Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Celluloid Balloons: Film Adaptations of Comics & Comic Book Adaptations of Films, from the Silent Era to the Digital Age

UM LEVEL 05 - Postgraduate Modular Diploma or Degree Course



DEPARTMENT Faculty of Arts

DESCRIPTION The preliminary part of this study-unit will be dedicated to the controversial notion of comics, graphic novels and sequential art, in the light of the ongoing debate within the framework of cultural studies. Special attention will also be given to the relevant definitions and theories given by cartoonists and comics theorists such as the pioneer Rodolphe Töpffer, Robert C. Harvey, Will Eisner, Scott McCloud and Thierry Groensteen, among others.

The study-unit will then proceed to analyse various strategies devised by several filmmakers in order to adapt comic books for the screen (both cinema and television) with particular regard to (a) films officially inspired by comic book series or graphic novels and produced in the same country, availing themselves of either direct or indirect collaboration with the relevant cartoonists; (b) films officially inspired by comic book series or graphic novels although produced in a different country and/or divergent sociocultural contexts; (c) films which have loosely drawn inspiration from comics or have attempted to emulate the peculiar techniques of comics without paying explicit homage to specific comic books. Such an examination may include the television series ‘Utopia’, created by Dennis Kelly, and ‘The Walking Dead’, created by Frank Darabont, as well as Joon-ho Bong’s ‘Snowpiercer’, Christopher Nolan’s ‘The Dark Knight’, Steven Spielberg’s ‘The Adventures of Tintin’, Zack Snyder’s ‘Watchmen’ and ‘300’, James McTeigue’s ‘V for Vendetta’, Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez’s ‘Sin City’, Stephen Norrington’s ‘The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’, Albert and Allen Hughes’ ‘From Hell’, M. Night Shyamalan’s ‘Unbreakable’, Michele Soavi’s ‘Dellamorte Dellamore’, Alex Proyas’ ‘The Crow’, Tim Burton’s ‘Batman’, Richard Stanley’s ‘Hardware’, George A. Romero’s ‘Creepshow’, Gerald Potterton’s ‘Heavy Metal’, Ralph Bakshi’s ‘Fritz the Cat’, Corrado Farina’s ‘Baba Yaga’, Mario Bava’s ‘Diabolik’, Roger Vadim’s ‘Barbarella’, Winsor McCay’s ‘Little Nemo’.
The study-unit will demonstrate how comics and cinema constantly interact by focusing on various tropes through which cartoonists in turn borrow and rework filmic techniques, sceneries, topoi, characters and even the actors’ physiognomy. Finally it will be shown how literature at times is absorbed into the comic book medium through its film adaptations (and vice versa), as well as how comics-inspired films can influence the follow-up of the comic books from which they were drawn.

Study-unit Aims:

- To introduce the students to the ongoing debate on comics and comics film adaptations;
- To open up the notion of comic book adaptations in such a way as to embrace both literary and non-literary sources and their complex interaction with one another;
- To enhance a student’s prior knowledge in comics and related film adaptation language via an in-depth analysis of a number of key films, comics and theories;
- To improve the student’s ability in visual analysis through a critical appraisal of the techniques which are deployed in comic book film adaptations and, vice versa, of how comics do in turn assimilate film techniques;
- To allow space for comparative analysis between films, comics, literature and arts in general;
- To analyse complex mutations of the arts as they transcend the barriers separating one discipline from another;
- To critically appraise the current discussion within Film and Comics Studies and their relation to the other arts while keeping in mind the specificity of comics and cinema as distinctive art forms.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- Apply a wide range of theoretical approaches to the “reading” of comic book adaptations;
- Adopt a comparative approach to the study of comics and cinema which will allow students to engage with both media as fields capable of transcending linguistic and national boundaries;
- Discuss the relations between comics, film, television, literature and arts in general while bearing in mind the specificity of comic books and their peculiar forms of story-telling.

2. Skills:
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

- Read comic book adaptations as part of a complex web of intertextual relationships which include film and the other arts with a particular focus on story-telling;
- Integrate the analysis of films and comics with respect to their literary and non-literary sources;
- Formally articulate both in debate and in writing in a scholarly fashion his or her ideas on comic book adaptations and their relationship with popular culture in general.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

- Liam Burke, The Comic Book Film Adaptation, University Press of Mississippi, 2015
- Paul Gravett, Comics Art, Tate Publishing, 2013
- Scott Bukatman, The Poetics of Slumberland, University of California Press, 2012
- Ben Schwartz (ed.), The Best American Comics Criticism, Fantagraphics Books, 2010
- Leonardo Quaresima, Laura Ester Sangalli and Federico Zecca (eds.), Cinema e fumetto / Cinema and Comics, Forum, 2009 [Italian and English edition]
- Ian Gordon, Mark Jancovich and Matthew P. McAllister (eds.), Film and Comic Books, University Press of Mississippi, 2007
- David Hughes, Comic Book Movies, Virgin Books, 2003
- Deborah Cartmell and Imelda Whelehan (eds.), Adaptations, Routledge, 1999

A coursepack with a selection of theoretical and critical readings will be made available.

STUDY-UNIT TYPE Lecture and Seminar

Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Sept. Asst Session Weighting
Assignment SEM2 Yes 100%

LECTURER/S Krista Bonello Rutter Giappone
Saviour Catania
Fabrizio Foni (Co-ord.)
Gorg Mallia
Raymond Vassallo


The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2023/4. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.