Blair Davis’ Movie Comics: Page to Screen/Screen to Page was not quite the book to which I had been looking forward for the better part of 2016. Turns out, that’s a good thing — even a great one.
While the rest of the film world debates the merits of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and DC’s catch-up attempts, Chicago-based cinema professor Davis dives deep into the comic-book (and -strip) movies and TV shows few care to acknowledge, from the Dick Tracy flicks of the 1940s and all those Blondie comedies to the early serial adventures of Superman, Batman, Captain America and pulp-borne heroes of whom you haven’t heard.
The author’s willingness to plumb past the merely obscure is only half the reason to admire this sublime study of four-color culture; the other is discussing the flip side of screen entertainment being adapted for comics, at a time when such a publication often was the only way audiences could re-experience their afternoon matinee. Davis is equally knowledgeable and at home with these chapters as well, so be ready to scour the internet for scans of The Adventures of Alan Ladd! (Okay, okay, so that’s a bad example.)
In addition to being a highly rewarding read, the Rutgers University Press paperback is a thing of utter beauty, with photos, panels and pages reprinted in gorgeous full color. In film studies like this, that royal treatment is not the norm, but it makes perfect sense here. That Davis’ contents deserve it makes it all the more special. —Rod Lott