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Comics at the Movies

By Chris Auman

Super heroes may get all the attention when it comes to comic book movie adaptations, but there are a few comics artists whose lives and work have been depicted in film as well. From documentaries to fictionalized accounts of real life events, these movies show comics artists to be observant, introverted, talented, and fascinating subjects. Here are a few of my favorites.

  • My Friend Dahmer : A Graphic Novel

    2012 by Derf.

    The adaptation of Derf Backderf's 2012 graphic novel about his high school friend Jeffrey Dahmer has been filmed but not released. It should be out this year but if it is anything like this novel it will skip the serial killer sensationalism in favor of a focus on a deeply troubled young man. The warning signs everyone missed can only be reflected on in hindsight. This is an engrossing read and I will definitely be seeing the film when it's released.

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  • Crumb

    1998 by Terry Zwigoff

    Brilliant, misanthropic, and cranky, Crumb is a pioneer in underground comics. Each time I watch this documentary I am fascinated by Crumb, especially the influence his family had on his life and work. Crumb was there at the beginning of the underground comics movement in drug-fueled 1960s San Fransisco. Director Terry Zwigoff spent almost a decade interviewing Crumb's family, friends, ex-wives, and girlfriends as well as the artist himself. The result is a glimpse into the mind of the creator of Zap Comix, Mr. Natural, and Fritz the Cat.

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  • American Splendor

    2003 by Robert Pulcini

    Paul Giamatti channels comics-obsessed Harvey Pekar in this film adaptation of Pekar's autobiographical comic series. Notorious crank, introvert, and proud Clevelander, the movie follows Pekar through his marriage, his wife's cancer treatment, and his rise to relative fame. Long-time friend and collaborator Robert Crumb (played by James Urbaniak) makes an appearance as well. This movie inspired me to find out more about Pekar and his work.

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  • The Diary of a Teenage Girl

    2016 by Marielle Heller

    This coming-of-age comedy-drama is based on Phoebe Gloeckner's diaristic graphic novel The Diary of a Teenage Girl: An Account in Words and Pictures. The book and film tell the story of 15-year-old Minnie Goetz as she explores boundaries in 1976 San Francisco. The Crumb name surfaces again as Minnie, an aspiring comics artist, writes a fan letter to fellow artist Aline Kominsky-Crumb (wife of Robert Crumb). Aline writes her back and encourages her as an artist.

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  • Ghost World

    2002 by Terry Zwigoff

    Another comics-themed film from director Terry Zwigoff, Ghost World is the film adaptation of Daniel Clowes' work of the same name. Clowes, a Chicago native, created this story of two social outcasts and best friends as they spend their post-high school summer together. Enid and Becky grow apart as they contemplate where their lives will lead them now that school has ended. As Becky conforms, Enid remains a misfit. An early role for Scarlett Johansson and an enjoyable film all around.

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