Disney+ has a new superhero movie heading to screens. But while it features a few nods to classic Marvel characters and plenty of Easter eggs, it's not based on any of your average caped crusaders. In fact, the titular heroes are a well read but cynical young girl and a superpowered squirrel. Helmed by Lena Kahn, one of Flora and Ulysses' most inventive choices is to make Flora's (Matilda Lawler) father George (Ben Schwartz) a struggling cartoonist. His love of superheroes and understanding of what makes them so special is key to her journey in the film along with the growing resilience and hope that she and Ulysses offer each other.
The wise choice also continues a classic and very underrated Hollywood trope of featuring cartoonists in stories that don't revolve entirely around cartooning. We're not talking about American Splendor or even a comics adaptation like Ghost World. These are movies and TV shows where the cartooning shapes the story but isn't central to it. In an age where superheroes and comic books impact so much of the pop culture landscape, Flora & Ulysses is a rarity in recognizing the work that goes into making art and telling stories. That inspired us to put together this list of some other great unexpected stories about cartoonists for you to enjoy post Flora & Ulysses. But beware! These are not all family friendly fables...
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Ever wanted to see Courteney Cox playing a struggling XTREME '90s cartoonist? Well, you're in luck as this super grimy and great little thriller gives you just that. Cox plays a comic book artist named Lisa who moves to the desert in order to finish her next sexy bad girl book. She quickly gets embroiled in a love triangle with two local men, one a drifter and the other a cop.
Caroline in the City
Watch on CBS All Access
Lea Thompson stars in this hugely popular '90s sitcom about a strip cartoonist. Clearly influenced by the huge impact of Cathy Guisewhite, this is a rare story about a female cartoonist who's trying to live, laugh, and love her way through New York. Thompson is a great lead and it feels refreshing to see a woman with a happy artistic career centered in a TV show.
Artists and Models
The earliest entry into our list, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis lead this outrageous musical which is all about a struggling artist who discovers he's living next to his favorite cartoonist. The best thing is that she's played by Dorothy Malone, in a rare recognition of the many women who shaped the Golden Age of comics. Her muse is her roommate Bessie, played by Shirley McLaine, who's at her comedic best here as the inspiration behind the superheroic "Bat Lady."
This coming of age movie centers on a group of young teens growing up in Atlanta. While their shared hobby is rollerskating, T.I. plays Rashad who's a talented cartoonist but can't see a career for himself in the arts. Though it's hardly the main thread, ATL makes smart use of Rashad's dream to show kids are often discouraged from pursuing their artistic passions.
Sorry for Your Loss
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While you might not have watched this emotionally driven prestige mystery, it's completely gripping. Elizabeth Olsen plays a grieving widow whose life is devastated by her husband's (Jovan Adepo) unexpected death. Kelly Marie Tran also stars, and aside from this being a great show it's on this list because her recently dead partner was a graphic novelist and the show uses his work as a way of laying out the secrets that Sorry For Your Loss holds.
Rent on: Itunes
Eric Roberts is a B-movie icon which means very few people have seen every film in his impressive catalog. In one of his lesser seen thrillers he stars as a cartoonist working for Stan Lee (who appears in his first film role here) at Marvel Comics. While a movie just focusing on those two famous flim flam men would be awesome, things get weirder as Roberts' uncovers a creepy conspiracy featuring a mysterious ambulance that appears to be kidnapping women off the streets of NY.
Though you might remember Gremlins for the cute critters and creepy creatures, it holds a dear place on this list as Billy (Zach Galligan) is an aspiring comics artist. We see his work a couple of times in the movie and it's just such a fun little nod that we couldn't not include it. While Billy is probably the least active of all our cartoonists, it's a very realistic dream for an '80s teen!
People Places Things
Even if the comic book aspect is not selling you, this is just a legitimately lovely movie. Jemaine Clement plays a down and out comics teacher at the School of Visual Arts in NYC. His wife has left him and he's stuck in a creative rut. He finds a friend in his student Kat (Jessica Williams), but don't worry--this isn't a weird student teacher romance, as Kat's hot mom Diane (Regina Hall) is single. This is a super sweet film about love, art, friendship, and loss. It's wonderful.
Another unexpected star vehicle, Bob Newhart is a Golden Age cartoonist on a comeback in this vastly underrated third entry into his sitcom canon. Inspired by the real comic book boom, Bob focuses on a classic comics artist who's hired by a big publisher to reimagine his old hero Mad Dog as a violent vigilante for a newer more edgy audience. Bob is also notable as it cameos real comics icons like Bob Kane, Jack Kirby, Jim Lee, Marc Silverstri, and even Sergio Aragones.
Colin Childress (Jeffrey Combs) is a successful cartoonist who gained his fame from a gnarly book of strange ancient magic. One night he accidentally summons a demon and that is that. Years later, a young woman Whitney Taylor (Debrah Farentino) moves into his apartment, which has been transformed into a local arts institute. She's also a cartoonist and quickly discovers the gruesome secret of Colin's inspiration and the monsters that he invited into the mortal world.
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Rosie Knight is an Eisner-winning journalist and author who's been writing professionally since 2005. Her career has taken her around the world and, although she hails from London, she currently resides in Los Angeles where she writes full time. She began as a professional poet but transitioned into journalism, starting at the Eisner-winning WWAC in 2016. Since then she has written over 1500 articles for digital media sites including What to Watch, Nerdist, IGN, The Hollywood Reporter, Esquire, Den of Geek, DC Comics, /Film, BuzzFeed, and Refinery29. She also writes comics including The Haunted High Tops and Cougar and Cub. When she's not writing she spends far too much time watching horror movies and Hallmark films.