Lets face it Comic Book movies are hot. If a studio makes a comic book movie it is almost sure to make a huge profit. Within comics though you have comic books and what comic fans know as graphic novels. Both graphic novels and comic books have been made into movies and both do well at the box office but like any art student or comic fan can tell you there exists differences not only in the comics and graphic novels but differences in the movies that are based comics and the movies that are based on graphic novels.
The graphic novel is just a more artsy version of a comic. The graphic novel based movie follows the same principal. Most every graphic novel that is made into a movie will be rated R. Art especially avant garde art which you could almost classify graphic novels (though a debate exists about this in the art world) are often seen as being to much for the main stream, often to sexual, or even to violent. While it may be understandable that art is seen as to sexual it may be a surprised that art is sometimes seen as to violent but I will give the famous Picasso work Guerinica as an example of art that was viewed as being to violent. The graphic novels are often to violent and or to sexual in nature and do not receive approval from the comic code authority. The movies that are made based on graphic novels are also often to violent or sexual and are often rated R.
Comic books do have sex and violence in them but they are much tamer and of a PG or PG13 nature. This allows comics to be read by a wider range of audience. Comic Book movies are the same way a Movie like Spider-Man would not be rated R because it has such a strong youth following and would miss out on all the money it could make if it were to be rated R.
Graphic Novels are not for the mainstream comic fan and are not made in as large production as traditional comic books. The same is true for the movies that are based on graphic novels. While a movie like Sin City or 300 does do well in the box office they do not make the same kind of money that Batman, X-men, or Spider-Man makes. Batman and Spider-man are some of the top grossing films of all time. Not one graphic novel based movie is even close to having made anywhere near as much as those movies.
The subject matter in graphic novels is also more adult in nature and the ideas and themes may be more developed and serious. For instance Kick-Ass deals with homosexuality in a way that you will not find it being dealt with in a comic book. Some comics books have brought up the issue of homosexuality even in the 80’s it was brought up in comics but it is not as discussed it is merely shown to exist. Drug usage is also often shown in greater depth in graphic novels then in comic books. While as earl as the 70’s in the classic tale of Green Arrow finding his sidekick speedy was using speed we see drugs being an issue for comics. However the deep psychological ramifications are not discussed, the economic reality of drugs, or the drug experience are not discussed though they may be integral parts of a graphic novel.
For the most part movies based on graphic novels are similar both deal with more adult and mature material, both are popular but do not have nearly the same following as the more traditional following. Graphic novels are as bad as you can be before being pornographic and there are in fact pornographic comics out there. While traditional comics may push the PG13 boundary they do not go beyond that.
Finally artistic style is different between graphic novels and comic books. This artistic style is often brought over into the movies as well. Though sometimes again to use Kick-Ass the artistic styling may not be as artistic in nature but then again the Kick-Ass series does not visually give us artistic a styling. Sin City and 300 are again good examples of styling that is very artistic and different from a traditional movie.
Graphic comics and comic books are not the same and even the movies based on them are not the same. While they have similarities and may be considered part of the same group they are distinct.
Miller, Frank 300 Dark Horse 1998
Miller, Frank, Sin City Dark Horse 1991
Miller, Frank, Sin City 2005
Millar, Mark Kick-Ass, Marvel 2008
Rami, Sam Spider-Man 2002
Snyder, Zack 300 2008
Vaughn, Matther Kick-Ass 2010