The Spirit Of Comics

by Robert Delany Jr.

Photo Courtesy of Facebook

Logan is the superhero movie that comic books deserve. Comics are edgy, controversial and on the fringe. They are a medium built on broadcasting the stories of the disenfranchised. The X-Men, perhaps more than any other comic property, exemplify this fact. A team of misfits, pariahs and the unpopular can save the world. This is the spirit captured by Logan, which gives the world at large a look into the darker side of comic books not often shown on film. This is not the glossy cinematic world of The Avengers, but the dark depths of the X-Men franchise.

Logan was inspired by the comic book “Old Man Logan,” written by Mark Millar and penciled by Steve McNiven.

“‘Old Man Logan’ lives on, a boldly refreshing vision that’s unlike anything published before it,” said Vulture writer Abraham Riesman in his article on the comic’s legacy. “It was the first new story to alter the course of this venerable franchise’s development in a very long time.”

The world of the comic is radically different than the one of the film. Set in a dystopian future, the super villains have taken over the world and killed all the super heroes. An evil Hulk, Magneto, Red Skull and other iconic villains divided up North America into districts and rule as they please. Wolverine is the only X-Men to have survived, and must accompany a now blind Hawkeye on a dangerous job to pay the rent on his farm.

The story is dark, graphic, sad and most of all could never be reproduced on the silver screen—due in equal parts to copyright issues and the narrative’s graphic content. Super hero films have come a long way. Logan is the first A-list hero to have an R rated film and showing the Hulk eating Wolverine alive (only to have him burst out of the former’s stomach) on film is unlikely to say the least. The filmmakers changed the story to work around the comic’s more outrageous moments, but unlike other adaptations, they kept some of the spirit of the comic alive.

Logan, directed by James Mangold, finds Wolverine in the year 2029 when mutants are on the brink of extinction. Logan tends to Professor X, who has contracted Alzheimer’s and ALS, and now drives a limo. The film gets interesting when a young mutant comes into their care, and super hero adventures ensue for the formerly retired Wolverine.

The film effectively imparts the disenfranchised philosophy that is injected into many comic books. Logan is dying, Professor X is ravaged by disease and all of the other X-Men are nowhere to be found. The worldview of the film springs from the angst of Logan and from the outset of the film we can understand the state of the world without any exposition.

This film is one of my favorite comic book adaptations. Not for the great acting. Not for the brutal fight scenes. Not for the dialogue or how the film was shot. But for the tone. The film matches the brutality of darker comic books like “Old Man Logan.” It does not water down the story to make it more kid-friendly. It does not add the glossy coat of production perfection that drips off of most super hero films. Instead, the film puts forward the dystopian ethos that existed in the source material and delivers it in an effective and masterfully crafted cinematic package. At the end of the day, the most important part of a film is its spirit and Logan delivers.