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Posted at 8:30 AM ET, 03/25/2009

What Are the Best--and Worst--Comic Films Ever?

By Michael Cavna

Cartoon movies are as much in the news as ever.

'Riffs tweeted several days back about how Warren Beatty was being sued by Tribune Media Service over the screen rights to Dick Tracy. We've reported on Stephan Pastis working on his own animation project for "Pearls Before Swine," as is "Marmaduke's" Brad Anderson, who signed a film deal. (To say nothing of how badly Ted Forth yesterday wanted to see "Watchmen's" Dr. Manhattan, um, up close and big-screen personal.)

This got us to thinking: Beatty's 1990 "Dick Tracy" film (co-written by Chester Gould) was a cinematically stunning film. And "Iron Man" and "Dark Knight" are two of our fave comic-based movies from last year. On the flip side, "Garfield" has been a particularly painful experience onscreen.

So I ask you: What are the best or worst cartoon-related films ever? The floor is yours -- 'Riffs is now taking your nominations.

By Michael Cavna  | March 25, 2009; 8:30 AM ET
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I have a fondness for some that didn't aspire any higher than they should have, like the 1980s Shadow (pulp, not comic book, I know) and Phantom, the recent Fantastic Fours, the second Hulk movie...

Posted by: Mrhode | March 25, 2009 8:49 AM | Report abuse

I actually liked "The Shadow", too. Beautiful special effects and it didn't really take itself too seriously.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | March 25, 2009 9:02 AM | Report abuse

PH2009032402624.jpg is pretty, but what's the connection to comics?

Posted by: MSchafer | March 25, 2009 9:25 AM | Report abuse

M. Schafer: That's Madonna as she appeared in the Dick Tracy movie.

I liked 1969's "A Boy Named Charlie Brown," which was true to the spirit of the strip by having Charlie Brown choke at a spelling bee.

Worst comic film nominations must include the 1961 film of "Dondi," prominently displayed in the book "The Fifty Worst Films of All Time." And for good reason.

Posted by: drazen1 | March 25, 2009 9:37 AM | Report abuse

If we include TV, then Charlie Brown Christmas is the gold standard... Otherwise the Keaton Batman is probably the best.

It's nice to see that I'm not the only one who liked The Phantom. I wouldn't buy the DVD, but I'll watch it if I stumble across it on cable on a rainy day.

Dick Tracy /is/ visually stunning, but too formulaic. Too /obviously/ a comic strip turned into a movie.

Posted by: wiredog | March 25, 2009 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Howard the Duck (now on DVD)!

Posted by: subwayguy | March 25, 2009 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Nominees (not in any order)because these movies are simply a special-kind-of-bad

1) Howard the Duck
2) Prince Valiant (sleeping potion called qualudium?)
3) The Nick Fury/Shield moive with David Hasselhoff
4) The Dolph Lundgren Punisher movie

These deserve honorable mention as simply "horrible"
1) Batman Forever
2) Superman IV
3) The first Hulk movie (what was Ang Lee thinking?)
4) The Spirit (haven't seen it but a friend insists that it actually belongs in the first category).
5) the Thomas Jane Punisher movie

My nightmare: having Uwe Boll start making comics movies.....

Posted by: jamdl01 | March 25, 2009 12:43 PM | Report abuse

I too kinda liked the Phantom movie. Dick Tracy was okay, but not great.

I have avoided the really bad comic strip movies like Garfield or Dennis the Menace. It's harder to think of well-done movies based on comic strips than good ones based on comic books. Short gag strips don't translate well to long filmplays, while the extensive back stories available to Spiderman, Batman, or Xmen movies can add depth.

Posted by: steveh46 | March 25, 2009 1:34 PM | Report abuse

I haven't seen Annie since I was a small child, but that definitely deserves a mention.

Over the Hedge was pretty good - a little too heavy on celebrity voices - but still pretty fun.

Posted by: jessecline | March 25, 2009 1:43 PM | Report abuse

I had pretty low expectations for "Hellboy", but I was pleasantly surprised to find it enjoyable.

"Swamp Thing", although light years inferior to the Alan Moore comic book, was at least mildly amusing. Translating Moore to screen was far less successful in "From Hell", "V for Vendetta", and "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen", which is why he chose to have nothing to do with the adaptation of "Watchmen".

Posted by: seismic-2 | March 25, 2009 5:54 PM | Report abuse

I'll confess to a fondness for Robin Williams' Popeye movie and I do remember some Blondie movie(s) with a smashing rendition of Dagwood meets Beasley.

Posted by: jimbo1949 | March 26, 2009 11:11 AM | Report abuse

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