The concept of the superhero came into existence in the late 1930s, having been inspired by costumed heroes such as Zorro, the Shadow, and the Scarlet Pimpernel. In fact, some of the best-known superheroes were created in that period, with examples ranging from Superman in 1938 to Captain Marvel in 1939, before being followed by more characters such as Captain America, the Flash, and the Green Lantern in the 1940s. Since some of those superheroes have starred in numerous series since that time, it should come as no surprise to learn that there are volumes and volumes of stories printed about their exploits. Some of which have made for excellent reading and some of which not so much.
As a result, superhero movies have a huge advantage over the superhero comics that serve as their source material. First, they can choose the best stories out of what has been published, which have established fan-bases as well as a set of characteristics that should enable them to infuse those same fan-bases with new blood. Second, they can have a beginning and an end for their characters, which is not always true of comic superheroes that are featured in serials. Combined, it is no wonder that there are a number of superheroes who seem better in the movies than in the comics, though this is not always guaranteed to be the case. For that matter, it should be noted that different people have different opinions about what they like when it comes to superheroes, meaning that such judgments should never be seen as objective but rather a matter of personal opinion.
Here are five comic book characters that are better in the movies than in the comics:
Captain America is interesting in that he stands for a set of ideals without flinching from the fact that most people will struggle to uphold high-minded principles from time to time, meaning that he is willing to encourage his fellow citizens to do what is right even if that means standing against the tide of popular opinion. Combined with his background as a working-class Irish-American art student who grew up in New York City during the Great Depression, this makes him seem more like a real person championing a better world rather than a bland cutout championing something without true substance to it.
Unfortunately, the character has suffered his fair share of inconsistencies over the course of his existence, with examples ranging from a “Commie-smasher” who had to be retconned into a mad fan to the Captain America of the Ultimates comic books, who is still remembered for spouting anti-French nonsense of the sort that was popular around the time of the Iraq War. As a result, it is clear that the Captain America of the movies is a more consistent character than the Captain America of the comics, which is rather important when the latter has to suffer through the embarrassment of being rendered a secret Nazi double-agent through in-setting retconning.
Iron Man is interesting in that he was invented by Stan Lee to see whether he could convince Marvel readers to cheer for someone who was so against the prevailing spirit of those times. As a result, he is not just a businessman, but a businessman who is involved in making weapons for use in countries all around the world, thus making him a useful tool for exploring a wide range of political issues, which have changed with the times. Combined with his personal struggles, this makes Iron Man a rich source of stories, which is something shared by both the version in the comics and the version in the movies.
However, an argument can be made that this process is much more successful in the movies than in the comics. In main, this is because Robert Downey, Jr. has been able to bring all of his acting talent and skill to the role, whereas the comics have not been able to maintain the same standards. This can be seen in the different depictions of the Civil War in the different mediums, with the movie striving to make both sides sympathetic while the comics saw Iron Man championing indefinite detention, the use of supervillains to hunt superheroes, and the rather unethical creation of a cyborg clone of Thor.
Spiderman is a fun character, but his image has been comprised over the years by a number of strange storytelling decisions. For example, there was the time when he sold his marriage with Mary Jane Watson to a demon in order to resurrect his aunt. Likewise, there was the time when Docter Octopus stole his body with the intention of proving that he could be a better Spiderman than Peter Parker, though it is interesting to note that one actually managed to get some positive response after the first few books because of decent execution. In comparison, the Spiderman movies were free of such plots while still keeping the core characteristics that make Spiderman Spiderman, thus making them a much more fun and uncomplicated experience.
Mutants have often been used as a stand-in of sorts for oppressed minorities by Marvel. As the founder of the X-Men, Charles Xavier is the one who champions peaceful coexistence with the rest of society, whereas his one-time friend, Erik Lehnsherr, is the one who champions violent resistance. Xavier has moral superiority, but in the context of the Marvel comics, it becomes a bit strained because mutants have come close to being wiped out not once but on multiple occasions because of non-mutants.
In fact, the Marvel comics have revealed that there is literally a sentient bacterium called Sublime that is responsible for making non-mutants hate mutants, which is exactly as silly as it sounds. Compare this with the X-Men movies, which can explore Xavier’s relationship with Lehnsherr as well as the other issues of interest raised by the comics without being buried by the more ridiculous elements that have come up because of decades and decades of unchecked continuity.
Batman is one of the most popular superheroes, which has caused a number of narrative problems. For example, he is supposed to be able to play a useful role in confronting cosmic entities alongside the other members of the Justice League, but at the same time, he is a street-level superhero, meaning that his normal routines involves challenges of a much smaller scale. In contrast to the comics, the Batman movies have been able to focus on Batman’s story without having to care about what is happening outside of the setting of their stories, thus enabling them to tell tighter stories with fewer plotholes, which is to the good.