Vue Cinemas ran a fairly robust survey of "fans of books and comics", in order to see how they respond to remakes and adaptations. They were kind enough to share the data, and I've had a poke around to see what's fun in the results.
Marvel vs DC Smackdown
Marvel have overwhelmingly topped DC in the battle of comic remakes, with over 5 times the amount of respondents saying that Marvel films are better.
That said, Batman is (by far) the favourite adapted comic book character. The top five were as follows:
- Iron Man
My first thought was that the Marvel vs DC discrepency is about Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy - Marvel's cracked the team movie format, whereas DC is still building up to it. That said, the presence of the "X-Men" kind of ruins that theory - or is it that people see the X-Men as an entity (or, more likely, an entity + Wolverine), whereas the Avengers are still viewed as a collection of solo artists? (Which still wouldn't explain the absence of the Guardians.) Puzzling.
But things aren't rosy in Gotham - Batman, as well as Spidey - were both in the top 5 least favourites as well, surrounded by less surprising selections (Hulk, Green Lantern and Daredevil):
- Hulk / Green Lantern
- Captain America
Presumably Spidey and Bats are the result of being the longest running and most rebooted film franchises. For every Spider-man 2 there is a Spider-man 3, after all. Just as every rose has its thorn, every Keaton has its Clooney. And poor Hulk. It seems Mark Ruffalo's excellence still hasn't overcome the two previous failures.
Other franchises and publishers were represented in the results (esp. Watchmen, Sin City, Dredd), but not nearly at the same level.
(For more chat about the survey results - and our own favourites and least favourites - check out the lastest episode of One Comic.)
But who cares?
This is the most surprising answer: 77% of respondents said the adaptation of comics to films hasn't made them either better or worse. And of those that felt they had changed, more people felt they were improved than ruined. Given that the polled demographic was "fans" and we are notorious for having, you know, opinions, this result is surprising in its even-handedness.
The neutrality of comic book fans was also in contrast to literary SF/F adaptations, where, generally speaking, the fans busted out those self-same opinions. Half of respondents had a firm "book is better" or "movie is better" stance.
|Franchise||Book is better||Movie is better||The same|
|Lord of the Rings||24%||26%||50%|
This could come down to the differences between the media formats. Perhaps books are a larger commitment - a 'deeper' engagement than comics - which means that fans are more passionate about them. Alternatively, comics are more frequently rebooted and reinterpreted even as comics. So comics readers are more used to re-interpretations of 'canon', whereas book fans have been living with one unique view. Or comics, where each 'story' is much shorter and more visual, have a smaller editorial 'leap' when they're put to screen. Whereas a book can't be filmed as 'faithfully', and more cuts/changes have to be made.
There's something interesting in this as regards relativity. I don't think anyone would accuse Lord of the Rings as being 'bad' books - or, for that matter, the Harry Potter films. But some of the adaptations, in the eyes of consumers, are better for being in that format (or having the story retold in a specific and/or visual way).*
With the literary adaptations, there wasn't a gender gap who had opinions. For each franchise, there was very little (<3%) difference in the number of men or women that felt the book or movie was noticeably better.
The exception was The Lord of the Rings, in which the majority of men (54%) had a strong opinion one way or the other, while 56% of women thought there was no difference/even. That 12% swing is the largest across the board.
Although as a whole comic fans were more even-handed, there was a noticeable difference between men and women, with 26% of men having a "better or worse" opinion, compared to 17% of women.
I think the danger here is concluding that men therefore care 'more' about comic books (or, for that matter, Tolkien) and are somehow 'better' fans. That said, given the source material, the relative indifference/neutrality** of women isn't a huge surprise: many of these franchises are more focused on eliciting a response from their male viewers/readers.
Lord of the Rings, for example, has approximately .7 female characters - which is, on average, still more female characters than many (most) comic books. Is it surprising that female readers-turned-viewers are less likely to give a damn? Harry Potter, Twilight and even Narnia are all more gender-balanced franchises, in which the source material contains more characters with whom women can identify. Following this tenuous causality, it would seem the lesson is pretty valuable: if you want your fans to feel strongly about your franchise, have characters in there for them to feel strongly about. Warning, this means you have to make the action figures.
So what have we learned?
First, surveys are fun. We like numbers - and thanks again to Vue for letting us fish around in these.
Second, there is a fascinating difference in how people have OPINIONZ about book-film adaptations and comic-film adaptations. My tenuous conclusion is that there's a difference in the way we absorb the original materials (non-visually, canonically, and personally).
Third, there is also a gender gap in the OPINIONZ around certain franchises. Just eyeballing them, I've come to the hypothesis that this could be a result of the gender imbalance within those franchises and how they are marketed.
Fourth (see first footnote), I think we're probably living in a world where these properties are film franchises first and comics/books secondarily. Not just in terms of revenue, but in terms of audience reach.
*Assumption alert! I've assumed that, for all of these, the respondent read (as book or comic) the franchise before seeing the film. And that the gap is therefore about how the film matched their pre-existing opinion. In fairness, many of the survey's questions were phrased in this manner. However, this gets dodgier and dodgier the more I think about it. Not only with franchises based on niche comics (Guardians of the Galaxy), but even with the largest ones: it is entirely possible (probable, even) that more people have seen Spider-man or Batman on screen than have ever read one of the comics. With that in mind, many of the survey respondents will be people who saw the film, then went to read more. Their OPINIONZ will be reversed with the film as their 'baseline mental picture'. Imagine all the disappointed LotR viewers and their first encounter with Tom Bombadil...
**All of my assumptions, however, are based on a conflation between 'having an opinion either way' and 'caring', and that's pretty dangerous. For one, there could be a good-sized pocket of people who really think they're about the same or (and I'd fall into this camp) 'different things'.