others do absolutely nothing for me.

    I will let you know! HAHA!

    • comic relief September 21, 2011 at 8:47 PM #

      I heard it has made many “so bad it’s good” lists; and I know Howard the Duck has made a few worst –ever-made movie websites. One of those sites was referenced for this article.

      Also, I can understand why people (who are not teenage boys) might not be excited about the last two on my list. But I think I’ve heard many say “American Splendor” made Paul Giamatti’s career and an ocean of comic fans are thrilled with the character.

      Like I said, this group of movies relies on tastes that aren’t necessarily conventional or mainstream. If you can resist the gag reflex; I would try to muscle through American Splendor too. Because I got this list from them, Netflix probably has the movie. And my local library had American Splendor; yours may too.

      • littlebells September 22, 2011 at 12:54 AM #

        Wow. I made it to 19 minutes of HTD and about shot myself in the foot for watching 18 minutes too many!!! I tried. I really, really tried.

        I have no idea how this movie is considered a cult classic, let alone a classic. I had to turn on a documentary on how the brain works to boost my IQ back to where it was before that stupid duck came on the screen.

        • comic relief September 22, 2011 at 11:26 AM #

          I assume you are talking about “Howard the Duck”. Notice I found a documentary about the movie, even the actual trailer made me tired. After a short while I couldn’t take it anymore.

          By the way Open Book said she saw the movie at a theater and like you she said something very similar. She said something like; after she saw it she went on a search for all the minutes she lost. So obviously she felt the same way.

          I take it you couldn’t or haven’t found “American Splendor”. Honestly, IMO that’s the gem of the group. And no “cult classics” don’t always imply quality. Some people watch movies over and over again because they are really bad. If enough people do the same some movies become cult classics.

          • littlebells September 22, 2011 at 11:45 AM #

            I did find it, but I can’t stream it before our discussion. I do get that things can be so bad that they are good and you watch them repeatedly, but wow. This one was so bad it was a slow death. HAHAHA!!!

            (I hope OB found her minutes! 🙂 )

  3. comic relief September 22, 2011 at 3:24 PM #

    COMIC CULTURE CULT CLASSICS: A SECOND LOOK (A)

    When I first thought of this genre; I really wanted to feature what cult classic film aficionados thought were comic cult classic films. That produced the above list (that I think I borrowed from Netflix). Unfortunately I’m not sure this genre understood the then fledgling comic book genre.

    Here are is a potential addition to the list above, yet not nearly as successful as a cult classic film.

    The Indestructible Man:

    Again this movie demonstrates why these content or films spent so many decades in the feature film garbage heap. Regardless this film was smart enough to hire ‘A” list talent.

  4. comic relief September 22, 2011 at 3:28 PM #

    COMIC CULTURE CULT CLASSICS: A SECOND LOOK (B)

    As I mentioned in the article CGI was one major reason comic book genre movies got significantly better. Another reason the movies got significantly better was they started to take comic world’s seriously instead of holding on to the camp conventions that supposedly “serious” directors and actors upheld.

    An example of a movie that observes “prerequisite” camp interpretations of the comic character worlds is “Super.”

    For all of its glib humor and cynical satire, bad reviews (rotten tomatoes 46%), and low box office (budget 2.5 mil. yet box office mojo: $324, 138 World Wide), this movie probably hurt each participant’s box office ranking.

    Because of its alternative viewpoint, many believe this movie will be a cult classic. I am not so sure, this isn’t just a perverted version of a better film “Kick Ass”.

  5. comic relief September 22, 2011 at 3:29 PM #

    3.
    COMIC CULTURE CULT CLASSICS: A SECOND LOOK (C)

    When I say some films started to take seriously the character’s worlds as they were depicted in the comics (instead of the camp tropes demonstrated in a number of poorer films); audiences started to take notice.

    An actual cult classic, “The Crow” was a decent low budget movie.

  6. comic relief September 22, 2011 at 3:30 PM #

    COMIC CULTURE CULT CLASSICS: A SECOND LOOK (D)

    Of course, like “American Splendor”, there are a lot of non-super hero comic book content based films like “Ghost world,” “Old boy,” “300,” “Road To Perdition,” and “Sin City” that are surprising because many are so non-traditional that they resemble indie films.

    Here is “A History of Violence.”

    Unfortunately these films as a whole were too successful to be classified cult classics like many of the films we have discussed.

  7. comic relief September 22, 2011 at 3:32 PM #

    COMIC CULTURE CULT CLASSICS: A SECOND LOOK (E)

    Again taking the characters seriously was the key. Another cult classic “Darkman” was a Sam Raimi invention and production.

    Later he would direct all of the Spiderman films. Differing with the Batman franchise, many believe his films started the whole comic book movie craze. So what do you think?

    Could or did cult classics produce the still popular comic book movie craze

    • Open Book September 22, 2011 at 7:17 PM #

      Excellent example CR!!

      • littlebells September 22, 2011 at 7:20 PM #

        I think I could watch at least 20 minutes of this as opposed to HTD. HAHA!

        • Open Book September 22, 2011 at 7:24 PM #

          It took me a week to watch HTD. I had to watch it for work and it was painful. Sorry u had to endure 20 min. LOL!!

          • littlebells September 22, 2011 at 7:31 PM #

            I was having full out loud conversations alone as I watched this. HAHA!! I’m sorry you had to watch it for work!

          • Parisienne September 22, 2011 at 7:56 PM #

            I vaguely remember when HTD was in theaters in 1986. I waited for it to come on t.v. actually and then only made it through the first 5 min.

            • Open Book September 22, 2011 at 8:01 PM #

              Can u believe Marvel Comics produced HTD? SMH…..Wow! Marvel Comics has come a long way.

              • Parisienne September 22, 2011 at 8:06 PM #

                I know! I was looking at the cover of an HTD comic and he vaguely reminds me of Donald Duck.

                • Open Book September 22, 2011 at 8:42 PM #

                  Yes! He does I think during this period Ducks and Chickens were quite popular. LOL!!

                  The San Diego Chicken mascot for the Padres was really popular. Loved him!! This is really off topic but could not resist.

    • Open Book September 22, 2011 at 7:20 PM #

      Well I’m not a huge follower of comic book films. I only recently started because of our site. However, I do remember seeing this film and thought at the time it was pretty interesting visually.

  8. Open Book September 22, 2011 at 7:03 PM #

    Hi Everyone-

    Welcome new and returning visitors to our discussion tonight. CR will be joining us late so I will be leading the discussion until then. I will do my best to answer whatever Q u have.

    • littlebells September 22, 2011 at 7:12 PM #

      Hi OB!

      Let me catch up as well. 🙂

      • Open Book September 22, 2011 at 7:16 PM #

        Hi LB-

        No problem…

  9. ozzie20 September 22, 2011 at 7:04 PM #

    Hi all! I’ve got to catch up on all the videos so it maybe a while before I reply!

    • Open Book September 22, 2011 at 7:05 PM #

      Hi Ozzie!

      No problem take your time.

  10. Open Book September 22, 2011 at 7:16 PM #

    It looks like CR and LB had a good discussion earlier about really bad films being considered good later on and reaching cult status. Well in my article on the Evolution of Cult films highlights one of the major contributing factors that makes a cult film is the never seen before direction, story or production. In other words just because a film is bad does not make it a cult film it has to stand out as unique in some way.

    https://linkedinhollywood.com/2011/08/29/the-evolution-of-cult-classic-films/

    • littlebells September 22, 2011 at 7:23 PM #

      Well, I think CR had the better discussion. I was just venting my frustration! 🙂 HAHA!

      I agree with you as far as the film has to stand out. No one has ever made teen movies like John Hughes. Those will always be classics, whether cult or otherwise.

      • Open Book September 22, 2011 at 7:41 PM #

        LOL!! It’s all good!

      • comic relief September 23, 2011 at 8:40 PM #

        LB, we were sharing frustration.

  11. littlebells September 22, 2011 at 7:18 PM #

    Ok, I think “Super” could definitely end up in the cult classic category. I like the cast and the story is strange and out there enough. 🙂

    • Open Book September 22, 2011 at 7:21 PM #

      Did u see this film in theaters LB?

      • littlebells September 22, 2011 at 7:28 PM #

        I never got around to seeing it. I wanted to and now its just a matter of remembering to rent it.

        • Open Book September 22, 2011 at 7:39 PM #

          I have not seen it either but would like to. I remembered u suggesting it so I thought u saw it already. Sorry! No worries.

          • ozzie20 September 22, 2011 at 8:05 PM #

            I’d like to see Super as well. A History of Violence looks good too!

    • comic relief September 23, 2011 at 8:40 PM #

      LB and OZZIE,

      I believe the issue is whether supporters of the film will watch it more than once. The premise is not the movie; so I am skeptical because even supporters were less to thrilled with the final product.

  12. littlebells September 22, 2011 at 7:30 PM #

    Do we know how well these films did at the BO?

    • Open Book September 22, 2011 at 7:32 PM #

      Good Q. Usually cult films have low BO. If they are too popular they can loose the cult film status.

      • littlebells September 22, 2011 at 7:35 PM #

        aha! Figured. Thank you, OB.

  13. Open Book September 22, 2011 at 7:30 PM #

    Let me just say I think it’s great CR has managed to stay somewhat objective with this article. At LIH we try to be both objective and subjective when writing about a particular topic. I realize some of the films CR has selected for us to discuss are quite provocative but in order to get a good deeper understanding of Cult films we need to dive into it all. So I hope know one gets offended by some of the content of these films CR posted.

    • littlebells September 22, 2011 at 7:35 PM #

      Not at all! There’s that “free will” 😉 that let’s you click play or stop. I am curious as to the demographics of the “cult” followers. It would be interesting to view.

      OB, is there a specific time frame in which a film becomes a classic? Can it be right away or does it need a few years, decades? And how do we know something is a cult classic? By how many people talk about it? Rent it? Just being curious…:)

      • Open Book September 22, 2011 at 7:37 PM #

        Usually it a 3 to 5 years I would say. But to really get a true following it needs 10 years to mature.

        • littlebells September 22, 2011 at 7:42 PM #

          And then is it because of word of mouth?

      • Open Book September 22, 2011 at 7:48 PM #

        Well let me finish LB- It is the unique attributes of a film meaning direction, production etc….Also, it’s unconventional, not mainstream, often targets a certain demographic. If the demographic supports the film it will build followers from that point on, then slowly it get’s attention by other groups outside of it’s demo. Does that help?

        • littlebells September 22, 2011 at 7:52 PM #

          ABsolutely and thank you! That makes sense. Particularly it being unconventional and reaching that demographic that enjoys that “particular” style or genre.

          • Open Book September 22, 2011 at 7:57 PM #

            Also, depending how well a film speaks to that demo determines if that film will get watered and grow roots. I mean that demo really has to nurture that film to get it seen as a cult film.

  14. Open Book September 22, 2011 at 7:36 PM #

    American Splendor was AWESOME!! Love Paul G. in this film. Everyone must see this film. U just have to.

  15. Parisienne September 22, 2011 at 7:38 PM #

    Hi Everyone!

    • Open Book September 22, 2011 at 7:42 PM #

      Hi Paris…

      Nice to see u!

      • Parisienne September 22, 2011 at 7:44 PM #

        Hi Open Book!

        Good to see you too. 🙂 how are you?

        • ozzie20 September 22, 2011 at 8:01 PM #

          Hi Paris!

          • Parisienne September 22, 2011 at 8:02 PM #

            hi ozzie and littlebells!

    • littlebells September 22, 2011 at 7:58 PM #

      Hi, btw! 🙂

  16. littlebells September 22, 2011 at 7:41 PM #

    To be honest, this genre is completely foreign to me, so thanks for bearing with me! Although I would NEVER watch Orgazmo, I can see why it would be a cult classic. It will be a classic among teen age boys and their fathers for generations. Not all, but you know…a lot. 🙂

  17. Parisienne September 22, 2011 at 7:46 PM #

    What was going on in society back in the times these films were made that made film makers/writers think people wanted to watch these?

    • Open Book September 22, 2011 at 7:49 PM #

      LOL!! Wait…Let me stop laughing and I will respond. Love it!!

      • Parisienne September 22, 2011 at 7:53 PM #

        LOL 🙂

      • Open Book September 22, 2011 at 7:54 PM #

        O.k. wiping a tear away. Umm! I’m going to let CR answer this one. No I won’t be a chicken. Let me try. Well I think given it was the 70’s and 80’s these films were being produced. We had the start of reality TV because people were tired of Leave it to Beaver sitcoms so people were becoming more and more cynical due to high unemployment….. So these films are a reflection of that period.

        • littlebells September 22, 2011 at 7:58 PM #

          I wonder what future films will be inducted into this Cult Classic Hall of Fame and what their subject matter will be. What else is left to cover? We already have drugs, sex, murder…Do you think writers will have to get more creative?

          • Parisienne September 22, 2011 at 8:01 PM #

            God I hope so.

          • Open Book September 22, 2011 at 8:25 PM #

            Yes! Directors, Producers and writers will all need to think outside the box. Don’t go for the conventional of course. However, I think the worst our economy is the more cynical people become. So I think films that target a certain demo will have a lot of cynicism added which will define this period the most. IMO!!

        • Parisienne September 22, 2011 at 8:00 PM #

          thank god i don’t really remember the 80’s. if these films are reflections of the time periods…….did we ever climb back up hill then? What are some films that are relevant in todays time that 20 years from now future generations are going to look back on and go “seriously?????”

          • littlebells September 22, 2011 at 8:08 PM #

            Oh, great question, Paris!!!! Do you think Green Lantern will? haha!!! 🙂 Again, haven’t seen it, so I’m just going by how well it did or didn’t do in theaters. Mmmm let me think about it some…

            • Open Book September 22, 2011 at 8:32 PM #

              Quite the comic Green Lantern. LOL!! Hmm! Again it might get a sequel or re-imagined so it does not qualify. Darn it!! LOL!!

          • Open Book September 22, 2011 at 8:08 PM #

            Good Q. U really have to look at the directors in this case. I listed a number in my article on the evolution of cult films and cult sci fi films. But I thin the majority will end up being dark comedies. IMO!

            • littlebells September 22, 2011 at 8:11 PM #

              What about “Watchmen”? I honestly don’t know much about it. I saw it, and was like, “uummmmm”, and that was about it. Was it a success?

              • Open Book September 22, 2011 at 8:15 PM #

                Great! choice LB- U would think but it was a big budget film. It cost 130 and earned 185 mill. Most cult films are made for 30 to 50 mil at best.

                http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=watchmen.htm

                • Open Book September 22, 2011 at 8:18 PM #

                  A film that might…And I really should not include it. But Sucker Punch. It cost 82 mil. which is high but it barely made back it’s production budget and got beat up by critics. However, the production was quite unique.

                  • littlebells September 22, 2011 at 8:23 PM #

                    Sucker Punch, Sucker Punch….who was in it? And wow, I’m shocked about “Watchmen” but then my tastes are different from the norm. haha!

                    • Parisienne September 22, 2011 at 8:25 PM #

                      If i remember right Sucker Punch is about the girl that gets sent to an orphanage/loony bin and fights her way out.

                    • Open Book September 22, 2011 at 8:27 PM #

                      Sorry, here is some info.

                    • littlebells September 22, 2011 at 8:28 PM #

                      OMG, yes!!! Now I remember. Oh man….

                  • littlebells September 22, 2011 at 8:24 PM #

                    And what about Kiss Ass? What became of that one. Look stupid. Really. Especially when you have minors in it.

                    • littlebells September 22, 2011 at 8:25 PM #

                      AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! I mean KICK Ass!!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHA!!!!

                    • Open Book September 22, 2011 at 8:29 PM #

                      Oh! U mean Kick Ass?

                      I was not going to say this one because they are making a sequel. Cult films do not have sequels.

                    • littlebells September 22, 2011 at 8:30 PM #

                      Hmmm…that’s cool. OB, do you have any cult classics that are your favorite?

                    • Open Book September 22, 2011 at 8:54 PM #

                      I liked Moon and Prestige a lot off the top of my head.

                    • littlebells September 22, 2011 at 8:57 PM #

                      Excellent choices, and I agree.

        • Parisienne September 22, 2011 at 8:02 PM #

          Thank you for answering it. 🙂

    • comic relief September 23, 2011 at 8:44 PM #

      Paris,

      LOL!!!!!!!! I kept asking the same question. Open books assumptions about the economy are probably accurate. I guess desperation (regardless of or in the absence of taste) can be a big motivator.

  18. Parisienne September 22, 2011 at 8:40 PM #

    I saw Beastly the other day. That might be one.

    • Open Book September 22, 2011 at 8:44 PM #

      Oh! Yes…I think that has potential but the teen girls would have to grow and nurture this film. Do u think girls today will care ten years later?

      • Parisienne September 22, 2011 at 8:46 PM #

        nope. What about the Twilight Saga?

        • Parisienne September 22, 2011 at 8:47 PM #

          oh wait no……that makes to much money.

          • Open Book September 22, 2011 at 8:51 PM #

            Also it has sequels Cult films don’t have sequels and yes it made too much money.

      • littlebells September 22, 2011 at 8:48 PM #

        I realize it won’t be a cult classic, but what do you think will become of Twilight in 15/20 years?

        • Parisienne September 22, 2011 at 8:50 PM #

          I have no idea.

        • Open Book September 22, 2011 at 8:52 PM #

          Good Q. I have to think about this more.

          Anyway. I have to go. Do anyone have anymore Q.

      • Open Book September 22, 2011 at 8:50 PM #

        Oh! Here is the BO numbers I think it could easily reach Cult status. Good choice Paris. Look at the BO barely made back it’s budget.

        http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=beastly.htm

        • Parisienne September 22, 2011 at 8:54 PM #

          Thank you for the info. I think I know why.

        • Parisienne September 22, 2011 at 8:56 PM #

          The storyline was practically non-existent. It was extremely generalized. The only people i actually cared about were the secondary characters. So while it was a decent film, the lack of substance really made it difficult to watch for me.

  19. Open Book September 22, 2011 at 8:55 PM #

    Good night everyone. Sorry, I will check back later.

    • ozzie20 September 22, 2011 at 8:57 PM #

      Night all!

  20. littlebells September 22, 2011 at 8:56 PM #

    Goodnight, OB! 🙂

  21. Parisienne September 22, 2011 at 8:57 PM #

    Good Night!

    • comic relief September 23, 2011 at 8:45 PM #

      Thanks for attending the discussion for my article. Sorry I was not there, unfortunately my other commitments could not be avoided.

      If it was not obvious attempting to report on recent film events and negotiate the processes that make feature film cult classics was very difficult to me. And I don’t believe the two actually support one another, (and to be honest I don’t think they are complimentary at all).

      The processes that films are judged on in terms of their success are based on wide spread consensual appreciation and the box office expression of that appreciation within specific timelines. As Open book said in her article, cult classics frequently develop their audience after a movie’s theatrical distribution has ended. Obviously video dissemination and changes in a films distribution have changed a great deal since the last century. Still I think it’s obvious we’re talking about different audiences showing two completely different kinds of appreciation.

      Ultimately the processes for evaluating for genre and collecting for feature film appreciation, IMO are not mutually supportive.

      If you have any questions please fill free to continue to post.

  22. LOLPics September 29, 2011 at 10:18 PM #

    Love the article! Feel free to also check my blog for Funny Pictures and LOLPics!

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: