When I was a kid, comic books adapting movies were the norm. Although other companies might do them (trivia: The movie adaptation of the first James Bond film, Dr. No was done by DC!), most of them were done by Western Publishing – Dell comics until 1962, or Gold Key thereafter*. These were fascinating things. I had lots of them, and readd the literally to pieces.
They released a lot of adaptations of Disney movies – not only the cartoon features, but a lot of the live-action ones, like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Swiss Family Robinson, and a surprising number of the now-mostly-forgotten “Real Life Adventure” Nature films, like Jungle Cat.
Science fiction and fantastic cinema was always big – ** Mysterious Island**, Master of the World, the Lost World, Jack the Giant Killer
And they released some amazingly bad flicks as adaptations, too – literal MST3L fodder like Santa Claus Conquers the Martians and The Sword and the Dragon
What fascinates me the most these days is that, looking back at them with an adult’s eye, it’s clesar to me that coming up with these must have been a production headache. The scripter and artist generally didn’t have access to the completed product, most likely because it didn’t exist yet. Sometimes they obviously had copies of stills from the movie (they often used stills for the covers), as in the case of Jack the Giant Killer, where some comic panels seems to be copied directly from frames of the film (and the cover, too). I n other cases the discrepancy between the imagery of the comic and the movie bewildered the younger me, but I now realize that they evidently only had a script to go by, and no pictures. So in The Lost World, the scenes of the Giant Spider or the Tentacles or the Diamond in the Cave of the Fire God look nothing like the film, and the artist was evidently trying to draw something corresponding to the vague description the script gave him.
And then there are cases like The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad – one of Ray Harryhausen’s best films, and his first all-color production. The scripter and artist apparently had nothing to go by, except a vague description of the plot. The story line bears little resemblance to the film, and, while there are a cyclops, a bald evil magician, and a dragon, they look nothing like their film counterparts. Even the cover photograph – which should have prominently featured the Cyclops or the Dragon, or at least the Two-Headed Roc – just shows Sinbad at the ship’s wheel in a storn.
You can buy these comics at comic book stores, but the prices for such antiques are pretty high. Sometimes you can get them elsewhere – the lost World comic is scanned in as an “extra” on the DVD release of the movie. Someone has also released a DVD with a bunch of these scanned onto one disc: http://www.a-zcomics.com/SCANS/MOVIE.html There are probably some examples scanned on-line somewhere.
*The Gold Key/Dell history is wonderfully weird and complex.
Suffice it to say that Western Publishing was responsible for them, and was a continuing presence. Movie adaptations first published by Dell would often be re-issued later under the Gold Key imprint, often with the very same cover.