Creator ownership and the generation of comic book movie properties

What we have here is a chart looking at the English language theatrically-released films released since 1982 that are based on English language comic book and graphic novel properties, sorted in order of the date of first publication of the property, color-coded for whether the property was creator-owned, corporate-owned (generally by the publisher), or co-owned by both.

The 1982 date was chosen to reflect a shift that was going on in comics at the time. I’m specifically linking the date to Destroyer Duck #1, which showed that creator owned material could be run in a standard-format American comic book. This was not the invention of the creator-owned comic, of course, but it was a strong change in the air.

What can be seen is that once creator ownership was on the table, the moviable properties were largely works that creators maintained ownership of. Of the large mainstream publishers that preexisted the change, Marvel and Archie have published no new company-owned properties that have reached the big screen. DC has published four over those 30 years. In contrast, in just the 10 years preceding 1982, Marvel launched 6 purely-Marvel-owned properties that would later become movies, including a couple that were made into movies within 15 years after creation (so it’s not merely a matter that company-owned concepts take longer to reach the screen – although they seem to – that prevents post-1982 Marvel material from showing up.)


  • The source is derived from the Wikipedia article “List of films based on English-language comics” and its completeness is dependent on that.
  • Not having a long time for research, the ownership status is sometimes based on my assumptions, informed by the companies involved and the practice of the time. Corrections are welcome.
  • I counted as “Corporate-owned” anything created as work-for-hire and anything independently-created where the property was sold to the corporation before publication (example: Superman), but not anything where the creator or heirs may have sold to a corporation at some later date.
  • I counted as creator-owned things that may have been published as copyright by the publisher, but with a reversion clause where the property reverted before the film was licensed (Road to Perdition.)
  • There were judgment calls on what to count as the property creation date, for items like Green Lantern and The Losers, where the property name had been used by the owner on what might be viewed as multiple properties.
  • Judgement calls were also made on what counts as a comic book property; both the inclusion of Red Sonja and the exclusion of Aliens Vs. Predator are arguable.
  • I recognize only one property per film, as that’s the central thing that caused it to be made. So, for example, X-Men Origins: Wolverine is the Wolverine property, not the X-Men (despite their presence in the title) nor Deadpool.


Published in: on June 14, 2012 at 5:14 am  Comments (25)  
%d bloggers like this: