Pop culture that has never been adapted to another medium

Calvin & Hobbes only exists as a comic strip. (The books are only collections of the original strip reprinted.) There has never been, and probably never will be, a Calvin & Hobbes movie, or a Calvin & Hobbes TV show, or a Calvin & Hobbes video game… and not because there wouldn’t be a demand for something like that, or because it logistically couldn’t be done, but because of how protective Bill Watterson is of his creation.

And I’m trying to think if there are other examples of this: pop culture that is widely popular and has been around a while, but which has never been adapted to another medium besides the one in which it originally appeared.

There are those window stickers…

People are going to be all over the place on what is “widely popular”. But turn to any newspaper comics page and I would guess that 80-90% of them have never been adapted. On mine I think that only Blondie, Doonesbury, Peanuts, and Garfield have. That made me hit Wiki. I see that The Family Circus, Hagar the Horrible, and For Better or For Worse have a few animated programs I never heard of. Beetle Bailey had a tiny amateur musical. Rex Morgan, M.D. has been around since 1948 without adaptations. I gave up there. I still would bet that 50% haven’t, although that would be much lower for the super-popular ones.

Also depends what you mean by popular culture. There are a huge number of popular TV shows that only exist as those TV shows. There are a huge number of popular songs which only exist as those songs (unless you mean that a song on an album and a song live in concert are different media).

“BC” and “The Far Side” had one-off animated TV episodes.

How about music? A few very popular songs have been made into movies/TV shows, but most haven’t. (Maybe the music video counts as an adaptation, though.)

Unless you’re part of their fandoms I bet a lot of these exist out there somewhere that most people will never encounter.

Books, too. Tons of bestsellers must exist without film or tv adaptations. I’ve read many stories over the years about producers trying to get films made with no success.

Until the release of this year’s live action Barbie, I didn’t know there were like dozens of Barbie films. No wonder people look at me funny when I say I watched the new one.

Y’know, if you’re pulling a “put on a Broadway flop”, à la The Producers, you couldn’t go wrong with Rex Morgan, MD: The Musical. Or a one-man existentialist Mark Trail confessional.

Ooh, or The Death and Resurrection of Wilbur Weston (the surreal-yet-unsettling Mary Worth mini-series).

Pogo was an extremely successful and well-known comic strip, but the only adaptation was a half-hour TV special (directed by Chuck Jones) that got poor ratings and pleased no one.

Barnaby was another well-regarded old comic strip that never was adapted. Barnaby later found a purple crayon and changed his name to Harold.

There were Beetle Bailey cartoons that ran on TV in the 1960s. I don’t recall them being any good.

There were at least a couple of Barnaby animated shorts made in 1959, though I think they were pilots for a series that didn’t get picked up. I’ve seen them, and hoped YouTube would have them, but couldn’t find any. They were voiced by Ron Howard, with Bert Lahr as Mr. O’Malley.
Also there was supposedly a radio adaptation in the 40s.

On the super-popular list is Catcher in the Rye. Salinger absolutely refused. A movie version of an early short story apparently upset him so much that he wouldn’t let anything else be filmed. As with everything about Salinger, this must be taken with a grain of salt.

Infinite Jest is rather interesting in this regard. There hasn’t been a direct adaption of the whole book, but one scene from it was very faithfully filmed as a music video for The Decemberists.

For comic strips, one common medium they branch out to are toys. I remember having a stuffed Opus (from Bloom County) during my college years.

There was a Calvin & Hobbes calendar, in 1988-1989. I had one; it hung on my office wall back then. There may have been one for the next year, but I don’t remember. That 1988-1989 one is now a collector’s item:


I still have mine somewhere.

But it consists of reproductions of Sunday strips one one side of the page, and a monthly calendar on the other, so maybe it counts as a book. Regardless, Calvin & Hobbes spawned no stuffed toys, TV specials, movies, coffee mugs, T-shirts, and other merchandise; except for one or two calendars.

I suppose that there are any number of old comic strips that only ever existed in the funny pages, and didn’t even get a calendar.

I remember those. They were like 10 minute episodes I think. I hadn’t noticed the comic strip up until then, Wiki says there was other animation, some of color sketches published in Scandinavia somehow, and a musical that had a short live run. There was also Beetle Bailey merch.

There was a Dilbert animated series, which I recall as being pretty weak.

Donna Tartt’s novel The Secret History has been slated for at least three film adaptations, all of which were canceled.

Not so. There was the clay stop-motion animated I Go Pogo/Pogo for President from 1980, which suffered from wretched distribution.
It had a pretty impressive cast of voice players:

It’s on YouTube