From the comics page to the silver screenby grendelkhan | created - 22 Apr 2013 | updated - 23 Aug 2016 | Public
These are film and tv adaptations of comic strips and comic books. The sole criteria is that it had to appear in the comic page first. It's by no means a complete list. I have tried to use debuts or notable adaptations. With respect to film and tv based on manga, due to the anime boom, there are dozens of OVAs, tv series, and films. I have stuck with notable ones or those that have had influence in the West. I haven't seen enough to give the field justice. The same is true with European comics. I have included notable examples and those based on highly regarded series. I have tried to include as many others from around the world but I'm sure I have missed plenty. Comments are only my opinion; your mileage may vary.
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1. Ally Sloper (1898)
Man dresses up as a woman, and the film is reversed.
Director: George Albert Smith
Very early film featuring the star of the UK proto-comics.
Early short film featuring the little stinkers. There were several others and they would pop up in later cartoons, including a tv series in the late 80s.
3. Pranks of Buster Brown and His Dog Tige (1904)
Scene I of the Buster Brown Series. The opening scene shows Bridget asleep at the kitchen-table, and Buster enters on tip-toe. After tying her apron over her head and to the back of the ... See full summary »
Director: Edwin S. Porter
One of several Buster Brown shorts, based on RF Outcalt's seminal strip. Buster Brown would later be associated with Children's shoes.
Not Rated | 7 min | Animation, Short, Comedy
Cartoon figures announce, via comic strip balloons, that they will move - and move they do, in a wildly exaggerated style.
Not so much an adaptation as McCay bringing his drawings to life, within a film. It's a key moment in animation history, that used the comic strips as a launching point.
5. Mutt and Jeff Break Into Society (1911)
Mutt and Jeff decide to go to work. Automobile driving seems to appeal to their roving dispositions. Mutt and Jeff accordingly take automobile lessons. The former successfully passes the ... See full summary »
Star: Bud Duncan
First of several short live action films based on the comic duo. The series would eventually pioneer the technique of subtitles appearing simultaneously with the pictures, rather than cuts to dialogue cards. A series of animated shorts would follow, starting in 1916.
6. Ella Cinders (1926)
Passed | 75 min | Comedy, Romance
Poor Ella Cinders is much abused by her evil step-mother and step-sisters. When she wins a local beauty contest she jumps at the chance to get out of her dead-end life and go to Hollywood, ... See full summary »
Film version of the popular comic strip heroine.
7. Tillie the Toiler (1927)
Tillie the Toiler is a 1927 silent film comedy produced by Cosmopolitan Productions and released through Metro Goldwyn Mayer studios. It is based on Russ Westover's popular comic strip ... See full summary »
Early film based on the comic strip. There was another about 20 years later. The strip's popularity was based around the latest fashions, but the theme fell out of favor after WWII and the strip came to an end.
8. Harold Teen (1928)
80 min | Comedy
Silent film, based on the popular teen strip, one of the first to focus on a teenaged character. A musical would follow in the 30s. The strip died with its creator in 1959. Star Arthur Lake would later play Dagwood in the film and tv series based on Blondie.
9. Skippy (1931)
Approved | 85 min | Family, Drama, Comedy
Skippy, the mischievous son of a wealthy doctor, meets Sooky in poverty-ridden Shantytown, and together they try to save Sooky's pet from a cruel dogcatcher.
This strip was a bit of an ancestor to Calvin and Hobbes, in terms of imagination, and was highly regarded. Wonder if the film does it justice?
10. Little Orphan Annie (1932)
70 min | Comedy, Drama
Daddy Warbucks has to go on a long trip, leaving Annie alone. While wandering the street, Sandy leads Annie to discover Mickey, who is crying. Mickey's grandmother recently died, and he is ... See full summary »
Long before the sun would come out tomorrow was this adaptation of Harold Gray's strip. Haven't seen it, but Gray's seemingly innocent strip also bore some fairly nasty sentiments from the ultra-conservative cartoonist. The adaptations usually stuck to the adventure parts, though.
11. Popeye the Sailor (1933)
Passed | 7 min | Animation, Short, Musical
Popeye begins his movie career by singing his theme song, demonstrating his strength at a carnival, dancing the hula with Betty Boop, pummeling Bluto, eating his spinach and saving Olive Oyl from certain doom on the railroad tracks.
Popeye jumped from the pages of Thimble Theater to the movie screen, launching a series of theatrical cartoons and, later, tv cartoon series. The early cartoons are great, with lots of wordplay and inventive gags, though they soon became formulaic.
12. Tailspin Tommy (1934)
Approved | 248 min | Action, Drama, Crime
A young mechanic gets a job with a small airline, which he helps win a mail contract. A rival airline plots to destroy it in order to get the contracts for itself.
There were at least a couple of films/serials based on this aviation hero.
13. Palooka (1934)
Unrated | 86 min | Comedy, Music
Knobby discovers young hunk Palooka and trains him to fight the reigning champ, also drunken sot, Al McSwatt.
First of several films featuring Ham Fisher's boxing champ.
14. Flash Gordon (1936)
Approved | 245 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Flash Gordon, Dale Arden and Dr. Alexis Zarkov visit the planet Mongo to thwart the evil schemes of Emperor Ming the Merciless, who has set his planet on a collision course with Earth.
Lavish movie serial from Universal that had a feature budget to do justice to the Alex Raymond strip. Buster Crabbe stars as Flash, with Jean Rogers as Dale and Charles Middleton as Ming. It looks low rent today but it was fantastic in its day. It would go on to inspire Star Wars. The serial is fairly faithful to the first few years of the strip, even in the costumes.
15. Ace Drummond (1936)
Approved | 255 min | Adventure, Action
This 13 chapter serial is based on the comic strip character Ace Drummond created by Eddie Rickenbacker. Ace is a 'G-Man of the sky' working out of Washington D.C. He is sent to Mongolia to... See full summary »
An early aviation hero, turned movie serial.
16. Dick Tracy (1937)
Approved | 290 min | Action, Comedy, Crime
A master criminal called The Spider puts the famous detective's brother under a hypnotic spell and turns him against Dick.
Outstanding Republic serial, based on the comic strip, by Chester Gould. Ralph Byrd captures Tracy well and the serial has more mystery, suspense, and action than you can shake a wrist-radio at. Footage would later be recycled for the Republic serial Fighting Devil Dogs and some stunts were swiped for Indiana Jones.
17. Radio Patrol (1937)
Approved | 242 min | Action, Drama
A young radio cop and a beautiful girl try to stop an international criminal gang from getting their hands on the formula for a new bulletproof steel.
Serial based on the police strip. The strip was popular for a time, though died off in the post-WWII years. It featured a stereotyped Irish police detective pair. It was never as successful as Dick Tracy.
18. Tim Tyler's Luck (1937)
Approved | 212 min | Adventure
A 12-episode serial in which Tim Tyler goes to Africa in search of his father in gorilla country. He meets up with Lora, who is after Spider Webb who has framed her brother. Webb causes the... See full summary »
Noted adventure film, based on the comic strip.
19. Secret Agent X-9 (1937)
Approved | 294 min | Action, Adventure, Comedy
A secret agent goes after the gang that stole the crown jewels of a European monarchy.
One of two films, based on the Alex Raymond strip. Dashiell Hammet wrote the strips, while Raymond handled the art chores. There was another film in 1945.
20. Blondie (1938)
Approved | 70 min | Comedy, Family
Dagwood loses his job on the eve of his and Blondie's fifth wedding anniversary.
The first in the long running series of Blondie and Dagwood films, starring Penny Singleton and Arthur Lake. Lighthearted fun and fairly faithful to the characters, at the time the films were produced.
21. Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars (1938)
Approved | 299 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
When a deadly Nitron ray strikes Earth, Flash Gordon and his friends travel to Mars to battle Ming the Merciless and his new ally Queen Azura.
Second serial with Flash Gordon. The story is even more exciting than the first serial.
22. Red Barry (1938)
Not Rated | 256 min | Action
A famous detective sets out to discover who stole $2 million in bonds.
Movie serial based on the police detective strip, King Feature Syndicate's answer to Dick Track (along with Secret Agent X-9). Actor Donald Barry would go on to be known as Red Barry after this. There was also a pro wrestler known as Wild Red Barry. The strip was dark and violent, inspired by the Warner Bros. gangster movies.
23. Mandrake, the Magician (1939)
Approved | 215 min | Action, Adventure
Mandrake and his assistant Lothar are working the cruise lines and make the acquaintance of Professor Houston who has developed a radium energy machine, which is much coveted by a masked Crime Lord known as "The Wasp".
Movie serial based on the polpular Lee Falk strip. Not nearly as good as The Phantom, a few years later. Mandrake's success in the comics spawned dozens of magician heroes, such as Zatara, Ibis, Sargon the Sorceror, and more; but, none held a candle to Mandrake.
24. Buck Rogers (1939)
Approved | 237 min | Adventure, Family, Fantasy
A 20th Century pilot named Buck Rogers and his young friend Buddy Wade awake from 500 years in suspended animation to find that the world has been taken over by the outlaw army of Killer Kane.
Buster Crabbe brings the comic hero to life in this exciting serial. A scene would later be used by George Lucas for the opening moments of THX 1138. Buck was one of the better strips, in terms of merchandising, which included a Daisy pistol, rocket skates, and a Buck uniform.
25. Terry and the Pirates (1940)
Passed | 300 min | Action, Adventure, Drama
Dr. Herbert Lee (John Paul Jones), an archaeologist seeking to decipher ancient Mara inscriptions, is aided by his son, Terry (William Tracy), and Terry's pal, Pat Ryan (Jeff York), and ... See full summary »
Movie serial based on the Milton Caniff classic. Haven't seen this one, but the comic strip defined adventure in the 30s and 40s. Caniff, along with Hal Foster and Alex Raymond, would be the primary influence upon a generation of comic book artists.
26. Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940)
Approved | 220 min | Action, Sci-Fi, Adventure
Flash Gordon, Dale Arden and Dr. Zarkov return to the planet Mongo for an antidote to the Purple Death, which wreaking destruction on Earth. However, Ming the Merciless has other plans for them.
Once again, Flash does battle with Ming, while helping Queen Fria of Friggia. This one had the deepest impact on George Lucas, right down to the episode opening title crawls.
27. King of the Royal Mounted (1940)
Approved | 211 min | Action, Adventure
Canadian Tom Merritt has discovered a substance, Compound X, that will cure infantile paralysis, which he extracts from a mine at Caribou, Canada. A country at war with Canada (unnamed ... See full summary »
Better known of two films/serials, based on the Mountie strip.
28. Adventures of Red Ryder (1940)
Approved | 205 min | Action, Adventure, Drama
Mesquite banker Calvin Drake plans to profit from the Santa Fe Railroad's acquisition of right-of-way by gaining control of the land in the territory. In the ensuing war of intimidation ... See full summary »
Ralphie's favorite range-riding hero came to life in this feature and would go on to star in a string of westerns and a tv series. Young Robert Blake appeared in several later Red Ryder films, as Little Beaver.
29. Superman (1941)
Passed | 10 min | Animation, Short, Action
The Man of Steel fights a mad scientist who is destroying Metropolis with an energy cannon.
Theatrical cartoon series produced by the Fleischer Bros. These were things of beauty, with the theatrical cell ratio giving a fluidity to the action. Superman was not yet all-powerful, so he has to struggle with many of his super feats. No villains carry over from the comics, but the ones presented are very much in keeping with the four-color works. Bud Collier would provide the voice, as well as on radio.
30. Reg'lar Fellers (1941)
Passed | 60 min | Adventure, Comedy, Crime
Based on the comic strip by Gene Byrnes, the "Reg'lar Fellers", and one girl-feller, tinker with building a land/water machine, form a kid-band and go on the radio, celebrate a birthday, ... See full summary »
This strip was hugely popular in the years between Word Wars, but would die out a few years after the end of WWII. The strip is considered a classic in its depiction of its child protagonists and would influence things like the Our Gang shorts and other "kid gang" properties, especially Jack Kirby's early work (along with the Dead End Kids). This film version came during the later years of the strips popularity.
31. Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941)
Passed | 216 min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy
To protect a magic talisman from being used for evil, a teenage boy named Billy Batson is given the power to become an adult superhero, Captain Marvel, with a single magic word: "Shazam!"
Probably the single greatest action serial ever created. The Big Red Cheese is ably portrayed by Tom Tyler, with Frank Coughlin as Billy Batson. The character is tweaked a bit and played straight, with a standard masked serial villain. However, the Egyptian hooks make it intrgiuing and it features some of the best stunt fighting in the serial age. The Egyptian elements would later appear in the comic, in Jerry Ordway's Power of Shazam.
32. Spy Smasher (1942)
Passed | 215 min | Action, Adventure
Alan Armstrong, aka Spy Smasher, battles a Nazi villain known as The Mask, who heads a gang of saboteurs determined to spread destruction across America.
Second only to the Adventures of Captain Marvel for thrills. Lucas and Spielberg stole the fight around the flying wing from this serial. Based on the popular Fawcett Comics character, who at one point (in the comics) was brainwashed into committing sabotage, leading to battles with Captain Marvel.
33. Private Snuffy Smith (1942)
Approved | 67 min | Comedy, Romance, War
Snuffy Smith, moonshining hillbilly, grows tired of dodging revenue agents, headed by Cooper, and decides to take the army up on their offer of free clothes, food and $21.00 a month. Once ... See full summary »
The hillbilly character comes to life in this comedy. Snuffy debuted as a secondary character in Barney Google, but would soon get equal billing and surplant the horse racing enthusiast.
34. Don Winslow of the Navy (1942)
Passed | 237 min | Action, Adventure
US naval officer Don Winslow is given command of the islands near Pearl Harbor. He discovers that there is a ring of saboteurs and enemy agents who are trying to destroy ships carrying ... See full summary »
Serial version of the popular comic strip. Our hero is an agent for Naval intelligence, fighting wartime saboteurs. It did well enough to spawn a sequel, Don Winslow of the Coast Guard. I guess if they had continued making films, he would have hit all of the branches of the armed forces. I would have held out for Don Winslow of the USO!
35. The Phantom (1943)
Passed | 299 min | Action, Adventure, Drama
Professor Davidson and his niece Diana Palmer search Africa for the Lost City of Zoloz, reputed to be the source of a large hidden treasure. Also searching is a local crook, Singapore Smith... See full summary »
Adaptation of the popular comic strip and one of Columbia's best serials. Tom Tyler stars as the Ghost Who Walks, in a relatively faithful and fairly exciting story. It competes well with the Weismuller Tarzans. The Phantom predated the costumed heroes of comic books and was swiped by everyone under the sun. A sequel was developed, but the rights were pulled, so they morphed it into Captain Africa. I doubt it fooled anyone.
36. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943)
Not Rated | 163 min | Drama, Romance, War
From the Boer War through World War II, a soldier rises through the ranks in the British military.
Interesting film based on the satirical Colonel Blimp cartoons, which had a decidedly anti-war slant. The film has an original story, about a young officer who believes in duty and honor, but sees that the rest of the world thinks differently. It is a rather dark comedy and probably wouldn't appeal to many, especially those on the right.
37. The Adventures of Smilin' Jack (1943)
Approved | 265 min | Action, Adventure, War
Just before World War II, the Chinese and American governments mount a joint operation to prevent the Germans and Japanese from taking over the strategic island of Mandon.
Movie serial based on the newspaper aviation hero, who bore a bit of a resemblance to Clark Cable.
38. Batman (1943)
Approved | 260 min | Action, Adventure, Crime
Japanese spymaster Prince Daka operates a covert espionage organization located in Gotham City's now-deserted Little Tokyo which turns American scientists into pliable zombies.
Batman beat Superman to the live action screen, though Supes got there first in animated form. This Columbia serial features Batman and Robin vs a Japanese saboteur, with plenty of wartime stereotypes. Lewis Wilson makes for a decent Bruce Wayne, and is ok as Batman. There is a cave, but the Batmobile is a standard sedan, with a white top! It's a decent story, but 15 chapters was a bit too long for the plot. Wilson gets to do some undercover work and actually does some decent character acting.
39. Captain America (1944)
Approved | 244 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Superhero Captain America battles the evil forces of the archvillain called The Scarab, who poisons his enemies and steals a secret device capable of destroying buildings by sound vibrations.
Republic serial based on the Timely (later Marvel) Comics character. However, the character is completely different from the original, apart from costume, which only has stripes on the front of the shirt. There is some belief amongst serial fans that the script was originally meant for Fawcett Comics' Mr. Scarlet, but either the deal fell through (as happened with Superman) or they cancelled it after Mr. Scarlet lost his feature at Fawcett. Mr. Scarlet was a crusading district attorney who donned a costume and carried a pistol to fight crime, which is the premise of this Captain America. The villain is a standard masked serial villain, not the Red Skull or any other character from Timely. It has excellent action, though Dick Purcell makes for a rather pudgy super-soldier. It's a good serial, just not a good Captain America.
40. Brenda Starr, Reporter (1945)
Approved | 243 min | Crime, Action, Drama
Chapter 1 finds Daily Flash newspaper reporter Brenda Starr (Joan Woodbury), and her photographer, Chuck Allen (Syd Saylor), assigned to cover a fire in an old house where they discover the... See full summary »
First attempt at bring the comics character to life; though not the last. None were particularly successful.
41. Bringing Up Father (1946)
Passed | 65 min | Comedy
Maggie and her snooty society friends fool Jiggs and his buddies down at Dinty's tavern into not only signing a petition to close the bar, but they also trick them into taking the "temperaance" pledge to forsake all alcohol.
Adaptations of the popular George McManus strip of the same name. The strip followed the adventures of the nouveau riche couple Maggie and Jiggs. Maggie is a social climber but Jiggs is happier to spend time in his favorite tavern and live out the same life he always had. The film presents a typical storyline, where Maggie's goals of society acceptance clash with Jiggs' desire to have a drink with friends. There was a whole series of Maggie and Jiggs films.
42. Hop Harrigan America's Ace of the Airways (1946)
Approved | Action, Adventure, Drama
Hop Harrigan (William Bakewell) and his pal "Tank" Tinker (Sumner Getchell) operate a small airport and flying service, and are hired by J. Westly Arnold (Emmett Vogan) to fly an eccentric ... See full summary »
A serial adaptation of an All-American Comics back-up feature. Fairly standard fare. The character was one of a long line of aviation heroes, but didn't survive the war years.
43. The Crab with the Golden Claws (1947)
60 min | Animation, Adventure
First film adaptation of Tintin.
44. Brick Bradford (1947)
Approved | 257 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
An adventurer travels to the moon to stop a madman from getting hold of the Interceptor Ray, a weapon that could destroy Earth.
Another serial based on a comic strip. This time, it was the time-travelling Brick Bradford, one of the rivals of Flash Gordon. The serial couldn't match the scope of the strip.
45. The Vigilante: Fighting Hero of the West (1947)
Approved | 285 min | Action, Crime
The Vigilante, a masked government agent, is assigned to investigate the case of the "100 Tears of Blood", a cursed string of rare blood red pearls sought by a gang led by the unknown X-1 that may have been smuggled into the country.
Ralph Byrd (Dick Tracy) stars as the DC modern western hero. Most of the elements are there, though the serial is an odd mix of a singing cowboy and mystery man.
46. Superman (1948)
Approved | 244 min | Sci-Fi
Superman comes to Earth as a child and grows up to be his home's first superhero with his first major challenge being to oppose The Spider Lady.
The Columbia movie serial, starring Kirk Alyn and Noel Neil. The villain, the Spider Lady (played by a very sexy Carol Forman) is fairly standard for the movie serials and had no comic basis. The serial is notable for using animated footage of Superman flying. The actors do a decent job and the cliffhangers are exciting enough to spawn a sequel.
47. Congo Bill (1948)
Approved | 270 min | Adventure, Action
A girl is about to inherit a fortune, but she is missing in Africa. Only then, family charges Congo Bill, an adventurer, to find her, and bring her back to civilization. He follows a legend about some White Queen, but his path is full of difficulties, by an inhospitable jungle, and the man who will lose the fortune if the girl is found alive.
Serial version of the DC Comics character, a backup feature in Action Comics. Congo Bill covers fairly standard jungle tales and he is a poor man's Jungle Jim or Allan Quatermain. In the comics, he would later transform into a gorilla, called Congorilla!
48. Jungle Jim (1948)
Approved | 71 min | Action, Adventure