In general, comic book to film adaptations may be defined as adaptations of drawn comic strips and comic book series for the medium of film (Marschall 2002: 103). As this definition implies, there are two basic aspects that seem to be essential for comic book to film adaptations, namely the actual existence of a graphic source material and its transition into the medium of film. According to Irina O. Rajewsky this intermedial transition can be described as the transformation of a media specific and fixed product into another medium, that is conventionally perceived as distinct from the first one. Only the latter one is materially present (Rajewsky 2002: 19). With reference to comic book to film adaptations this would mean that the assumed ‘original medium’ of comics is not only transferred to the medium of film, but once the graphic template is converted into a moving picture, the medium of comics will simply vanish and will not be (materially) present any longer. A movie based on a comic book or comic series (etc.) would therefore always be film and never be comics.
Yet, productions such as Sin City (USA 2005) or Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (USA 2014) show that such an approach is not sufficient any more and that the notion of ‘comic book to film adaptations’ as well as the basal idea of the intermedial transition (from comics to film) have become inadequate in order to describe contemporary movies that refer to the medium of comics. As part of a new generation of comic book movies, Sin City as well as Sin City: A Dame to Kill For experiment with both filmic and graphic language. The precondition for these filmic remediations of graphic means of expression is provided by ongoing developments in the realm of digital technology and computer animation. By expanding the repertoire of cinematic representation, these technical developments enable a successful transfer of comic-specific elements into the audiovisual medium of film. As a result, comics and film do not exclude one another, but they rather generate each other mutually, thereby creating a novel form of intermedial correlation.
In the case of the Sin City movies technology is used to adapt the medium of film to the medium of comics. In other words, with the help of digital technology and computer animation the films manage to remediate the graphic language of the Sin City comics. To assure a detailed and precise translation of Miller’s expressionistic graphic concept, digital cameras as well as the so-called green screen technology were used to shoot the movies. Moreover, the production team used Frank Miller’s Sin City comics as a storyboard and ‘original’ script. A further aspect that guaranteed the adjustment of the original drawings and the film footage during post-production was the use of a special camera, which blended Frank Miller’s drawings and the film shots, allowing the latter ones to be digitally refurbished (according to the drawings). Hence, the use of digital technology does not only represent an essential feature of the production process, but it also provides the basis for the authentic filmic translation of Miller’s abstract drawings.
Consequently, the graphic medium of comics does not completely merge into the (new) audiovisual medium of film. Both, comics and film rather generate and remediate each other, thereby creating something new. This ‘something new’ is at the same time more than just comics and more than just film. In fact, the concept of remediation – as defined by Jay David Bolder and Richard Grusin – is always associated with the refashioning or remodeling of media. As a matter of fact, “each medium or constellation of media […] redeploys, competes with, and reforms other media” (Bolter/Grusin 1999, 55) in order to create something new. Therefore, the concept of remediation should not only be considered as a process of imitation but also as a process of outdoing other media (Seier 2007, 75). Thus a specific medium always wants to offer something, another medium cannot (Seeßlen 2012, 152). In contrast to the comic books, the Sin City films offer their viewers not only moving pictures, but also the surplus of sound. And even though the medium of comics may be able to present a wide range of different characters, the personification of these characters by actors remains a specific feature of film.
In summary, one can say that, the filmic remediation of graphic means of expression leads to an extension of the possibilities of cinematic representation. By translating the medium of comics into the medium of film, the movie adds something new to it – namely sound, movement and actors. Thus, the Sin City movies do not only want to be like the Sin City comics, but they want to be even better than their graphic pendants (Sina 2016, 123). In this respect, the Sin City movies constitute a new trans-boundary form of representation that has to be understood as an intermedial entanglement of comics and film.
Bolter, David, and Richard Grusin. 1999. Remediation. Understanding New Media. London: MIT Press.
Marschall, Susanne. 2002. “Comicverfilmung.“ In Reclams Sachlexikon des Films, ed. Thomas Koebner, 103-104. Stuttgart: Philipp Reclam.
Rajewsky, Irina O. 2002. Intermedialität. Tübingen: A. Francke.
Seeßlen, Georg. 2012. “Comics & Film (A Strange Love Affair).“ In Neue Rundschau. Comic, ed. Hans Jürgen Balmes, Jörg Bong and Alexander Roesler (et al.), 148-164. Frankfurt a. M.: Fischer.
Seier, Andrea. 2007. Remediatisierung. Zur Performativität von Gender und Medien. Berlin: LIT.
Sina, Véronique. 2016. Comic – Film – Gender. Zur (Re-)Medialisierung von Geschlecht im Comicfilm. Bielefeld: transcript, Reihe: Medienwissenchaft.
Dr. Véronique Sina is a research associate at the Center for Gender and Queer Studies (GeStiK) at the University of Cologne, Germany. She obtained her PhD in Media Studies at Ruhr-University Bochum in 2015 with her dissertation: Comic – Film – Gender. Zur (Re-) Medialisierung von Geschlecht im Comicfilm. Her research interests are Gender and Media, Comics Studies, Intermediality, Processes of Remediation, Media Aesthetics, Cultural and Visual Studies, Holocaust Studies and Jewish Studies. She is the co-founder as well as the spokesperson of the Comics Studies Working Group in the German Society of Media Studies (GfM) and a member of the German Society of Comics Studies (ComFor) as well as of the Comics Studies Society.
 Between 1991 and 2000 Frank Miller’s Sin City comics are published by Dark Horse Comics. In 2005 all the Sin City stories are re-published in a graphic novel edition comprising seven volumes (The Hard Goodbye, A Dame to Kill For, The Big Fat Kill, That Yellow Bastard, Family Values, Booze, Broads, & Bullets and Hell and Back).