Why 1990 Was Actually A Great Year For Comic Book Movies

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But if Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was a stylistic cousin to Batman, it was Dick Tracy that followed its example in terms of market saturation. Just as the Bat symbol was ubiquitous in the weeks and months leading up to the release of Batman in June 1989, images of a silhouetted man in a yellow hat talking into his watch saying, “I’m on my way,” were everywhere. Dick Tracy opened almost one year exactly after Batman, copying the marketing playbook from that film line by line. But Dick Tracy was not Batman. It was different, and in some ways, better.

The comic strip originally created by Chester Gould in the 1930s was primed for a big screen reboot for a while. It went through a lot of hands director-wise, but it fell to Warren Beatty to turn Tracy and his assorted villains into a motion picture again. Despite Disney’s justifiable fears about Beatty’s well-known habit of going over schedule and over-budget, he was given tremendous artistic latitude as the film’s director and star. In contrary to the time, the finished film openly embraced its comic strip roots rather than run from them.

First of all, until Batman Begins and Iron Man, Dick Tracy was probably the most prestigious acting class of any comic book movie. Along with Academy Award winner Beatty, there was Dustin Hoffman, Madonna, James Caan, William Forsythe, Glenne Healey Mandy Patinkin, Ed O’Ross, Seymour Cassel, Dick Van Dyke, and, of course, Al Pacino. Pacino was even nominated for an Oscar playing “Big Boy Caprice,” Tracy’s arch-enemy, one of the few times playing a comic book character has yielded major awards consideration.