Marvel comics offer a boundless canvas for storytelling that allows for unlimited creativity in terms of characters, settings, and action scenes. Unlike movies, comics are not limited by practicalities such as budgets, costumes, or special effects and can thus create grandiose and visually stunning spectacles that would be difficult or impossible to reproduce on film. It’s no surprise, then, that movies often draw inspiration from the pages of comics.
Although Marvel movies are distinct from their comic book counterparts, they sometimes draw inspiration from the pages of their source material. Of course, filmmakers must be practical in their approach and can’t always replicate every detail from the comics. For instance, if Captain America: Civil War had followed the 2006 Marvel comic of the same name too closely, it would have been impractical to introduce so many characters who haven’t yet appeared in the MCU. Nevertheless, there are times when Marvel movie moments are lifted directly from the comics, whether it’s a memorable death or a striking pose. Here are some instances where the movies mirrored the comics precisely.
Captain America: Civil War copies a very iconic cover
The Russo brothers directed Captain America: Civil War, which closely follows the major events from the 2006 comic book series Civil War. The plot centers around heroes divided between those who are willing to register and those who are not. Captain America, portrayed by Chris Evans, and Iron Man, portrayed by Robert Downey Jr., lead opposing factions. The inciting incident involves civilians dying during a superhero battle.
Although Captain America: Civil War shares similarities with its comic book counterpart, there are also notable differences. For instance, major characters such as Punisher, Fantastic Four, X-Men, New Warriors, and Namor are absent from the movie adaptation. Moreover, while the conflict in the comics was limited to the United States, in the film, it is the United Nations that proposed the legislation. In addition, the comics feature Cap’s assassination, whereas the fighting in the movie does not revolve around Bucky.
During the climactic battle between Captain America and Iron Man in the film Captain America: Civil War, the filmmakers recreated a moment from the comic that fans would easily recognize. As Steve Rogers charges with his shield raised, Tony Stark fires his repulsors, creating sparks that fly off Cap’s shield. This scene deliberately mimics the cover of the final issue of the game-changing miniseries Civil War #7 from 2006. While the movie’s setting, lack of knocked-out heroes, and less battle-damaged outfits differ from the comic cover, fans watching the film could still identify the reference.
Thor Homages Comics with Epic Hammer Scenes
Although the Civil War comic and movie feature heroes battling each other, fans noticed a common absence: Thor. The God of Thunder is not present in either the screen adaptation or the comic series unless we consider the Thor clone that Tony Stark and Reed Richards create in the comics. Thor is said to be busy repairing the nine realms in the film, while in the comics, he had been missing since the Avengers Disassembled storyline in 2004.
Even though Thor is absent in the Civil War comic, his influence is still evident in the pages of Fantastic Four as tensions rise in the conflict. In issue #536 of Fantastic Four, published in 2006, Mjolnir crashes into the Earth, creating a massive crater in Oklahoma, similar to the one seen in the first Thor movie in New Mexico. While Doctor Doom attempts to lift the hammer, a parade of Thor imitators follows suit, each failing to budge the legendary weapon.
In Fantastic Four issue #538, Thor’s old alter ego, Dr. Donald Blake, makes an appearance and bypasses the line of people trying to lift Mjolnir. He effortlessly defeats the other candidates and successfully lifts the hammer, disappearing in a column of light. However, the movie doesn’t depict this event, nor the battle between the Fantastic Four and Doombots. Instead, we see the hopefuls attempting to lift the hammer, with even Stan Lee giving it a try.
Logan Battles Against a Hunter Multiple Times
After killing Jean Grey in X-Men: The Last Stand, Logan is consumed with guilt and becomes a recluse in the Canadian wilderness in The Wolverine (2013), sporting a thick beard and unkempt hair. When Logan is forced to kill a poisoned bear that had killed five people, he sets out to find the hunter responsible. His aim is not only to get justice for the family but also for the bear.
The section of the film is directly adapted from the opening of 1982’s Wolverine #1, where Logan tracks down the killer bear and the hunter responsible for its attack. However, in the comic, Logan is not living as a hermit and is not experiencing any excessive guilt. The comic version of the confrontation with the hunter is also left mostly to the reader’s imagination. In contrast, in the movie, Logan seeks revenge on the hunter by torturing him with the poisoned arrow he extracted from the bear. This scene emphasizes that one should never mess with Wolverine or harm his animal companions.
Spider-Man meets a suffocating fate in both the film and the comic.
The moment when Spider-Man is buried alive is iconic, and it occurs both in the 1966’s Amazing Spider-Man #33 comic and in the movie. The comic portrays a dramatic scene where Spider-Man is trapped under tons of steel following a battle with Doctor Octopus. This event takes place in a remarkable five-page sequence that is considered by many fans to be the defining moment of Steve Ditko’s tenure on the series. Initially, Spider-Man resigns himself to death as he is buried alive under the pile of rubble, but then he gathers all his willpower to push himself out of the debris.
Director Jon Watts and the creative team behind Spider-Man: Homecoming drew inspiration from a scene where Peter Parker (played by Tom Holland) becomes trapped under a massive amount of cement, courtesy of the Vulture (played by Michael Keaton) rather than Doctor Octopus. Initially defeated, Peter calls out for help, but he ultimately frees himself with an unwavering determination not to fail, similar to the comic version of the character in Amazing Spider-Man #33. While the movie does not include the same dramatic monologue written by Stan Lee, the outcome remains unchanged.
Both the movie and the comic deliver Hulk on a helicopter
The Hulk made his debut in the Ultimate universe in Ultimate Marvel Team-Up, but it wasn’t until Ultimates that he transformed into a murderous and cannibalistic version of himself. Following his destructive rampage through New York City, Banner is imprisoned in a facility similar to the one seen in 2012’s Avengers. Though largely absent from Ultimates, the story sets the stage for his return in issue #12. During a battle against the Chitauri, Banner is confined in a straitjacket and transported by helicopter. He is beaten by a S.H.I.E.L.D. soldier and ultimately thrown out of the aircraft. As expected, the subsequent issue opens with the Hulk crashing down to the ground, becoming the turning point in the conflict.
The moment when Banner falls from a helicopter to become the Hulk and engages in a fight with Abomination is portrayed in a more romantic manner in the 2008 movie, The Incredible Hulk. While captured by General Ross (played by William Hurt) and aware of Abomination’s existence, Banner (played by Ed Norton) willingly transforms into the Hulk to combat his opponent. Instead of being pushed out, he chooses to fall from the helicopter into the midst of a besieged Harlem after receiving a kiss from Betty (played by Liv Tyler). Although this scene is a nice reference to the comics, it is unfortunate that the movie did not receive a favorable reception.
T’Challa takes a fall on the page and the screen.
Erik Killmonger’s initial introduction in 1973’s Jungle Action #6 did not include his desire for global political change. However, in the movie Black Panther, portrayed by Michael B. Jordan, the supervillain is more focused on initiating revolutions. Despite the differences in their motivations, Killmonger’s first appearance in both the comic and the movie ends in the same way – by throwing T’Challa (played by Chadwick Boseman) off the top of Warrior Falls.
Aside from Killmonger’s motivations, the major difference between the Warrior Falls fight scenes is how Killmonger triumphs over T’Challa. In the Black Panther movie, Killmonger challenges T’Challa to a ritual combat where both combatants have their powers stripped away, leading to a fair one-on-one fight. However, in Jungle Action #6, T’Challa returns to a divided Wakanda caused by Killmonger. Eventually, Killmonger summons his leopard companion, Preyy, to aid him when they eventually face off. Although T’Challa manages to defeat the leopard, the battle leaves him weakened and injured, making it easy for Killmonger to throw him off the falls. Overall, Killmonger in the movie is much more impressive than his counterpart in Jungle Action #6.
Marvel killed Green Goblin the same way twice.
The death of Peter Parker’s girlfriend, Gwen Stacy, during a fight with the Green Goblin, marked a significant moment in comic book history. This occurred in 1973’s Amazing Spider-Man #121 and is considered a pivotal moment that signaled the end of the Silver Age of comics and the start of the more sophisticated Bronze Age. In the subsequent issue, Spider-Man pursues the Green Goblin, leading to their final battle and the villain’s eventual death.
Director Sam Raimi, who helmed all three Toby Maguire-led Spider-Man movies, pays homage to the iconic storyline of Gwen Stacy’s death in multiple ways in the 2002 film Spider-Man. In the movie, rather than Gwen Stacy, Green Goblin (played by Willem Dafoe) takes Mary Jane Watson (played by Kirsten Dunst) as his hostage. Thankfully, M.J. survives her encounter with the villain. However, like in Amazing Spider-Man #121, most of the climactic battle between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin takes place on the Brooklyn Bridge.
In the movie, Green Goblin meets his demise in a way that closely resembles his comic book fate. He attempts to convince Peter that he has changed and then sends his glider after him. However, Peter senses the danger and dodges the attack, causing Osborn to be impaled on the glider and pinned to a wall. He utters his famous last words, “Peter … don’t tell Harry,” before dying. The comic book version is similar, except that Green Goblin doesn’t try to deceive Spider-Man and remains silent after being impaled by his own weapon.
Spider-Man 3 copies of that bell tower showdown
Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy also took inspiration from the comics in another pivotal moment. In Spider-Man 3, Peter Parker becomes corrupted by the alien symbiote and engages in questionable behavior, including performing cringe-worthy musical acts. However, after accidentally hurting Mary Jane, he realizes the gravity of his actions and seeks to rid himself of the symbiote’s influence. He finds refuge in a church, where the sound of ringing bells weakens the symbiote enough for Parker to tear it off his body, just like in the comics.
The scene in the bell tower in Spider-Man 3 was directly adapted from the 1985 comic book Web of Spider-Man #1. While in the comic book Amazing Spider-Man #258, Peter Parker first removes the symbiote with the help of Reed Richards. However, in Web of Spider-Man #1, the symbiote escapes from Richards’ lab and attaches itself to Parker, leading him to fight both the alien and a gang of winged bank robbers. Finally, Parker reaches a church tower where the clanging bells weaken the symbiote, and he is able to get rid of it for good. Thankfully, Topher Grace’s portrayal of Venom is not present in the comic book version.
Ant-Man and Hawkeye prove to be great teams in multiple forms of media.
The Ant-Man and Hawkeye duo in Captain America: Civil War can be seen as a nod to multiple aspects, but its inspiration from the cover of 1982’s Avengers #223 is quite obvious. The cover depicts Scott Lang desperately holding onto an arrowhead. However, in the comic book version, Ant-Man and Hawkeye are not battling Iron Man but are instead fighting against the villain Taskmaster. During the battle, Hawkeye shoots an arrow, propelling Ant-Man into the air to deactivate an explosive device.
The scene that follows the arrow shot in “Captain America: Civil War” also nods to Marvel’s comics, albeit indirectly. Fans who have been reading “Iron Man” for a while might have been reminded of issue #133 from 1980, in which Ant-Man shrinks down to repair Tony Stark’s inoperable suit. However, Ant-Man has different motives in that comic than in the movie. This homage is a double tribute because “Iron Man” #133 is itself a reference to “Avengers” #93 from 1971, in which Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man, enters the android body of Vision to revive him. So, with these references nested within references, it’s like Marvel-ception.
Spider-Man’s Move from the Comics is Copied in Avengers: Infinity War
In the battle with Thanos (Josh Brolin) on Titan in Avengers: Infinity War, Spider-Man uses his iconic webbing to cover the villain’s eyes, which is a move borrowed from the comics. This moment is a perfect recreation of a scene in 1991’s Infinity Gauntlet #4, where Spider-Man enters the fight in a similar way. In the comic, after the Mad Titan has already defeated most of Marvel’s surviving heroes, Spidey attacks him with his webs, kicks him in the face with both feet, and then lets Thor take over the fight.
However, in the movie, Spider-Man has a much better outcome compared to the comic version. The battle continues with the arrival of Drax and Doctor Strange, who join forces with Spidey and deliver a powerful attack against Thanos. In contrast, the comic depicts Spidey being beaten to death by Terraxia, a loyal warrior woman created by the Gauntlet, right after his attack on Thanos. Fortunately, like the other characters, Peter Parker is also brought back to life by the end of the series, so no permanent damage is done.
Thor: Ragnarok copied Skurge’s last stand
One of the most heroic moments in Marvel’s long history was lifted by Thor: Ragnarok in 2017. As Hela’s undead hordes storm the Asgardian refugee ship, Skurge (Karl Urban) finally finds his courage. He throws off his disguise and reveals his M-16s, single-handedly holding off the zombie hordes until Hela finally kills him.
The iconic moment from Thor: Ragnarok in 2017 was actually borrowed from a classic comic book, Thor #362, written and illustrated by the beloved Thor creator Walt Simonson in 1985. While the movie is impressive, the original comic version of Skurge’s heroic sacrifice is more poignant. In the comic, Skurge is among a group of Asgardians escaping from Hel, and he overhears Thor’s plan to hold off Hela’s demons to ensure the others’ safe passage. Skurge then knocks Thor unconscious, and it’s him, armed with his M-16s, who bravely stands alone at Gjallerbru, the bridge that connects Hel and the living world.
Although Skurge’s heroic death scene in Thor: Ragnarok is impressive, the comic book version of Thor #362, created by Walt Simonson, has a more powerful emotional impact. In the comic, Skurge sacrifices himself to defend the Asgardians fleeing Hel from Hela’s demons. After knocking out Thor, Skurge takes a stand at Gjallerbru, the bridge between Hel and the living world, armed only with his machine guns. While we don’t witness Skurge’s death, two stunning pages show him battling the incoming horde, aware that his time is running out. The comic portrays Skurge’s last moments with intense emotion, ending with the hero standing on a pile of corpses and swinging his M-16 like a club, dying as a true warrior. Despite Thor: Ragnarok being an excellent movie, the comic version of Skurge’s death is even more compelling and fitting.