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I've found some early serials from the 1930s and 1940s, such as Batman and The Phantom that were adapted from comic.

This started me wondering -- comics are a visual medium and so is film, so it seems filmmakers lost no time in starting to adapt comics to film. What was the first instance of a comic being adapted into film? (I don't mean a case where there were films, books, and comics all existing, but one where the material was originally comics and not film or book, and it was turned into a film.)

Note: Yes, there's a Yahoo answer about Adventures of Captain Marvel, but it's wrong. And note I'm not limiting it to a comic book. Newspaper comics are also acceptable.

  • How is this related to science fiction or fantasy? – Tony Meyer Mar 2 '12 at 7:00
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    A vast number of comics are SF&F and the vast majority of film adaptations are in the SF&F field -- while the first that was adapted may not be, I won't know until I ask, will I? And if it isn't SF&F, we can always migrate it to film, can't we? – Tango Mar 2 '12 at 7:03
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TL;DR

In the category "comics made into animated films", the winners are:

In the category "comics made into live-action short films", the winner is:

In the category "Silent film 2-reel shorts", the winner is:

In the category "Silent films", the winner is:

In the category "Feature length talkie films", the winner is:

And, in the most relevant category of "The first SF&F" movie based on comics:



From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_films_based_on_English-language_comics

  • Prehistoric Peeps ("Prehistoric Peeps", 1905)

    Generally believed to be the first film depiction of dinosaurs.

    This seems to me to be an early precursor to Flintstones.

  • Adventures of Captain Marvel's official release date was March 28, 1941

  • Superman: Superman, was released on September 26,


From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_films_based_on_comic_strips:

  • Little Annie Rooney (1925)

    Mary Pickford starred as a girl of the slums in William Beaudine's 1925 silent comedy-drama "Little Annie Rooney"

  • Ella Cinders (1926)

  • Tillie the Toiler (1927)
  • Bringing Up Father (1928)
  • Harold Teen (1928)
  • Skippy (1931)

    Notable since all the previous ones were silent movies. Skippy was a "Talkie".

    Also notable because it was one of the first films nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture

Also, if you include "short" movies, the earliest seems:

  • Based on The Outbursts of Everett True:

    • series of live-action shorts starting with Everett True Breaks Into The Movies (1916)

There's also several earlier (1910s) examples of what Wiki calls "Theatrical short films", whatever that means - seems to be cartoons.

  • Based on Desperate Desmond:

    • series of seven live-action shorts (1911–1912), starting with Desperate Desmond Almost Succeeds (1911)
  • Based on Little Nemo:

    • Winsor McCay, the Famous Cartoonist of the N.Y. Herald and his Moving Comics aka Little Nemo (1911, included in the National Film Registry)
  • Based on Uncle Mun:

    • Uncle Mun and the Minister (1912)
    • A Thrilling Rescue by Uncle Mun (1912)
  • Based on Buster Brown (1902):

    • series of five shorts (1914), starting with Buster Brown on the Care and Treatment of Goats (1914)
  • based on Abie the Agent (comic debuted in 1914), seems to have been drawn by the same guy who did "Desperate Desmond":

    Syndicated by King Features, the strip became popular, and in 1917 two animated cartoons were made

    • Iska Worreh (1917)
    • Abie Kabibble Outwitted His Rival (1917)

However, the overall winner (if you include animated films) was a tie between:

  • Based on The Katzenjammer Kids:

    • The Katzenjammer Kids in School (1898)
    • The Katzenjammer Kids Have a Love Affair (1900)
    • series of eight live-action shorts (1912), starting with The Katzenjammer Kids (1912)
    • series of 37 animated shorts (1916–1918), starting with The Chinese Cook (1916)
    • series of five animated shorts (1920), starting with Knock on the Window, the Door Is a Jamb (1920)
    • The Captain and the Kids (1938–1939) series of 15 animated shorts
  • Based on Ally Sloper (curious fact: Sloper has also been cited as an influence on the creation of Charlie Chaplin's "little tramp" character):

    • Ally Sloper (1898)
    • Sloper's Visit to Brighton (1898)
  • 2
    Well done. I thought I had it. – Major Stackings Mar 2 '12 at 6:59
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    I would like to thank my kids for keeping me up so late, Wikipedia for being such an incredible resource, my parents for blessing me with near-OCD genetics. I'm definitely not thanking those buffoons at the Academy. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Mar 2 '12 at 7:17
  • @MajorStackings: I thought you had it, too. I'm still getting used to all the specialized entries the Wikipedia has. – Tango Mar 2 '12 at 18:49
  • @DVK (Using same voice) "Kids....." – Major Stackings Mar 2 '12 at 22:34
3

I think "Little Orphan Annie" is a prime candidate. The comic strip debuted in 1924 and was made into a film in 1932.

  • There were earlier ones. See my answer – DVK-on-Ahch-To Mar 2 '12 at 6:52
  • @DVK Using my best Seinfeld voice (when he talks to Wayne Knights character) "DVK....." – Major Stackings Mar 2 '12 at 6:58

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