'Joker' Wins Venice. Can We Say Comic Book Films Are Art Now?

Todd Phillips' "Joker" took home the top prize in Venice. What does it mean for comic book movies and TV moving forward? 

We're inside what we thought was a comic book bubble. After the success of the Toby Maguire Spider-Man movies as well as the Marvel universe, comic intellectual property was at an all-time high. 

Everyone thought it was a bubble, but we're almost twenty years in and instead of bursting, it feels like we're actually pivoting into something more unprecedented. 

Today, I want to go over the new embrace of pop culture properties and figure out how the Joker's win at the Venice Film Festival marks a new phase in the acceptance of these kinds of films. 

Joker Wins Venice. Can We Say Comic Book Films Are Art Now?

The Gold Lion is the top prize at the Venice Film Festival...movies like Brokeback Mountain, Rashomon, and The Wrestler have taken home the top prize in the past.

There are a lot of people shaking their fists at the sky and lamenting the Joker win, primarily because this year, Venice audiences and jury chose IP over originals. 

Trust me, as a writer trying to constantly break into Hollywood, I get it. But as a guy who owns 4000+ comic books, who dreams of writing those properties, it's kind of nice to see people taking it seriously. 

Joker's win at Venice signifies the meeting of art and commerce. 

While some of us have embraced the art within Marvel and DC properties already, this is the first time a festival has truly embraced these movies. Sure, we got an Academy Award for Heath Ledger's portrayal of the Joker, and the nomination for Black Panther, but those felt like harbingers of the change. 

This Gold Lion feels like a signal that it's here. 

Upon receiving the prize, Todd Phillips thanked "Warner Bros. and DC for stepping out of their comfort zone and taking such a bold swing on me and this movie."

Now that that comfort zone has been expanded, we're in uncharted territory. 

Assuming Joker is a financial success, there will be more of a precedent to take comics and properties inspired by comics seriously as pieces of cinematic art. We all know there's more money in these kinds of titles, but now that there is prestige, it opens the world up for all sorts of versions of these movies and TV shows. 

It's not just about Joker 

While Joker is capturing hearts and minds in theaters, I am most excited for Watchmen to hit HBO. 

While the Watchmen movie might have been before its time, the TV show is coming at the right time to capitalize on the good graces of audiences. Damon Lindelof is kind of my writing hero, so it helps to have him helming the ship. 

Having the show on HBO, which is synonymous with prestige television, shows the heat behind such properties. 

It also means Hollywood is probably now open to these kinds of takes on their properties. 

Video is no longer available: www.youtube.com/watch?v=1yKq1PRvPJQ

All the old comics, graphic novels, or stories that haven't had their just due are now open for business at these big studios. And you don't have to make tentpole swings for them. If you keep the budget relatively modest and have an interesting/relevant take, you could be in luck. 

So maybe originals aren't being pushed forward the way you want, but at least original takes on proven intellectual property have a place in Hollywood. 

What properties are you most excited about? 

What's something you want to adapt with the same outside the box thinking as Joker

Let us know in the comments! 

What's next? How to Write a Marvel Film From Start to Finish

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Your Comment


Obviously you haven't watch the film. I did (in Venice, last Saturday). It is a true masterpiece and Joaquin Phoenix is at Daniel-Day Lewis level now. BUT it has nothing to do with comic books. It is NOT an adaptation of a comic book. It just uses names like "Joker", "Gotham" or "Wayne". That's it. It has nothing to do with all those crappy super heroes films. Actually, I'm pretty sure that most Avengers lovers will hate "Joker". It's an author film, with a real character and no black and white american morality. It's closer to let's say "There will be blood" than any other comic book adaptation. So to answer your question "Can We Say Comic Book Films Are Art Now?" well, art can be everything as long as it moves, changes and shakes people and make them think about the world they live in. So 99% of cinema today is NOT art, it's just simple entertainment. But a comic book adaptation could be art, yes.

September 11, 2019 at 3:19AM

Vincent Galiano
Filmmaker / Screenwriter / Photographer

While I do get that some people don't like mass art. It still art regardless of how deep it is.

Super Hero/Comic Movies have always been art.

That said I would love to take a crack writing scripts about Gentlemen Ghost, or Adam Strange's wife.

Now if people want to get high art... that is very subjective as sometimes even that meaning changes due to the people that look at a piece... while general consensus do work... it kind of also defeats the purpose of high art as its not supposed to be easily consumed or being able to share the experience with others.

Which that is going to be hard to prove as s high art piece is not going to be part of mass reproduction and people will have to go on some sort of pilgrimage to look at it and to feel its aura. Which the modern film totally lacks that whole process, unless limited screenings and limited copies were a thing but then again it would be inevitable as to when someone would make a digital copy and it would make it to the internet and bypass everything.

Which is why I don't bother with worrying about those kinds of things, as telling a great story is my goal... everything else is extra.

September 11, 2019 at 8:27AM

Kyle Dockum
Videographer and Editor

Heath fanboys will eat this shit up.

September 11, 2019 at 9:35AM


We have the tech and the cultural "maturity" around graphic novels for someone to take a real swing at Gaiman's Sandman. HBO? Apple? Companies are throwing money around right now. A well executed Sandman series could be very special...

September 12, 2019 at 12:44PM, Edited September 12, 12:44PM


Look it up.

September 12, 2019 at 8:56PM