Markley’s Fevered Brain: My Comic is On TV!


Wayne Markley

Wayne Markley


by Wayne Markley

As long as there has been television, and movies before that, there have been comic books based on them. (And before there was television, there were comics based on the radio plays that pre-dated television.) There were a variety of types of comics, such as Movie Comics that adapted the big screen hits of the time. There were Dell Four Color Comics, which was a catch-all title (that is, the numbering was consecutive but the actual features in the comic changed month to month), which featured almost everything imaginable from Rawhide to My Favorite Martian to Roy Rogers. Dell’s Four Color Comics also featured all the Disney Characters (Mickey, Donald, Uncle Scrooge), as well as tons of other comic related characters in addition to TV-inspired stories. In the history of comics, Four Color is quite the story. There were also a number of comics based on the personalities of the time, such as Bob Hope and Jerry Lewis.

Dell was by no means the only publisher of comics based on TV shows. DC got into it with Adventures of Bob Hope, Sergeant Bilko, Adventures of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis (and when Martin and Lewis went their separate ways, the comic became the Adventures of Jerry Lewis), and many others. When Dell slowly got out of comics, Gold Key picked up the slack and continued comics based on popular TV shows such as Dark Shadows, Star Trek, Bonanza, and lots of others. Charlton was also in the TV adaptation game with runs of Six Million Dollar Man, Space 1999, Emergency, and others. Marvel was late to the game but they did movie adaptations, but not a lot of comics based on traditional television show, but Marvel did do the Man from Atlantis, Battlestar Galactica, G.I. Joe, Muppets, and other kid books based on cartoons.

The Walking Dead #124

The Walking Dead #124


Today there are numerous comics based on television shows and they range from the obvious to some you would never think of. The most popular one is The Walking Dead. This is a case where the show is based on the comic and not the other way around. I would argue that The Walking Dead is a prime example of what comics have become, and that is a breeding ground for ideas for movies and television. The Walking Dead started out as a little known comic from image about a handful of survivors in a post-zombie apocalypse. It was a unique book at the time (now there are zombie comics everywhere) and it was, and still is, very well written, but the TV show has created a whole new audience that had no idea the comic existed. At this point, this is the rare exception where a television show is based on the comic and it far more popular on TV than the printed book (when you compare the TV ratings vs. the comic book sales).

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic #1

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic #1


Another unique version of a television show/comic book relationship is My Little Pony. Here a toy line, My Little Pony (started in 1981) inspired a television show in the mid-1980s, and then came and went over the years, but Hasbro re-launched the toy line a few years ago and IDW jumped on the rights to publish the comic and it has become a best seller. I think part of the appeal is it strikes a chord among its readers which takes them back to their childhood, as the comics are fairly bland and candy coated. Then maybe that is what the audience (mostly male) wants, a change from all the dark superheroes. Historically, toys inspiring comics is well known, the Micronauts and Rom standing out.

G.I. Joe #0

G.I. Joe #0


Along the same lines of My Little Pony, that is toys that inspired TV shows and eventually movies, and are now once again comic books are G.I. Joe and Transformers. IDW publishes a number of titles based on G.I. Joe and Transformers, with at least four or five titles for each property. These comics are what you would expect from them in they are modern looking, action filled, with tons of explosions very similar to the modern movies based on the toys and cartoons. They sell well to fans of the properties but do not draw much of an audience outside of the fans of G.I. Joe or Transformers. The sales never seem to surge when the new movies come out either which implies that the movie audience does not know or care about the comic version. (This was the opposite in the days of Dell’s Four Color.) IDW does make an attempt to capture the movie going audience, but it just has not worked up to this point.

The X-Files Season 10

The X-Files Season 10


IDW also recently re-launched a new comic version of The X-Files. Once again a comic based on a television show (and a set of movies). The X-Files has always had a devoted following, and these comics capture the appeal of the original television show well, and the stories are well done, but they are have not been able to grab an audience anywhere near what the television show once had, and that is a bit of shame as the comic is quite good. IDW has also done a spin-off where The X-Files characters (mostly the Lone Gunmen) are teaming-up with other TV and movie properties such as the TMNT, Ghostbusters, and Transformers to tell a large story. To be honest, I thought this was one of the silliest things I have ever heard, but so far it has been a lot of fun and worth reading. IDW is also issuing nice hardcovers of all the old X-Files comics from Topps from many years ago.

Dark Shadows #2

Dark Shadows #2


IDW is not the only one publishing comics based TV shows. Dynamite’s publishing plan tends to bounce around, in that they publish a slew of comics based on Jack Kirby’s concepts, then they cancel all of them and publish a bunch of TV comics, then they cancel them and move on to a bunch of comic based on pulp heroes, etc. But of the comics they published based on TV shows, Dark Shadows stood out. This was based on the 1960s version of the property and was very good at capturing the feel and style of the old series. It is worth tracking down and reading.

Smallville Season 11

Smallville Season 11


Not to be left out, DC is also doing comics based on television shows, all from the CW Network, which is owned by DC’s parent company so it does make sense. The two titles they are doing so far are Smallville and Vampire Diaries. While neither of these books are best sellers they are designed to be collected and sold in book stores rather than comic shops. All of them are OK comics based on the source material and the Arrow book, which isn’t being published at the moment, is actually very good. Again, these books sell to the fans of the TV shows more than traditional comic fans.

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century


There are also a number of small publishers adapting TV shows or reprinting old material (Hermes Press, for example, has collected the 1960s Dark Shadows comics as well as the 1980s Buck Rogers comics based on the TV show of the time). These small publishers tend to be of a lower quality than IDW or Dynamite or DC, but they have their niche.

Star Trek

Star Trek


I have barely touched the surface of the history, or even modern publishing, of comics that have been adapted into comics. I could write a whole other column about them, including comics like  Star Trek and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. As I mentioned in the opening it is becoming for more common for a comic to become a movie (2 Guns, Red, and Losers, to name a few) rather than the other way around, yet there are a number of comics based on TV shows (or toys that became of TV show that became a comic and now have been revised) out there. If you are fans of any of the properties mentioned here, then check out the comics.

As always, everything written here is my opinion and in no way reflects the thoughts of opinions of Westfield Comics or their employees. I welcome comments and critiques at MFBWAY@AOL.COM. I would love to hear what your favorite comics based on a TV show are or what titles did I miss out that I should have listed. As always, thank you.