Can an R-Rated Comic Book Movie Work? We'll Know Soon

Neither DC nor Marvel will be the ones to profit if this summer proves an R-rated comic book movie has the chops to draw a wide audience. Who will? Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA  ) , and studio subsidiary NBCUniversal, says Fool contributor Tim Beyers in the following video.

Aug. 2 brings 2 Guns from BOOM! Studios. Two weeks later, Kick-Ass 2 kicks off. Both movies are smaller-budget comic book adaptations, with Kick-Ass 2 the sequel to 2010's Kick-Ass. Universal is distributing both films, Tim says.

You can bet executives at Time Warner (NYSE: TWX  ) and Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) will be watching carefully. Both have an interest in expanding their comic book movie lineups by offering darker fare. Of the two, Time Warner has been more willing to venture into R-rated territory, with DC Comics adaptations such as 2010's RED, a commercial success that earned $199 million worldwide. A sequel debuts on July 19, during the weekend of the annual San Diego Comic-Con.

Disney hasn't been as bold, which is a shame. Marvel is home to a variety of dark characters with the chops to sustain an action-packed R-rated comic book movie. All that's missing is the will to get them made. Box office success for 2 Guns and Kick-Ass 2 could finally force executives into motion, Tim says.

Now it's your turn to weigh in. Do you plan to see 2 Guns or Kick-Ass 2? Neither? Both? Please watch the following video to get Tim's full take, and then leave a comment to let us know how you're investing in the comic book movie boom.

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Read/Post Comments (25) | Recommend This Article (5)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On July 15, 2013, at 10:04 PM, TommyBoyce778 wrote:

    RED was actually a PG-13 movie (so is the sequel) and was the first DC comic film not to be made by Warner Brothers.

  • Report this Comment On July 16, 2013, at 12:02 AM, roshamboh wrote:

    That DC comic part isn't exactly true. As Vertigo and Wildstorm are both part of DC comics and there have been several movies from those imprints that have been made into movies. These include Stardust, A History of Violence, Road to Perdition, and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

  • Report this Comment On July 16, 2013, at 12:35 AM, Gunny1371 wrote:

    "Heavy Metal" was a comic inspired movie that was R-rated and released in 1981. It grossed over $20,000,000 on a $9,3000,000 budget. It has become a cult classic. So this idea is not unprecedented, but it might be a bit of a risky proposition.

  • Report this Comment On July 16, 2013, at 12:45 AM, laethyn wrote:

    300, Sin City, Watchmen.

    I believe those three were also rated R

  • Report this Comment On July 16, 2013, at 1:21 AM, donplay wrote:

    thank god finally. I was starting to give up

  • Report this Comment On July 16, 2013, at 1:44 AM, TheVision777 wrote:

    If they follow the comic book for Kick Ass2 it'll be interesting to see how audiences respond given the sequel comic wasn't very popular. I can't see a superhero film involving teenage gang rape, beheading a dog and gunning down children on the sidewalk point blank creating an enormously successful film to close out the summer. On the other hand, if they do stay true to these parts of the story the media will help spread word of mouth by constantly running stories on how violent it is. Then people will shell out money based on curiosity like the first movie.

  • Report this Comment On July 16, 2013, at 2:00 AM, KJMBasker wrote:

    First off, Kick-Ass 2 is published through Icon, which is owned by Marvel. The first Kick-Ass did well.

    Secondly, Blade, Blade 2 and Blade: Trinity were all successful R-rated movies based off of a Marvel character.

    That's not counting other adaptations like Road to Perdition and The Crow which both did okay and/or developed a cult following. Hell, the Crow spawned 3 (admittedly bad) sequels.

    So to answer the question: Yes. Will THESE ones? Maybe.

  • Report this Comment On July 16, 2013, at 2:08 AM, seanmat wrote:

    Why do people forget Blade and the Crow the 2 movies that started it all ?

  • Report this Comment On July 16, 2013, at 2:15 AM, redoak26 wrote:

    Anybody remember "Fritz the Cat" ?

  • Report this Comment On July 16, 2013, at 2:22 AM, ericday wrote:

    They've already proven the R comic films "will work", as stated in previous post's examples.. The Crow, Heavy Metal, Blade, etc.

    The real issue is that studios almost exclusively make them non-R because they appeal to a broader audience (kids, teens, easily offended adults), and have more licensing potential (toys, video games, etc) in the PG-13 format. All the studios care about are profit margins.

  • Report this Comment On July 16, 2013, at 3:10 AM, SoloCalrissian wrote:

    BLADE was rated R too... It basically set the stage for cool comic movies and was ripped off my the matrix stylistically (IMO)

  • Report this Comment On July 16, 2013, at 4:09 AM, mattcat8327 wrote:

    I'm tired of studios not taking a chance on comic book/graphic novel movies that should be rated R. Anyone who knows the story of Wolverine knows that this is an ultra-violent origins story and needs to have an R rating to do it right. Same as the Deadpool movie supposedly coming out. These studios are so concerned with money-making potential that they completely disregard how these movies should be made. Stop trying to appeal to a particular demographic, make the movie the way it's intended (but you must make it well, mind you), and watch the money pour in. Today's social, economical, and parental climate is so liberal that parents are taking their 13 year old kids to see R rated movies anyway, so what exactly is the problem with telling a beloved story the way it should be told? And remake Spawn for goodness' sake.

  • Report this Comment On July 16, 2013, at 4:27 AM, DigitalBurn wrote:

    I think most of the people that have commented missed the entire point of what the article was about. The article wasn't saying there hasn't ever been an R-Rated comic book movie, other than the title being completely miss-leading! (Big shock there!)

    The article talks about Comic Book movies from Big Companies like Disney/Marvel and Warner/DC not having made R-Rated Comic book movies. They aren't willing to risk it, which is sad because like many movies that were mentioned in the comments there have been many successful Comic Book movies that were a success.

  • Report this Comment On July 16, 2013, at 5:18 AM, hotflesh wrote:

    Fritz the Cat was actually X rated for its time but would now be considered an R.

  • Report this Comment On July 16, 2013, at 6:20 AM, javalogical wrote:

    Of course it will work, but I won't be paying for it. I do not plan on seeing either movie.

    ericday makes a good point @ licensing.

  • Report this Comment On July 16, 2013, at 7:43 AM, vman1061 wrote:

    It already has ... DCs "Watchmen" was an excelelnt movie!

  • Report this Comment On July 16, 2013, at 7:48 AM, ender098 wrote:

    Might not have been a box office blockbuster, but Punisher:War zone was rated R...and in this fans opinion, better than the Thomas Jane version!

  • Report this Comment On July 16, 2013, at 9:21 AM, loucifer82676 wrote:

    Reading through the comments, I have noticed a couple things. The Crow, Road to Perdition, 300, A History Of Violence, and Sin City, were all graphic novels, not newsstand comic books. Tank Girl, Spawn, Blade, The Punisher, Watchmen (was a newsstand comic before published in graphic novel form), in my opinion, did pretty well as far as r-rated movie adaptations go. I will second the comment that Punisher:War Zone was a better movie than the Thomas Jane version. There was an earlier movie of The Punisher done, that was rated r, which had Dolph Lundgren as the Punisher and also starred Louis Gosset Jr.

  • Report this Comment On July 16, 2013, at 10:40 AM, TMFMileHigh wrote:

    Thanks for the comments everyone. Great stuff, as usual.

    I'm thinking of re-starting the comic books discussion board here at Fool.com. Seems there are enough fans of the medium, movies, etc. here to warrant the effort. Weigh in if you'd like that? Here's a link to the board:

    http://boards.fool.com/comic-books-118187.aspx?mid=25042984

    Specific comments coming next.

    Thanks again and Foolish best,

    Tim

    --

    TMFMileHigh in CAPS and on the boards

    @milehighfool on Twitter

    http://about.me/timbeyers

    http://timbeyers.me

  • Report this Comment On July 16, 2013, at 10:43 AM, TMFMileHigh wrote:

    @roshamboh,

    >>As Vertigo and Wildstorm are both part of DC comics and there have been several movies from those imprints that have been made into movies. These include Stardust, A History of Violence, Road to Perdition, and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

    Good point. Also, don't forget "The Losers," which wasn't a commercial success but remains a favorite of mine.

    Thanks for writing and Foolish best,

    Tim

    --

    TMFMileHigh in CAPS and on the boards

    @milehighfool on Twitter

    http://about.me/timbeyers

    http://timbeyers.me

  • Report this Comment On July 16, 2013, at 10:49 AM, TMFMileHigh wrote:

    @KJMBasker,

    >>So to answer the question: Yes. Will THESE ones? Maybe.

    Fair point. I should have been more specific in my thesis. The point here is that PG-13 comic book movies have proven popular on a wide scale.

    Some R-rated comic book fare has succeeded but (typically) not a wide scale. Some of that can't be helped. R-rated movies are designed for a limited audience.

    What I wonder is the darker themed films can scale up as a whole. Right now, $100 million domestic is a huge win for an R-rated comic book film. Can we get to $150 to $200 million now that the most popular PG-13 fare is busting $300 million and $400 million with regularity? if so, it would speak quite well for Disney's and Warner's prospects, I think, and increase the odds of Dark Horse, BOOM, and Valiant, among others, aiming for the public markets.

    FWIW and Foolish best,

    Tim

    --

    TMFMileHigh in CAPS and on the boards

    @milehighfool on Twitter

    http://about.me/timbeyers

    http://timbeyers.me

  • Report this Comment On July 16, 2013, at 10:50 AM, TMFMileHigh wrote:

    @DigitalBurn,

    >>The article wasn't saying there hasn't ever been an R-Rated comic book movie, other than the title being completely miss-leading! (Big shock there!)

    Agreed that it wasn't specific enough. My apologies for that.

    Foolish best,

    Tim

    --

    TMFMileHigh in CAPS and on the boards

    @milehighfool on Twitter

    http://about.me/timbeyers

    http://timbeyers.me

  • Report this Comment On July 16, 2013, at 10:57 AM, TMFMileHigh wrote:

    @loucifer82676,

    >>Reading through the comments, I have noticed a couple things. The Crow, Road to Perdition, 300, A History Of Violence, and Sin City, were all graphic novels, not newsstand comic books.

    Are you sure The Crow was never an issue-by-issue series? I'm reasonably certain J.M. O'Barr introduced the character in a four-issue miniseries: http://www.comics.org/series/25537/

    Also, I collected (and still have) Sin City miniseries, including the issues of Dark Horse Presents, that were later compiled into collected editions.

    FWIW and Foolish best,

    Tim

    --

    TMFMileHigh in CAPS and on the boards

    @milehighfool on Twitter

    http://about.me/timbeyers

    http://timbeyers.me

  • Report this Comment On July 16, 2013, at 11:29 AM, cruizerdave wrote:

    Okay, this was one of the most poorly researched articles I've read in a while.

    The Punisher and Blade are both mainstream Marvel characters, both with three R-rated adaptions.

    Also, 2010's RED was PG-13, not R.

    Honestly, after the harrowing violence in The Dark Knight, does it even matter anymore?

  • Report this Comment On July 16, 2013, at 1:00 PM, ribaman wrote:

    Power-Man/Luke Cage & Iron Fist was born to be a good R-Rated flick for violence. Make it happen Marvel!!!

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