It's no secret that movies based on comic books had a big presence at this year's Academy Awards. From "Wolverine" star Hugh Jackman kicking off the Oscars with a comics-friendly musical note to one of the final awards going to deceased "Dark Knight" star Heath Ledger for his portrayal of The Joker, there was a lot for comics fans to like about this year's Oscars.
While much of the comics-savvy masses were happy just to be recognized by the Academy, the final tally of awards did leave some fans wondering whether the night should be viewed as a snub for the genre or the first step toward greater respect for comic books as a medium. In order to get some perspective on what the night meant to the comics industry, I asked various comic book creators to offer up their thoughts on the Oscar results and what to take from the night's nominees and winners.
MTV: What do you think about the sheer number of comic book movies nominated for Academy Awards this year?
JEPH LOEB (writer, "Hulk," "The Ultimates;" former writer/producer, "Smallville," "Lost," "Heroes"): It's fantastic to see the worldwide recognition of what those of us who are geeks already know: comics are exciting emotional stories with amazing visuals -- like any great film!
PETER DAVID (writer, "X-Factor," "The Incredible Hulk," numerous "Star Trek" novels): There should have been more. It's nothing short of criminal that "Dark Knight" wasn't nominated for best film. Nor was Iron Man nominated for much beyond a handful of technical awards. Supporting for "Tropic Thunder" was fine, but where was Downey's nomination for best actor?
BEN TEMPLESMITH (co-creator/artist, "Fell," "30 Days of Night," "Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse"): Well, it's a great thing on the face of it. Most, though, were for the more technical-side Oscars, as along with Sci-fi, comic-based movies rarely get put up for the more glamorous sections, like the actual acting awards.
I think the number making it in, along with the box office success shows Hollywood the relationship with comics isn't perhaps over yet. There's still money to be made and a certain validity to it, provided things are treated with a level of maturity and sophistication. So long as there are more of "Dark Knight," "300" and "Iron Man," and less of "Catwoman"... well, it's a good problem to have. I still don't think the comics industry as a whole is capitalizing on its new relationships with Hollywood nearly effectively enough, though.
FILIP SABLIK (publisher, Top Cow Productions, "Wanted"): We were pretty excited to see "Wanted" nominated for two awards. And of course, "Iron Man" and "Dark Knight" both deserved their nominations and accolades. It's been a great year for comics and movies, let's hope for an even better year in 2009!
DARICK ROBERTSON (co-creator/artist "Transmetropolitan," "The Boys"): I'm enthusiastic that audiences and critics are finally getting in on the secret we comic nerds have known for years: That comics have great stories with great characters that will appeal to a wide audience, if presented faithfully in a serious manner, instead of being played for laughs or dumbed down as if only for kids to enjoy. It's exciting to see good material and sincere performances be embraced by the public.
"Iron Man" and "Dark Knight" weren't simply good comic book movies, they were just good movies with comic book characters in them. The award nominations and huge box office sales tells me that the hard road that the more challenging writers and artists have taken in comics to shake things up were the right roads. It would have been easy to keep pumping out formulaic pictures, but instead, fans of the genre have infiltrated Hollywood and let their inner geeks shine, and the results were Oscar-worthy movies. How encouraging and rewarding.
ROBERT KIRKMAN (co-creator, "The Walking Dead," "Invincible"): I think it's great -- and also a testament to how versatile "comic book movies" can be. I haven't seen "Slumdog Millionaire" yet... but I saw "Dark Knight" on opening night and I'd wager there's a ton of people out there who thought it was a better movie. I think the time is coming that a movie originating from a comic can win best picture.
DAVID ATCHISON (writer, "The Warriors," "O.C.T."): The number of nominations reflects an increase in the quality of comic book films. There was a time when they were thought to be schlocky, fan-service pieces. While they're not all high-art films, it's nice to know there are a few with production elements worthy of Oscar consideration. Those are the films that will push the Comic Book Film movement to genre level like Westerns or Crime Films.
MTV: What do you think about the final result of the Academy Awards? Were comic book movies snubbed, or was this just the first step toward more recognition for movies based on comics?
ROBERT KIRKMAN: The whole ceremony this year seemed to be an apology that comedy and action movies are largely ignored by the academy... maybe that's a sign of change. Ledger's nomination was a given--but Downey Jr. being nominated for "Tropic Thunder" was a big surprise to me. I do think it's ridiculous that Christopher Nolan wasn't even nominated for best director.
DARICK ROBERTSON: A complete shut-out would have been worse. I think Heath Ledger winning for his role as The Joker was a giant validation for the whole film, and for the growth of comics as a mainstream art form. I believe Nolan should have gotten the best directors nod, at least a nomination, as that performance from Ledger was due in part to his direction, and "The Dark Knight" as a whole was amazing. Nolan will just have to comfort himself knowing that he made the greatest, blockbusting Batman film ever.
BEN TEMPLESMITH: I think with Heath winning for his portrayal of the Joker, you could never consider it a snub. Far from it. I think those performances and circumstances are rare though. He had buzz on that practically before he'd finished the film. I doubt Oscar wins for big superhero films will drive their sales much as they already have that mass market male demographic sort of sewn up. The ultimate "recognition" comic book properties need is the box office takings for the studio execs to make their decisions. That's what Hollywood understands. That's what will keep the relationship alive. I just want good stories turned into good movies. If that happens around half the time, well, I'll take what I can get!
PETER DAVID: I think comic book films have joined the same ghettoizing that you typically see accorded comedies, thrillers, animation and with rare exception major tentpole films. Let's face it, the two best films of last year were "Wall-E" and "The Dark Knight" with "Iron Man" right up there. We've already had more recognition for movies based on comics: Look at the attention paid to "History of Violence" or "Road to Perdition." Unfortunately movies based on comic book action properties are persistently ignored because of the same biases that keep most such films out of the running for major recognition.
DAVID ATCHISON: It was a step in the right direction. Personally, I think "Dark Knight" deserved a nomination for Best Film if only because the box office numbers show audiences thought it was one of the better films of 08. Overall, comic book films did okay for the categories they were nominated in. If the production value of the films keep getting better it's only a matter of time before the Academy recognizes them.
FILIP SABLIK: It's the first big step. Let's revel in the success, which is a ton of nominations and Heath Ledger actually winning for his work in "The Dark Knight". That is tremendous. A comic book film won in one of the "big" prime time categories, not just for technical achievements or special effects.
JEPH LOEB: It's all a process. Nobody thought a Western could win best picture until "Unforgiven." Besides, we all know that "Dark Knight" should have won!
And there you have it, folks. Thanks go out to all of the creators who responded -- your answers were insightful and appreciated!
So, readers... Do you agree? Disagree? Let us know what YOU think in the comment section of this post!