Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark recently suited up again for “Iron Man 3.” The film is one of many that started on the pages of a graphic novel or comic book. Here’s a round-up of memorable movies (in alphabetical order) that have gone from the cells of a comic book to the celluloid glow of the big screen.
Gerard Butler stars as Leonidas in the screen adaptation of Frank Miller’s epic story about the Battle of Thermopylae, which in turn was based on the 1962 film “The 300 Spartans.’’ “300: Rise of an Empire,’’ a sequel to the 2007 hit, is set to hit theaters on Aug. 2.
Paul Giamatti starred in the film adaptation of comic book writer Harvey Pekar’s autobiographical series, first published in 1976. Set in Ohio, the series follows Pekar, his family, friends, and coworkers – sorry, folks, no superheroes. The 2003 film version received critical acclaim as well as top honors at the Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for an Academy Award for best adapted screenplay.
Portrayed on the silver screen most recently by Christian Bale in the 2012 film “The Dark Knight Rises,’’ the Batman films are adapted from the DC Comics series that originated in the 1940s. Actors George Clooney and Michael Keaton were among the other boldfaced names to portray Batman. The Caped Crusader has appeared on film in many incarnations, including a film serial in 1943, a 1960s television series, and films in 1966, 1989, 1992, 1995, 1997, 2005 and 2008.
Wesley Snipes played a half-man, half-vampire warrior in the 1998 film, which was based on the Marvel Comics series of the same name. Snipes reprised his role as “The Daywalker’’ in subsequent sequels.
Sudbury native Chris Evans plays Steve Rogers, a man deemed unfit for military service, who agrees to partake in a research project that turns him into the super soldier Captain America.
Captain America has been featured in previous films and TV series, but it all started in the 1940s comic book series by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.
“Captain America: The Winter Soldier,’’ a sequel to the 2011 hit, is set to hit theaters in 2014.
Created by Stan Lee and Bill Everest in the 1960s and with influence from Frank Miller in the 1970s, the Marvel Comic series “Daredevil’’ followed Matt Murdock and his alter ego, blinded as a child during a chemical spill that caused his other senses to become hyperacute. The comic was turned into a movie in 2003 starring Ben Affleck (right) with Jennifer Garner as his volatile love interest, Elektra, who would go on to get a spin-off movie of her own in 2005.
Though the “Dick Tracy’’ comic strip has had various screen incarnations, the most recent was in 1990, starring Warren Beatty in the title role. The film, which also starred Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman, and Madonna as Breathless Mahoney, was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won three.
Stan Lee and Jack Kirby teamed up to create this crime-fighting foursome for Marvel Comics in the 1960s. In 2005, the Invisible Woman, Mr. Fantastic, the Thing, and the Human Torch made their big screen debut starring (from left) Jessica Alba, Ioan Gruffudd, Michael Chiklis, and Chris Evans. The quartet reunited in 2007 for the film’s sequel.
Nicolas Cage played Marvel character Johnny Blaze in 2007’s “Ghost Rider.’’ The film also stars Eva Mendes as Roxanne, the daughter of Blaze’s adoptive parents Crash and Mona Simpson.
Nicolas Cage reprised his role in the film’s sequel, titled “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance,’’ released in 2012.
“The Green Hornet’’
Created for radio in the 1930s and showing up in movie serials and on TV (the 1966 series costarred Bruce Lee as Kato), Michel Gondry’s 2011 reinterpretation stars Seth Rogen in the title role.
When a new enemy threatens to destroy the balance of power in the universe, the Green Lantern Corps recruits its first ever human, Hal Jordan (played by Ryan Reynolds). It’s up to him to defeat the enemy.
The original incarnation of the comic book superhero was created by Martin Nodell and Bill Finger, dating back to the 1940s. However, the character of Hal Jordan was actually concieved by John Broome and Gil Kane in the 1950s.
Mark Mignola’s comic about a demon who battles evil was adapted into a film by Columbia Pictures in 2004, starring Ron Perlman as the title character. “Hellboy II: The Golden Army’’ was released in 2008.
“Howard the Duck’’
After falling off the other-dimensional Stepping Stones of Oblivion, New Stork City resident Howard the Duck found himself in America. He landed in Cleveland, was briefly arrested, then sought a normal life as a talking duck among humans. The 1973 comic book character appeared onscreen with Lea Thompson in 1986.
“The Incredible Hulk’’
Before Edward Norton became Bruce Banner’s alter ego in 2008, the Hulk was tearing through the pages of the Marvel Comic “The Incredible Hulk’’ in the 1960s. Eric Bana has also played the man in green, in the 2003 Ang Lee film.
Robert Downey Jr. stars as billionaire industrialist Tony Stark, also known as Iron Man, in the 2008 and 2010 film adaptations. A third installment featuring the “Iron Avenger’’ hit theaters on May 3.
The character — a wealthy inventor who creates a suit of metal to save his own life — originated in Marvel’s “Tales of Suspense’’ series in 1963 and later received its own comic.
Josh Brolin plays Jonah Hex, a renegade Confederate soldier and bounty hunter looking to finish off the general who killed his son and burned half his face.
The film is based on the books by creator John Albano and illustrated by Tony DeZuniga. Since 2005, the series has been continued by writers Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti.
In this comedy from Matthew Vaughn, Aaron Johnson is a teen superhero who becomes famous when a video of him goes viral. The movie is based on the comic book by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.
“The new superhero action-parody — half a scrappy sendup of the ‘Spider-Man’ genre, half a desperate wannabe — indulges in all sorts of bad behavior designed to appall the guardians of culture while delighting the young, the jaded, and the smug,’’ film critic Ty Burr writes.
A sequel to the 2010 film hits theaters on Aug. 16.
“Marvel’s The Avengers’’
After five films helped set up the story, “The Avengers’’ finally unites Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, The Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye. A sequel to the 2012 hit will make its way into theaters sometime in 2015.
“Men In Black’’
Will Smith (left) and Tommy Lee Jones fight aliens and defend Earth from an intergalactic war in the 1997 film “Men In Black,’’ based on the Aircel Comics created by Lowell Cunningham and illustrated by Sandy Carruthers in the 1990s. The film recieved two sequels in 2002 and 2012.
The 2007 Oscar-nominated film, based on a series of graphic novels by Marjane Satrapi about her childhood growing up in Iran, was nominated for an Academy Award.
Bill Campbell played a jet pack-propelled stunt pilot in the 1991 film “The Rocketeer,’’ based on the 1988 comic written and illustrated by Dave Stevens.
The 2005 film is based on Frank Miller’s graphic novels of corruption, crime, and vengeance in Basin City. The adaptation received honors at the Cannes Film Festival in 2004 for its visual effects. A sequel titled “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For’’ is set to hit theaters on Oct. 4.
Pictured: Jessica Alba and Nick Stahl.
Todd McFarlane’s 1992 comic books series “Spawn,’’ about a CIA agent sent to hell who makes a deal with the devil, was adapted for the big screen in 1997 with Michael Jai White (left) as the title character.
After Tobey Maguire’s popular three film run, Andrew Garfield took over as the web-slinging superhero when the franchise rebooted in 2012. A sequel to “The Amazing Spider-Man’’ is set to hit theaters in 2014.
The character first appeared in the Marvel Comic “Amazing Fantasy’’ before getting his own series.
Before Christopher Reeve immortalized the role of the Man of Steel, Superman was fighting crime in the “Action Comics’’ series, created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in the 1930s.
Henry Cavill will get a chance to don the iconic suit and cape when “Man of Steel’’ hits theaters on June 14.
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’’
Before these “heroes on the half shell’’ made their way to the big screen, Raphael, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Leonardo were just your everyday, teenage mutant comic book heroes. Developed in Northampton, the pizza-loving foursome were the brainchild of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird in 1984. A TV show and a string of films followed, the most recent in 2007 (left).
A reboot of the franchise, directed by Michael Bay and starring Megan Fox, is set to hit the silver screen in 2014.
The title character comes from Norse mythology. The warrior god Thor, played by Chris Helmsworth, is sent to earth to live a normal life among humans, before regaining his godlike powers to stand up to evil, namely his brother Loki, played by Tom Hiddleston. The 2011 film takes its cues from the comic book character who first appeared in print in 1962. A sequel titled “Thor: The Dark World’’ will hit theaters on Nov. 8.
“V for Vendetta’’
The 2006 film starring Natalie Portman (left) and Hugo Weaving is based on comic books by Alan Moore and illustrated by David Lloyd. The series, first published in the 1980s, imagined a dystopian Britain where an anarchist named V plots to destroy the government.
James McAvoy played Wesley in the 2008 film “Wanted,’’ loosely based on Mark Millar’s comic book series, which featured characters who were modeled after superheroes who had fallen from grace. Millar’s original version, first published in 2003, was called the “ ‘Watchmen’ for super villains’’ by The Sunday Times.
Globe film critic Ty Burr wrote that the 2009 film was based on the “fearsomely smart DC comic series’’ from the 1980s. How did he rate the film? Read the full review.
From left: Patrick Wilson, Malin Akerman, and Jackie Earle Haley.
“X-Men: First Class,’’ released in 2011, is the most recent addition to a large franchise that stems from the 1960s Marvel Comics series. The next installment of the franchise, titled “X-Men: Days of Future Past,’’ will be hitting theaters in the summer of 2014.
Pictured: James McAvoy as Charles Xavier.