It’s a good time for genre films. The Oscar nominations, released Tuesday, were kind to horror movie Get Out and monster fantasy The Shape of Water (which picked up the most total nominations with 13). Science-fiction epics Blade Runner 2049 and Star Wars: The Last Jedi also racked up nominations from the below-the-line technical categories. But the nominations also contained a unique landmark for superhero stories, as Logan became the first film to be nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay based on superhero comic books.
To be clear, Logan is not the very first screenplay nominee based on a comic book. Its predecessors in the Best Adapted Screenplay category include Skippy (based on Percy Crosby’s comic strip), Ghost World (based on the graphic novel by Daniel Clowes), A History of Violence (based on the graphic novel by John Wagner and Vince Locke), and American Splendor (based on the long-running autobiographical comic series by Harvey Pekar). But Logan is the first nominee based on the comic medium’s signature genre, superhero comics — from Marvel, the industry’s biggest publisher, to boot.
Logan is not based on any specific comic, but rather the whole mythos of Wolverine and the X-Men. The 2008 storyline Old Man Logan by writer Mark Millar and artist Steve McNiven is a big influence in terms of a dystopian future setting and a beaten-down version of Logan, but the plot points of the two stories are quite different (partially because the comic features several Marvel characters that Logan‘s creators didn’t have the rights to). The character of X-23 (Logan’s young clone daughter, played by Dafne Keen in the film) was originally created by Craig Kyle but never met Wolverine in the comics until she was an older adolescent. Screenwriters James Mangold, Scott Frank, and Michael Green took bits and pieces from multiple comics and stories in order to fashion their film, but it’s nevertheless an achievement for superhero stories. Typically, when comics break through into mainstream award categories, it’s the realistic graphic novels cited above or fantasies like Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman, which became the first comic to win the World Fantasy Award for Short Fiction in 1991.
Whatever new future this nomination portends for superhero storytelling, Logan star Hugh Jackman won’t be a part of it; he made very clear that Logan would be his last time wielding Wolverine’s adamantium claws. Rumors abound, however, about a potential future X-23 film focusing on Keen.