Something always gets lost in the transition from book to movie in comics adaptations. It’s practically unavoidable, if only because the two mediums are so inherently different. Wolverine never wears his bright yellow tights in the movies, because it’s hard to make them believable. Dr. Manhattan in Watchmen was naked less often, because audiences can only handle so much blue penis. But some changes are a little harder to justify. Changes like making Spider-Man’s therapist friend, Dr. Ashley Kafka, into a male Nazi who tortures Jamie Foxx’s Electro for Amazing Spider-Man 2.
This seemingly pointless alteration was highlighted by Vanity Fair (via io9), who tracked down and interviewed the character’s real-life inspiration, a hypnotherapist named Frayda Kafka that used to counsel J.M. DeMatteis, a former Spider-Man writer. DeMatteis wanted to honor Kafka in some way, so he wrote her into his comics, where she remained one of Spider-Man’s allies. That is until recently, when she was [spoiler alert] killed by a rampaging villain called Massacre, prompting Spider-Man—who, at the time, was actually Dr. Octopus—to seek revenge. (Basically, comic books.)
Vanity Fair tried to explain all of this to the real Frayda Kafka, with Kafka describing it all as “very upsetting.” But she’s even less enthused about her cinematic sort-of-appearance, saying she’d prefer people recognize her as the inspiration for the original character, not the version from Amazing Spider-Man 2—who is, after all, just an evil German scientist that happens to share the same name.
In the grand scheme of things, it’s a pretty small change that doesn’t really impact Amazing Spider-Man 2 in any meaningful way, other than how bizarre it is to make a Nazi bad guy out of a female good guy—one who also happens to be based on a real person. But it does show the danger filmmakers face in comic-book adaptations when they are pulling character names out just for the sake of fan service. Devoted fans are always going to catch this sort of thing, and Hollywood should rest assured that they will always be on the Internet in minutes, registering their disgust throughout the world.
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